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VR stole the MIGS show this year

Not as prestigious to consumers as E3 or GDC, Montreal International Game Summit (MIGS) is the largest event aimed at the professional of the video game industry. It offers a few dozen Master Classes, a hundred conferences, round tables, indie pitch, and more to please all members of the industry.  I had the chance to attend a few of them in the past few years, and I must admit that there was a major difference this year. Despite no PSVR presence, VR was showcased on half of the Expo zone. Using either the Rift or the Vive, companies like Autodesk and Amazon, with its Lumberyard game engine, were only two of them promoting the technology, while others showcased their own VR content.

Games and More

There were many VR and AR kiosk in the Expo zone.  Here are the most interesting of them all.

Frima

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Frima upgraded their PAX2016 chariot  to deliver an augmented experience for their game: Fated.  It may look silly from the outside, but the experience was, by far, the best.  Playing first on the computer version right beside, I stepped in line to try the augmented experience. It offered rumble, mists, wind and scented improvement.  I’ll have another post on their conference about the chariot.  The demo let you play the second scene, a rail like level where you control a chariot.  The game offers diverse experiences in an adventure to protect your family from harm. It’s currently 10$ on Steam.

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 Ubioft

Eagle Flight 4 Player VR setup

Ubisoft space was showcasing Eagle Flight.  The experience let us play one single player, checkpoint time trial, and one 2Vs2 (Supports 3Vs3) capture the prey game.  The game manages to reduce motion sickness with two tricks the developer shared with me.  Obviously, that’s the reason you see your beak where your nose would be.  The second method used is hiding close objects at high-speed; you’ll notice the black borders when flying close to edges.  It’s noticeable in-game too, it’s a bit unsettling, but the overall result is still acceptable if it does reduce VR sickness symptoms. You play an eagle in a post humanity era where nature took over the city.  It’s beautiful and really enjoyable. It’s currently on of the most expensive title at 50$ on PSVR and soon to be released on Steam.

Black edges when flying near objects

 

 The unknown photographer

A virtual reality journey into the fragmented memories of a First World War photographer.

The Unknown Photographer is a 2015 exploratory short movie using a Wii Nunchuck as controller. They created a complete hassle free setup, with swivel chairs and cable hangers.  Available both in English and French, it’s a fictional journey inspired by a real World War 1 photo album found in Morin-Heights, QC.  The experience is breathtaking. Photos of the album are spread across the scene where you can move freely. Often oversized, you can walk close to them and see the details of the pictures. Very well narrated, they also nailed many of the tricks needed for VR to be comfortable.  Not yet available to the public, they completed their 2016 Tour where they went to Romania, The Netherlands and Germany.  I would love to see the experience released to the public.

Microsoft HoloLens

The HoloLens was a bittersweet experience. The narrow Hologram display angle of the Developer unit is not what I expected, but the good news: it’s a Developer unit. Microsoft has time to fix this for a Consumer version. The holograms themselves are impressive.  They appear smooth and the tracking is precise.  I pinned my name to the gray wall in front of me and I could walk to it as if it was really pinned to the wall. The organizers asked users to clean up their space because HoloLens is a persistent experience. Your rooms become your interfaces. The motion actions needs time to adapt, you need to look at your hands for it to work, but the motions are intuitive to remember.

Field of view of the holograms

VRVANA

VRVana banner

VRVANA is also a Mixed Reality headset right here in Montréal, using screens instead of clear glasses. The result is very different. While it’s missing the Holographic feel of the HoloLens, the experience was a more enjoyable due to the larger field of view.  Their demo included QR codes to place objects in space, like tools and vehicles. The first model was Back To The Future DeLorean, I could bring it to my face and explore the interior.  The last one was a helicopter. I was allowed to control an AR chopper with the Xbox controller. Even thought my vision left the QR code paper of my vision, the chopper was right where it belong. While shooting at the crowd passing by, they switch me in Full VR where I had to blow up three cannons.  This headset proved it could do both, but still requires a computer to be tethered with.

Lumberyard

The best graphical experience was Lumberyard VR demo: Prometheus Pictures. Showcasing their Game Engine features, they managed to deliver a visually stunning result on the Oculus Rift.  Stuck in an elevator, you go through different and beautiful settings, designed to showcase Lumberyard’s capabilities. At some point, things go sour and a sentry, reminding those of The Matrix movies, chases you through the different levels as someone on the intercom is trying to calm you down.

 

Serious SAM VR

Autodesk was there showcasing Serious SAM VR. The game is a wave survival game with many guns and power ups.  Monsters of all kinds rush to your location, you must defend yourself. Shooting around 180 degrees of upcoming enemies felt natural, what I expect from shooters.  The Vive is precise, allowing using the controllers any way around, without the need to look at them to work. It is the perfect device for this game. The game is available here  on Steam.

Conclusion

With more that half the booths were having VR experiences, I just introduced the best ones and enjoyed the most.  Frima’s dedication to their VR experience is a good way to expand the experience.  A more technical article will follow on the carriage they made.  With the many other booths, it’s clear VR is used in many creative ways.  I’ll have a chance to write a little more on those subjects, as well as conferences I attended and other things that picked my attention. Major Brands are investing a lot and the next few years will see numerous new game announcements.

About The Author

Following VR Industry since the 90's, I covered dozen of events and wrote hundreds of blog posts and news articles. Unfortunately, there's not enough of 24 hours in a day to check everything there is to see. That is my only regret.

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