• HTC Vive Headsets Lineup Explained: Should You Wait For Cosmos?
    htc vive lineup

    HTC’s line-up of VR headsets is steadily growing. What’s the difference between the Vive and Vive Focus? What’s the Vive Cosmos? Which should you buy? Read on for our rundown of the current Vive line-up.

    HTC Vive

    Vive is a room scale VR headset powered by your gaming PC. At $499 it’s the most affordable headset in HTC’s lineup. It comes with two fully tracked controllers.

    The Vive cannot operate without a gaming PC, and won’t work on most laptops. It comes with two SteamVR “Lighthouse” base stations which must be set up in your room for positional tracking.

    Originally released in 2016 for $799, the OG Vive remains today as HTC’s entry level PC VR option.

    HTC Vive Pro

    Vive Pro is a premium model of the Vive, released in 2018. It has higher resolution panels for a sharper image with less “screen door effect”. It also features improved comfort and integrated audio.

    Pro supports the new SteamVR Tracking 2.0. This allows for more than two base stations to be used at once for even larger playspaces.

    It’s currently priced at $1399, or $799 for the headset only so you can upgrade from the standard Vive.

    HTC Vive Pro Eye

    At CES 2019 HTC announced Vive Pro Eye– a 2019 refresh of the Vive Pro adding eye tracking. This allows for better social VR and gazed based UIs, but more importantly it enables foveated rendering.

    Foveated rendering renders most of the view of a VR headset at lower resolution except for the exact area where the user’s eye is looking (detected with eye tracking). This allows for improved visual quality and/or performance.

    HTC didn’t reveal the price, but told us it will be launching in Q2 of this year.

    HTC Vive Focus

    Vive Focus is unlike any of the rest of the Vive lineup in that it is a standalone headset. It’s priced at $599, and for now mainly intended for enterprise.

    Standalone means that the computing hardware and storage are all built inside the headset. Focus doesn’t connect to your PC, other than for basic USB file transfers.

    It has two cameras on the front which perform inside-out tracking, so there are no base stations to set up or wires.

    The controller (there’s only one) is essentially just a rotational laser pointer. This severely limits the games available on the Focus compared to PC. However, HTC is working on 6DoF Focus controllers which may release in future.

    HTC Vive Cosmos

    Vive Cosmos is a PC VR headset launching later this year. Unlike the original Vive line it uses inside-out tracking, not SteamVR. In fact, the headset’s native platform isn’t SteamVR either- it’s the new Vive Reality System.

    Interestingly, HTC also suggested the headset could work with devices other than a PC, showing an image of a smartphone in the reveal video. The company will reveal more details “later this year”, but we expect this means it could be powered by a HTC smartphone.

    Which To Get? Wait For Cosmos?

    Since the Vive Focus controller is 3DoF-only and the product is intended for enterprise, we don’t recommend buying it yet. When

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  • Stay Silent Is A Western/Sci-Fi VR Shooter From The Makers Of Nostos, Beta Sign-Ups Launched
    Stay Silent Is A Western/Sci-Fi VR Shooter From The Makers Of Nostos, Beta Sign-Ups Launched

    Cowboys vs Aliens wasn’t even half the movie it should have been. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t bother looking it up. It’s not a good movie. Anyway, VR might just be able to redeem this promising genre mash-up with Stay Silent.

    This is a western shooter in which players are cast as the sheriff of a small town. When an alien invasion threatens to destroy all you know, you take on the hordes. You’ll wield a mix of western firearms and alien technology, including stealth gear to help you get the drop on your foes. Expect the usual mix of VR shootouts hopefully with a few new twists and turns, then.

    Stay Silent is developed by NetEase Games, the same company that’s currently working on visually-stunning VR multiplayer game, Nostos. This has also got a multiplayer focus, though can be played in solo mode too. That said we’re not too sure on the game’s structure right now. NetEase hasn’t made it clear if there’s a single-player campaign in place or if solo play is just multiplayer with AI bots.

    To that end, there’s going to be a closed beta for the game pretty soon. It’ll run from January 24th – 29th. You can sign up to take place over at the team’s official Discord channel.

    We haven’t seen any gameplay yet but we’re sure to get a good feel for the game during the beta. There are a few screenshots showing the environment which are nicely detailed.

    Stay Silent will launch ‘in the coming months’ on HTC Vive. No word about official Oculus Rift and Windows VR integration just yet.

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  • AntiLatency Could Offer the Unrestricted VR Freedom You’ve Been Looking for VRFocus spoke with AntiLatency's CEO about the company's tech.
  • Beat Saber DLC: Dev ‘Needs More Time But We’re Working On It’
    Beat Saber DLC: Dev ‘Needs More Time But We’re Working On It’

    The saga of the first Beat Saber DLC installment continues. Developer Beat Games provided the briefest of updates on the pack this week.

    In short, it’s looking like the pack will take a little longer than expected. The studio noted on Twitter that it needed “some more time to work on it before it’s ready for release. It’s not that easy as we thought, but we’re working on it.”

    We’ll need some more time to work on it before it’s ready for release. It’s not that easy as we thought, but we’re working on it. 🙂 Stay tuned for more updates. 💪

    — Beat Saber (@BeatSaber) January 21, 2019

    Just under two weeks ago the developer said the DLC was coming soon. At the time, the studio cited issues with bringing the songs to PSVR as one reason for the delay. It’s not clear if that issue is still behind the holdup or there’s something else. Either way, Beat Games asked players to stay tuned for updates on the Beat Saber DLC.

    This DLC will be the first of three planned premium packs. Each will include ten new songs of a particular theme. Beat Games says they’ll cost around $9.99 each. Beyond that, the team is also planning to add more free songs to the game. It’s also working on extras for the PC version, including a custom track maker and multiplayer.

    Beat Saber is available now in Early Access on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows VR. The full PSVR version launched last year and is already one of the headset’s most popular games.

    Tagged with: Beat Games, Beat Saber, Beat Saber DLC, rhythm action

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  • Downloadable Demo of Apex Construct now Available on Steam Plus the title has 50 percent off currently.
  • Free Apex Construct Demo Finally comes to Steam
    Free Apex Construct Demo Finally comes to Steam

    Yet to try out Fast Travel Games’ excellent 2018 VR adventure, Apex Construct? The perfect opportunity now awaits you.

    The Swedish studio today launched a free demo for the game on Steam. It supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Windows VR headsets and lets you play through the first level. That should help you get to grips with the game’s first-person action gameplay. In Apex Construct, you explore a post-apocalyptic world ruled by warring AI factions. Using a trusty bow and arrow, you do battle with drones and solve puzzles.

    To mark the demo’s launch, the game is also 50% off on Steam this week, available for $14.99.

    This demo arrives shortly after Fast Travel revealed Apex Construct sold the best on PSVR. A tweet from CEO last week confirmed that 58% of the game’s sales have been on PSVR, with a further 23% on Steam. The Oculus Store took another 19%. PSVR has had a demo since May of last year which may have helped sales. It probably has something to do with the fact that Sony’s headset is thought to have the largest install base across all major headsets, though. PSVR has shifted over three million units.

    If you’re yet to play Apex Construct we definitely recommend giving the demo a shot. “Thanks to improved tracking and sharper visuals, the PC version of Apex Construct is a step up from its console counterpart,” we said in our review. “With full 360 degree turning, combat is a much smoother experience and smooth locomotion on the controller’s navigation options feels much better. While many of the original issues we cited still remain, they’re much more manageable when you’re not fighting the limitations of the platform. If you’re looking to play Apex Construct, PC is definitely the way to go.”

    Tagged with: Apex Construct, demo, Fast Travel Games, steam

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  • Applications are now Open to Join Digital Catapult’s CreativeXR Programme Interested applicants have until 17 February 2019 to submit their proposals.
  • A Fisherman’s Tale Review: A Perfect Storm Of VR Puzzling
    A Fisherman’s Tale Review: A Perfect Storm Of VR Puzzling

    I would have never pegged Innerspace as the one to crack the code. True, the Firebird series is a compelling exhibition of VR art, but who’d have bet on this small indie studio as the first to unify VR’s core pillars? To bring inventive, platform-driven gameplay, medium-rooted narrative and, above all else, arresting immersion all under one roof? Certainly not me, and yet A Fisherman’s Tale is exactly that.

    It’s a puzzle game, first and foremost, but not the kind that should repel lighter thinkers like myself. You play as a puppet, cozily confined to his lighthouse home. In the middle of your modest cabin sits a small model of your abode. Peer inside and, amazingly, you’ll see a smaller version of yourself matching your every move. Open a window and, sure enough, you’ll find yourself sitting in the middle of a larger version of your surroundings.

    Amazement ensues; try poking yourself from above with a giant finger, picking up objects from inside your model to bring into the world around you, or even throwing cups and lamps inside to make bigger versions of them. It all clicks. Innerspace bottles that raw disbelief you felt when you first put on a headset and realized that, against all odds, this works. But, crucially, A Fisherman’s Tale is no mere tech demo. It’s the real deal.

    Each of the four levels unlocks a new area of the lighthouse. Each of those comes with its own twist on that central innovation. This isn’t simply swapping tiles and pushing buttons in order; it’s genuinely stimulating puzzling. Early levels have you bending your brain to the breaking point as you reason your way through the model paradox. At one point you turn a hefty obstacle into a level-progressing key. Later on, you repurpose some seemingly useless furniture to reveal hidden secrets. Oh, and then you turn a fish into a taxi service. Brilliant!

    This is the kind of reality-defying gameplay that thrives in this medium. Better yet, there aren’t any unwelcome progression bumps. Each level gives you pause for thought but can be overcome without frustration. There also isn’t any half-hearted attempt wearing the invention thin; just before you might think you’ve seen all of the game’s tricks, it pulls something new on you.

    All of that alone would make A Fisherman’s Tale a must-see. But there’s also a core design philosophy that’s kept VR at the heart throughout. It helps it excel far beyond its brain-teasers.

    Though the tone is often light, the game’s themes are anything but. The model puzzles soon reveal themselves as a microcosm for wider topics about lineage and institutionalization and the metaphors don’t stop there. This is a game about a lost and beleaguered fisherman, don’t forget. But its dramatic heights are well-told and memorable. It favors a welcome subtlety and ambiguity in its story-telling that steers clear of the obvious cliches. You could even find something to relate to in the exploration of self-incarceration that’s fuelled by words of wisdom from unexpected allies.

    If anything, it’s warmer than you’d expect

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  • Review: A Fisherman’s Tale A wonderful marriage of narrative and puzzles, that’s just too short.
  • Watch Darth Maul Try His Hand At Beat Saber

    The galaxies most ferocious Sith Lord takes on VR’s most ferocious rhythm game. Imagine this: It’s 1999 and you’re sitting in your local theater awaiting the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, shaking with anticipation at the thought of the first new Star Wars film in 16 years. Finally, the film begins, and you’re

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  • Improve Your Game as vGolf’s Mixed Reality Simulator Gains Patent Approval vGolf will debut it tech as part of the 2019 PGA Merchandise Show.
  • Google ‘Foveated Compression’ Patent Filing Published
    google compression patent

    Alphabet’s Google filed for a patent for a compression system specifically designed for frames produced by foveated rendering.

    Foveated rendering is a process which renders most of the view of a VR headset at lower resolution except for the exact area where the user’s eye is pointed, which is detected with eye tracking. That area in front of the eye — where humans perceive the greatest detail — is rendered at a significantly higher resolution. Foveated rendering is considered crucial for future advancement of VR as it allows for higher resolutions without impossible GPU requirements.

    So why compress the frame? Why not simply send the result to the headset as is?

    The patent explains that in a standalone headset, the data lanes from the SoC (system-on-chip) to the display have limited bandwidth. Increasing this banwdith would have a non-trivial effect on energy consumption. Specifications like DisplayPort include an optional compression system already, however the algorithms behind it were not designed for elements of varying visual acuity in a single frame.

    The new compression system described gives priority to elements within the high detail area, where the result should be “virtually lossless”. Combining the high and low detail images without visible artefacts is described as requiring a custom chip. Thankfully however this chip is described as “relatively simple”.

    While the patent application was published this week, its filing date is July 2017. The patent is seemingly based on a late 2017 paper from Google Research titled ‘Strategies for Foveated Compression and Transmission’.

    The project was led by Dr Behnam Bastani, who led Google’s entire VR rendering research effort. In 2018 Bastani moved to Facebook to work in the FRL division led by Michael Abrash. This seems to follow an increasing trend of Facebook poaching top VR talent from Google and Microsoft.

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  • Ace Combat 7’s VR Support Needs The Astro Bot Treatment
    Ace Combat 7’s VR Support Needs The Astro Bot Treatment

    A little over two years ago now I wrote an article about a little game called Robot Rescue. It was a free demo included in Sony Japan’s Playroom VR launch compilation for PSVR. Its vision of a third-person platformer enhanced by player participation was so compelling I argued it needed a full game. Many others agreed.

    Two years later we got Astro Bot, one of the best VR games out there.

    But it’s time to rally our voices once more. There’s a new PSVR game on the scene which again offers a tantalizing taste of what should be a full experience. So powerful is this game that I can’t help but implore Sony to throw whatever mounds of cash it can spare towards its development team. I am of course talking about Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.

    Last week saw the long-running flight combat series return to consoles and PC. On PS4 it’s got a PSVR exclusive campaign. It’s all original content, but there are only 3 missions which anyone with any past experience could see it off in 30 minutes.

    But, goodness me, what a 30 minutes they’ll be. Ace Combat 7’s VR support is a joyous celebration of near-misses, missile locks and machine gun fire. It’ll shake you where you sit, drop your jaw, hammer your pulse and maybe even turn you into a series fan. It has that same revitalizing power that makes Wipeout VR so special and makes you excited about the future of VR once more. This is all coming from someone that hadn’t played the Ace games since the 1995 original.

    Now, here’s the thing. We don’t necessarily need a full new game here. I’d just as quickly welcome full VR support for the game’s main campaign. Heck, developer Project Aces could also revisit the many, many other past games in the series for inspiration. A compilation of missions from Ace Combat 6, Infinity and Ace Combat 7 would be more than enough. Just chuck out the bits that wouldn’t work in VR and let us loose in this wonderful aerial playground.

    Of course, it took nearly four years for Ace Combat 7 to go from reveal to release. Expecting a full VR campaign in the next two years might be a little ambitious. With that in mind, might we suggest this as a blockbuster game for PSVR 2? PS4’s limited horsepower probably played some part in making this mode so limited. Any hypothetical VR follow-up appearing on any hypothetical console follow-up could relieve those constraints a little.

    So, if you’re listening, Sony, please take heed. Get on the phone to Bandai Namco. Tell them all about PSVR 2 and why it’ll be great. Let’s make this a reality.

    Tagged with: ace combat 7, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

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  • Layers Of Fear 2 VR Support Not Being Ruled Out
    Layers of Fear 2 VR horror

    Good news for people that like to poop themselves! Layers of Fear 2 VR support might just happen.

    That is according to a Eurogamer report from PAX South this weekend. During a panel on the game, developer Bloober Team was apparently secretive about possible VR support. When the site followed-up, the developer said that the game would be multiplatform first and foremost. VR support was neither confirmed nor denied. That gives us hope.

    The original Layers of Fear was a first-person horror that told the story of a disturbed artist. Its mysterious sequel is set aboard a luxury cruiser. It promises yet more psychological scares, the kind that would be perfect for VR. Platforms for the game have yet to be announced though a new trailer for the game is below.

    If it does happen, it wouldn’t be the series’ first taste of VR. The first game in the series was reworked into a Daydream VR experience named Layers of Fear: Solitude. Sadly we didn’t think much of it. It was a somewhat awkward compilation of scares that fell flat. A full version of the sequel on premium VR headsets could easily surpass that effort, though.

    Eurogamer also reports that Solitude won’t be coming to any other VR headsets anytime soon. Nor will Bloober port its last game, Observer to headsets. That’s a shame, but fingers crossed Layers of Fear 2 VR still happens. Because we all need another scary VR game, right?

    For now, we’re expecting the game to launch sometime this year.

    Tagged with: horror, Layers of Fear 2

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  • The Goodbye Room Is A Queer VR Escape Room ‘With Feelings’
    The Goodbye Room Is A Queer VR Escape Room ‘With Feelings’

    We’ve seen plenty of VR escape rooms in the past few years. They usually offer mind-bending puzzles that take you hours to solve. The Goodbye Room, however, promises something a little different.

    This new VR adventure from developer Fire Mammoth is an ‘escape room with feelings’. At least that’s the phrase the studio’s Max Ellinger uses to describe it. The Goodbye Room is all about processing a past relationship. The player is locked inside a room with their ex-boyfriend and must relive memories and experiences to help tackle their grief. Inspired by the likes of Life is Strange and Gone Home, Ellinger and co want to tackle a subject not often covered in gaming, let alone VR.

    To do this, the game will use a mix of full VR content, volumetric capture and 3D, 360 video. You revisit key moments in the character’s relationship and try to un-do what’s already done. For Ellinger, it’s a deeply personal project that calls back to his own traumatic experiences. Playing Gone Home, a game which also features relationship struggles at its core, allowed him to properly process his grief. Now, Ellinger wants to make a game that might help others, too.

    “It’s the tender and queer game I wish I had when I was younger,” Ellinger says in an introduction video.

    To help bring the game to life, Ellinger is turning to Kickstarter. He wants to raise $13,500 by February 15th and is currently around the $2,000 mark.

    Interested? You can pledge $15 to secure a digital copy of the game. Ellinger estimates a December 2019 release with optional support for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Backer rewards stretch all the way up to $5,000, which will net you an executive producer credit.

    Tagged with: escape room, The Goodbye Room

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