HTC's latest Vive demos point to an exciting VR arcade future

HTC stays one step ahead of the SteamVR competition
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HTC knew it was coming. Last week LG and Valve showed off their new LG SteamVR headset which will soon be joined by all sorts of new virtual reality headsets, devices and accessories. Graham Breen, program manager for Vive in Europe, told us that HTC isn't worried about no longer being out on its own though.

"It's a similar thing to when we saw PS VR going live, Oculus going live," he said. "VR as a whole is something that needs to grow. The more people are exposed to it, the more it's out there, the better that is for us."

It also helps that the LG news will bolster SteamVR: "The nice thing is that it's tied into the platform as well, it uses SteamVR which is getting more entrenched as a platform. So if you're a developer, you have more reason to develop for SteamVR."

HTC's latest Vive demos point to an exciting VR arcade future

What HTC does have is a serious headset and a serious head start. So what's new for Vive? At MWC and GDC we blitzed through a series of demos, some of which we've tried before (TPCast's add-on to make the Vive wireless is great) and some of which were fresh experiences.

And months after HTC's announcement of an ambitious plan for Viveport Arcades, and just after our first day out at an IMAX VR Experience Centre, it's clear that many of these demos are very arcade friendly.

"We always knew it would be social in an online, multiplayer way," said Breen. "But actually it's really entertaining watching someone in a VR headset. It's exactly what I didn't expect in a local way and you see players in VR for longer because it's multiplayer."

Richie's Plank Experience

This short but truly scary experience has been out on the SteamVR store since last September, but what was nice was that developers Toast set up a real, physical foam plank on the MWC show floor. (If you want to do this at home, you can set the dimensions). You plonk the Vive on then ride a lift up to the top of a skyscraper. The doors open and you're faced with a wooden plank with 160m of thin air below it and a cityscape around you.

Mad Irishman plays Richie's Plank experience (NSFW language)

The props mean that you have to actually step down onto the plank and when your feet hit the edges of the foam, the creaks in your ears match your movements. I really did feel the vertigo and only really felt comfortable bouncing along when I was almost back in the lift. As a spectator sport, it's simple but fun - more so than some of the crazy tumble rides, because of the suspense before and after you try it for yourself. (The game lets you add spiders at the end, fly around the city or write in the sky too).

So I enjoyed watching Wareable's very own Julie Price wobble around on heeled boots and refuse to walk to the end as well as a guy who was told to jump off - he faked comedy wobbly knees but we all knew he was poop scared as he stepped off.

VR Sports

HTC's latest Vive demos point to an exciting VR arcade future

It might not sound like the most incredible piece of escapism, but you know what? Playing ping-pong on the Vive was one of GDC 2017's highlights. VR Sports wants to be the Wii Sports for VR, and its ping-pong game certainly has the same accessible-yet-addictive quality that could get your gran hooked.

We were most impressed by the sharp physics that - were it not for the ostentatious apartment complete with grand piano - made it feel like a proper rally. Other sports, including tennis, will also be available in the full launch of the game on 15 March.


HTC's latest Vive demos point to an exciting VR arcade future

Another example of the social push, Master of Shapes' CoverMe sees two players shooting at a swarm of enemies - one in VR, one holding a plastic gun accessory and viewing the game via an attached smartphone. The player in VR can see their buddy's location in the room scale tracking area via a virtual gun and as a pair you can chat, cover each other and take down your enemies who are coming at you in 360 degrees.

Now it's a lot easier to get points in VR than shooting a life sized gun while looking at a 5-inch screen and the mobile version did stutter a few times. But the potential here is huge in terms of engaging the non-headset wearer with cool peripherals and pass and play.


HTC's latest Vive demos point to an exciting VR arcade future

Skydance, the name behind some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters, is turning to virtual reality with Archangel, a Titanfall-esque shooter exclusive for VR. It's on the rails, meaning you can only control the guns on your massive mech, but each arm has different weapons to choose from, so choose carefully. We only played a small portion of the game, but the full experience is promised to deliver around three hours of action, and we're intrigued to see how well the rest of it fares. It'll also be launching on Oculus Rift (with Touch controllers) and PS VR.

Island 359

This was my first time trying out the Vive Tracker, which can be attached to all sorts of accessories. A special shout out goes to Island 359 in which two Trackers were attached to my trainers. The Vive controllers became a gun and a knife to take down dinos but the bonus fun here was that you can kick them to pieces once they're on the ground.

Of course it's weird booting your leg out and not feeling any contact (what are they gonna do, put stuffed toys in my way?) but it was still hella fun as I was swearing and kicking while HTC's reps dodged my movements.

I find it difficult to keep track of four limbs IRL so it was no surprise that while kicking around I managed to dismember myself with the knife which left me looking at my own body flailing around in front of me. Freaky.

It's also worth noting that I was majorly tripping over the Vive cable playing this one, so this is a perfect use case for TPCast's wireless adapter.


How we test


Sophie was Wareable's associate editor. She joined the team from Stuff magazine where she was an in-house reviewer. For three and a half years, she tested every smartphone, tablet, and robot vacuum that mattered. 

A fan of thoughtful design, innovative apps, and that Spike Jonze film, she is currently wondering how many fitness tracker reviews it will take to get her fit. Current bet: 19.

Sophie has also written for a host of sites, including Metro, the Evening Standard, the Times, the Telegraph, Little White Lies, the Press Association and the Debrief.

She now works for Wired.

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