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Black Mesa Developer Shares his Valve VR Demo Impressions

By NAG3LT31-01-2014

Carlos Montero is an artist who worked on several games, including the Black Mesa mod. He got a chance to try Valve's VR demo, which not only displayed the virtual world, but also allowed some freedom of movement in a special room. He has shared his impression about the demo on his blog.

The headset and setup used for the demo was not Oculus Rift and Valve does not consider it as a tech ready for mass-market, but as a target and benchmark for consumer VR in the next few years. Importantly, the 30 minute demonstration did not make him feel dizzy. The position tracking was realised via the QR codes on the walls and a camera mounted on the headset. Whilst the carpet had raised areas which allowed people to feel the edges of the room while wearing the VR headset. Finally, Montero has mentioned that Valve is testing a similar setup with Oculus Rift as well.

The selection of demo scenes showcased different immersive scenarios and the quality of both the VR headset and detailed object in the scenes made them seem very believable. The demo of standing on a very tall edge led to automatic attempts to keep balance. Taking a step into 'open' air and standing on it Indiana Jones style felt very uncomfortable just due to the visual cues within the VR environment. Another demo in the large warehouse, allowed perceiving of impressive dimensions even inside a mostly empty space. The dynamic shadows and reflections of the VR floating player's head in the mirror were also weird to see.

The first textured demo Montero saw was Portal 2 turret assembly. Unfortunately for performance, while on a 2D screen normal maps provide good illusion of depth, it breaks down in 3D. Full circle panoramic photos can look interesting in 3D as long as all objects are far. While they have no 3D detail, we do not have 3D perception at large distances other than the object is far away, which is replicated when viewing these in 3D as far away objects. Other detailed virtual spaces, like pipe room or plane cockpit provided a of lot extremely detailed objects, providing a very immersive experience.

All this sounds very exciting and interesting. Hopefully Valve is right and the technology will be available and affordable to the masses sooner, rather than later.

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