My biggest qualm with many home VR experiences involves how I move about in-game. Using a controller for locomotion -- whether it's a Doom VR-style teleportation mechanism or using a thumbstick a la Farpoint VR -- dramatically reduces the immersiveness of the gameplay and reminds me that I'm really just wearing a screen on my face. But with the Active VR system from OptiTrack, players will soon be able to move around in the game the same way they do in real life: by moving their feet.
The company showed off its warehouse-scale optical tracking system at GDC 2018, and during a demo on Wednesday, I was afforded the opportunity to try it out while slaughtering hordes of zombies in Arizona Sunshine from Vertigo Games. The OptiTrack system utilized a suite of VR components including the Oculus VR HMD, the Hardlight VR haptic feedback vest and a Striker VR rifle-style controller. Interestingly, the entire system runs wirelessly with shockingly low latency. Rather than have players tethered directly to the PC or forcing them to carry it around on their backs, the OptiTrack system instead mounts a lightweight wireless transmitter on the vest's back. This reduces the amount of load players are required to carry, making them faster and more mobile.
Taken together, this setup dramatically improves the player's mobility. For example, in the home VR version of Arizona Sunshine, players move around by teleporting between static positions and then have to rotate like turrets while fending off the zombie onslaught. But with the OptiTrack system, you're instead able to move about the designated area freely: strafing, advancing and retreating from the enemy. You can even take cover and shoot around corners. It really feels like you're blasting your way through a Zombiepocalpyse.
The OptiTrack system currently supports up to four players when playing Arizona Sunshine -- though that's a limit of the game itself, not the tech -- but can be expanded to as many as 20 players, a company rep told Engadget. The company hopes to partner with other game studios to adapt their existing first person shooter titles to this free-moving VR landscape (immersive Call of Duty, anybody?). There's no word, however, as to when this system will land at a VR arcade near you. But once it does, it will be getting all of my quarters.
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