I have used all previous versions of Oculus. Dk1, Dk2 and Gear VR. However, I can safely say that absolutely none of them compare to the life changing moment of trying out the Crescent Bay at GDC.
While using Dk1 for the first time was very thrilling indeed, you always had the sense that this is a ‘tech demo’ which will one day become an amazing product. Both Dk2 and Gear VR felt like evolutionary steps towards that goal.
Crescent Bay (CB) is a different beast altogether. All previous versions look like toys compared to it. Think of watching a movie on a big screen TV vs watching it in IMAX. There is no comparison here. The game has changed.
No more screendoor effect. You can no longer make out individual pixels. Going very near objects does result in some blurriness but it feels different from the screendoor effect of previous versions.
Oculus has kept the optics tech behind Crescent Bay super secret. I tried to get the demo engineers to give me some details of the resolution, but all I got was that it’s not higher than GearVR. That means there is definitely some optics magic going on since GearVR’s display can’t come close to Cresent Bay.
This is huge. The presence of headphones highly enhances the sense of immersion. While the inbuilt headphones on Oculus don’t look fancy, they are incredible and of extremely high quality. To compare, the GearVR demo playing next to it had me put on some fancy heapdphones and they couldn’t come close to the Oculus ones.
After trying the 3d positional audio in Cresecent Bay you will wonder how you felt any immersion at all without it.
The tracking was indeed better than any other previous model. However, the camera did lose track of me a couple times. While it readjusted itself in milliseconds, you could definitely feel heavy discomfort when that happened.
This is definitely the lightest of all the previous Oculus’. That said the fundamental design being unchanged, it still places all the weight around your eyes and I could definitely feel the burden of it during the demos.
Lens Adjustment/Sweet spot
There is definitely a sweet spot that fits your eyes. One of the demos I tried, the presenter didn’t put the headset on me properly and everything looked very blurred. It took me a few tries until things were back to being in focus again.
There needs to be some program that starts whenever you turn on the oculus that will make it easy to adjust the lenses to best fit you.
Submarine – The demo begins by placing you inside some sort of submarine. There isn’t much here, it is just to acclimatize you to VR. You hear some sound behind you and you see a pipe leaking. This is the first time you experience 3d sound in VR and it feels amazing.
Standing Dinosaur – You transition from there to a dinosaur standing in front of you. This feels almost scary. The dinosaur faces you even if you try to turn. It feels very real.
Cartoony/Minecraft-ish world – From the scary dinosaur, you transition to a happier minecraftish world. It is not fully minecraftish since the surfaces are a lot smoother than just blocks. Colors are green and bright. 3 small cartoonish animals are sitting. You can sit down with them in your spot and feel part of the group.
Mirror – You are standing in front of a mirror. It has a mask where your face should be. The mask moves and turns exactly like you move your head. The styles of mask change over time.
Alien – This was amazing (and creepy) as hell. You are standing on a planet with a life-sized alien looking at you. There are spaceships flying above you. You really feel he the alien is standing in front of you. I was scared of stretching my arm out since I didn’t know how he would react. His gaze follows yours making it feel creepy.
Top of building – Very very cool demo. You are on the edge of a building. Even though I knew I was in a safe room, I couldn’t get myself to put even one foot forward ahead of the edge. I tried the demo multiple times with the same result.
Robot fight – This was by far the absolute best demo. It made me feel like a child again. It is tough to describe since it feels so silly, but immersion was amazing. 2 robots, well 2 robot hands one can say, are fighting over a small rubber duck. The sound plays a huge, huge role here. You can feel and hear them moving around you. When they shoot at each other, the sound and particle effects are insane.
Dinosaur in a corridor – You are standing all alone in a very large corridor. The sunlight coming in from the windows on the side. It feels great. Suddenly you see a dinosaur running towards you. He comes near you and puts his face very close to you. Then he walks ahead of you while you are under it. This was very, very impressive. I genuinely felt scared when he reached down to me. When he grunted, the spit from his mouth felt like it was over me. The part where I can see the dinosaur body above me when he walked over me felt straight out of Jurrasic Park.
Showdown – A lot has been written about this demo before. It is a matrix style world. You are in the middle of a shootout between some soldiers and an alien robot. Everything is in slo-mo and you are being pushed ahead as if on rails. I really felt like the ground beneath me was moving. I remember very well as a soda can flew past me. The demo ends with you standing in front of the alien robot and it coming down to you to attack you. I tried this one 3 times and each time I raised my arms as it attacked me.
Hobbit - Thief Demo - This is a new demo just launched in time for GDC. You are Bilbo Baggins and in Smaug’s cave. You get to see Smaug up close and personal. The sense of scale here is insane as you lift your head to see Smaug just towering over you. There is a moment when he comes extremely close to you and all you can see is his eye cause he is so big.
While being awesome, a lot of punch of the Thief demo was diluted by the fact that it was very dark. You couldn’t make out most of the environment or the detail on the dragon.
Upon inquiring, I was told that the Smaug demo was specially designed to take full advantage of the full 12GB Vram of the new GeForce TitanX card and was written and being tweaked since just a few days ago. The reason for such high requirements is because the dragon is supposed to have the same level of detail as in the movie. However both me and the presenter agreed that the high amounts of darkness prevented you from seeing most of the detail in this demo.
Words cannot describe it. You have to use the Crescent Bay to realize its profound effect. There was me before trying Cresecent Bay and after.