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25 Nov 2013

Understanding the Oculus Rift

Last week, John Carmack officially left id Software. It’s a huge shock to be sure, especially since Carmack and id Software have went hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly, chocolate and peanut butter, and (and to keep this peanut butter chain rolling) peanut butter and crackers for decades. When you think Doom, you think ‘birth of the FPS genre,’ which results in the image of one man: Carmack.

Yet Carmack left for a very good reason: he has seen the future. Recently, he has become infatuated with the Oculus Rift – so much so he recently became CTO of the company. Add to the fact that in the book Masters of Doom (a book that chronicles id Software’s early beginnings. It’s an awesome read worth checking out), it states that Carmack saw ‘the ultimate video game,’ in the debut episode of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Carmack witnessed ‘the holodeck’ – a device that can simulate immersive environments for entertainment – and it becomes abundantly clear what Carmack is changing his focus to: the Oculus Rift. Carmack wants to create the ultimate video game, yet why should Carmack solely get to develop the ultimate video game? The Oculus Rift is fair game to all indie developers, and it can certainly change the way we think about gaming forever.

What do you need to know about the Oculus Rift before you start developing ‘the ultimate video game?’ There are a few things you need to keep in mind. Don’t wait: take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and like Carmack changed the world with Doom in the early 90’s, so too do you have the chance with the Oculus Rift.


100%, naturally immersive gameplay

In order to take advantage of everything the Oculus Rift has to offer, you need to develop your game while keeping in mind just how immersive the device actually is. Whereas normally players are distracted by the phone at their side or the people around them, Oculus Rift blocks out everything around the player to create a completely immersive experience. It’s impossible to check your phone or communicate with others while wearing the device, giving you the opportunity to create a fully immersive game like never before. With Oculus Rift, you have the wearers full attention, and as a result, you can create powerful, immersive experiences unlike anything anyone has ever seen before.


Stereoscopic 3D

For the unfamiliar, stereoscopic 3D is a technique that is used to create/enhance the illusion of depth. Of course, when playing a regular game, you can always tell when an object is far away versus when it is up close, yet with stereoscopic 3D, it is possible that you can actually feel the illusion of proximity and between yourself and the object that is far away. It’s an illusion that must be felt to be believed with the Oculus Rift, and it will certainly make your games feel more alive.


Complete creative freedom

You’re at the ground floor of the Oculus Rift, and as a result, you are going to be able to create compelling games and solve problems uniquely due to there being absolutely no rules regarding virtual reality. There isn’t any sort of formula for developing virtual reality games, meaning you can create your game literally how you want it, development rules be damned. Want to create a game about a bird flying through the air? You can, and you don’t have to abide by any rules stating how to show the UI of the game, how much player motion your game needs, the proper uses of head-look, and so on.

Want to develop a game that is ultra-realistic? Go for it! The sky is the limit currently for the Oculus Rift, and we are witnessing the beginnings of a platform that is going to revolutionize gaming as we know it. However, for the platform to revolutionize the industry forever, it needs revolutionary games first. That’s where you, indie dev, come in.


It begs to be developed by indie devs

Oculus themselves have stated that they expect for the indie community to fully embrace the Oculus Rift and develop some of the greatest games the world has ever seen. The proof is certainly there too, as Oculus and IndieCade put on a ‘VR Jam,’ a three week gaming development competition for the Oculus Rift. Add to the fact that the Oculus Rift has Unity integration, and it becomes clear as day: Oculus wants indie devs to develop for the Oculus Rift, and they believe in them.

It’s going to be extremely different when developing games in a 3D realm versus the regular 2D realm that has been the norm since the dawn of video games. The install base is going to be initially small as well, yet with incredible games, more people will buy the Oculus Rift, and the revolution will be underway. By keeping the details in mind mentioned above, you will have the mindset to begin developing for the Oculus Rift. It’s an exciting time to be sure, and everyone has the potential to create the first truly revolutionary Oculus Rift title. Will you be the one?

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