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Thu May 5, 2016, 02:26 PM

Hong Kong Cavalier's Totally Un-balanced Vive Review (Long post)

Last edited Wed Jun 22, 2016, 11:58 AM - Edit history (1)

*Since I don't have an Oculus to compare it to. (Pics will be coming in an edit once I can get them posted properly)

Part I: The Beginning

Fellow computer and console game enthusiasts, I give you...the future. The future is now, and the now is a catchphrase that...

...okay, I'll stop with the corporate brand-speak. If you've paid attention to game news for the past year, there's a good chance you've taken notice of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and Playstation VR. These three Head-mounted displays are the first round of consumer-viable Virtual Reality sets to have gone to market (or will go to market, in the PS VR's case). The price point for the Oculus and the Vive are up there ($600 and $800 respectively,) not to mention the relatively powerful computer you need to use to run the games and software that's available, the result has been, in my opinion, quite impressive. More for the avid game enthusiasts than the casual computer game player, but I suspect this will change when Sony releases their VR for the PlayStation 4. Priced more moderately ($400,) it also doesn't require anything but a PlayStation 4 to run, which will open the doors for VR games and interactions.

I received my HTC Vive on Monday, April 25th, after ordering it a few hours after orders went live on February 29th. The set itself weighs about 20 lbs (box and all) and it surprised me with its size. Upon opening it, I realized the reason for the sheer size of the box was padding. There's a lot of padding inside the Vive's box to protect everything.

Inside, you get the Vive headset, two controllers and two Lightboxes (tracking units). And a LOT of cable:
The cable that runs from the Vive itself to it's box is at least 5 feet of audio, power and HDMI cable.
Plus the power cables for the Lightboxes.
A sync cable to run between the Lightboxes.
Charging cables for the controllers.

The setup for the Vive says it takes 30 minutes, but in truth it'll probably take you more than an hour. Setting up the Lightboxes was the biggest pain: they had to be within 5 meters of each other and facing the "floor area" where you'd be using your Vive (More on that later). Once they were synced and SteamVR was reading them, you had to set up the headset and controllers, defining the play area and finding the floor.

The good news is that when you do this, SteamVR has these amazing animations to lead you through the process.

(Note the black and white stick figures from Portal.)

Once your'e done, you're ready to rock. Or roll. Or walk around in your VR-enhanced space.
Something to note that works really well is the external camera. The Vive has a front-facing camera that reads the space before you and can even be turned on so you can see the room. It creates a sort of "line drawing" of the room with a double-click of one of the controller buttons, but it's great for seeing objects in case you need to look out from the headset. That was, I admit, one of the major reasons I bought the Vive over the Oculus. That and the controllers. More on those shortly.

You can set up the Vive for either standing at your desk or a room-sized experience. I had to rearrange my living room to accommodate it, but I think it's totally worth it. Some of the games on Steam that require the Vive [also] require space to walk around in (they'll tell you on the store page for the game)

Now for the specifics. I was astonished how light the Vive was. There are three velcro straps: two on the sides and one on top to adjust to give you the optimal fit. Once you've got them settled right, getting the HMD on and off is easy. The cord does take a bit of adjustment, but after you use the Vive for a few hours, you're not even noticing it.

Here's a shot of one of the controllers:

And a picture of one of the Lighthouses:

To get an idea of the length of the cable, here's a shot of the Vive itself. (Sorry for the dirty floor rug. I need to vacuum it.)

Part II: The Experience coming soon.

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Reply Hong Kong Cavalier's Totally Un-balanced Vive Review (Long post) (Original post)
Hong Kong Cavalier May 2016 OP
Hong Kong Cavalier Jun 2016 #1

Response to Hong Kong Cavalier (Original post)

Wed Jun 22, 2016, 01:58 PM

1. Part II (The Experience)

It should be noted that for the first month, my computer was running a GTX 970 video card. The minimum recommended by Valve for a smooth VR experience. Since then I have acquired a GTX 1070, and that's made all the difference.

The Vive came with several games for free. And more were available on Steam as free downloads. Several games seemed at first to be nothing more than tech demos, and perhaps that was for the best, as the technology and the game style was brand new.

I wasn't prepared for how...smooth the interface was when I strapped the headset to my head. The Vive HMD has three velcro straps (two on the sides and one on top) and the cable, which you'd think gets in the way a lot, was quite easy to manage. When I fired it all up and went through the VR tutorial, I was standing in the middle of a white sterile circular chamber that was impossibly large. It wasn't until the personality core showed up that I realized I was in Aperture Science. Being a huge Portal fan, this pleased me. Moreso when I realized that this was the Source 2 engine running before my eyes.

The tutorial was quite excellent; it ran through how they're simulating moving around in the VR space, the controllers, the Chaperone system and what it can do. The Chaperone system is one of the better parts of the Vive's VR experience. During setup, you use one of the handheld controllers to trace out your "play area". The Lighthouses track the controller and define the area based on your movements during setup, and from that point on, each time you get close to the boundary, a faint grid appears in your HMD representing the "wall" of your play area. This boundary is fully customization: color, pattern, and even opacity.

Not only that, but since the Vive has an external front-facing camera, a quick double-tap of the menu button can bring up an external view. It looks kinda like a faint "Matrix"-esque outline of what you'd normally see, but you can clearly see people and objects in it so you can get your bearings if you need to.

Starting a game is just like using Big Picture mode on Steam, only now it's a really big picture. Naturally, the whole background (and the controller and Lighthouse skins) can be swapped out in the Steam Workshop. I currently have Aperture science skinned controllers and two of GladOS's security cameras representing the Lighthouses. Note: the Lighthouses are only visible during initial loading of a game and while in Big Picture VR mode.

I'll get more into the games in Part III below, but I can say so far that I've been extremely pleased with what they've released so far. One game I had in my library already (Elite: Dangerous) was VR capable since I purchased the game, but now I had the headset to use.

Part III: The Games coming soon

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