Although it's called Facebook Connect, the Oculus platform was still the star of the virtual and augmented reality event held online this month. The social media giant changed the name of the gathering - it was previously called Oculus Connect - to better reflect the expanding nature of its emerging technologies.
Augmented reality glasses were mentioned but that's far off in the future. What's closer was the announcement of the Oculus Quest 2 and several big-name titles coming in the future. It's a lot to go over but here arguably the biggest pieces of virtual reality news coming out of the event.
1. Oculus Quest 2 goes on sale for $299 - The successor to the ground-breaking Oculus Quest touts several improvements, but the reviews have been mixed. Part of the online complaints focus on needing a Facebook account to use the device, a move that fans have long dreaded but many were expecting. If needing a Facebook account isn't a big deal, the device does have improvements including a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor geared toward VR and a single higher-resolution screen.
These are good upgrades, but it doesn't appear to be a huge leap in technology. If you have the original Oculus Quest, you'll be fine. If you don't have one yet, the $299 price makes the Oculus Quest 2 more appealing than ever, especially with the coronavirus pandemic. One of the best parts of owning a Quest is that it does seemingly transports users to faraway places. Watching the NBA Bubble games was a revelation, and using an app called Wander lets users visit other cities via Google Street View. It's a way to travel while staying at home.
The most important reason though that the Quest line has been successful is that it's the easiest and quickest way to jump into an immersive VR experience. The all-in-one set doesn't a need a PC and the freedom of movement is a game changer when it comes to play and exploration. Facebook noted this as well and they are no longer going to "pursue PC-only hardware" going forward."
2. Ubisoft is bringing "Assassins' Creed" and "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell" to the platform - Fans have been clamoring for a new "Splinter Cell" for years, and it seems that the only way to play it will be on Oculus headsets. Other than the announcements themeslves, not much is known about the projects, but I'm figuring it won't be a game everyone is expecting.
Judging by Ubisoft's previous efforts such as "Star Trek: Bridge Crew" and "Werewolves Within," these upcoming projects could contain more social elements that leverages the ability to bring the feeling presence in a multiplayer experience.
3. Major mainstream franchises continue to work in VR - The Quest will get new "Star Wars" and "Jurassic Park" games in the future. "Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy's Edge" continues the efforts that ILMxLAB has been doing with the medium. The studio created the fantastic "Vader Immortal" series, and the team is leveraging the real-life Disneyland park setting for its next game. It's going to be the closest fans can get to Star Wars Galaxy's Edge for the next few months, and the move seems like a natural extension for the virtual reality space. I'm sure there are plenty of assets and plans for developers to work off of. The world building is there and the developers will have to fill it with the characters and stories.
The bigger surprise was "Jurassic Park Aftermath." A few other studios have created works where players jump into a world filled ancient giants but none of them have the clout of Michael Crichton's dinosaur universe. "Aftermath" has a more cartoonish look than what fans would be expecting - it looks like a Telltale Games project - but if the developers at Coatsink Games can nail the tension and suspense of the films and translate it to VR, it can be one of the most memorable experiences on the platform.
4. BTS is coming to "Beat Saber" and it will bring a new audience - The power of BTS is undeniable. If you check Twitter at any hour, one of the band members or the K-pop group itself is trending. Combining the supergroup with the most well-known game on the platform will undoubtedly increase the Oculus Quest popularity. With the BTS Music Pack coming in November, expect a new demographic to show interest in virtual reality and perhaps grow the platform.
In addition, "Beat Saber" will also support multiplayer. That's a long-requested feature for the title.
5. Established franchises are finding homes in VR - "Medal of Honor," "Myst" and "Sniper Elite VR" all have long histories in video games, and they're making their way to Oculus Quest. The biggest and most promising name of out of the bunch is "Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond." It's made through a partnership with Oculus Studios and Respawn Entertainment, the studio responsible for "Titanfall," "Apex Legends" and "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order." The pedigree is good with a developer that knows its way around shooters, and with the trailer, the game appears to be something akin to "Robo Recall" set in World War II.
"Myst" is a longtime favorite from the 1990s days of PC gaming. The combination seems like a perfect match. Puzzle room titles are one of the few genres that work incredibly well in virtual reality (See Schell Games' "I Expect You To Die"), and adapting "Myst's" problems to the medium is a natural fit. It will bring a classic to a new generation of players.
"Sniper Elite VR" is one of those underrated franchises, and one that can likely work well in virtual reality. Despite having the word "sniper" in the title, stealth plays a more important role in the experience, and judging from the trailer that will continue to be so. One of the biggest questions I have is how the signature X-ray kill camera will work and if the transition from shooting to seeing the bullet will be jarring for players.
Lastly, though it's not a longtime video game franchise, "The Climb" has been an important one to Oculus. It was one of the early success stories with the Oculus Rift and seeing that "The Climb 2" is coming should make VR fans excited. The climbing gameplay is one that works well in virtual reality, giving players an experience unlike anything else. They can get vertigo in the safety of their own home. The sequel looks like it's expanding the places that players can climb to urban areas.
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