Tag Archives: VR

blog: The Gift of Spending

As a little gift for the holidays, I decided to splurge and treat myself to something that’s equal parts superfluous and unnecessary, snagging a shiny new virtual reality headset. While I’m not thrilled about having to buy a Meta product, the Quest 2 was the only affordable standalone headset I could find, so I bit the bullet and took the plunge and was immediately confronted by the need to spend more money.

While less powerful than some of its PC reliant contemporaries, the Quest 2 is still a really impressive piece of technology that more than just gets the job done. But if you’re like me and already have a pretty robust library of VR games on other platforms, you can plug in a long USB C cord and harness the power of whatever beefy rig you’ve got. That was the intent, but unfortunately my computer had other plans.

I thought that buying a prebuilt PC would solve a lot of the issues I had with the Frankensteinian mess I hobbled together years ago, but it turns out that computers can be incredibly fickle no matter what their origin is. The computer I originally scrumbled together was prone to crashing and just hated the idea of turning and staying on, which is an attitude I can kind of relate to. But this newer computer, I stupidly assumed, would be more reliable because it was ‘professionally’ built.

To its credit, my newer PC is great at being a normal computer that streams videos, plays music, and allows me to play D&D on virtual tabletops without much issue. What it doesn’t like doing is playing games, which was kind of the whole reason I bought the damn thing in the first place. Much like me, the second I ask for the littlest bit of exertion from it or anything that would mildly tax the graphics card for more than ten minutes, makes it get all crash happy in a way I’ve never seen before. Everything locks up, the displays go green, and the computer is unresponsive until I manually reset it. When it does come back online, it resets some of my display settings, specifically the monitor sleep settings, which I assume is a symptom of some cyber-amnesia that only computers suffer.

It drives me nuts because I’ve never really been able to play games on this computer as is, but for some reason I forgot that fact when I bought a 16 foot USB C cable with the intent of having this crashy piece of crap attempt to run VR games. While the green screen crash is disruptive and startling under normal circumstances, having it happen while inside of VR is truly akin to an Eldritch horror.

I was trying out a game called Wanderer, which is this very moody, post-apocalyptic adventure game that allegedly has you jumping around through events in history and solving puzzles in order to fix your shitty future. I played about an hour of it and thought it was pretty neat until the sound suddenly cut out and everything kind of froze. The game had hiccupped before like this, so I just thought I’d wait it out. But as I looked around I saw the walls start to melt, and the colors turn into beams of light that extended into oblivion. It was like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, except unlike the movie, this crash made sense.

So what’s the play here, then? Cause from where I’m standing, my options are to either buy a new computer or laptop that can run some VR stuff, dropping well over a grand, or rebuy my entire VR library on the Meta store. Both options seem absolutely insane to do, but buying a new computer at least offers some utility and the ability to play the even more non-VR games I across the 15 launchers I have installed. It’s wild to think that the more sensible option is to buy a new computer, but that’s money I super don’t feel like dropping right now.

I can’t believe that my fun little present to myself has led to me having to genuinely consider spending an extra grand or more just to be able to fully utilize it. And now that I’m aware of my computer’s inability to handle the slightest of strains, I can’t not address it. I’m cursed with this knowledge and I’m genuinely afraid that I’m going to act on it. Send help.

Blog: Anyone Wanna VR? – 05/02/18


For the past few months I’ve had the privilege of having open access to an optimal virtual reality environment.  There’s a big studio space with a beefy computer and an HTC Vive connected to it.  In theory it’s awesome, but I’ve found my desire to take advantage of it waned more and more over time.

For context, I was part of an internship program at my college to investigate whether VR was a viable technology to bring into the classroom.  I’d weigh all factors, be it gaming, education or whatever.  If it was a unique VR experience, I was supposed to look at it and make a value judgement against it.  It was a really broad concept that didn’t really have much in the ways of boundaries, which is probably a factor in why my interest in VR has plummeted.

Let me clarify here, I don’t hate VR.  In fact, if anything I’m more excited about VR as a technology than ever before.  It really is what all the gaming outlets described it as, where you need to try it to understand it.  But that’s well worn territory.

What really fell out of favor for me was just getting myself excited to use it.  Here we had this optimal set up, the sensors were set up almost all the time, and the space was clear.  Essentially, all I had to do was put on the helmet and go.  But I rarely wanted to.

Maybe it was a lack of software that killed my drive for it.  We had some things like Job Simulator and Duck Season, even SUPERHOT VR at the ready.  Those experiences were fun for sure, but not something I’d want to do for extended periods of play.  We found some fun and interesting free applications as well which helped add variety to the mix, but it never really clicked for me.  I had fun with these games and experiences, but after the first few times in them, the fun for me really boiled down to showing it to other people and getting their reactions.

There was a sound design class that rolled into the studio that got to play around with Sound Stage, the now unsupported music creation software.  It’s a super robust and intuitive beat maker to say the least.  If you have a Vive, I would recommend it, especially considering the developers dumped the files online for free.  But that was probably the high point in my demonstrations.  Being able to see a class look at this technology and have it instantly click how cool it is was an awesome feeling.

But that was it for me really.  Showing the technology got to be more interesting than actually using it myself.  At first, I’d get multiple people asking me for demos and opportunities to play around, but lately no one really seems interested.  Somehow virtual reality got mundane for everyone involved.

Still, in the end VR is still a super exciting concept to me.  Maybe the reason for it waning in popularity in our space is on me.  Maybe people just don’t quite grasp the concept of it until I forcibly strap this helmet to their heads.  Or maybe virtual reality isn’t the thing that gets people excited after all.  Maybe mixed reality or augmented reality are the ones that will catch on.  But for now, the desire to “get virtual” just isn’t there for most people, myself included.