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  • A Beginner's Guide to the Wonders of Virtual Reality

    By now, you’ve probably heard that a great revolution is on the way. How we experience media is going to change. Immersion, new ways to connect, and technology that we could only dream of in the past has now flooded the markets. If you haven’t guessed it already, then let me enlighten you.

     

    I’m talking about Virtual Reality, the next major, technological breakthrough.

    What makes virtual reality so great I hear you ask? For the first time in our lives, we have the opportunity to dive into fictional worlds, the kind of which we could only visit by using our computers. From seeing a movie in a virtual cinema to playing a game immersive enough to lose yourself inside, virtual reality has the power to revolutionize the way we experience everything around us.

    So, I’m sure you’re asking yourselves: what can I do to get my hands into this technology? Well, depending on your budget and the level of immersion you want to achieve, you have multiple choices.

    Let’s start with the cheaper and less immersive one:

     

    Google Cardboard

    Google Cardboard VR Google Cardboard VR

    Like the name implies, Google Cardboard is a headset made from cardboard that uses your mobile phone as both the main processing unit and screen for your experience. Google Cardboard's popularity peaked months before more powerful headsets entered the market due to accessibility and a much lower price, but that doesn't mean it lessened.

    Labeled "VR for the masses", Google Cardboard can be your perfect introductory medium to VR. All you need is your phone and a Google Cardboard headset.

    Next one in the line is:

     

    Samsung Gear VR

    Samsung Gear VR Samsung Gear VR

    Using the same concept behind Google Cardboard, but considerably limiting the choice of phones compatible with the headset, Samsung Gear VR is the choice for all of you people not very fond of cables.

    A surprise collaboration between the Facebook-owned company, Oculus VR, and Samsung gave birth to Samsung Gear VR. As of now, the price for a headset is around £80, but that's only true if you own one of the certified Samsung Galaxy models able to use it. As of now, the list of compatible phones is:

    - Samsung Galaxy Note 7
    - Samsung Galaxy S7
    - Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
    - Samsung Galaxy Note 5
    - Samsung Galaxy S6
    - Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
    - Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+

     

    But, Samsung Gear VR remains a cheaper choice than the following:

     

    Playstation VR

    Playstation VR Playstation VR

    What started as Project Morpheus and evolved into Playstation VR, is one of the high-end headsets that we've been expecting for years. Scheduled to be released on October 13, 2016, Playstation VR is a Head Mounted Display (HMD) for the Playstation 4, a gaming console with a plethora of games and a good number of VR games in development.

    The pre-order price for the headset is around £350. A Playstation Camera and Playstation Move are both needed for the optimal, immersive experience but not included in the price. Also, if you don't already own a Playstation 4 System, you'll have to buy one before buying the headset.

    The bundle of Playstation VR includes:

    - PlayStation VR headset
    - Processor unit
    - Stereo earbuds
    - HDMI cable
    - USB cable
    - AC adaptor and power cord
    - PS VR headset connection adaptor

     

    Nevertheless, Playstation VR is cheaper and more accessible than the following last two choices. The cheaper one of them is Oculus Rift, the forefather of the modern Virtual Reality Headsets.

     

    Oculus Rift

    Oculus Rift VR Oculus Rift VR

    Oculus Rift is the product of Oculus VR, which is now owned by Facebook is the original company that started the hype around Virtual Reality. Oculus Rift is using PC as its only platform, and for a good reason. As of now, it's difficult to match Oculus Rift's immersion without having a top-of-the-line rig, which is something only the PC can accomplish.

    If you’re interested in owning an Oculus Rift headset, then you’ll have to make sure your PC is following the recommended specification. That is the following:

    - Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater
    - CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater
    - Memory: 8GB+ RAM
    - Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output
    - USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port
    - OS: Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer

     

    Entering at £550 the Oculus Rift isn't the cheapest available VR Headset but it's one of the top contenders to give you the best immersive Virtual Reality experience.

    And last, but certainly not least, what has become the crowd (and critics) favourite, is the most expensive but most popular choice and in my opinion the headset to rule them all:

     

    HTC Vive

    HTC Vive VR HTC Vive VR

    HTC Vive is the product of another surprise collaboration in the wake of a Virtual Reality-struck world. HTC & Valve came up with a surprising headset that mixes seamless immersion with innovative technology.

    What makes HTC Vive differentiate itself from every other headset in the industry is its excellent, position tracking system called Room Scale. In short, it's a system that tracks your physical position and accurately translates it to the digital world. So, you can get up and walk around your room, and the system will track your movements in great detail. The recommended specs for HTC Vive are:

    - GPU: NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1060 / AMD Radeon™ RX 480 equivalent or greater
    - CPU: Intel® i5-4590 / AMD FX 8350 equivalent or greater
    - RAM: 4GB+
    - Video Output: HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
    - USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or greater port
    - Operating System: Windows 7 SP1 or newer

     

    So, there you have it. That is pretty much everything you need to know if you want to get into the VR hype-train. Even though most of the headsets mentioned above have already seen a public release and are available for purchase, make sure you delve deeper into the secrets of virtual reality before spending your money on high-end hardware.

    Virtual Reality is still at the dawn of its rise. In the coming years, the industry is expected to skyrocket even faster than the smartphone industry did before it. Thus, if you can't wait until prices become consumer-friendly, then go ahead and buy one of the headsets mentioned above and get lost in a new and exciting world of your choosing.

     

    - Will Hall

    OMG PC - Virtual Reality News & Technology Writer

  • Virtual Reality And The Potential For Revolutionising Education

    It’s easy to see ourselves getting immersed into some type of virtual reality experience, either it’s for the sole purpose of playing a new game, communicating with your friends, or to learn something new. Even though the current phase of virtual reality is aimed at high-end users (hardcore gamers, game developers, etc.), estimates are showing that with the rapid market growth that the technology is going through, it won’t be long before more people get the opportunity to own a headset for themselves.

    When that time comes (and believe me, it is coming), people will have to take a step back and think:

    InCell VR InCell VR

    Except for high-level entertainment, can we use virtual reality in other areas of our life?

    Even at this early stage of the industry, people are already researching (and developing) revolutionary, educational content. Frankly, the first content boom of virtual reality games was mostly contested by space travelling simulators. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting yourself immersed into a virtual world where space travel is not only possible, but is also insanely fast and can be accomplished from the safety of your own home.

    Now, imagine coming up with more software about time travel, ocean exploration, physics tampering labs, and of course, virtual reality tourism. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, it is awesome. And some of these experiences already exist!

    Universe Sandbox VR Universe Sandbox VR

    HTC Vive is one of the many contenders in the virtual reality race to conquer the first place in the currently-developing market. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR (although not yet released) are the three most popular “players”, but it’s too soon to even think about who’s gonna win.

    HTC Vive is unique in its own accord, mostly because is the only headset that can precisely track your movements amidst the area of a small room. Why is that important you ask?

    The problem of immersion is that the developers must not allow for the user to get motion-sick when using their headset, the user must be able to see clearly and in high-definition, and it must feel like you’re not constantly bound by the length of a cable. The HTC Vive manages to do all these things gracefully, and even more.

    With games such as The Lab, a free game where you can tamper with physics and have fun in the meantime, or Time Machine VR where you travel back in time and try to find the cure for a virus by examining scientifically accurate ancient creatures, teachers can integrate the notion of interactive education using a truly assimilated environment.

    TheLab VR TheLab VR

    And that’s only the beginning; the possibilities are endless.

    theBlu is another virtual reality simulator where you can experience 3D oceanic environments; Tilt Brush is a VR, 3D painting tool that can help enhance the artistic side of children using an entirely new scope; Universe Sandbox2 is a game that lets you create, destroy, and generally play with galactic scale physics. The list is literally expanding by the day, and not only when using HTC Vive.

    theBlu VR theBlu VR

    Google Expeditions utilises the ingenious and very cheap Google Cardboard (mobile VR) to bring everyday lessons to life using a headset made by cardboard and your phone.

    Education and virtual reality sound like the perfect match. For the first time in our life, we’re looking at a future where children will have the opportunity to learn by seeing everything unravel literally infront of their eyes!

    TiltBrush VR TiltBrush VR

    - Will Hall

    OMG PC - Virtual Reality News & Technology Writer

  • Opinion: Why No Man’s Sky failed to deliver and what’s next for the most hyped game of the year?

    No Man's Sky

    No Man’s Sky was one of the most anticipated games of the year (or more specifically, of the last three years). The promise of a “limitless”, procedurally-generated galaxy raised the bar of expectations high enough to make it one of the most talked about games every year until it released. However, now that the game is out, it’s taking heavy criticism regarding the misleading marketing and people are wondering if it’s actually a game worth buying. To find out, it’s instrumental to take a step back and see the modern gaming industry as a whole.

    Hello Games, the developer behind No Man’s Sky, is a small, indie studio that actually managed to deliver when it comes down to the sheer scope of the game (18 quintillion planets), but not in the execution. With people encountering game crashing bugs, the graphics of the game toned down to match the console’s capabilities, and a PC version that was heavily flawed, it would be fair to say that No Man’s Sky didn’t meet the expectations of its fans.

    No Man's Sky

    However, isn’t that a problem with the gaming industry as a whole?

    Since conferences like E3 and Gamescom became popular and gaming transcended from being a mere hobby into a lucrative business for both developers and gamers alike, things have changed. Gamers quickly became picky when it came down to spending $60 for a new title and with the rise of Internet as the main information medium, it’s easy now to define your expectations of a game with just a quick search. The sheer amounts of content available online are amazing, and sometimes, enlightening.

    I totally get it, though. People need more content to stay hyped about the coming game, but what happens when during the development phase a game changes so much that it doesn’t turn out exactly as it was promised from the get-go?

    Game development is a continued process, one that often doesn’t stop with the release of the game. Patches, DLCs, expansions, everything to keep the hype going has become the new norm in this booming industry. And that’s okay when executed in the likes of The Witcher 3 last year and it’s fairly priced expansions and free DLCs. It’s not okay, though, when you have to spend a good chunk of money to get the complete game.

    Personally, and after considering all of the above, I’m following another approach to this ordeal of hyping:

    First, and foremost, I try to level my expectations.

    Trailers are simply trailers. Even if there’s gameplay included, you have to remember that these videos are mostly ads that aim to showcase a polished experience under perfect conditions. It’s nice to watch the videos and imagine how cool it would be to actually play them, but in the end, it’s nothing else but wishful thinking.

    Second, I’ve made my life’s rule to not pre-order games.

    Reviews are released as soon as the day of the release and as late as a week later. It’s not too much time to wait five more days to save yourself from a bad decision. Think of it like that - you probably wouldn’t buy the first game that your eyes fell upon when entering a high street store just because the cover looked nice. You would read articles, ask your friends or anyone available to give you their opinion until you were absolutely sure before doing it.

    No Man's Sky

    Lastly, patches and expansions can greatly enhance a game’s quality.

    Something you might have regretted at first transforms into a completely worthwhile game in the future. Like Destiny before it - a lukewarm game that managed to hook gamers all around the world for months - No Man’s Sky can live up to its potential over time. The lead developer of the game, Sean Murray, mentioned that the studio will continue adding content to the game in the form of DLCs and expansions. For example freighters and bases are coming to the game sooner or later.

    To conclude - In the wake of another victim of the industry’s over-hype and false advertisement, If you can stay grounded and accept that a small indie team has managed to create something rather ambitious; then No Man’s Sky becomes an excellent game when you relax and get lost in the wild that is an entire in-game galaxy to explore.

    - James Wright

    Game Reviews & Gaming

  • Stay Sane. Don't Starve.

    When looking for a game worth your investment one must be picky nowadays. Many independent games are being brought to fruition only to wither with time. One game that is truly unique and worthwhile is Don’t Starve by Klei Entertainment. This indie-survival horror thriller is a evokes a dark and twisted humor to its world. Monsters roam the Earth. Death is on the horizon.

    Before you start your game you must do two things. First pick your character. When you start off you’ll only be able to play as Wilson, The Gentleman Scientist who can grow an awesome beard. With each game the longer you survive the more characters you can unlock your next game. Second you must choose your world settings. This allows you to control seasons and cycles as well as how many of what drops. I suggest using the default settings at first as each change drastically can affect the biomes and resources found on your world. Once this is done, the game beings.

    You begin the game as a man in a pinstripe suit with a magnificent mustache raises you from near death. He comments on your poor state of existence and then disappears in a flash. Magic. Mystery. The the fuck is going on? You are alone. You are hungry. Don’t Starve. This harsh survival horror epic seeps into your bones as you battle the elements in a harsh world. Don’t Starve is like no other in the survival sandbox genre. It’s sick and demented creatures haunt you as you fight the elements to survive. The most important thing to know when coming into Don’t Starve is that it’s hard. This game is designed for you to fail. It wants you to die. For the darkness to consume you and for your sanity to wither away. You must use your knowledge, intellect, and sheer luck to survive.

    When the sun is up safety is an illusion. While there are no creepers lurking in the shadows there are countless monsters living all around. Whether it be a frog or a beefalo or some weird freak of nature; you can count on something intervening with your travel plans. Best thing you can do is find some gold for a science station, plop one down and start learning how to make the gear you’ll need to survive. It’s a steep learning curve but for those who are adamant on survival I suggest a look at the wiki page. This will get you well on your way.

    There is a steep learning curve for this game. The seasons change, and winter is cold, desolate, and even more uncompromising than the other seasons. The darkness becomes its own character, teasing you and haunting you as you struggle for life. Due to this struggle keeping your sanity is a constant battle, one which you will likely lose at some point. Once you see shadows chasing you around, it’s game over. You’re bat-shit insane and you’re going to end up dead on the floor from a psychotic breakdown. Fortunately for you, picking some flowers off the ground will help you out. Heck you can even make a garland and wear it on your head for a slow but steady boost of sanity throughout your day.

    Remember to eat. There are plenty of things to eat in Don’t Starve. Here are a few tips to get you started. First of settle near some beefalo. They poop. A lot. You need their feces for fertilization! You can transplant berry bushes, grass, and saplings. Simply give them new life with a little dung! Now you’ll eventually want to do some farming. You’ll need more dung for making some improved farms. These will grow you some nice veggies to fill that belly! Then you’ll need a crock pot. This will help you make even better meals for you than a campfire.

    Next you’ll need to make some traps and catch some rabbits. I suggest planting those traps down right above their hovel holes as they’ll trigger the traps on their own. Get a drying rack or two and start making some jerky. Jerky. Yum. That stuff will help you sanity, hunger, and health and lasts much longer than anything else. With your jerky and veggies and a little patch of berry bushes you should we set on food. Follow these few tips to get started and check out that wiki page. You will need it.

    Don’t Starve also has a companion standalone. Don’t Starve together. This ingenious sibling to the original is simply a multiplayer version of the game. In Co-op up to six players can join a game together and try to survive. There are also Social, Competitive, and Madness game modes that one can try out. But for the purpose of the review I will focus on Co-op as it seems to be the most popular version.

    Don’t Starve Together offers the players a little more security through its resurrection and ghost system. When one dies in the multiplayer campaign they turn into a ghost. This mode offers its own entertainment which I will delve into in a moment. However I’d first like to comment on the resurrection touchstones and Tell Tale Hearts. One can spawn from a touchstone one time only to revive themselves after death. This helps to keep the game going and is an easy but limited revival tool. One can also hunt spiders for their glands and use those to create a heart that they can create through sacrificing Forty health. This limits the opportunities to re-spawn as health is hard to come by but allows your friends to rejoin you for a price. After all no one wants to have to start over the game every time someone dies.

    If you are stuck as a ghost not all is lost. You can haunt people, items, monsters, and pig men. This gives you a bit of amusement as you can see those you haunt panic. Be careful though because your ghostliness wreaks havoc on your companions sanity. One cool thing I saw as a ghost was one of the pig men I haunted turns into a ‘Werepigmen’ and began chasing after his fellow pig men. This was about the best thing you could do as a ghost, so I wouldn’t recommend dying. The benefits do not outweigh the costs.

    The best thing about Don’t Starve Together is the enjoyment level skyrockets. You live longer. You have fun with your buddies. And yeah you still die. But that is the game. You will die. It’s really just a matter of how long you can hold out. Either Way Don’t Starve is worth the cost and will reward you with countless hours of fun and adventure. Just remember to keep your head as you venture through the world of Don’t Starve. It will tear you apart.

    - Samuel Alexander Bechtold

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