• Subnautica Discounted This Weekend as Part of World Oceans Day The sale will help raise vital funds for leading conservation charity WDC.
  • Get Ready to Rumble! As Rec Royale Encourages Some Cross-Platform Mayhem There's no teaming up, it's every player for themselves.
  • What VR and AR Storytellers Can Learn from Magicians
    What VR and AR Storytellers Can Learn from Magicians

    If you want to entertain audiences and make them believe that what they are experiencing is real, then you need to think like a magician. The most incredible magic performances that I’ve seen, integrate engaging storytelling, the magician’s insights into how audience members’ minds work, and clever use of technology.

    In the past, I’ve shared insights into how content creators can leverage relevant secrets about how to trick audience’s brains like expert magicians. I encourage you to read that article first. This piece will focus on specific insights related to storytelling.


    Storytelling in VR and AR is like putting on a magic show. A magic show is not just a series of tricks, but rather a combination of effects presented with narrative, in a manner that creates meaningful and unforgettable stories. I recently hosted a dinner at The Academy of Magical Arts’ Magic Castle. Even if I were to take the time to describe all of the best-in-class magic I was lucky to witness that evening, I would not do it justice.  That’s because it’s not just about the result of the tricks – it’s the overall story of the experience of being there for yourself to witness the illusion of the impossible happen before your eyes. And no other technology can allow audiences to truly experience magical storytelling, like VR and AR.

    Practicing magic tricks with my grandfather, Henry Gordon.

    I was lucky to grow up learning magic from my grandfather Henry Gordon, a renowned sceptic and magician. Among his notes on tricks, and books on magic, The Trick Brain by Dariel Fitzkee stands out to me as one of the most important books to reference for insights into the categories of effects that magicians create. These effects can have a powerful impact on audience behaviour and overall level of entertainment in immersive experiences. They can be integrated into experiences as a means to control the frame, guide audience members in a certain direction, or simply to provide them with abilities and events that they cannot have in real life.

    I had the pleasure of speaking about magic, VR and AR at SXSW 2018, with magic performed by Scott Wells, thanks to support from the iconic Academy of Magical Arts. Here are some of the effects that I shared, along with my thoughts of how they can inspire ideas for VR or AR experiences.


    Sympathetic Reaction

    Sympathetic reaction is in essence, mirroring of two or more people and/or objects. It can be used, for example, when the person in the immersive experience’s movement impacts others in the virtual experience. It’s a great way to create a sort of forced empathy.

    It’s also useful for framing – magicians use the art of direction and misdirection to create a frame of attention, controlling where audience members look and don’t look.  If the visitor moves one object, and a similar object on the other side of the room then moves as well, that will likely grab the attention of the visitor.

    And sympathetic reaction can also

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  • Jaron Lanier Explains What Could Make VR ‘A Device Of Nightmares’
    Jaron Lanier Explains What Could Make VR ‘A Device Of Nightmares’

    To say Jaron Lanier is a pioneer of the VR industry is a bit of an understatement. His achievements include popularizing the term virtual reality and starting VPL Research, which was among the first startups creating VR hardware back in the ’80s (the company literally created an “EyePhone“).

    He’s also a best-selling author on the subject of technology’s impact on humans. Lanier’s most recent book, Dawn of the New Everything, released last year offering a kind of retrospective look back at his own life and his relationship with technology. Lanier also recently spent time in VR social app Sinespace (appearing as an octopus) being interviewed by Wagner James Au and Adam Frisby on a wide-range of interesting topics related to the book. One segment stood out to me as particularly meaningful, and I wanted to break it out for our readers.

    The potential of VR to help people do good is what draws a lot of interest to this technology. If you’ve ever been to a VR conference you’ve likely heard the speakers on stage professing their optimism. Lanier, however, has had a lot more time to think about it than most, and his talk helped explain the evolution of his thinking:

    If you think about what a VR system is, it’s measuring a lot about a person. You have to measure a whole lot to make a good VR experience including, obviously, accurate motion tracking or else the thing won’t work and in an ideal system, probably facial expression and all kinds of things. And so you have this accurate measuring device and then you are also providing feedback which is a whole experience of reality. So you have the makings of the most complete Skinner Box, even more so than any physical Skinner Box, cause you’re measuring more and providing feedback on more levels.

    So yeah, a VR system that’s good for anything, including for overcoming … distance between people, and for making great art, or great education, or great training or any of the things we’re all interested in, in addition to that it can also become the creepiest behavior modification device. So it could be a device of nightmares.

    Back in the ’80s when I had the first VR startup I was profoundly concerned with this question of this knife edge between technology going good or going bad. Like, to what degree is it about dreams and connection and to what degree is it about manipulation and trickery given that the technology is good for both those things. What makes it go one way or the other? Back then I had a belief about it, which is that if you just said the right things, if you got people excited about it on the right terms, then you could set it on a course where the good stuff would happen instead of the bad stuff. But…I came to decide that wasn’t true.

    I decided that ultimately the most powerful force is economics and what incentives people have in the system immediately that influence their

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  • Second Episode Of Jurassic World: Blue Arrives On Oculus Headsets
    Second Episode Of Jurassic World: Blue Arrives On Oculus Headsets

    The second episode of Felix & Paul Studios’ Jurassic World: Blue is now available to experience on Oculus Go, Rift and Gear VR.

    Felix & Paul Studios is known for extraordinarily high quality 360-degree VR productions, and this is their third such work for the Jurassic World franchise to arrive on Oculus headsets. It is free to download, so unless you’re trying to avoid spoilers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom we’d recommend giving this a look.

    For those hankering for something a little more interactive — if you visit a Dave & Buster’s after June 14 you should be able to check out Jurassic World VR Expedition for around $5.

    Tagged with: Jurassic World

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  • Insomniac’s ‘Stormland’ Is A VR Co-op Adventure Through A Dystopian Future

    AAA VR continues its rise as Insomniac Games’ latest adventure hits the Oculus Rift next year. In their a developer diary released last week, Insomniac Games, creators of hit franchises such as Spyro and Ratchet & Clank, teased an upcoming open-world VR game that would ask you to “reclaim your world.” Now, as promised, we

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  • Echo Combat Enters Open Beta Later This Month
    Echo Combat Enters Open Beta Later This Month

    Echo Combat is poised to be one of the Oculus Rift’s biggest exclusives this year (in addition to the spy-thriller action game, Defector, and Marvel Powers United VR if it actually releases.)

    We went hands-on with the game a few weeks ago at pre-E3 preview event and came away impressed with how effortlessly it melds classic shooter mechanics with Ready at Dawn’s amazing zero-G movement system.

    Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait long to try it out for themselves. If you’re going to E3, then you can give it a whirl by stopping by the Alienware booth in South Hall (#647) for some 3v3 action. Or if you’d rather play from home, Echo Combat enters Open Beta on Oculus Rift June 21st.

    For more details on the game, including our hands-on impressions, you can read all about it right here. In the meantime, what do you think of what you’ve seen so far?

    Let us know down in the comments below!

    Tagged with: Echo Arena, Echo Combat, lone echo, ready at dawn

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  • Hands-On: Echo Combat Is An Intense VR Shooter With Zero-G Movement
    Hands-On: Echo Combat Is An Intense VR Shooter With Zero-G Movement

    After playing lots of Echo Arena over the past year and being intimately familiar with the mechanics of Ready at Dawn’s groundbreaking zero-gravity movement system, I can still say that Echo Combat is about as complex of a shooter I’ve seen in VR. All my hours of Tron-like disc battles couldn’t prepare me for how deep and action-packed a match is in Echo Combat.

    I consider that lack of familiarity I felt to be a very good thing. It proves that Ready at Dawn’s formula wasn’t a one-trick pony and can absolutely be adapted to new, exciting games.

    Instead of throwing a disc at goals and playing keep away from the other team, you have different high-powered sci-fi guns and abilities to contend with and a payload to move across the map, just like in Blizzard’s insanely popular FPS Overwatch.

    However, unlike Overwatch, you won’t pick a pre-defined hero with a list of abilities because you can instead customize your weapon choices before the match. Adjusting team composition with the right loadout and actually working together (and communicating) is incredibly important.

    Since you’re shooting guns in Echo Combat it totally changes the dynamic of the game. For starters, every weapon has its own force feedback. In a zero-gravity environment each gunshot sends you backwards. The most basic laser pistol causes short spurts of movement, but the more powerful railgun-esque weapon rockets you back in big bursts.

    Luckily you can hold onto things in the environment to anchor yourself before shooting, but then that makes you an easy target.

    In addition to the different guns you have to pick from, each players also gets to choose an alternate weapon and an ability. Alternate weapons were either remote detonation discs that you  could toss out and explore like disc-shaped grenades and static orbs that shocked opponents it touched. There are only a handful of abilities to pick from as well, like being able to drop a shield or heal your teammate.

    Like Echo Arena, there is only one game mode in Echo Combat. Every match is split into two teams designated as either Attacking or Defending. The Attacking team must advance a swan-shaped payload across the map to the goal zone at the end. Each time a checkpoint is reached the timer resets and the spawn point is updated. The Defending team simply has to stop them from moving the payload.

    Sounds a lot like Overwatch, right?

    Perhaps more than anything else what I found the most difficult to get used to in my time with Echo Combat is being aware of my avatar’s legs in the VR space. With the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers I have full control over my head and hand movement, as well as orienting my body, but everything below my upper torso was hanging freely, including my legs. This means if I grab onto an entrance way or pillar to stabilize myself or take cover, sometimes my legs are still exposed, which led to a lot of people in matches flipping upside down and hanging

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  • Stormland Is A New Co-Op FPS From Insomniac That Constantly Evolves
    Stormland Is A New Co-Op FPS From Insomniac That Constantly Evolves

    When Oculus and Insomniac Games first teased this new game last week, I mostly just had questions. All we saw was the single teaser image in that article and some brief allusions to the fact that it will include movement systems that let you “go wherever you want.” But now, we know a lot more.

    Specifically, the game is called Stormland and it’s being developed in partnership with Oculus Studios as a Rift exclusive, just like Insomniac’s Edge of Nowhere, The Unspoken, and Feral Rites.

    The announcement trailer below is over three minutes long and packs in plenty of cinematics, actual gameplay footage, and a heaping dose of ominous world building. Then after getting a sneak preview of the trailer last week I got the chance to speak with Chad Dezern, Chief Creative Officer at Insomniac Games, and Mike Daly, Lead Designer on Stormland and they revealed just how ambitious and bold their plan is for this upcoming project really is.

    In Stormland you play as an android that’s been beaten up and left for dead. Clinging just barely to life, you’ve got to travel around the world, exploring ruins and lush environments in search of gear and equipment to augment your body and abilities. It features a free-form movement system including climbing, leaping, smooth movement, gliding through the air, and flying along slipstreams at high speed. Harnessing the power of guns, explosive, electrical powers, and more you can fight back against an invasive sentry force and take down massive guardians in both single-player and multiplayer.

    “We love experimenting with VR mechanics and Stormland represents the culmination of three VR projects at Insomniac,” explained Dezern. “That’s meant a lot of thinking about movement, combat, and structure that has gone into both our console and VR titles over the years.”

    Few developers currently working in the VR space have the history, lineage, and sheer quality track record of Insomniac Games. From the original Spyro the Dragon trilogy, to a slew of excellent Ratchet & Clank games, the Resistance FPS trilogy, Sunset Overdrive, their trio of VR games, and even the upcoming PS4-exclusive Spider-Man game, this is a studio that’s had its hand in some of the biggest and best projects in the whole game industry. Channeling that wealth of knowledge and applying it to VR game design is an excellent boon for gamers.

    With Stormland it’s truly shaping up to be a culmination of sorts. It’s got intense, fast-paced first-person combat like the Resistance games, a frenetic and dynamic world like Sunset Overdrive, a settign that’s teeming with life to see and areas to explore like Ratchet & Clank, and it’s got the years of iteration learned from three different VR titles.

    But what makes Stormland truly special is how it’s constantly evolving. The Tempest is a powerful force of storms that ravages the land frequently (as in every week or two in real world time) causing it to shift and change and adapt, which creates new areas to explore, new loot to find, and new challenges to

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  • Former PSVR-Exclusive Moss Is Now Available On Rift And Vive
    Former PSVR-Exclusive Moss Is Now Available On Rift And Vive

    Even though loose fingers on Twitter spoiled the news a bit earlier this week, it’s still exciting to see Moss, the former PSVR-exclusive from Polyarc, is officially getting ported to PC VR platforms like the Rift and Vive. And what’s more, it’s available already starting today! You can find it on Oculus Home, Steam, and  Viveport for $29.99.

    Moss is a top-down third-person action adventure game in which the players takes control of a celestial-esque being in the sky that controls and interacts with an adorable, might little mouse named Quill. It’s a brief adventure, only clocking in at a few hours in length, but the mixture of puzzle solving, exploration, and tense combat make it easily one of VR’s best games to date. We loved the PSVR version when it first released.

    Now, PC VR gamers can enjoy the journey as well. Not much is changed with this PC-focused re-release of Moss, other than a few enhancements. The visuals look sharper, you can use both hands via the Oculus Touch controllers and Vive wands, and there are now multiple save slots and additional language support as well. PSVR owners will receive those new updates later this month on June 12th.

    If this is your first time embarking on Quill’s quest, don’t be afraid to consult our full video walkthrough series that’s designed to help you uncover secrets and solve the hardest puzzles. Let us know what you think of this news down in the comments below!

    Tagged with: moss, polyarc

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  • Moss VR Full Walkthrough Video Series
    Moss VR Full Walkthrough Video Series

    Update: This was originally written for and filmed on the PSVR version of Moss, which released earlier this year, but now that the game is releasing on Rift and Vive we’ve republished the series for people that will be playing the game on PC for the first time.

    Original: Moss is finally out on PSVR and even though it’s short, only coming in at around 3-4 hours for a single first playthrough, it packs a lot of charm, challenge, and fun into those few hours. If you tally up all the times I died and got stuck on puzzles then Moss easily took me close to 4 hours total.

    Since the game features a lot of really complex (and often difficult) puzzles we’ve put together this playlist of gameplay that walks you through the entire game from start to finish. The first two videos also doubled as livestreams that we did this week, while the last three are straight gameplay videos.

    You can see all five of the walkthrough videos embedded down below right here, but if you’d rather just watch them all in a playlist on YouTube directly, then you can totally do that too. Here’s the Moss Walkthrough playlist link.

    Are walkthroughs something you’d want to see more of from us? Are you playing and enjoying Moss? Let us know if so on either point down in the comments below!

    Tagged with: moss, polyarc, quill, Walkthrough

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  • Hands-On: SPACES Reveals ‘Secret’ Terminator VR Attraction
    Hands-On: SPACES Reveals ‘Secret’ Terminator VR Attraction

    VR startup SPACES is looking for Terminator fans to “join the resistance.”

    In 2016 Brad Herman and Shiraz Akmal spun out their exploratory work in immersive entertainment at DreamWorks into its own independent company. They named the company SPACES and, backed by Comcast Ventures, VR Fund, and others, indicated they were working on location-based VR solutions. Last year, they announced additional investment and a $30 million commercial partnership with Chinese theme park operator Songcheng but, other than that, Herman and Akmal remained quiet.

    A few months ago they asked me to sign a non-disclosure agreement and invited me to experience an early test-bed for a walk-around Terminator installation they are officially announcing today. The backpack-based system included some fantastic immersive and interactive effects. SPACES is also planning additional features like high scores and video recording that are a step above what’s currently available at similar setups from The VOID and Dreamscape Immersive.

    Akmal, the CEO, told me they think being first to market has “never been important. What’s been important is being best to market or as close as we can get to that.”

    Over the past year or so I’ve visited an assortment of VR attractions to catch ghosts, infiltrate an Empire base and investigate an Alien infestation. With Terminator, SPACES transformed me into a cyborg and sent me on a mission to save the future from Skynet. Some VR headset owners, in the comfort of their own home, get to become an ape from the Planet of The Apes or Rocky Balboa in Creed: Rise To Glory, and the developers building all these virtual worlds are doing some interesting things to try and balance authenticity with fun. What SPACES is building takes immersion to levels unattainable at home (using effects like wind and physical props), and they aim to combine that with a more personalized social experience not yet available from some of the other companies working in this area.

    During the narrative I experienced, SPACES first scans player faces as part of a “transformation” process turning you into a cyborg. In VR, player avatars are traditional machine skeletons, as seen in the movies, but a version of each player’s face is attached to their respective heads. The solution doesn’t do anything to animate the face but it does solve a major problem. Each of the players in VR can quickly identify each other. And with full-body tracking players can easily interact with one another. Other installations let you pick an avatar or color for your player, but remembering which color corresponds to which player is pretty difficult while under assault from ghosts, aliens or robots.

    “Something like ‘Terminator’ you have a pre-conceived notion of how serious this is going to be, but it is really what you make of it,” said Akmal. “What we see mostly is people tend to be themselves.”

    The efforts also extend to a level of interactivity I’ve not seen in a public-facing VR demo. In addition to tracked limbs, headsets and guns, SPACES also includes environmental effects and haptics alongside fully tracked objects.

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  • Moss Review: Quill is The Little Mouse That Could
    Moss Review: Quill is The Little Mouse That Could

    Review Update for Rift and Vive: Luckily the PC port of Moss is just as wonderful as I’d hoped when I found out it was coming. The upgraded visual clarity is noticeable, especially in the environments themselves, and having a larger tracked space means I can more easily look and move around the environment without fear of losing tracking like I did with PSVR’s single camera.

    Having both hands by way of motion controller support in Touch and Vive doesn’t make as big of a difference as you might think since the PS4’s DualShock 4 is already tracked and is included in several interactive puzzles and combat elements. However, the tracking quality is much better this time around, removing much of the frustrating caused by PSVR’s poor camera. There are now multiple save files as well.

    All-in-all this is the exact same great game it was on PSVR. Moss is still excellent and still highly recommended. If you have both a PSVR and PC VR headset then you may as well just play the PC version for the enhancements alone.

    Original Review: Moss is a remarkable game. Not just because of how good it is (and it’s quite good) but also because of the mere fact that it exists at all. The VR market is overrun with mature-leaning shooting games full of blood and gore and developers have an obsession with developing these games from the first-person perspective. If it doesn’t have motion controllers with full, smooth locomotion no one seems interested in playing. But Moss defies all of these expectations.

    Moss is a third-person top-down isometric action-adventure-puzzle game featuring a tiny little mouse. There’s no blood, no gore, and very little combat to speak of throughout the entire adventure and you can only play it using a single DualShock 4 controller in your hands.

    The past two years of covering VR games has led me to believe that games like this just weren’t “for” VR as a platform, but Polyarc has proved me wrong.

    If you’ve played titles like Lucky’s Tale, Edge of Nowhere, or even Chronos, then you know there is a good bit of value to be found in third-person VR games. You lose a bit of presence typically in those other examples, but you gain a lot of perspective and scale. In the case of Moss, the developers have found a way to defy logic and marry all of that together.

    The main character of the game is Quill, a tiny little white mouse, and she exists separately from your character, known as a “reader”. Everything in Moss is told through the pages of a storybook that’s recited to you between each of the game’s various chapters. During the moments of action you zoom into the pages and take control of Quill using your controller’s analog stick and buttons.

    Given the obsession with motion controllers in VR currently it’s easy to forget that the DualShock 4 also has motion tracking built in with the light on the front of it. As a result, this

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  • SPACES Debuts Multi-Sensory Terminator VR Experience

    The team-based attraction will have you infiltrating Skynet and blasting your way through Terminators. Sitting in the heart of Los Angeles’ booming entertainment industry, rests a discreet warehouse. From the outside, it looks like any other studio space littered throughout the city—but this one was different. Little did I know I was about to join

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  • The Sublime Virtual Virtual Reality Finally Comes To Oculus Rift
    The Sublime Virtual Virtual Reality Finally Comes To Oculus Rift

    One of the most essential mobile VR experiences has finally made its way over to a PC-based headset.

    Tender Claws’ surreal VR adventure, Virtual Virtual Reality, got a surprise launch on the Oculus Rift this week for $19.99.

    In the game you travel through various virtual worlds in the service of an AI overlord named Activitude. It’s an often hilarious and hugely captivating adventure that keeps you guessing with its many twists and turns. The Rift version also adds support for the Oculus Touch controllers.

    Virtual Virtual Reality started life as an exclusive for Google’s Daydream platform a while back, but made the jump over to Gear VR and the Oculus Go in time for the latter’s launch last month.

    Sadly it doesn’t look like the game has launched on SteamVR yet, and there’s no word if it will at all. The same goes for PSVR, though fingers crossed these ports are in the works.

    Tagged with: Virtual Virtual Reality

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