Sólfar Studios’ videogame-that-isn’t-a-videogame, Everest VR, is continuing to expand with new interactive elements and grand scale designed to please the early adopters. However, there’s also a brand new element being incorporated to enhance the true raison d’etre for the project: the experience of climbing Mount Everest. It’s part information and part exploration, and it’s wholly commendable as an example of the power of virtual reality (VR) in education.
For the uninitiated, the basic experience of Everest VR includes five short chapters in which the player is tasked with tackling small elements of a real mountain ascent: climbing ladders, crossing rope bridges, sidling around snowdrifts. However, this is just one part of Everest VR. This is the interactive entertainment; a taste that on paper sounds like Crytek’s The Climb, but in play is much more sedate. See, Everest VR isn’t The Climb: it’s presumed to be a videogame, but is in fact far removed from the traditional expectation that such a label brings.
This is evident in Everest VR’s newly expanded God Mode. Already available in a very basic form for the HTC Vive version of the videogame (for which Sólfar Studios promise parity in updates between the two PC based VR formats), on Oculus Rift with Oculus Touch. Here, the user can switch their scale from standard human size to 50m, 300m or 1500m; surveying the mountain from a number of different viewpoints. When in this mode the user can see a number of coloured lines running down the mountain, each representing one of the paths that previous exploration teams have taken. At 50m, a brand new addition to Everest VR reveals itself.
Sólfar Studios has engaged in partnerships which allow the team to bring real-world content into the experience. At 50m, the user can engage with info points along each of the paths that showcase elements of each expedition; photographs, descriptions of the teams and the troubles they faced. This is evidence supporting the argument for bringing VR to education. A child learning about Mount Everest and the expeditions to the summit would likely find it much more engaging to actually be invited into the environment opposed to learning from a text book or flat, 2D screen. This is where Everest VR excels: the interactivity is fine, but the educational aspect makes it unique.
Of course, one of the most talked about aspects of Everest VR is the quality of its visuals, and this hasn’t changed at all for the Oculus Rift build. Making use of NVIDIA’s VR Works technology, Sólfar Studios are quick to shout about Multi-Res Shading and Lens Matched Shading, but to the end user these terms will mean very little. However, the immersive nature of real-time particle effects for the snow and the hugely impressive lighting technology – witnessed through a day-night cycle upon reaching the summit – are a better showcase for the visual design than any industry buzzwords.
Sólfar Studios intend to launch the Oculus Rift edition of Everest VR in the coming weeks, with Xbox One controller support intended to follow. Furthermore, the studio will continue to update the experience on both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive post-launch, with much more content planned for the future. Of course, VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest from Sólfar Studios.