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HTC Vive review: Reach out and touch the virtual world

Hayden Dingman | April 6, 2016
Living la vida virtual.

Surprise! There’s a lot of software.

Vanishing Realms
Vanishing Realms.

It truly is a surprise. Oculus put a lot of money into first-party development and struck a number of exclusive deals with third-parties. For months the launch narrative has looked like “Valve wins on hardware, Oculus wins on software”—a narrative that still seemed likely when Oculus launched alongside thirty titles last week.

But never underestimate Steam. As of now, writing this on Monday afternoon (the day before launch), Steam says I have 62 Vive-ready programs in my library. More than double Oculus’s launch-day lineup, and there are some others scheduled for the April 5 launch that I don’t have access to yet.

Now, there are other things to take into consideration of course. Oculus’s launch lineup was, I’d say, a more consistent quality. That’s what happens when you employ borderline-excessive curation and handpick every title.

Valve’s done...well, what Valve does. You want to sell and/or give away a Vive game? Looks like Steam will take it. Full-fledged games like Job Simulator and The Gallery sit right alongside weird (pricey) experiments like #SelfieTennis and demo-scale experiences like TheBlu. And there’s no real telling what’s what.

Meaning there’s a lot of chaff to sift through.

#SelfieTennis
#SelfieTennis

The upshot though is that the Vive feels hands-down more interesting, entertaining, and surprising. Steam’s current Vive lineup reminds me of the early days of Oculus Share, a sprawling and lawless Wild West full of some of the most boundary-pushing, brilliant VR experiences possible. And also some really bad garbage. And some stuff that’s kind-of broken.

Luckily Steam has its built-in reviews system, meaning the best of the best will be surfaced while the rest fade. Again: The fact that the Vive hooks straight into Steam is one of its best features, if only because Steam is a mature and well-established storefront with a ton of users.

My kingdom for a bigger apartment

The other issue with Vive development at the moment is harder to solve though: Space. How much do you need?

More space is better, a lesson I learned quickly the other night when I decided to check out VR Baseball – Home Run Derby. I held my Vive wand up like a baseball bat, squared myself on the plate, pointed to the stands like Babe Ruth, wound up and swung with all my might—straight into the side of my desk. Credit to the Vive controller for not shattering into a million pieces, though it bears a dent now as testament to my stupidity. It’s not that Chaperone didn’t work. It did, but I was moving too fast to stop. Something for developers to think about, maybe.

 

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