Here’s an experience that lives up to its name. You’re sitting on a rollercoaster feeling a very real bout of nerves as you wait for it to start up. Suddenly, you’re literally shot forward, following a path that jolts you from left to right before throwing you upside down. “It’s alright,” you think as your hands grip your chair, “rollercoasters are entirely safe.” Seconds later your cart derails and zooms off into the air, giving a momentary sense of freedom before gravity kicks in. You dare to open one eye as you plummet towards the ground, only to note the collision course with a huge building. You smash into it and the architecture comes toppling down around you.
Rollercoasters are perhaps the most obvious application of virtual reality (VR) technology. Anyone that’s ever played one of the many classic simulation titles over the past few decades will have thought about the possibilities for at least a moment. There have been an overwhelming number of these experiences launched since the first development kit (DK1) for the Oculus Rift was released, dragging players around nauseating courses. With that in mind, it feels like it’s time for a developer to do something new with the genre, rather than simply creating another course to sample. Screamride could be the answer to that issue.
Screamride isn’t like most rollercoaster simulators. The Xbox One and Xbox 360 title allows players to create their own rides, but gives them more freedom than what’s come before. It’s possible to create hugely exaggerated thrill rides that defy the laws of physics, sending players off at insane speeds and throwing them into corners that would make any real rollercoaster fall to pieces on the first run. This in itself would be fantastic for adrenaline-seeking VR fans, allowing them to create the tracks that they’ve always dreamed of and then ride them as if they were real. No longer confined to a single course, Screamride could be the only VR rollercoaster experience ever needed.
But the title is far more than a simple simulator. Players are encouraged to make their virtual participants scream as much as possible during the ride, and sometimes the best way to do that is to face certain death. It’s possible to throw carts off of the course, hurling them out into the open air and colliding with other buildings, creating an immense amount of mayhem. Witnessing all of this carnage in VR would certainly be something to behold.
Crucially, Screamride’s developer, Frontier Developments, has two key franchises under its belt that make it an interesting candidate for a VR adaption. The first is Rollercoaster Tycoon, a popular theme park simulation series that proves the studio already knows what it’s doing. The second is sci-fi series Elite. The most recent entry in this series, Elite: Dangerous, is arguably the biggest VR compatible videogame to release so far, proving that the developer is more than up to the task of delivering a great VR experience here.
Of course, everything that’s described about sounds great, but also incredibly sickness-inducing. VR in its current form can just about handle rollercoasters without making the user feel sick should they be properly optimised. Screamride’s insane speeds and loops make the stomach churn just thinking about, it might simply be a matter of fact that the technology is not yet ready to accommodate such an experience without everyone throwing up everywhere.
All the same, this is an experience that deserves support for the Oculus Rift or another HMD. Perhaps the developer might make this a reality is the series is ever freed of its Xbox exclusivity.