By far the dominant theme at GDC 2016 has been virtual reality. If you’re not a hardware vendor directly creating VR products, then you’re explaining how your products are a good match for VR or make for a better VR experience. And if you’re a software developer, then you’re at a minimum toying with VR, if not outright designing games for it. If nothing else, it’s the session attendance figures that demonstrate just how important VR is at GDC: after Monday’s overflowing attendance of VR sessions as part of the show-within-a-show VRDC, GDC had to move all of the VRDC Tuesday sessions to double sized rooms to accommodate the crowds.

This madness is not without good reason. For both software and hardware vendors, VR represents new opportunities in an already strong gaming market. Software developers get to experiment with new gaming paradigms on the cutting edge of tech, and hardware vendors can look forward to selling the more powerful hardware needed to drive a smooth VR experience. Today VR is a wild frontier, full of risk and rewards, and after this week’s GDC that frontier will be getting a little more civilized as the first consumer VR headsets begin shipping.

VR is not a new idea – as our readers who were gaming in the 90s can recall with mixed feeling – but Oculus deserves the bulk of attention for bringing it back to the forefront and kicking off this wave of interest in and development of VR. Since their 2012 kickstarter they have developed the industry’s blueprint for VR hardware, combining fast refreshing OLED displays with modern sensors that can both quickly and accurately track headset movement. Oculus has iterated on headsets several times now, continually refining the display, optics, head tracking, and more, as they work to bring a retail quality headset to market. And now later this month those efforts will begin to pay off as they ship their first retail headsets to eager backers and first-time buyers.

This brings us to today’s article, my hands-on session with the final, retail version of the Oculus Rift. As part of their GDC festivities, Oculus held a lengthy press demo to give us a chance to try out the retail hardware with a number of games being prepared for the headset, to demonstrate not only the hardware but the games and experiences that it will be driving. A full review of the Rift will be coming later, but for today I wanted to discuss my impressions of the retail hardware and the various titles I had a chance to try.

The Oculus Rift Hardware
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  • Spencer Andersen - Friday, March 18, 2016 - link

    I appreciated the objective analysis Ryan, this is the first review I've read from an intelligent tech persons point of view and it makes me excited to hear its as legitimate as I hoped. BTW I never realized how big your hands were until I saw you holding a gamepad! How the heck are you going to be building any of these super compact pc's coming down the pike. lol Reply
  • serendip - Wednesday, March 16, 2016 - link

    Interesting article but AT really needs a good editor. By cutting out all the vague phrases in the article, it would come out more concise and be a better review. I hope you're not chasing word count as a benchmark for quality. Reply
  • Paydogs - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    "Overall there’s nothing I’ve seen running on the Rift that couldn’t be done with a traditional 2D display, and to be honest I’m not sure if a game/experience that truly only works in VR will ever exist."
    How can I look really above my head while searching the landing pad I need to land with my spaceship with traditional 2d display?
    Reply
  • Paydogs - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    really = truly Reply
  • Sven Viking - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    To be honest I'd hate to have to try to make Job Simulator for a traditional display. Even if players had the hand controllers (which are very functionally different from Wiimotes, by the way, but PS Move would suffice), performing the same tasks and juggling sauce bottles etc. would be quite a different prospect with your hands ten feet in front of you and inside a TV. Reply
  • ianmills - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    Sounds like you are trying to land your spaceship upside down haha. Its easy actually, if you have an xbone controller then just use the right thumbstick Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Saturday, March 19, 2016 - link

    Agreed. I've never even used a head mounted display but recognize this statement to be false: "...experience that truly only works in VR will ever exist" Reply
  • looper - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    I'm an old school, strictly PC gamer (mouse/KB) since the early '90's. If the device will be strictly console-controller based, then I don't know if I'll leap into VR at some point... Reply
  • jacksonjacksona - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    welcome to
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    Reply
  • molotovpopsicle - Thursday, March 17, 2016 - link

    In my experience, the quality of the screen and the refresh rate has a greater impact on the screen door effect than the resolution. I have had a better experience with both the Vive and the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit than the consumer rift. OSVR is less comfortable for me though. The Vive blows them all out of the water. The ability to stand up and interact with the environment, even on a basic level, is not only a more interesting and full experience, but it also abates motion sickness for me because I am actually moving around. Sitting down in a chair and using the Rift for too long in vehicle games or fast paced shooters makes me nauseous. Reply

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