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The Alternative Realities of Our Time
Online Virtual Reality Games: Between Dreams and Reality

The gaming world has been evolving at a rapid pace in the past few decades and despite the fact that graphics have improved to cinematic quality and adventures are more challenging than ever, gamers want more.

This desire has fueled the development of today’s virtual and augmented reality software. The concept may not be new, but it is innovative. At present, virtual reality games have everything they need to thrive: a strong gaming community, excellent internet connection, passionate developers and advanced technology to support it.

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Countless games that delight the senses emerged on the market. Some of them struggled with lag issues (especially motion-to-computer gadgets) at the beginning, but they have been resolved. This made it possible for game devs to concentrate their efforts on the development of online virtual reality games.

In other words, the next time you feel like having another ‘better-than-life’ experience you can share it with your friends. Virtual reality has made it possible for us to tread on virtual battlefields with our buddies or have a close-to-real-life experience in a social environment such as Second Life.

One of the first demonstrations of Oculus Rift’s DK2 kit consisted of an immersive experience in which the player was joined by a second one. The game, called VR Knights, featured two users sitting on a couch while controlling their little knights. For the first time in the history of Virtual Reality, you could feel how it would be to share your alternate reality with a human being.

When asked about Sony’s approach on social interaction in virtual environments, Shuhei Yoshida, head of the company, said that their goal was to make a ‘social experience so there will be more people interested in trying this so it won’t be awkward to use”.

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Sony’s Approach on Online Virtual Reality Games

Sony has been working relentlessly on its Project Morpheus and the results are finally starting to show. Right now, the Morpheus headset seems like the most affordable bet for immersive experience enthusiasts. During last year’s Game Developers Conference, Sony unveiled its plans for the next year.

x3The company sees a slightly different future for the headset: one where people will be able to explore a hotel before booking it, or where they can check out the iconic scenery of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. But, above all, it imagines a world where people can actually interact with one another. They also introduced the idea or social screen: where viewers can experience the game exactly as the player sees it.

Sony isn’t the only game developer to support the idea of online virtual reality games. Countless game developers have been working on their own version of multi-player games since 2012. But the term “virtual reality game” doesn’t refer only to heavy headsets and fully immersive experiences. Virtual reality games are also the ones where players can create a completely alternate life online. There are a select few games that combine both characteristics. Here they are:

#1 Second Life

You have probably already heard about Second Life, the game that transcends the traditional scope of online interaction and gives users a chance to, well, a second life. The concept behind the most popular online virtual reality game is quite simple: players can build a world that they truly want to live in. In Second Life you can build houses, get a job, have families and become an artist.

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On October 13, 2014, Linden Lab of Second Life announced the release of a Project Viewer which made it possible for users to experience the game with the first generation of Oculus Rift (the DK1 kit). Shortly after that, the second generation was released and quickly implemented in Second Life. DK2 resolved some motion-sickness issues and ensured a more immersive experience for players. There are still some bugs that must be solved, but irrespective of them, the game works seamlessly with the virtual reality headset. Here’s a video that will help you get started with VR:

#2 EVE: Valkyrie

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EVE: Valkyrie is arguably the most intense & realistic virtual reality gaming experiences of the moment. The game throws you right in the cockpit and prepares you for a breath-taking team-based adventure. The most important features include 360-degree fully immersive action combat, multi-player dogfights, ship-swapping & load-outs strategies, customization features for equipment and ships and complex character progression.

The reason why EVE: Valkyrie integrates so well with virtual reality technology is because it was built from ground up. Everything started when CCP games decided to back up the Oculus VR Kickstarter campaign. It gained early access to the team’s dev kits and immediately began work on the space-based dogfighting tech demo. In 2013, EVE-VR was released to the public in a Reykjavik Fanfest. The Gaming community’s response was beyond the team’s wildest expectations.

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EVE received awards from tech titans such as PCGamer and IGN. In light of these events, the team continued working on its full-fledged game: Valkyrie. Two years later, CCP announced that it will expand support for Sony’s Project Morpheus.

#3 Valve’s Virtual Reality Experience

We’re months, if not years away from obtaining perfectly working virtual reality software. Although the hype is real and game developers are pushing the boundaries of VR experiences, progress is slow. Right now, virtual reality companies are still struggling with imagery and quality issues and their approaches are very different.

Valve’s Vive system, for example, takes on a unique approach: if you enjoy being trapped into a small room where you can explore a 3D environment, you will like it. But more important than the headset’s capabilities is the promise it makes to the future: if Valve manages to integrate virtual reality into the platform, we might soon see some classic online games re-worked. The company has already started work on Half-Life 3.

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“We’ve said, ‘Let’s take some existing art and see how it fits. So yeah, we’ll grab some headcrabs, we’ll grab the machine guns from Half-Life, the rocket launcher – all those different fun things – and see how they play in VR. But right now, it’s a tool for exploring the different kind of game designs we want to do.” Jepp Barnett

More than anything, Valve wants to see how its staple games will handle virtual reality. It started tests with an undeniable classic. Barnett actually adds that he would like to make all franchises in VR. At the moment, the developing team is experimenting with Left 4 Dead and DOTA 2 in Virtual Reality. For those of you who didn’t know, DOTA 2 is one of the most popular MOBAs (massive online battle arena) of the moment. Valve is also testing Portal with the Vive and promised to launch a demo later this year.

Wrapping Up…

There aren’t very many online virtual reality games at the moment, and those that were released still require a lot of work. Irrespective of setbacks, one thing is clear: the titans of gaming communities are trying to bring our favorite games to VR or working on brand new online experiences. All we can do is wait patiently to see how things progress.

So there you have it. What do you think about the progress made by VR online? What games would you like to see brought to VR?

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