The past week has been significant for fans of virtual reality, with announcements about the launch of Oculus Rift S and Oculus Quest as well as Valve’s new high-end headset, the Valve Index. With three new options, it’s possible that potential users might feel a bit dazed trying to figure out which one would be best for them. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Index, I’ll stick to what I know and talk about the possibilities for VR esports on the Oculus Quest and Rift S.
When the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive were released in 2016, they made it possible for esports to move from 2D to immersive 3D gaming. Both were (and still are) terrific headsets that truly make it possible to envision VR esports as a future billion dollar industry.
Games like Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena (launched July 2017) brought an even greater level of physicality to VR esports as players’ movements in physical reality translated to better performance in the game’s virtual environment. With its unique environment, realistic movement, and a competitive model similar to athletic events in physical reality, Echo Arena quickly set itself apart as the first true VR esport. Due to the intensity of the game and the types of movements required, however, there was some concern about whether the Insight tracking technology used by the Quest and Rift S would allow players the same degree of freedom as the original Rift, with its external sensors that could pick up motions behind a player’s back, for example.
This past week I was able to spend quite a bit of time testing the new Oculus headsets with another pro-player from Echo VR. We weren’t able to play Echo VR on either device as it wasn’t loaded on the Rift S demo stations and it hasn’t even been confirmed as a title for the Quest. However, we both played other games where we could use quick movements and awkward motions.
The Oculus Quest feels very much like the original Rift, which I personally like because I like the way it fits my head. I actually like the straps on both of these headsets because they don’t slide up on the back of my head.
The Oculus Rift S uses the new halo headband, which is much more comfortable than I expected it to be. It does appear to have the same foam that came on the original Rift. Although the foam is fine for most users, it’s not the best for VR esports players who frequently play four or more hours at a time so we recommend that you purchase a VR Cover if you’ll be participating in competitive events such as the VR League or the VR Master League. You can check out the VR Cover website to find out when they’ll have products available for the new headsets.
The Biggest Concerns. Despite the positives, there are some concerns about virtual reality. For example, some critics point out health and safety issues. If the technology is not used properly, users might suffer from health issues like seizures and other major discomfort. Some people could also trip and fall. There are also major privacy concerns with virtual reality. Some people fear that the headsets could lead to government surveillance, although there is no proof of that as of yet.
An awesome feature on the Rift S for people who wear glasses is the ability to adjust the facial interface for a more comfortable fit. This also helps avoid scratching the lenses of the headset or your glasses.
Both the Quest (571 g) and Rift S (563 g) weigh slightly more than the original Rift (470 g), but this increase is negligible.
I had the opportunity to play Insomniac’s Stormland a few times on the Rift S and actually played all the way through the first level during my last experience. I chose this game because the mechanics – flying, climbing, shooting, etc. – are most similar to those we use in some of the games featured in the VR League. Despite trying numerous times to make the game glitch, I was only able to make this happen once when I moved very quickly to grab something and turned at exactly the same moment. I didn’t lose tracking completely, but I felt it “catch” just a bit.
One of the neat things about Oculus Insight tracking is that the system uses wide-angle sensors and computer vision algorithms that help the headset extrapolate where your hands will be even if you move them behind your body so it does a great job of providing room-scale tracking without any external sensors.
On the Quest, I played Beat Saber on expert mode and couldn’t get it to glitch at all. The issue with Beat Saber is more the speed at which one plays rather than the issue of reaching behind one’s back for a gun or to grab a teammate, for example. I spoke with one of the workers who had spent quite a bit of time with the Quest and who regularly plays on Expert +, however, and he said he hadn’t been able to cause it to miss blocks on that mode either.
Long story short, I think all the cause for concern about using the Rift S or the Quest for pro VR esports was unnecessary. The inside-out tracking seems to work perfectly well. Although we’re sure to encounter a few issues and players might have to make slight adjustments in some games, it’s rare that we have our arms stuck out straight behind us for more than a moment and this is something that can be avoided if we know it’s an issue.
When I tried both the Rift S and the Quest, I immediately noticed that the resolution was better. Although some people have expressed concern about the LCD panels rather than OLED, the images were clear and the slightly slower display refresh rate didn’t seem to be an issue either.
- Oculus Rift: 1080×1200 per eye at 90 Hz
- Oculus Rift S: 2560×1440 total at 80 Hz
- Oculus Quest: 1440×1600 per eye at 72 Hz
It’s not talked about a lot, but when you play for several hours a day as many pro players do, some have noticed that the original touch controllers seem to rub the inside of the middle knuckle. I didn’t use a finger guard when I played with the new controllers and I noticed immediately that there seemed to be no rubbing on that particular knuckle so I’m hopeful that this issue has been resolved.
The redesigned controllers also had the same comfortable fit in my hands. Actually, on that note, I’ve tried several different controllers from other headsets recently and I still believe the Oculus touch controllers are the most intuitive and easy to use, plus they have the added advantage of accommodating the smaller hands of female players. Some of the other controllers are simply too bulky to be comfortable.
The Stuntmaster and the Cybermaxx. The 1990s were huge for the development of VR, even though the devices didn’t truly capture the market the way they did now. However, they were nonetheless extremely immersive for the time. Two of the most notable head mounted displays are definitely the Cybermaxx by Victormaxx and the Stuntmaster. They basically had an LCD screen embedded in a visor, that had a head tracking system, colorful stereoscopic 3D with a price tag that was a bit below $1000. Both devices also had huge support from games on both console and PC, but they didn’t achieve the huge success the industry needed.
In terms of competitive VR esports, one other consideration is battery life. This isn’t an issue with the Rift S, but it definitely is with the Quest.
Some have speculated whether Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena or Echo Combat will be coming to the Quest. After using the headset, I believe it would be possible to have a good quality version of the games on the Quest, but even if they did, we wouldn’t be able to have the same sort of competitive experiences available with the Rift. Most tournaments last from four to six hours and with a battery life of two to three hours, it would be impossible to use the Quest for higher level competitive play for games like Echo Arena or Downpour Interactive’s Onward, also featured in VR League Season 3, especially when you factor in the fact that players usually warm up for 45 minutes or an hour before the competition starts.
With that said, there are plenty of other games that would work well for competitive play on the stand-alone wireless headset and in terms of battery life, players would simply need to plan ahead and make sure their headsets are charged before events begin. Organizers of tournaments specifically for the Quest need to ensure that they’re well-prepared and that there is little down time so that, if possible, events last no more than 2 hours.
The Rift S allows you to access the games and other experiences that are already available in the Oculus Store. There will be new titles such as Asgard’s Wrath, Defector, and Stormland coming soon. I’m really excited for the new titles, but as far as competitive VR esports, we’ll be able to play any games we’ve already enjoyed over the past two years through the various leagues.
The Quest will have over 50 games at launch. Here are a few of the titles that could be well-suited to competitive experiences on the headset.
- Box VR (Fix XR)
- Creed (Survios)
- Dead and Buried 2 (Oculus Studios)
- Racket Fury: Table Tennis (Pixel Edge Games)
- Rush (Binary Mill)
- Space Pirate Trainer (I-Illusions)
- Superhot VR (SUPERHOT Team)
Oculus definitely has the most affordable high quality headsets.
- Oculus Quest: $399 for 64 GB / $499 for 128 GB (headset, touch controllers, 15W power adapter, charging cable, glasses spacer)
- Original Rift: $349 (headset, touch controllers, 2 sensors)
- Oculus Rift S: $399 (headset, touch controllers, headset cable)
- HTC Vive: $499 (headset, 2 controllers, and 2 base stations)
- HP Reverb: $699 (headset, headset cable, 2 motion controllers, 3 face cushions)
- HTC Vive Pro: $799 (headset only)
- Valve Index: $999 (headset, 2 controllers and 2 base stations) / $499 (headset only)
I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Valve Index or the HTC Vive Pro so I don’t know if there is anything compelling enough to warrant such a large price difference. I’ll be interested to get my hands on those at some point.
I have tried the HP Reverb, but it was only a demo and I wasn’t able to play any games. The resolution was incredibly clear and the headset was comfortable.
Oculus Quest is the headset that will make VR accessible to the majority of consumers because they don’t need a PC for the all-in-one VR gaming system.
It Can Add Excitement To Sports. Virtual reality can have a big impact in the world of sports. For fans, virtual reality provides the opportunity to watch a sporting event like never before. Fans can watch an entire game or match feeling like they are in the middle of it all. There have been some major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Final Four that are already implementing virtual reality into their viewing options. This could be the future for all sports.
In terms of professional competitive VR esports, it makes most sense for consumers to purchase the Oculus Rift S. The main reason for this has to do with hardware. The VR League, the world’s largest VR esports league, is sponsored by Oculus and although they allow players to use headsets compatible with the games during online events, players use Rifts at LAN events such as finals so it makes sense that competitors would want to be accustomed to those products. The other reason has to do with software since there are thousands of games available on the Oculus Store for the Rift S and we never know which ones will be featured in the next season of VR League.
This is an exciting time for our world as we enter a new era of virtual reality. Advancements to the technology in the past few years as well as lower prices have made it possible for more consumers to enter immersive virtual environments where they can play, learn, relax, work, exercise, make friends, and more. It remains to be seen what all we’ll be able to do with virtual reality over the next few years as there is increased emphasis and availability for use in healthcare, education, job training, etc.
One thing is for certain. The field of VR esports will continue to evolve as well and both the Oculus Quest and the Oculus Rift S have a place in this exciting industry.