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woah

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woah last won the day on July 18 2010

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  1. woah

    DR VR

    Regarding VR editors (e.g. Dark Radiant VR), right now VR is pretty awful for any sort of productivity applications. Lacking pixel density and the inability to interact with your immediate real world environment are the obvious things but the main thing is actually the lack of variable focus, which makes desktop usage, UI interaction, and reading text a really uncomfortable experience. Lens anomalies (distortion, chromatic aberration, glare, god rays) are also really apparent when interacting with flat UIs in current gen VR. You'll still want to use mouse and keyboard as well--motion controllers are terrible for anything that requires finely controlled interactions and we still haven't figured out text input either, which is essential. The whole Minority Report UI thing is only cool for 5 minutes--after that you realize how much energy expenditure is required for even the most basic of inputs and it's incredibly fatiguing. Today, the main thing I see devs using VR for during development is to properly get a feel for the scale of things, which works quite well. But even then, most VR developers do a good chunk of their development through a typical desktop mode because it's just so much faster, convenient, and less fatiguing. Overall I think AR will be a bigger deal when it comes to optimizing development workflows--whether it's in the form of a VR headset with *very good* passthrough or just AR glasses/a visor. VR input will get better as well but I wonder if it will ever get good enough to fully realize the dream of being able to "sculpt" 3D objects in VR because without some sort of grounded device that restrains your arm/hand/fingers you will just clip through the virtual object. High resolution feedback/response over many haptic dimensions is absolutely essential to that experience and there seems to be some sort of uncanny valley effect that happens when trying to simulate hand/fingers with high fidelity. Perhaps the most viable alternative I've seen to this is from a company that is using multiple LRAs to simulate the sensation of positional and rotational forces through an ungrounded motion controller. Depending on how well this can be perfected this may give you a sufficient degree of feedback but even then I think it will still be conveyed through an abstraction rather than directly trying to simulate hands.
  2. https://twitter.com/KevinMackArt/status/1101234908402409473
  3. I'm aware of that research but I just think this is going to take a long time. I think we will be really lucky if we get variable focus by the time second generation headsets come around ~2024. My stance on things is that we'll be fortunate if the high end enthusiast market sustains itself until that time--I think variable focus will breach a certain threshold of comfort and immersion that will make the technology desireable as a pure substitute for monitors in traditional gamepad/M&K gaming (still with snap rotation) and some desktop applications. I'm also really hoping that anti-simsickness tech like this pans out https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2018/11/inventor-may-have-cured-motion-sickness-without-drugs-and-could-mean-lot-us-military/152960/ . I love VR and I use a Valve Index every day. I am not dismissing the technology overall--just trying to be realistic. New technologies like this almost always start in the high end and gradually expand to wider markets as both the hardware and software experience improves and is shaped by the experience of early adopters. The real question is whether or not short term profit obsessed corporations like FB, Google, MS, and Sony will have the patience for that. MS is already pivoting to enterprise and there is no sign of VR for their next console. Google Daydream is practically dead and they seem to have largely lost interest in the tech--I suspect they're going to focus on AR (and they should). Sony's public comments and leaked patents seem to suggest that they might try to stick it out--but again they are smart enough to not release a pure VR platform. A leaked email from a few years ago reveals that Zuckerberg expected he would have tens of millions of users right now--in retrospect that is laughable. What I see FB doing is waiting 2 to 3 years after an absurdly overhyped first generation of hardware and then getting impatient and launching mainstream consumer focused and aggressively subsidized products when the technology is too early for that. Hence the leaks late last year about the whole "race to the bottom" thing and the Rift 2 being cancelled, I think not coincidentally timed with the departure of the Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe. I still don't understand why standalone must be the goal for VR. It's solving problems that don't exist. Aside from enterprise/business applications and frequent travelers, how many consumers are actually going to regularly use VR outside of a dedicated playspace in their home? It's enough of a pain in the ass to just carry a cellphone around with you, let alone take it out of your pocket, occupy your attention with it, and fumble around with a crappy touchscreen UI whenever you get pinged. But carrying around a full VR headset? That people running around in large open fields or warehouses with VR headsets on will be anything but a very niche or occassional OOHE application sounds nuts to me. On the other hand, you throw on e.g. a PSVR2 with inside-out tracking, it wakes up your console from sleep within moments, and the 802.11ay wireless (which will have negligible latency) gives you all of the power of a PS5 ... that you would've bought anyway even if you weren't interested in VR. And that PSVR2 would not have the costs of shoehorning decent processing into such a small device--it would likely cost less than or equal to the cost of the standalone device with much better specs. As for advances in processing giving standalone the edge, while I am skeptical of Carmack's understanding of people, their tolerances and what they desire, I do trust his outlook on technology and he stated in this very interview that he thinks fundamental limits to the performance of silicon will bottleneck us well before mobile chipsets get anywhere near today's desktop performance. And again, we're already struggling with VR here. Eyetracking and foveated rendering will help but we're still looking at a dramatic increase in pixel density, FOV, and physics processing loads. On the other hand, I think AR makes complete sense even in a limited rendition if they can get the form factor small enough. Just being able to do basic things like go to the grocery store and nearly effortlessly and seamlessly identify and check off items would be transformational (vs the absurdity of trying to do this via a clunky smartphone app and UI). Nevermind all of the obvious media, entertainment, and communication based applications of AR. It fits the business model of the aforementioned corporations to an absolutely frightening extent--AR will be something you wear nearly every waking hour and they will have moment to moment access to everything you're doing. There are still a lot of technical challenges here, such as occlusion, but this is the holy grail for them (short of some BCI-based interface). It will be interesting if they can resist the urge to make everyone look like a branded tool or borg--I think this will be a major selling point for the early versions.
  4. It was a good interview, he's a lot better at talking to less technical people now. Interesting perspective on why he's interested in VR. You can tell that he gets shit for not transitioning to a purely managerial position but I respect that he's adamant about sticking to his passions. Little disappointed that he left Joe with the impression that you can't really do smooth locomotion in VR. I get that Carmack is basically only concerned about bringing VR to "the masses", but more intense gamers (e.g. the type that would play Quake competitively) will build up to it. In my experience it takes most gamers a about a week with daily exposure of 10 to 30 minutes to get translational movement down, but you need to be consistent and careful to not push until you're actually sick--which is the actual hard part because most casuals are impatient and not very dedicated. However I have to wonder if this push to bring VR to the masses will fail because I'm not so confident that the masses, casual gamers, etc etc that Carmack wants will be interested in VR for quite some time. First there are all of its current discomforts--visual, ergonomics, and sim sickness. Second, it currently suffers from certain critical limitations, e.g. fears of sim sickness lead developers to dramatically reduce player agency, the lack of variable focus makes it difficult to interact with things in the near field, and the lack of positional/rotational haptic feedback makes certain actions clunky. Lastly, it isolates you from your surrounding environment and many applications require a decently sized space and high energy input. All of these things scream to me "still high end/enthusiast". Rather, I think the more realistic scenario is that VR continues in the high end and gradually expands as problems like the above are addressed. I just doubt that FB has the patience for that--I expect them to transition to pure AR at some point because that is *certainly* a technology for the masses even in a limited form (as long as it doesn't make you look like a borg) Lastly, this whole focus on standalone VR is pretty absurd to me. I mean, yes Carmack is right that Quest is an incredible device--it is technically quite amazing (I've used it)--but wireless and a dedicated external processing box will be just as convenient. In addition, VR is dramatically increasing processing loads, and not just for stereoscopic, high fov, high resolution, high fps graphics processing but also with respect to physics and interaction--when you give players less abstract and higher fidelity inputs the simulation itself must also expand and converge on something higher fidelity. I'm not sure how Carmack squares the dramatic increase in processing demands with something that is, as he says, ~1/50th of the power of desktop PCs--which are already struggling. I mean, I consider myself a hardcore VR enthusiast with rock solid VR legs--I'm regularly zipping around at 800km/h around tight turns in BallisticNG with its VR cockpit view, but the Quest's 72hz display made me feel pretty bad (not to mention it's often motion smoothing from a lower fps up to 72). A traditional console with a flat mode makes way more sense for the reasons noted above, and also in terms of price: people are going to buy the next iteration of their console anyway--independent of any VR-related desires--as very few people are willing to completely replace flat gaming with VR right now, and thus there is no cost advantage to standalone for most everyone. It's just anecdotal but I bought my brother a Quest a few months back. He tried using it maybe 8 times but ultimately put it back in the box. At the end of the day he's tired and doesn't want to wear something fatiguing. Right now I'm hoping he might use it for exercise--I think that's the only salvageable use case for him (which was my original intention anyway)
  5. I didn't mean to say that Thief was indie but rather that its patient form of gameplay may not have been financially successful even in its time. I personally had a lot of trouble finding anyone that could tolerate it. But it was posed as a question because I'm genuinely not sure. LGS shut down due to financial issues but the Thief 2 wiki indicates the game sold 220k copies by Nov 2000 and this was considered ""commercial acclaim." There are of course plenty of indie titles that are taking a generic route but it doesn't change the fact that this is where developers are trying new things.
  6. Indie games are where it's at. That's where I find stuff that is technically and mechanically interesting, sometimes story-wise as well. With respect to larger developers, I stopped being bitter about this when I realized there's no good reason to expect them to produce anything different anyway. That would ultimately mean expecting the cultural norms of the masses to change ... and good luck with that. Did Thief 2 even break even in its day? Also can't expect indie developers to produce content at the scale of modern developers either. I'm personally more invigorated by gaming than I've been in many years with VR and that's about as indie as it gets. Insofar even the higher budget content that FB has commissioned is pretty/polished but rather uninteresting compared to the works of indie devs
  7. The major thing that is a counterpoint to this is Valve's VR ambitions. HLVR is quite clearly in development and they're pushing enthusiast VR hardware further than anyone else in the consumer space with the Index. The company's philosophy on this is that you establish something that proves to be compelling in the high end before addressing the major cost reduction matters for the wider markets. This is while other corps involved with VR are getting impatient and engaging in a "race to the bottom" under the assumption that VR's major roadblocks are in price and friction. Which is an approach that I think will ultimately fail because even as a big VR enthusiast I realize that VR is currently not yet good enough for wider markets at any price (IMO it needs variable focus, sim sickness mitigation tech, and haptics that convey translational/rotational forces--promising solutions for all are in the works but these are things that need to be paid for and "beta tested" by the high end). But the point here is that if they were only concerned about the most profitable path of least resistance they wouldn't even bother with VR as VR is quite the opposite of that. The $1000 price tag of the Index (and this is not a mistake--see Gabe's comments on "premature price reduction" going back to 2017) is evidence of this. They are investing a *ton* of resources into a market that quite transparently consists of mostly enthusiasts (for now anyway). Over a third of Valve's employees are working on VR related things. But supposing they were motivated to create another Half-Life, *could they* actually make something that lives up to HL's hype? The expectations are so absurdly high. And if you look a litter deeper, they do seem to be *trying* (many leaks over the years have suggested the development of games related to their major series but at some point the leaks dry up and the assumption is that those projects were cancelled). Both HL1 and HL2 paired major developments in gaming technology with an engaging storyline, high production values, and great gameplay. So first, could they even satisfy the latter three aspects? This is no small feat as the gaming market looks much different than it did around the time of HL2's release--the scale and production qualities of modern games remind me of something closer to big budget movies. Competing here doesn't seem to suit Valve's organizational structure which is anything but an assembly line of devs slaving away. And second, would making "just another Half-Life" game at modern production standards be enough? I seriously doubt it and I also doubt Valve's employees are even interested in something that is ordinary. Gamers are expecting something novel--there need to be major technical innovations paired with it. And what remains for *major* technical innovation in flat (desktop monitor) gaming? There certainly doesn't seem to be any low hanging fruit remaining. Personally I think in many ways gaming is currently bottlenecked by the medium through which it is experienced. VR removes some of those bottlenecks--and has at least temporarily added some of its own (but as I said above I think those will be overcome). Increased immersion is nice but more importantly VR is about expanding on the interaction space--giving us something closer to the complexity and dynamics of real life interactions (which the VR perspective is critical for). When I see what e.g. the Boneworks ( https://i.imgur.com/L0rwfrl.gifv ) and Blade & Sorcery devs are doing, creating the next iteration of Half-Life here totally makes sense (and Thief games as well ...). And sure enough, strings for "HLVR" prefixed to things like "crowbar" and "grabbity gloves" started showing in Source 2 binaries in late 2015 (and other leaks seemingly pertaining to HL3 came to a halt not too long before that). So I think this is what they are doing. EDIT: Literally just 10 minutes or so ago. When was the last time that Gabe has stated--in practically direct terms--that they have the intention of making HL3? At the Index launch party of all things. ""Maybe some day the number 2 will lead us to that shiny integer glowing on the mountain someplace ... you'll just have to see ..."
  8. For what it's worth I can't remember the last time I purchased a piece of hardware new. If you're in the US (just not sure about other countries), eBay is a great place to find good deals and there are people with too much money that just dump their hardware for cheap from time to time. I don't bother with auctions unless the item isn't in high demand--people get emotional about it and bid the item up higher than the market price. Also, if you buy Gigabyte, MSI, or EVGA you can often take advantage of transferable warranties. If you don't break the conditions of the "eBay Money Back Guarantee", they are really good about "Item Not As Described" claims. Just thoroughly check the condition of items, the item description, and the seller profile. The only thing that I would be careful about buying used is the PSU. I ran an experiment over the span of 12 months to see how cheaply I could build a high end VR gaming rig for my grandfather (for flight sims). I was able to get him a GTX 1070, i7 6700, Gigabyte GA-Z270XP-SLI mobo, 16GB RAM, 450W PSU, and a 500GB SSD for $400--all sourced from ebay. A few of ebay's random 10% off coupons did help.
  9. woah

    Thief 2 HD mod

    Would you say that the feel/character/tone/spirit/whatever-you-want-to-call-it of the original assets are preserved? Sometimes these HD packs are more impressive on a technical level but completely fall flat artistically and/or have an inconsistent feel.
  10. Are you sure? Back when I was still bothered to fight windows updates and telemetry through internal means (i.e. from within the OS--now I do it through the router) it just seemed to ignore this option after some time. Actually, that seems to be a trend with Windows 10. Every option is a mere "suggestion". Options you try to rely on are regularly obfuscated or disappear. I have no confidence that any configuration option will actually do what it says because Windows seems to override everything at its own discretion. E.g. I attempted to use that ShutUp10 program a while back but I've found that there's a constant back and forth battle between it and Windows. Recently I installed the latest version in an offline environment on an old 10 install iso. On the next reboot Windows displayed a "Windows is performing some updates..." message and then I found that some of the options I set were reverted on the next boot. I'd imagine that it's a constant battle in an online environment and some day ShutUp10's developer will probably just give up. And if you're at all concerned about privacy, it means all of the effort you've put in to fight windows over the past 6 months or whatever will go to waste within that one week window in which ShutUp10 is lagging behind the latest update from MS. Another example is when trying to disable Cortana (as in actually stop its exe from running). Every few months you need a new solution because subsequent updates circumvent the workaround. Do companies like microsoft really change the nature of their OS frameworks so frequently? Or are they intentionally doing this? I feel like someday I won't even be able to trust that Windows will keep my NIC card disabled. The trend of all of these "ecosystems" toward "absolute control" doesn't just exist with Microsoft of course and I think it's a characteristic of a larger problem that's occuring.
  11. I've seen a few cases of decent IK for the arms in VR (and so many bad examples that I almost always prefer floating hands) but for the rest of the body I think we just need more comprehensive and more reliable tracking. I do wonder if outside-in systems involving no sensors on the body of the person (like Kinect and whatever facebook is working on) will get to a point where they're reliable enough in any time frame that matters. They may be decent for capturing mostly static poses but fast and complex movement (e.g. thief, where you're on the ground a lot, overlapping limbs, etc etc) is difficult. Otherwise we'll probably need something like lighthouse because the system has to be scalable and extremely reliable: if there is any significant chance of tracking errors it will either break immersion (even if tracking errors are somewhat infrequent, you will be self conscious about the potential for tracking errors and modify your behavior to account for that) or ruin the gameplay (e.g. in the case of thief: reveal you when you're supposed to be hidden). There are plenty of youtube videos of VRChat players using HTC Tracking pucks on the waist and feet with pretty convincing results but clearly that particular solution is too expensive and too clunky. I've read that smaller form factor lighthouse trackers are possible but I've yet to see any consumer facing products. Any setup that requires players to "suit up" beforehand will always be a niche thing so I suspect the body abstraction option will always be there though. I also suspect that whether or not players will actually be willing to use it over the long term will depend on the degree to which the game fleshes out the interaction space to take advantage of them.
  12. I use linux as my main computer and run a Windows VM within it to play games. I still like hacking around and stuff so that's probably why I'm fine with it. There was one point where I had a stressful job and started to lose my patience for it but that is no longer the case. On linux I often feel like I'm fighting the computer to get stuff to work but the quality of the experience has been improving over the years (slowly but surely). But on windows, more and more I feel like I'm fighting for actual control of my computer. I really dislike the latter (and copy-on-write VM images have been really handy for rolling back a lot of BS). The open source software user experience problem seems to mostly be an issue of incentives. And while private companies are highly motivated to create a nice user experience, that has its own costs (even if they are less obvious or take some time to set in). I'm also pretty proficient with linux command line and find it convenient for "getting shit done" in many cases, even if it can be hacky. Windows has counterparts to that but I've always found gaps. I wouldn't blame anyone for using Windows or MacOS though. And I can't think of a single person that I'd genuinely recommend linux to.
  13. This requires a PC. There is an upcoming Facebook "all-in-one" HMD called the "Oculus Quest" but it only has the computational power of an Xbox 360 (and with VR rendering requirements, the effective performance is considerably less). And the PS4 does have a "PSVR" add-on. It has some great games and a decent HMD, but just has really poor tracking and motion controls. If you find a good deal or something you might want to try picking one up, but talk with me about simulator sickness first. There's a specific procedure that most people must use to adapt and none of the VR "platforms" give you any guidance other than a very abstract "comfort level". You need a lot of computational power to run PCVR games smoothly. I can't recommend anything less than an i5 6600 and a gtx 1060 6GB, though people claim to get away with less. Basically you're rendering the scene twice every frame at an extremely high resolution and wider FOV (~110 now, probably 135 to 150 with Valve's next hmd, and there's currently an ultra enthusiast focused HMD that has a 200d fov--the Pimax). There are also a ton of unexpected things that increase the computational load for VR related to textures, LOD, tracking, vsync, etc etc. Until recently you needed to do all of this at about 90fps to avoid discomfort but there are now reprojection techniques that sort of interpolate between frames (oversimplifying here) so sub-90 doesn't look so bad now (but has occasional artifacts). And stuttering of any sort is a terrible feeling in VR so devs need to be extra careful. There are issues you will notice in VR that you wouldn't notice on a flat screen, and there are things that can make you sick in VR that can be difficult to attribute a cause to. And it still looks really pixelated right now. It was pretty rough at the initial launch of consumer VR but I have to say that things have come a long way--most devs are aware of the sources of discomfort now (well, UE4 and Unity framework devs have helped a lot of course). In addition, there are VR specific hardware optimizations in 10-series and up GPUs that can reduce the rendering load. In order to achieve higher resolutions we will need eyetracking assisted "foveated rendering" where you essentially only render the portion of the screen in focus (actually quite small) at the target resolution and then render the periphery at lower and lower resolutions. From what I've read the peripheral degradation is unnoticeable but could cut the current computational load in half. Eyetracking also has a lot of other applications for convenient user input, social interaction, and interesting game design (e.g. imagine if horror devs knew exactly where you were looking and could detect saccades--between which you are effectively blind). Functional eyetracking has been available with very expensive add-ons over the past few years, but in the not too distant future it *could* be coming to consumer VR headsets (perhaps if we're really lucky the upcoming Valve HMD). To give you an idea of how well it works, recently I was reading the impressions of a journalist using such a system integrated into a VR headset and they were able to effortlessly trace the perimeter of a cube located some distance away (as confirmed with an eyetracking reticle) and then, using an eyetracking enabled head cannon, proceed to repeatedly blast that cube into the sky until it was the size of a single pixel. As I alluded to before, I still think it will be some time (5 years?) before VR is appropriate for a good chunk of PC gamers, even "hard core" ones. Everyone is blown away by VR initially--there is a sort of "honeymoon phase" after you first try it, but thereafter the discomforts really start to wear on you. There is a high "cost" to just using VR. After a month or so, most people would rather just play a flat game comfortably on a monitor. It is a strange thing: I have several friends that I've gotten into VR and some can't get enough of it while others just can't be bothered to put on the headset. The latter group never seems to regret the games I coax them into playing, but the "cost" of usage seems to dissuade them from independently using it. Only enthusiasts (like myself) are really willing to tolerate those costs--e.g. people that are burned out on flat games, that love experimenting or hacking around, that enjoy playing with cutting edge tech, etc etc. The discomforts are mostly visual but the weight and head-mounting mechanism also play into that. For this reason, while there is a lot of noise about the cost (price) of VR systems I think subsidized hardware (or compromised specifications) at this point would be a waste of money. Once the major issues are ironed out though (probably culminating with variable focus) I can see the VR percentage on Steam gradually creeping up. We're currently just under 1% right now. I'm actually a bit worried that Valve making a new HMD and bundling it with "HLVR" (which is what all of the leaks indicate, potentially releasing this year) will get your average PC gamer interested in VR too early on. But pressure from Facebook/Oculus may be forcing them to release something
  14. I'll have to update my post because since posting that I was going through the menu/book and found an option to toggle crouching. It's not entirely unusual for VR games to have a "seated mode" with a button mapped to toggle crouching, thankfully
  15. Played this a while back on an Oculus Rift but didn't end up doing a write up until now so my impressions may be a bit out of date. I can't really say much about the game on its own merits because, well, there isn't too much there and I can't really tell if there's an actual story. It feels more like "Thief VR tech demo" or proof of concept--at least at this point. Of course it is early access so this is not entirely unusual and I wasn't really expecting much more than that anyways. I've described things somewhat thoroughly below because I know many of you don't have a VR system. So to start with you're kind of just given a basic tutorial and then dropped into the first of two "dungeon" themed levels (basically just lots of stone hallways). Here are the basic mechanics: You have a bow with 3 types of arrows (combat, water, and noise arrows) and a "wrist dagger" that lets you execute enemies by stabbing them in the back of the head (but no bludgeon). With respect to visibility and sound, a yellow or blue icon will show up at the bottom of your vision when you are visible or when you are making making noise, respectively. You use the joystick on one of the motion controllers to move (they also have "run in place" locomotion but that's not my idea of a good time) and you stand/crouch by doing so in real life, which affects your movement speed and how visible/noisy you are. You can even go fully prone (on your actual floor) and crawl under a bed if you want. (there is an option to toggle crouching via a button as well) You can climb most types of walls or objects (e.g. crates), which is indicated by your hands turning blue and your motion controllers vibrating when your hands come into contact with the wall. To climb you just hold in the grip buttons on the controller at any point on the wall and then pull yourself up the wall one hand at a time (your body translates relative to the grip point)--standard "Climbey" climb mechanics. You will tire (as indicated by heavy breathing) and fall if you're in a climbing state for too long. Your bow is over your left shoulder and you can see each type of arrow in your possession above your head--you just reach up and grab the bow with one hand (don't necessarily have to look as it's in its natural position) and the desired type of arrow with the other hand, insert the arrow into the bow, draw the bow back, and then aim and release (as you would expect with the motion controllers). The "feel" of the bow and the arrow physics aren't bad but they're also not great (vs e.g. In Death, which feels incredible). Enemy armor plays a role in the effectiveness of arrows but I didn't really test this because combat in Thief games isn't of much interest to me--unless perhaps if it has fully modeled melee combat physics like Blade & Sorcery. On your waist you have a loot pouch which you release loot objects over to collect them (it's nothing fancy, the loot just disappears over the pouch), a book which when grabbed opens to show the menu options and notes you've found throughout the level (it's pretty nifty actually, you have to manually turn the pages), and keys you've found throughout the level. The keys aren't very stylized--they're just solid colored (red and blue) and work with locks that are of the same blatant solid color throughout the level. The actual gameplay is plain vanilla Thief--you have to track enemy patrols and time movements between shadowed areas accordingly. Enemies will search for you if they hear you or see you (it's pretty forgiving). You extinguish lights with water arrows (or candles with your actual hands). The positional audio and sound model is sufficient but nothing spectacular for VR standards--it's functional but doesn't elicit much "presence". The visibility system seems to be a combination of standard Thief visibility areas and dynamic lighting (e.g. there is occlusion from objects), but I don't think it's nearly as intricate as TDM's system. Whether or not I would be visible was mostly quite predictable--maybe too predictable. Enemy AI is pretty basic. For example they will respond to and temporarily move to the source of a sound (e.g. if you throw something) but won't notice light sources being extinguished (even if right in front of them) or objects being moved in an area. There are no real door mechanics whatsoever. So yeah, most of the fundamentals are there in the form of rudimentary VR counterparts but nothing really moves Thief gameplay standards forward or really takes advantage of VR in a big way. However it's not like I was actually expecting them to--I would actually be completely fine with a vanilla Thief in VR. But one of my two main "criticisms" of the game is that there is nothing about the story, level design, or atmosphere that draws me in. It kind of just feels like a test of mechanics at this point--hence the whole "tech demo" thing. There is still another level in the game that I haven't completed (and another one that they haven't released yet) but I feel no real urgency to play it, at least not much more than I'd want to play a generic dungeon level in a flat Thief game. However, also consider that these are indie devs and they may still be focused on locking down fundamental mechanics at this point. Likewise, if this is a project that they actually expect to pay the bills with, I can't really have high expectations anyways--this is a niche within a niche and the game didn't cost a whole lot. If you were to, say, drop me into Thief 2 with these mechanics I would be delighted. Regardless, the other major complaint I have with the game is the lighting model. There is no "black" in this game. The darkest that things get is a washed out dark blue that the player can see through plain as day. The lights are all golden yellow. There are times when you're hiding (...in a blue spot...), confident that you are hidden and then you realize how silly it all is--everything is plainy visible. I'm not really sure why they did this but I'm guessing it has something to do with worries about mura in the OLED displays of some of these first generation VR headsets (especially the vive). On the other hand, Onward (a hardcore VR infantry sim--one of my favorite games in general) has levels with areas so black that at times it actually feels like more of a Thief game than this one--you can pick a dark corner and practically disappear. But I suppose that's different from long stretches of hallway that are pure black. I can't really say that I regret playing it though because the main thing I was looking to get out of this was basically to see the fundamentals of a Thief experience in VR. The first thing you notice is of course the immersion that VR adds and this is especially well suited to a Thief game. Although I said the level design itself wasn't anything spectacular, the graphics are from a technical standpoint not bad, and there are moments when the perspective you have of the scene in front of you gives you a glimpse into the sort of immersion VR can offer a Thief game. With a captivating story, level design, ambient music, and atmosphere the effect would be incredible. The other main thing I can say is just how natural the slow, methodical gameplay of Thief fits with VR. In VR it's really offputting to constantly zip around and speed through things--even setting aside the simulator sickness problem (I have really good VR legs at this point). For one, it's kind of like sensory overload to zip around like that. And second, in VR it's very rewarding to just stop and just "take in the environment" at times. In addition, there are many VR games that are just plain difficult to play after a long day of work due to how physically taxing they are. For example, when I played through The Forest in VR with a buddy of mine (truly incredible experience) there were times when we'd get so tired from standing that we'd literally lay down in the game, which is surprisingly immersiveness due to how well the environment is modeled--almost fell asleep watching the wind blowing and sunlight scattering through the trees (and there is a seated mode in the game but if I'm going to play a VR game I want the most immersive experience possible). But in this game I felt pretty comfortable despite the fact that I was rather tired during the play through--I spent a lot of time comfortably sitting on my floor. I'm a firm believer that VR is much more than just an immersion boosting technology. And--at least currently--it *needs to be* more than that in order to justify the current discomforts of VR headsets (once you get past the VR "honeymoon" phase). VR can fundamentally expand the possibility space with respect to how one interacts with a virtual world. The "problem" is of course that it's really hard for developers to design interaction systems that take advantage of VR to its fullest. For the most part that seems to be the case here--the climbing, bow mechanics, looting/pick-pocketing mechanics, etc etc take advantage of VR to an extent but they're pretty basic and abstract. There are so many ways that one could expand on these interactions--everything from a climbing system that takes into account world geometry/materials/player strength/physics to a intricate lock-picking mechanics to dynamic close range interactions with AI. But what's there currently doesn't really compel me to continue proceeding through a generic dungeon level. I should also mention that there were a few technical issues that made the VR experience uncomfortable at times. In particular, the devs have made the common mistake of not permitting the collision volume mapped to the player's head to clip through walls--instead it pushes you back (which is a terrible feeling in VR). The result is that when you're hugging a wall to stay out of sight or climbing there are unexpected disorienting translations in your vision. In addition, there are some texture rendering issues that produce a dizzying effect when close to a wall--it's kind of like a disorienting "black sheen" on the parallax mapped stone surfaces. Nothing too major, just surprised these things are still there a year after release given how uncomfortable they are. The other major benefit I got from this game was to see how VR's (current) technical limitations affect this kind of game. First, I expect I would have observed some OLED mura issues if it weren't for the "blue is black" lighting model--in VR OLED mura looks something like a starfield or linen pattern overlay fixed to your head movement. Fresnel lens glare / lightshafts in some of the high contrast environments were pretty uncomfortable (mostly with the waypoint markers overlaid on the environment in the tutorial section of the game). Near field interactions (e.g. trying to read virtual parchment) are also pretty uncomfortable due to the fixed focus depth (need variable focus displays), and Thief in general involves a lot of near field interaction. The pupil swim on the Rift is especially noticeable on the game's detailed wall textures, although Vive users won't experience this quite so much (it looks like a sort of fish eye warping effect--won't be solved until we have eyetracking). And the headset cable is just a PITA (and it's immersion breaking) when you're trying to transition between stances or rotate (Of course this is solved with wireless which is already available and works perfectly for the most part--I've tried the wireless addon for the Vive and a TPCast in the past). All of these technical problems are being solved of course, the major one being variable focus which will probably be solved some around ~2022. Once all of these "kinks" in the hardware are ironed out, I expect VR may be "worth it" even for its immersive effect alone. Even better if we can manage some way to simulate translational/rotational forces through motion controllers or a sim sickness prevention measure (I've seen some progress in both of these areas, but nothing that looks like it will be in consumer products any time soon) All in all it's a decent tech demo if you want a glimpse into what a Thief game could be in VR.
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