Escapades Into Realities of a Virtual Nature: Part One of Who Knows

Wassup! The boy/man-child is here! Nat is allowing me to have free reign over a few posts… She doesn’t know that yet. As far as she knows it is only one, but I am planning to nerd out on you guys a lot so be warned. I will take you on a journey inside the mind of a late 20-something gamer going through what could only be called a mid-life crisis. Well soon-to-be-30 crisis.

As the title says this post will be about Virtual Reality, why I think it’s awesome and why you should care… Not about me, you don’t give a damn about me. Just bear with me whilst I ramble on… I’ll get there eventually.

Ever since I was a wee little ginge I have always had a major interest in gaming. I remember the days of asking papa-ginge to load up the original Worms via MS-Dos because my tiny little noggin couldn’t handle typing in the instructions to load it. We have come a long way from blowing up tiny worm shaped pixels; to grand sagas inside gigantic worlds put together with complex physics engines. Granted not many games encompass all three of those features but the sentiment stays the same: gaming technology is far away from what it was.

Some may say it has gone too far.

I have seen a shift in my own attitudes towards gaming in recent years, my enthusiasm and childlike wonder was beginning to wane. Every year I watch the different gaming exhibitions and the upcoming gaming releases and my reaction is, “meh, how are they going to fuck this awesome concept up?” I was putting it down to getting older and the onset of becoming my parents (apologies mum and dad, you’re awesome in your own way but… You know… Not).

Way back in younger and studiously drunk Dane days, I wouldn’t have thought twice about shelling out £500 on an Xbox One X, thank fuck for student loans, but now I’m not fussed. Yeah, I want one but I don’t want to do that when the original Xbox One achieves the same. When I consider the depressing state of the gaming industry *cough* EA *cough*, loot boxes, carbon copy games and the lack of innovation in the major developers, I realise I’m not the problem it’s the gaming world that is the problem. I am still a gamer and I still love games.

For quite some time now I have wanted to move away from console gaming and become one of the PC master race. It had been a while since I properly gamed on a PC and boy things have changed since then. No longer is 512mb enough for RAM and AMD (one of the big two processor producers) were once again in the shitter but it’s good to know that Counterstrike is still one of the most played games on PC.

Linus Sebastian is my messiah.

I then began researching into PC’s. It took me a while to catch up and start putting together parts lists for my dream PC. It was all coming together and I was thinking, “fuck it, I am getting this!” Unfortunately this was around the time, or just after the time that me and Nat were saving for and buying the house, so my dream was crushed by my responsibilities as an adult. For the past two years that dream has been on hold whilst we adult… I understand I just used a noun as a verb… DILLIGAF. I can’t believe I quoted Kevin bloody Wilson… Sigh.

Getting a gaming PC was all I could think about and it tore me apart knowing I could not get one just yet, I even annoyed Nat to the point where the slightest mention of a gaming PC would cause conflict. During those two years all sorts of stuff happened with gaming. The gaming industry continued its general downward spiral into battle royale hell (I actually like PUBG btw, one of the more well-known battle royale games for the uninitiated), except for one aspect that to me was a light at the end of a dark tunnel. I bought an outdated PC from a colleague to get myself a foot in the door. I could feel the fire inside burning once again, I needed MORE!

I’m not going to bore you with a history of VR as I don’t know it THAT well, but I will try my best at a general overview. I remember hearing about the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive in their development stages, at the time I brushed it off as a silly concept that I would never be close to owning. I thought the technology was at a point where it was only remotely useable, let alone fun and was way off from what they were promising. As development continued I started to see that VR was becoming a genuine thing that could become a reality…. Excuse the pun. Oculus was bought by Facebook and the developer Valve (creators of the Half-Life series and the Steam store) was heavily pushing and advertising the Vive, made by HTC. I also started seeing more and more people (YouTubers in particular) owning and showcasing the functionality and games on offer. The same colleague I bought the PC from bought the Rift and told me all about it. I could feel myself beginning to get excited again and the PC I bought was starting to look feeble. It does its job but the majority of games I want to play either struggle or won’t play, I needed more power. This fire inside me was becoming a barbeque, I could grill a steak with that fire.

I needed to satiate this burning desire in me to see for myself how good VR actually is. I had no idea how I could do that, so I did some research. The only reasonable computer shops I know that allow you to walk in are based up north around Manchester (Scan) or down London area. We seem to be very limited in The Midlands. That was until I found Box.co.uk, a small-ish shop based around Castle Vale in Birmingham. Prices there can be reasonable and the staff are pretty cool. In the shop you will find the normal computer bits that are a PC gamer’s wet dream, but over the far side of the shop they have a couple of computer rigs set up for different purposes, one of them a serious driving simulator, another for flying and then a few other not so impressive rigs. All pretty cool but the majority of the area is allocated for their HTC Vive set up and that was our main purpose for going there. You can literally just go and ask to have a go to try it out (unfortunately, I have been there recently and the VR set up is no longer around – sadface).

The moment I first put the headset on I was genuinely back to being a little kid being excited at this technology, it takes me back to when I first booted up the Original Xbox and seeing the green blob pulsating as the console loaded. As the screens of the Vive came into focus it felt like I was peering into another world. To me, using the Vive controllers really felt like an extension of your arms, something I think only the Rift’s touch controllers could improve that sensation. I was genuinely immersed.

The first game I played was the VR Lab and I just spent my whole time messing around inside the different mini-games, I don’t remember playing anything else. I was in heaven. Of course Nat had her go and she had fun exploring the mountains and lab with the robotic companion dog thing. I think the dogbot had sold her on the idea.

Unfortunately, shit does indeed happen. These things we call adult responsibilities creep up, get in the way and fuck up your plans so you have to spend the money you are saving. The PC had to be put on the shelf for the time being.

In early April I was wondering what I could do for my birthday. I had noticed in the Bullring/Grand Central in Birmingham that there was a VR arcade, so we popped in to ask for prices and, me being the geek I am, I started to geek out over their PCs. That gave me the idea to go have a VR experience at an arcade, so we looked around to see if there was anything that seemed reasonably priced and local to Brum. A few places looked dodgy and I even spoke to one guy that did not sound too legitimate, but we ended up at a place called The VR Hub.

This little outfit is based out of the Zellig building by the Custard Factory in Digbeth. I cannot recommend this place enough. As you walk through the building you can clearly see the location as there is a shit ton of bright green. That is actually used for green screening the player and using a camera with an attached controller to impose you into the game (here is an example). They have four set ups in total, two in the small room (also their “reception area”) and two in the bigger green screen room (a bit more private and leads to their workshop). The store itself has glass windows all around, so sadly you will be watched by passers-by, but that didn’t bother me all that much when I was caving someone’s head in on Gorn. The guys running the place were incredibly friendly, extremely knowledgeable which made the whole experience that much greater. They understood that VR is still a bit buggy and allowed you to stay on a little longer if there were any issues and let me tell you, they were super generous with that. I genuinely wish we had taken more photos to show you guys but we were too focused on having fun, which we definitely had our fill. We booked four rigs for one hour and two rigs for another hour straight after, I needed that extra hour to have my VR fill. We were actually there for 3 hours in total with the time added.

For the first hour, me and Nat were placed in the smaller room and got ourselves used to the environment with a quick introduction to the system. I was already familiar so I got started with Arizona Sunshine, a zombie survival game with really cool gun mechanics and linear story. It was so fun to shoot zombies and see them get dismembered. I actually really sucked at the game, not because of the game itself (I am a pretty good shot if I do say so myself) but I would be too busy staring at things up close, having fun with the mechanics and accidentally ignore the zombies that were trying to kill me. Nat started with… something. She doesn’t remember what the game was called but it was a horror game on a rail cart and she didn’t last long because she is a pansy. She wanted to play Job Simulator but it wasn’t available on the PC she was on at first so she played a few games including that horror game and the VR Lab whilst the guys downloaded it for her, which was also very nice of them. She also joined me on Arizona Sunshine which was so much fun to play together. I also tried a game called Bullets and More (BAM), I had wanted to try Hot Dogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (H3VR) but that wasn’t available. BAM is very similar to H3VR in that it tries to accurately recreate guns. I am a simple man, it was incredibly satisfying to shoot guns, and many times I would accidentally drop a clip or forget to chamber a round. It was a cool experience for someone who had never shot a gun (outside of clay pigeon shooting) before, using scopes on the guns could do with bit of refinement but generally the game was awesome. The time flew by for us both, I thought I had sold Nat on VR before but once she got on Job simulator that strengthened our stance with getting our own VR ready PC.

After the first hour was up we were then given the opportunity to move into the big room and play a game I was really looking forward to, GORN.

Nat had never heard of this game until that day. The owner had limited access to this game to the bigger room due to how crazy people get when they play the game, someone broke one of their monitors. It’s a gory gladiator combat game that takes it to the next level, it’s silly, simple and yet incredibly in depth. You get to pick a weapon (or two) at the start of a match, which range from swords, a bow, hammers, maces, giant swords, a spear, a rock and more. Then all you have to do is kill all of your opponents who are these hench mofos that are pretty much just cannon fodder to begin with. You can chop them up, even slicing off the slightest section, eyes get popped out if you hit their head a certain way and they even limp around limbless. It’s gloriously gory fun. Once again I found myself sucking at this game because I was too busy picking up the dead bodies and looking at the deformation I was creating. Nat on the other hand was an absolute beast, tearing through her enemies like they were butter. Don’t fuck with Nat, she’ll smush your head with a mace.

All in all this made the gaming nerd inside me go crazy and since then I have not stopped looking at computer parts and VR pricing because it is always on my mind. I want it as soon as I possibly can. I cannot recommend VR enough and to those people who are dubious about it: just give it a go, it may change your mind and I guarantee, you won’t be let down.

Having said all this, I still don’t own VR or even a PC powerful enough to play it. That will change though, it has to for my mental well-being.

I am going to end this post here as you may have had enough already. I hope Nat will let me continue on with another post where I will talk about a games wish list for VR, or may be my recommendations for PCs, I may even write something up for those looking into getting VR and give them a few pointers and basic information. We will have to wait and see!

What do you guys think of VR? Have you tried it before, or want to give it a go? Let me know in the comments or over on Nat’s Twitter account @maybeecoffee

Well, until next time I write on There Might Be Coffee, have an awesome weekend and see you soon!

Footer

FYI need to use Nat’s sign off as I don’t have my own… Yet. 😛

Advertisements