Don’t Think VR Has A Future? Wait Until You Try Wargaming.net’s Free Roaming VR

VRFocus got to run around and shoot stuff completely untethered.

Wargaming.net is renown around the world for its online tank-based multiplayer World of Tanks (WoT). The company also dabbles in plenty of future tech like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to ensure it stays up with current trends, such as its VR spectating experiment during the WoT 2016 Grand Finals or the Tank 100 app. Then earlier this month the company announced a partnership with Russian VR specialist VRTech, to bring its location-based entertainment to Europe. The first unveiling of which took place at Gamescom 2017 and VRFocus was there to try it out.

If you’ve read VRFocus previous coverage you’ll know that VRTech’s system comes in two flavours, Cinema VR and Polygon VR. The former is the simpler of the two which VRTech franchises out. This involves a setup rig that’s 5 metres by 5 metres, consisting of four HTC Vive’s suspended from the top of the metal framework. This allows all cabling to be off the floor giving players a reasonable movement range much like you’d have in a home setup. The system also allows up to four players in one session.

Wargaming-VRTech

For the Cinema VR demonstration one videogame was playable, a first-person shooter (FPS) called RevolVR. This was essentially a wild west shootout scenario, very similar in fact to Dead and Buried. After activating the character select wheel  – which chooses automatically – each player finds themselves dotted around a small level, with a limited amount of cover to hide behind. It’s then a case of killing your opponents as quickly as possible, either with body shots or a few well placed headshots with the pistols provided – no other guns were available.

This sort of title is ideal for a setup like this, limiting movement to ducking behind cover and popping up to take a shot. While it won’t amaze gamers who are well attuned to VR, it will certainly impress those who’ve never even tried VR – and that’s the point – as the locations will be in shopping centres or amusement arcades for example. And for this purpose Cinema VR does an admiral job.

Switching to Polygon VR however is another ball game entirely. This is wireless, complete free roaming gameplay, much like The VOID or Zero Latency. This has an area of 10 metres by 10 metres, using an MSI backpack, StrikerVR gun, and a customised Oculus Rift headset. Again, this is designed for four players but now there’s plenty of kit to wear as the system tracks your entire body. So attached to your feet, legs, waist, elbows, hands and head are markers – similar to mo-cap setups – enabling operators to track every movement of your body for full immersion.

This is definitely not the sort of attraction you’ll find in a shopping mall, it’s way to big, complicated and time consuming to setup, this is one for theme parks. Just getting everything hooked up and ready took at least 20 minutes, with the videogame taking about 15-20 minutes to complete. Here’s the thing, put four friends into Polygon VR and they’re going to have a brilliant time, or they should do. When VRFocus tried the experience it was with two strangers who only spoke pigeon English which made it hard to build up a team dynamic with a solid plan on achieving success, but it was easy to tell how that would work with some buddies.

The actual videogame on demonstration was called Paragon, a military shooter where you had to ascend a tower, taking out machine gunners and snipers, punching in codes to activate sections to eventually free a UFO before getting picked up in  a helicopter.

VRTech - CinemaVR

In parts it was amazing, just like VR in general has to be seen to be understood, this type of VR takes the technology to a whole different level and you’d want every immersive experience to be like this. However it wasn’t all plain sailing, at times things glitched out and became almost unplayable.

When things ran smoothly the ability to just wander around a platform, picking off enemies, then moving to another position, seeing a team mate and having to remember to physically walk around them was as equally weird as it was brilliant. Home consumer VR is immersive that’s for sure but this dials that up to eleven – laser quest just won’t cut it anymore.

Now this may have been due to Gamescom and the fact that any sort of wireless communication is horribly unstable, there were times when things just didn’t work. Trying to punch a four digit code in became a test of perseverance and luck, hit the wrong number and trying to delete it would erase the previous numbers, building that feeling of wanting to hit the keypad before realising it wasn’t physically there.

Then at times the tracking went so suddenly one of the other team members would have their feet above their heads, arms contorted into some unfathomable position like a freaky Picasso painting. The most annoying however was when the gun lost tracking, it was visually there but not in the same place as the actual gun, or it would glitch about so trying to shoot a sniper nestled into a tower became almost an impossibility.

So there were some issues granted. After finishing the demo though all that fell away to leave a feeling of excitement. Like any new tech finding its feet there are going to be hurdles to cross, and VR has overcome many with plenty more still to go. One thing’s for sure, location-based, free-roaming needs to be a part of VR’s future and Wargaming.net and VRTech are on the right path, now where are the tanks!

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