Archive for March, 2014


HMDs at GDC

Well, while at GDC I was lucky enough to try out Sony’s new Head Mounted Display, and I was impressed. It was very light, all the weight was on the top of the head so there was no uncomfortable twisting forces. It was very immersive and a whole lot of fun.

Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus looking good!

Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus looking good!

I was treated to two demos. In the first I found myself hoisted up in a shark cage and dropped into a tropical ocean near a coral reef. Predictably, not everything went to plan and whilst the team on the boat were trying to fix the winch to pull me up a huge shark appeared from the depths at started taking my cage apart.

In the second demo I was in a medieval castle where I could attack a training dummy with swords and a cross bow. You could even grab the dummies arm, hack it off and then swing it at him which was a lot of fun. All too soon the demo ended when a huge dragon statue came to life and ate me!

Although I heard rumours that a few of the units were failing the product as a whole seemed very close to being released. The big question for me now is how much will it cost, especially when you consider that you need a PS4, a Move camera and controllers and the head mounted display to use it.

The other question for me are on health and safety, and on the social aspect. On the health and safety side Sony seemed keen to highlight that they could track the back of your head, implying that you could turn around in games. However, whenever you do that you end up wrapping yourself up in your own cable. I can’t see these headset being used in any other way than sitting down, unless you invest in some sort of rig like the Omni.

Sony seemed to be promoting the headset as a social experience in a couch coop setting, but the headset was so immersive that I don’t see how it can be. If I were playing with me, I certainly wouldn’t trust me when I couldn’t see or hear what I was doing.

In other news, there was a big focus on the Oculus Rift at GDC. They seemed to be everywhere! Not just in OculusVRs substantial area in the trade show. Since GDC Facebook as bought OculusVR for $2bn. I don’t see the two headsets really competing, ad they’re focussed on different markets, but it seems the future is bright for Head Mounted Displays.

Project Morpheus makes waves

The highlight of the day at GDC was Sony’s little publicised session in which they announced Project Morpheus, their competitor to the oculus rift, and bid to bring virtual reality to mainstream.

Project Morpheus - Sony's VR Headset

Project Morpheus – Sony’s VR Headset

Project Morpheus will be available for use with PS4 and PS Move, with 1000Hz tracking and 1080p screen (presumably split between both eyes). Sony talked about immersion and presence, but there were no specifics, no release date, no final specs, no price point. I have no doubt that Sony are getting close to release, but the whole thing seemed a little rushed. The session wasn’t in the programs, and appears to have been arranged at the very last minute. Despite the fact there are bigger rooms here we were squeezed into two rooms with a video link between them. The session was on Tuesday before most of the developers arrive tomorrow. It just doesn’t make sense.

It’s almost like Sony are trying to get the jump on something. I wonder if there are more announcements to come. Perhaps Sony are trying to beat Microsoft or OculusVR (or both) to the party.

The Games Developer Conference starts on Monday, so Sunday gives a good opportunity to try to get over the jet lag and wander round the city. That’s exactly what we did. After starting at the shops in fisherman’s wharf we walked towards the bridge, which was obscured by a heavy fog, then up the hill and back round towards the city. I think we covered about nine miles in all. After that we walked down to the convention centre to register before heading back to the hotel.

Monday saw the start of the conference. I mostly switched between sessions on the math and the graphics tracks. I learnt all about Grassmann Algebra, which is a more generalised version of vector algebra that I’m more familiar with. Then I learnt about some important considerations when introducing randomness into games, and then rotations using quaternions.

In the afternoon I deviated a little to see a session on using OpenCL for AI, and then I spent the rest of the day in the graphics track, covering shader optimisation in DirectX, optimizing DirectX, tessellation, volumetric rendering for shadows and god rays, and hair and fur shaders.

It was a busy day, but then it always is at GDC. There’s just too many great sessions on at a time!