Old-school VR Games

This is the kind of games that got me started into this field .. Can you believe it ??

From VR-Tifacts, where you can find a lot more videos :

From 1991 to 1996 W Industries Virtuality systems defined the image of VR in the location based entertainment arena. (…) Virtuality, first using an Amiga platform and later a 486 PC, achieved a remarkable quality of game play for those early years. This collection of videos will give you a flavor. Thanks go out to Fronzel who generously compiled many of these. Watch!

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  1. Amazing what they could do then that you don’t see today, isn’t it? I must’ve spent a few hundred playing those games back in the day – it was the only way to get access to a true immersive experience. What they show there were the SU3000 pods (SU=Stand Up – there was a sit-down version as well), which were based on souped up 486 machines; the original SU2000 pods were based on a customized Amiga 3000 system, with custom graphics cards and a custom optical disc drive system (none of this was available for a regular Amiga, btw – it was all custom made for W Industries).

    Dactyl Nightmare was the favorite game for the SU2000 series (there was also a version of this game for the SU3000 pods, but it didn’t play as well). The resolution of the first Visette HMD was so awful, but the field-of-view was immense; the HMD weighed a ton. If you tried to whip your head around you would see frame lag (and possibly get sick); that is if you didn’t wrench your neck! The later SU3000 Visettes (I don’t remember the name given to the arcade version, but they sold a version for pro use called the Visette Pro) were much lighter, but the the frame rate still could lag; while you could whip around like the models show, the game couldn’t keep up. The displays were much lighter (LCD based – whereas the original Visette used folded optic-path CRTs), and had a higher resolution (roughly VGA for each eye); the field-of-view was still very large.

    Because of the heritage of the system (British company), the HMDs used PAL signaling – so if you have one of these in the states, you need a (well, two – if you want stereo) VGA->TV adapter that can do PAL. Both systems, IIRC, used a form of the Polhemus magnetic tracker system.

    One of the reasons why I think these and similar systems have flopped (at least in America), was the issue of hygiene; given the confines of the Visette, if the operators didn’t take the time to care for the HMDs, one could easily get lice or pinkeye from someone else. This cleaning need cut down on throughput (number of people who could play in a day), which cut into profits and the ability to pay back the cost of the machines (which weren’t cheap, not by a long shot!) or the lease arrangement (I imagine many were leased, given the per-unit costs). It also probably turned people off to playing the machines when they saw (or didn’t see?) the operators cleaning them.

    Today it is very difficult or impossible to get a complete Virtuality pod, even used; I’ve seen a few on Ebay, but lately, the pods I have seen have been gutted and “refurbed”, running versions of Quake on Scuba HMDs with zero gun/hand or head tracking, which completely ruins the experience (not to mention the Scuba being a far inferior HMD compared to the Visette – even the original SU2000 version!).

    The machines – then and now – still look futuristic, though; its too bad they couldn’t keep up with the times, and the times didn’t keep up with them; imagine what we could have today? Of course, the arcade paradigm is pretty much dead in the water – what we are likely to see in the very near future are console systems using 3D signals for 3D HDTVs, and people will want larger and larger screens, for greater immersion. Unfortunately, it won’t be the same. I’ll never forget playing Dactyl Nightmare, and hiding behind a column, crouching down, and shooting over-the-shoulder-style at another player, leaving him wondering where the shot came from. That’s just not possible any other way except with an HMD and full 6DOF tracking.

  2. @Crosh : “That’s just not possible any other way except with an HMD and full 6DOF tracking.” > That’s exactly my opinion, HMD rules !!

    @Maxim : Hey I played that game on a CPC 464, with the old tape reader !!! So long to load the game, but so exciting to see 3D 🙂

  3. I have one unit of Virtuality on my company 😀
    But the PC was definitely crash HDD was burned… But we have ever this system in exposition :p

    I hope we try to make a renewal in futur years.

  4. I wanted to amend my comment of “possibility” – really, its possible to do something similar without an HMD, but it isn’t really practical except in circumstances where you need large data visualization. Six projection surface CAVEs, as well as large projection spheres, allow for a deeper level of immersion (due to the fact that you only need to wear shutter glasses, so the FOV is much wider – closer to “real world”, actually) – but they are only practical when there’s enough area (and money!) to set them up. Current technology limits consumers and most professional VR to HMDs only, simply due to the space requirements if nothing else…

  5. Got my hands on VFX-1, currently enjoying with old-school VR gaming.
    Of course it’s not as good as Virtuality, but anyway Quake1 with 3DOF tracking, stereo and 2DOF cyber-puck for movement pretty neat stuff 😀

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