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Losing my VRginity to: Virtuality (Probably)

The Oculus Rift headset is far from the first attempt to get virtual reality (VR) into consumers hands. Anyone with a history in the industry will no doubt remember the numerous, ill-fated challengers to first step into the ring. One such veteran is Patrick O’Luanaigh of nDreams. As the CEO of the now VR-specialist studio, O’Luanaigh fondly remembers his first VR experience, potentially before Palmer Luckey was even born.

nDreams made its name on the unique Xi, an Alternate Reality title set in PlayStation Home, the social service that runs on Sony’s PlayStation 3. Now the developer focuses on creating exciting new VR projects. VRFocus will be bringing you all the latest on nDreams’ titles as and when they’re announced. For now, let’s hear where it all began for O’Luanaigh.

Virtuality

“It was the early 1990’s, and I had gone to a consumer computer show – I can’t even remember which one. There, in the middle of the show floor, was the first VR headset I had ever seen. It was huge. It had miles of wires trailing from it. But I simply had to have a go.

I can’t remember the headset manufacturer, but it was probably Virtuality, a company who back in the 90’s were selling VR arcade machines to theme parks. But I do remember the demo and the experience. I was controlling a small baby, seeing from the babies point of view. I was able to crawl around the kitchen floor, looking around, trying to avoid the giant feet of an adult stomping around. I could look around, look up and even look behind me. I felt like I was actually in another world. This was something truly special.

Ok, the headset lagged. It was heavy. It cost $65,000. And the graphics (which felt amazing at the time) were flat-shaded with no textures, and incredibly low-poly models. But I still remember that unique feeling of being transported into another place. When I tried the Oculus Rift early last year, that magic returned a hundred-fold. Low cost hardware, accurate positional and rotational tracking, high-resolution OLED screens and a proper understanding of how to design games with VR in mind – all of that is combining to create a new kind of experience that simply makes games better.  VR was indeed a baby, crawling around back then. Now it’s grown up and it’s coming your way….”

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Patrick O’Luanaigh is the CEO of the VR developer and publisher, nDreams. nDreams are best known for creating the first ever console-based Alternate Reality title, Xi, which had over 5 million visits in six months, and have been one of the leading publishers inside the PlayStation Home virtual world over the last five years. More recently, the team have been focusing almost exclusively on virtual reality videogames.

Prior to founding nDreams, Patrick was Creative Director of Eidos, where he was responsible for design and gameplay across all their projects including Tomb Raider Legend. Since 1996, he has worked on twelve number-one selling console titles and has written a successful book called ‘Game Design Complete’.