Preview: CCP Games’ VR Labs’ Disc Arena

CCP Atlanta comprises one half of the CCP Games VR Labs initiative, revealed at EVE Fanfest earlier this month, and most definitely resides on the ‘experimental’ side of the virtual reality (VR) divide. Showcasing three technical demonstrations at the event in Reykjavik, Iceland, Disc Arena was perhaps the most closely related to traditional videogame experiences, and yet was still a long way from the potential to become a consumer product.

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Disc Arena, as with all the CCP Atlanta tech demos, required the player to stand and mount an Oculus Rift DK2 on their heads. A Kinect 2.0 was also incorporated into the apparatus, offering a full body scan of the player and representing it in the virtual world. Differing from all the other VR Labs demos however, Disc Arena was a two-player experience.

The player uses both arms in gameplay. Upon the right arm was the ability to launch discs (limited by a cooldown timer). Discs would be launched into any of 16 ‘channels’ – which were entirely invisible – and will rebound off walls as they approach the enemy or possibly even back at the player who threw them. However, on the left arm was a shield: blocking discs would remove them from play, but accurately timed swipes would send them back at your opponent.

Points are earned by landing discs upon your opponent, either through skill or sheer luck. Matches only lasted a few minutes and yet in that time it was possible to learn the basics of driving discs and positioning your shield not just to rebound, but to precisely do so in a direction of your choosing. Disc Arena is obviously most intense when there are many discs in-play and as being hit offers no penalty aside from score, keeping your awareness of the arena when half-a-dozen are bounding around is essential.

It may sound fairly basic, and that’s because it is. However, often the simplest ideas are the most enjoyable. Disc Arena is a mini-game at present; part of a future in which Wii Sports-like packages make their way into VR and entice family participation. An obvious yet sorely missing entertainment sector that will no doubt be capitalised upon at some point, and the hope would be that the quality of Disc Arena is the bar that is aimed for.

Disc Arena is an easy-to-learn experience that is unquestionably fun; the real question comes in it’s marketability as a product. CCP Games insisted that it was simply showing experiments at EVE Fanfest – EVE: Valkyrie aside – but one can’t help but feel that they will need a return on investment somewhere along the way. When the time comes that VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) are bundled with depth cameras as standard CCP Atlanta will be right there, and Disc Arena is likely to be one of the most enjoyable early experiences the technology could offer.

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