The VR game landscape as it currently stands is full of experimentation on how the new control paradigm of dual tracked controllers plus a tracked headset in virtual space can be harnessed into an engaging experience. One of the more creative games that has resulted is the HVR-01 demo released on Steam recently. Here’s my experience with this game.
The game description starts with the sentence “..puts you inside of an armored suit and straps jetpacks to your hands that let you fly, dodge, and shoot in all directions!..” Sounds familiar? If you don’t know the reference for this description I’m afraid I can’t add much more to help.
Kidding aside, having three items tracked in real time, and the fact that they are essential in playing the game, makes this a great application of VR technology. The player is essentially the aircraft, and can fly freely using thrusters located in the palms of the hands. The hands also act as your weapons – using another button can “charge up” the weapon and releasing it will result in a beam of light you can then walk into the paths of your enemies.
The location looks basic in graphical terms, but that doesn’t matter as you’re too busy dodging shots and enjoying the novel movement mechanics to notice the location anyway. I say “basic”, but that only refers to the blocky nature of the particles I assume are the rocks and boulders forming the ring of a large, Saturn-like planet in the background, which the immersive virtuality of the game makes breathtaking anyway, even with the blocky graphics.
You can hide behind boulders, maneuver quickly in any direction, and enjoy the balancing act of using your hands for both attacking and locomotion – even in its demo stage, this game feels polished and playable, undoubtedly due to how smooth and nausea-free it is, which is after all, the creator’s original goal.
It’s interesting to note that this game started out as a small project to explore how to limit motion sickness. In fact, this game is produced not by a game studio or startup, but by what seems to be a single person, as seen in the Developer and Publisher fields in its Steam page. He then mentions that he’d like “full-time studios” to take advantage of the ideas he’s shown in this demo to benefit the VR community as a whole – but if you ask me I’d love it if he can finish this as an indie developer and get some benefit from the game, eventually. Show your support through his steam or reddit page!
It’s this kind of spirit that makes me excited for VR as a media genre – it’s new and exciting, plus the people involved are just as interested in experiencing it as they are in developing new applications (and games!) for it. If you have a Vive, there’s no excuse not to try out HVR-01 – it’s a demo for now, so it’s free, and it’s loads of fun!