SteamVR and Virtual Reality content
Content is a vital part of the survival of any new technology, and the same rule applies to the HTC Vive. Steam is the go-to place for HTC Vive compatible content mainly due to the fact that Valve, the company that owns Steam partnered with HTC to create the Vive initially. Considering that the HTC Vive has (at the time of writing) only been readily available for around a month, there is already a decent collection of VR-ready games and experiences available on Steam for prices starting at only £0.79.
There are many amazing arcade-esque games available on Steam (some of which we go into more detail below) that will keep gamers entertained for days, but we’re not so sure about weeks. Many of the HTC Vive games we’ve played so far have been wave-based and while that provides a game that is initially a lot of fun to play, we imagine that over the course of days and weeks we’ll get bored of shooting the same waves of robots over and over again.
Essentially, we’re yet to see an AAA blockbuster HTC Vive game that is a must-have for VR gamers. There are a few contenders, but the quality doesn't come near to that offered by AAA console games.
It’s also worth mentioning that not all VR-compatible games will work with the HTC Vive as developers have to include specific support for the headset, base stations, and controllers. This means that in the same way that Sony and Microsoft have PlayStation and Xbox exclusive releases, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have games and experiences unique to one platform.
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The virtual reality experience provided by the HTC Vive is hands down the best we’ve ever experienced, providing a level of immersion not matched by the likes of the Oculus Rift. The ability to not only look around a virtual environment but walk around, bend down and interact with objects on the floor essentially tricks the senses and while you may feel self-conscious when you first put the headset on, you’ll forget where you are within seconds and be transported to the virtual world around you.
While we admittedly haven’t used the consumer version of the Oculus Rift, we’ve used the older developer kits on multiple occasions and know roughly the kind of experience the headset provides. With that being said, we feel that using a standard Xbox One controller to interact with a VR world is counter-intuitive, and the bespoke controllers provided with the HTC Vive combined with room scale tracking enables a much more natural way to interact with the virtual world.
With that being said, it’s important to explain that there are different types of games available for the HTC Vive depending on the size of your play area; Room scale, standing, and controller based. Room scale is the best way to play in our opinion, but it requires a lot of space – something that not everybody will have in their homes. However, if you do manage to set up a Room scale play area you’ll be able to walk around the virtual space and make the most of what the HTC Vive room-scale tracking has to offer.
Next up is standing only – the option for gamers with small bedrooms. While you can still reach out and interact with the environment with your HTC Vive controllers, duck to avoid bullets, etc, you can’t really physically walk around (due to the lack of space). We felt more conscious of the limited space around us in this mode and didn’t want to reach out as far in fear of hitting something near us in real life. It’s also worth noting that some games on Steam require a room scale play area and that these games won’t work in standing only mode.
The third type of game is controller based, and while you can look around in your virtual world, you can’t do much else without an Xbox One controller. This includes moving, interacting with the environment and all the other fun things you can physically do with a room-scale VR game. As mentioned above, the generic controller approach doesn’t translate well to VR in our opinion, and it’d be interesting to see how developers code in support for the Vive controllers over time.
Essentially, you need a decent amount of room to really get the most out of the HTC Vive.