technolustNow this is my kind of game: a cyberpunk first-person adventure set in a dystopian future. Native Oculus Rift support. A NSFW TRON poster (though I bet they will take that out). This just looks too awesome for words. I backed the Kickstarter for $50 bucks, but I’m willing to up the ante later in the campaign if necessary. Really anyone with an Oculus Rift, or that plans to buy a Rift, should throw some money down on this project. Of all the things I’ve played in VR, I think this is my favorite. And I’ve played a LOT. Get on this.

cast_ar

Looks like the VR/AR crowd-funding freight-train is not slowing down one bit. The latest success story being castAR, a set of stereo 3D augmented reality glasses from ex-Valve engineers. At first I was not all that excited about the project, seeing as I am more of a VR buff than for AR. However, this project looks too interesting to pass up.

Basically the device is based around a set of active-shutter 3D glasses. The trick is that instead of looking at a monitor, there are dual 720P projectors mounted on the frames which project the images onto a surface. This surface happens to be a retro-reflective canvas, basically bouncing the images straight back to your eyes. Combined with head-tracking, the glasses can provide a realistic 3D sandbox in which to play in.

Even better, there will be AR/VR clip-ons that allow for a more traditional head-mounted experience. They claim the VR model will have a 90 degree field of view, which actually sounds pretty good (if maybe still a bit shy of the Rift). It all sounds very ambitious, but really amazing if they pull this off right. I’ve backed it.

 

The guys at Sixense have just released a new video showing off the 5 STEM motion-tracking system that they are Kickstarting. The Sixense version of the Oculus Tuscany demo was already one of the more impressive examples of VR I have seen, and that was just using the Razer Hydra. This new demo ups the ante with a total of 5 trackers, resulting in a convincing full-body simulation. I have already backed the Kickstarter and I suggest, if you haven’t already, that you do too. This technology looks way too awesome to pass up.

Shadowrun Returns

Let me just say this right off the bat: Shadowrun for Super Nintendo is my all-time favorite game. All time. It was great. Set in a future cyberpunk theme urban sprawl, you are basically a gun for hire. Or at least you were. You wake up in a morgue back from the dead with no memory of your life. You spend the rest of the game trying to discover what happened. It had RPG elements, action elements, adventure elements. You could hack computers and get money or steal information. You could go to a bar and hire guns to help out on your mission. It had an innovative dialogue system where you would get words in your “dictionary” that you could ask people. You started with nothing, but as you talked to people you would get more words to ask. It was awesome. Especially for 1993.

While Shadowrun Returns might not quite match what I remember of the original SNES title, it does a damn fine job at what it does. Basically the world is similar, and even the main character from the SNES game makes a cameo. Magic has returned to the world, along with ogres and elves and all that. Shadowrunners rule the streets. From simple hired guns (street samurai) to hackers (deckers) to mages, there are lots of different classes to choose from. The story follows a string of mysterious murders and the investigation to find the killer. Well, there is more than that but I don’t want to give anything away. The game is what I would call a turn-based strategy RPG. There are lots of RPG elements and stats you can level up. This effects everything from your hit points, to the chance of success with any particular weapon. So this takes a note from the mechanics of the original pen-and-paper game. This works well, and the combat is still satisfying. There are also some cool missions, or at least one really good one at the end, where you have to hack into security systems and fight of guards on an espionage mission. Good stuff.

So the game is great, and you should buy it. However, I did feel like it was extremely linear.  In the Genesis version of the game (1994) you could take all sorts of side-missions to beef up your stats or make money. It was awesome. They had drug deals, extractions missions, VIP escorts (no, not that type of escort), hacking, the whole nine. In Shadowrun Returns there is only really one side-mission in the whole game. So you are basically watching a good interactive movie. Granted, it’s a 17-hour movie, and it’s great, but I would have liked more choice. There is also very little exploration, it mostly feels like an “on-rails” affair. That said, it’s still a blast and any fans of cyberpunk fiction will probably get a kick out of it.

All in all a great addition to the Shadowrun universe, and a refreshing break from all the first-person 3D games that are all the rage. I do wish it were a little longer, and more of an open-world, but I guess you can’t have everything. However, it appears the modding tools are good, and there is already a good amount of user generated content available. Plus, a DLC campaign is slated for early next year. This game has my cyber-seal-of-approval.

wizdishThere is now another omni-directional treadmill project on Kickstarter, this one called the Wizdish. It’s a passive design, similar to the Omni, however it does not allow the user to lift their feet. It works by wearing special shoes with low-friction tiles on the bottom. This allows you to slide your feet back-and-forth easily without the need to pick up your feet.

I actually got to try a prototype of this device, and it was certainly interesting. It did not blow me away, but seemed intriguing enough for me to want to get in on the Kickstarter. And this isn’t even that only other ODT coming out soon. There are at least two other projects in the works, this is turning into a highly competitive space. Looks like the Wizdish is still pretty far from it’s goal, with 28 days left, so jump in the Kickstarter now if you’re interested.

ARAIG

Looks like there’s yet another virtual reality project on Kickstarter. Well, I guess this is not strictly a VR thing, but it certainly could be used as such. Basically the ARAIG is a vest that you wear while gaming, and it provides force-feedback when you are getting hit in the game. While it does include vibration (like current controllers), it also has direct stimulation with TENS, which could get pretty intense depending on how much power they are pumping through. I really think a vest like this can add a lot of immersion, specifically in first-person shooters. I backed the project at the $299 level, and I suggest anyone interested in VR with some cash to spare do the same. The creators still have a long way to go to reach their $900,000 goal, but you never know.