Oculus Live report from GamesCom

Day two and I didn’t have a four hour wait ahead of me, since I had an all important appointment booked last week with the Oculus Live app. Or so I thought.

I made my way back up to GameCom and although I knew it would be much busier than the day before I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of people. It seemed like Germany had empitied it’s schools and colleges and sent everyone under 18 to Cologne. Not that I have anything against the kids…. I used to be one you know! 🙂

I now realised the power of the trade pass since I could now go into a much quieter area to at least use the toilet without a massive queue. I prepared myself and then fought through the crowds to the Oculus booth in one of the main arenas. They had 15 rooms with a space for Gear VR demos too in a more open space, which had a pretty huge queue for something that you can already try. 5 minutes before my allocated space I got to the ‘check in’ and I pulled out my kindle which showed my appointment and the girl checked her ipad. No appointment. Once again the Oculus Live app had done it’s trick of dropping appointments. I had suspected this would happen and since I didn’t manage to book an appointment with my Kindle (it never actually worked, just showed the progress screen… which then did nothing) but transfered an appointment that I booked with an ipad I had deliberately not connected to wifi. The app showed my name, my time, my date. I was there, it wasn’t my fault they screwed it up (at least three times)… so she let me join the queue.

The queue moved really fast, within 15 minutes I was at the head of the line and chatted to one of the Oculus girls while we waited for an empty room. Although there were one or two guys with the Oculus logo it seemed that most of the exhibitors seemed to exclusively employ teenage girls. Oculus at least stayed classy, no hot pants or the like were on show :p The girl expressed a little amazement that I had waited for 4 hours to experience the Vive the day before, although it’s hardly surprising that everyone working at the conference wasn’t a hardcore gamer.

So I was in, room 5 was free and walked in. There was a single seat chair in the 3x3m room with the new camera pointing towards it. There was the new CV1 to the side with an xbox one controller. I sat down and the girl running the demo asked if I had tried this before. I explained I had a DK2, and she instructed me to pull the HMD on like a baseball cap. I pulled it on and then she proceeded to adjust it to fit, placing the ear phones down over my ears. While she did this I was seated in the center of a darkened hall, with a few more seats and passageways off to the sides. It seems strange how quickly you forget these details just a few hours later. She told me I could choose a demo, with the xbox one controller now in my hands and the room brightened and now showed 8 panels floating in front of me. She asked which I wanted to try (first?) and I said ‘not the hockey’…. ‘Ok, the hockey demo then’ was her reply and I quickly said ‘no no no!’. Hey, I’m english, we don’t play hockey :p

So, I was expecting a nice 10-15 demo slot and decided to jump into Luckeys Tale first since I had heard so much about it. The girl expressed a little surprise since everyone else had apparently picked ‘Edge of Nowhere’ but I figured if it was that good I could try it next.

It was nice, I would have loved to try the Touch but I was happy to be in the Oculus booth so quickly. I jumped around, bashed a few monsters, picked up some coins, looked around the very nice environment while trying not to die. The consumer rift is really nice. Like the HTC any complaints about the barely noticeable pixels or less than super wide FOV are pure nit-picking. The tracking is rock steady, no judder or artefacts, just as you would expect. This isn’t going to make anyone motion sick.

I made it over the rise to peer down to the next level and was quite happy. Luckeys Tale looks really nice and will be a great launch title, it looks polished and fun, but why stay on one game when there are 7 other experiences to try. 90 seconds was enough to convince me so I asked to move onto another game… I really wanted to see how well Eve Valkyrie would fit into the motion simulator we’re developing.

“No, you get one demo, thats’ it”

huh? I played Luckeys Tale for 2 minutes maximum, I was sold. How about selling me on something else?

“No, one demo”

/sigh. All it would take is ‘click, click, click’ and I would be back in the main screen and she could go back to facebooking her friends or whatever she was doing. I wasn’t going to complain or throw the headset off, I was more stunned that anyone actually thought it was a good idea to not let the customer do whatever they wanted. So, I played luckeys tale…. but now I was racing to find something new, but instead of really knowing the game and getting used to the controls I just wanted to see something else, maybe I could get to the boss, maybe there would be some cool cut scene…. instead I died… and then died again… and again… and again at the same point. Back to the checkpoint and running up to my death… but all I could think is the girl next to me couldn’t be bothered to click her mouse three times.

I fell into the lava from the slippy log for the fifth time and the demo was over. If I had been smart I would have booked multiple demos with multiple accounts, which Im sure plenty of people did, but I actually think thats pretty lame. Technology like this should be shared with as many people as possible, and there was another line on the other side for people who hadn’t booked a demo with the app who were waiting 2, 3 or 4 hours to try it, just as I had the day before. So I could have done Eve and Edge of Tomorrow with a couple of fake accounts, but that seemed like cheating.

I got my free t-shirt (which was a nice bonus) and filled in the survey… but I felt quite dissappointed. If the HTC demo had spoiled me then Im not sure that was a bad thing. The day before I had been helped to have a really cool set of experiences, Olga was watching what I was doing and giving me suggestions, there was so much to see and try you needed a friendly helping hand. When it was over she asked what I thought and what was my fovourite experience and seemed genuienly interested in what I said. Oculus seemed like it was “sit down. put this on, one demo, get out (and dont forget your t-shirt)”, I didn’t give a damn about a stupid t-shirt, I just didn’t want to be stuck in Luckeys Tale for 10 minutes (which was still gorgeous).

After a quick wander and snack it was time for the VR Meetup which was slightly off from where I expected it to be but the Gear VRs in attendance soon clued me into it’s location. I shook a lot of hands and swapped a lot of business cards. There were maybe 30 people there in total and I tried to speak to most of them. Lots of people are doing software, no one was making hardware, but this is also to be expected. It’s really nice to make a few new friends and try to introduce other people, lots of people are working on some pretty cool stuff. I was upsurprisingly surrounded by Germans but it’s quite easy to float around the small knots of people looking for the English speakers, and the language barrier is the perfect icebreaker 🙂

Lots of people left after an hour and a half or so and then I was left talking to another developer at one table while everyone else were now surrounding another. It took a little while to realise that Palmer and Brendan had finally shown up and I hadn’t even noticed. As would be expected when VR royalty are in attendance you couldn’t have a conversation or a real introduction but it was really nice that they turned up. I tried to chat to Palmer later in the business section but was swiftly turned away by the every efficient German staff “Not a chance” were her words, which was fair enough since he probably was fending off pitches all day. :p

After they left we were joined by a HTC Prototype developer from the HTC Creative Labs, who was clearly a great person to meet as a hardware developer. He was obviously unable to spill all the secrets floating around in his head but I had several major suspicions about the final version confirmed and did my best to try to convince him that we’re worthy of a dev kit (or at least a lighthouse and the specs to add our own sensors….). Fingers crossed. One developer showed me his Gear VR demo that had just that day earned him a dev kit.

So the TLDR? Oculus have some great hardware but their GamesCom presence is let down by a a sub standard experience (flakey appointment app and uncaring demo staff). Maybe it was just the girl I got, but if I had known it was ‘one demo, no backsies’ I wouldn’t have been so frustrating to pick something I only wanted to quickly see. I also agree with what BluePinguin said on Reddit, devs and people who travel specifically for things like this should be acknowledged. This isn’t to say that I’m more important than some teenager from Berlin, but I bought my air fare, trade ticket and insanely expensive last minute accommodation when I got a Oculus Live demo last week. I haven’t seen any other games either, not because I’m not interested, but I’m happy to wait for a release to play them. The VR stuff is something I want to experience now, and GamesCom is the only place to do it now. The guy that organised the meetup got a Touch demo, and I’m happy for him, but it would be nice to spread that love to a few more of the devs that are obviously passionate about VR.

HTC win GamesCom I’m afraid, their staff were just more enthusiastic, I hope Oculus take note and at least make sure the booth staff tell people know there is only one demo, if not allowing two for half the time each. I’d queue for four hours tomorrow to try the Touch, but I guess it’s not going to happen… maybe I’ll get lucky into OC2… but I think the flight cost means I’m not going anyway. Roll on Q2 2016!