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Preview: CCP Games’ VR Labs’ The Workshop

Suggesting that the VR Labs’ contingent of CCP Games has been working on ‘experimental’ virtual reality (VR) could be qualified by The Workshop. An assortment of basic technical demonstrations that have clearly benefited from a lot of iteration and refinement, The Workshop is CCP Atlanta’s answer to a Wii Play style mini-game compilation: less for entertainment purposes than it is for education.

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Of course, the information it offers is related to VR itself. The Workshop educates users on how to work in VR by offering a small selection of entertainment apps that last just a few seconds. Four were included in the EVE Fanfest build, and by the time users had reached the third all the lessons required to make it function were ingrained.

The first demo was a simple map of Iceland made from 3D hexagons. Using the Kinect 2.0 for full body tracking – as with all the CCP Atlanta productions at EVE Fanfest – the player is able to swipe their hand across the surface and ‘push’ the hexagons down. They would rise once again once the users’ hand had been removed, calling upon comparisons to the novelty pin point toys made popular in the 1980s. It’s simple and direct, much like every component of The Workshop.

Next was a mirror image. Using the Kinect 2.0 to scan the user The Workshop would create an accurately sized mirror image, a tiny version and a giant. These would move in near real-time and the suggestion from CCP Atlanta was to try shaking your own hand; a weird sensation for sure, but less so than actually moving so close that you feel an unwanted presence in your personal space: you.

The third component would surely be what most users took away with them as a highlight. Ahead stands a number of red pillars of various sizes, while to your left is a plinth hosting a fireball and on the right another holding a ball of electricity. The user is able to pick up these items and throw them at the pillars, doing significant damage upon impact. The fireball acts like a grenade: an arched throw above your head and an explosion upon impact. The electricity was arguably more fun however, as a horizontal throw would allow great distance to be covered while a vertical throw would see many projectiles launched at once.

The final tech demo that was offered by The Workshop was a simple exercise in full body motion-capture. A pile of green boxes appeared in front of the user and they were given visual instruction to attack them, knocking them from their organised perch with each blow.

Throughout the four components of The Workshop there was a single thread of instruction. The menu options in each were commanded simply by pointing at an icon, and then at the option you required from the pop-up menu hidden within. Resetting the blocks in the final demo, changing the shader on your mirror image and exiting one component to try another: all commanded with the same simple interface. This is where The Workshop has proven its worth. The small technical demonstrations were fun for a few moments, but in creating a unified interface for CCP Atlanta proved that iteration has pushed them ahead of the pack.