Valve’s: The Lab is still my go to VR demo for anyone wanting to give that ol’ headset their first go. Taking a playful sandbox approach to VR-ing it introduces new users to the concepts of VR in a polished and intuitive way; warp movement, picking things up, firing a bow and arrow – yes, all the core part of VR are there!
My favourite part of ‘The Lab’ however is still the Portal themed robot maintenance bay; a short linear demo with very few interactive elements that astounds me every time I give it a shot. It’s the virtual transportation in to the world of Portal that blows me away. Coming face to face with the beautifully intricate Atlas or that moment when GlaDOS drops in to view – the immersion and the sense of scale are awesome, and for a fan of the source material it gives me chills every time. It’s the same reason that for a long time my Steam VR home was the Team Fortress 2 theme, the chance to be beamed directly in to your favourite game universe is too much to pass up.
… so as I was browsing for new VR experiences to check out imagine how excited I was to see the original Quake had a free VR community made mod that seemed to be pretty well reviewed. Quake is a game that I have many fond teenage memories of – mostly checking out mods and patches – it’s a game that I didn’t ‘get’ at first, but grew to be something that I spent loads of happy hours in messing around with as I explored what was the first fully 3D first-person title that I’d come across (ok, so maybe Descent counts). With a few pounds lying around in my paypal account I picked up the full version on Steam, downloaded the mod (which is delightfully easy to ‘install’), and dusted off my special VR hat, ready to take on Shub’s legions.
That was the plan anyway. In reality what I did was play two levels then go and have a lie down for 90 minutes fighting off the urge to vomit. I kind of (naively) chalked that experience up to the combination of having just eaten before entering VR so gave it another shot the day after. This time I made it a single level further, literally dashing as quickly as I could for the end of the level just so that I could save, take off the hesdset, and close my eyes on the couch, gripping it firmly just to cement my hold on reality. Now, I’m not saying that I have some kind of iron VR constitution, I’ve felt a little nauseated before, usually after extended playtime in games that use free-movement (rather than the more gentle teleportation), or games with extensive vertical movement, but never this quickly, and never to this extent; in short, be waned anyone who gives this a go, it is not for the weak of stomach.
In short Quake in VR is the king of queasy. The combination of blistering 90’s FPS movement pace without the comfort of peripheral blinkering (that is pretty common amongst VR titles) and, what can only be described as, a very slight fish-eye lens effect when you move your head tips it into its own special class of ‘prohibitively-motion-sickness-inducing’.
… which is a shame because the little of it I actually managed to enjoy did bring me that bizarre sense of being literally immersed headfirst in a heaping pile of nostalgia. Just standing in the introduction level was pretty cool – the three difficulties paved out infront of me, the gentle leaping of lava fireballs guarding the ‘hard’ corridor. In the second level I came face-to-face with a chainsaw wielding ogre who pinged off grenades in my direction, each one bouncing and erupting in a burst of voxels. Toward the end of the stage a fiend leapt out of the darkness, larger than life (or maybe that should be ‘exactly as large as it should be’), slashing away at me as I let rip with a volley of nails to silence it. Of course, as a ‘no-frills’ mod there are a few peculiarities; the biggest of which is the weapon model that is attached to your hand that has been lifted directly from the source material including any associated muzzle-flash that hangs awkwardly just behind the butt of the gun… but hey, it’s a darn sight better than any VR mod I could have made and I tip my hat to the community developers who took the time and effort to put it together.
Sadly that’s about all I can say about it; heck, I was hoping that I might be able to make it through a good chunk of the game; maybe take on Chthon, face off against a few shamblers, or leap through the air in the low gravity environment of Zuggurat Vertigo… nope… nope, I’m kind of feeling ill just thinking about it…
A let’s play video (not me) and details on the where and how of the mod can be found here!