We love GDC. Not just because it's filled with passionate developers and fascinating talks, but because it's a chance to see and hear about games that we'd otherwise miss. E3 is a place for big-budget studios to make noise; GDC is a platform for developers who can't afford to make such a splash.
When it comes to VR, it's especially important to be rooting out the more innovative ideas out there. And at GDC 2018 we've been wandering the halls in search of the best ideas, from VR first-time developers to more established studios. This year, there was an encouraging mix of ideas.
Hands on: Oculus Go review
Most of the games will launch later this year, though a few are out already. Read on for our pick of the games we played at the show.
It is a known fact that when night falls, traffic cops defend the earth from hostile alien forces. Or at least they during the great alien invasion of Higinbotham (presumably named after William Higinbotham, inventor of the first video game) in the 1950s, setting for incoming RR game Traffic Cop.
It's a game of two disparate parts: guide cars across an intersection while dodging objects being hurled by road-enraged drivers; then blast aliens out of the sky with your traffic cop-issue ray gun come night time. Part puzzler, part action; all fun, in our opinion. The traffic bit is harder than you might thing, and we were... pretty bad at it, causing endless pileups and receiving several coffee cups to the face from angry drivers. It's set to launch on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive later this month.
Job Simulator has become a mainstay of 'best of' VR lists thanks to its mix of irreverent comedy and colorful, delightful design. AT GDC developer Owlchemy Labs showed off its next game, Vacation Simulator, which explores what happens when it's time to take a break from the office. Once again we found ourselves in a world where robots run the show, this time on a sunny beach. That wasn't all that had changed, as we could actually move about this time. Job Simulator always keeps you fixed in one spot, but Owlchemy Labs has transplanted Rick and Morty VR's teleportation system over. Unlike games like Skyrim VR, you can't just move anywhere; there were a few highlighted areas we could jump to in our vacationing spot.
We only had a short time with the game, in which we took a selfie, threw some balls and cooked a burger - all the standard holiday activities - but we're told the full game will be longer than Job Simulator. We tasted it on the Oculus Rift, but Vacation Simulator will also launch on the HTC Vive and PS VR when it arrives later this year.
26 Rob Plays
Our favorite thing about 26 Rob Plays is that it's named after a man who just happens to be a guy the developers like to drink with, but who had absolutely no part in the development of the game. As for the 26 - it started with 26 mini-games, but that number's now inflated to around 50. 26 Rob Plays is the creation of Novus Res, an Adelaide-based studio, and puts you through a series of short-play VR games that range from chopping wood to pouring beers to throwing balls through hoops.
If you've ever played Wario Wario, it's slightly reminiscent in the way it randomly selects the mini-game before each turn, though you've got 20 seconds to complete each one. We managed to ace most of them, though picking up balls and lobbing them through the hoops was more difficult than it looked. This launches on the Rift and Vive in April.
There have been so many renditions of Settlers of Catan - or just Catan, as it's now officially titled - that we've lost track. God, remember when it was on the Nokia N-Gage? Thankfully Catan VR, from developers Asmodee Digital and Experiment 7, is much better than that. The game is out now for Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and will also be available for Oculus Go when it launches later this year. In fact, we played it on a Go against three other players, two of which were using the standard Rift headset. It's obviously a seated game (though we'd love a version where we could run around the map herding sheep) and everyone's floating head and hands are visible around the board, as you take it in turns to prove you are the superior settler.
Read this: Best VR headsets 2018
With the positional tracking of the Rift you can lean into the board to get that authentic real-life experience (board game smell not included) while Go and Samsung VR players sadly remain in a fixed perspective. Yes, it's Catan again, but being able to play people around the world, all sat together in the same virtual room, gives this one something truly unique.
The elevator pitch for Baam Squad is probably along the lines of Call of Duty: Zombies meets Minecraft, but it brings fresh ideas to the table too. The premise is that you and up to three other players must defend a candy factory from zombies with a taste for blood and sugar. Keep them at a safe distance with an arsenal of weapons while keeping the electricity running so you can power the elevators and doors. It's total mayhem, the best kind when shared with others, and it'll be out in Q2 of this year for the Vive and Rift, designer Eric Song told us.
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