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Vendetta Online launches support for the Oculus Rift!

As you may see from our recent press release, we're officially launching support for the Oculus Rift family of head-mounted virtual-reality displays.

Just in case you've somehow avoided the news about the Rift, the device provides a head-tracking "virtual reality" display that you wear on your face, allowing you to "look around" within a game environment and gain a much more true feel of "immersion" within the virtual world. Although the consumer head-mount VR concept has been tried before over the years, the Oculus Rift has a very large field of view, which lends a much deeper sense of immersion thanks to the use of your peripheral vision. We think it's a pretty fascinating device, and we expect there will be a lot of interest from PC gamers.

Our strategy on any "new" concept we approach (like, say, porting a full PC MMORPG to mobile devices) is to implement, release and then iterate. User input and discussion is pretty paramount to that process. We did a lot of iteration on the mobile interface, changing defaults and moving things around, tweaking settings and values, to make our game playable there. We expect a similar evolution with VR devices, like the Rift.

Thus, our current release is considered our "first generation". We've gone out of our way to try and come up with an implementation that could be developed fairly quickly (one developer for two weeks, in this case), which would result in real-world game usability. Thus far, most of the other Rift implementations we've seen have been very basic, and require removing the head-mount display to access menus and interface screens on a normal monitor. We chose to put the entire interface into the virtual space, to see how that would work, with the goal of a minimum of "lifting" the device.

We also support the next-generation "HD" version of the Rift, which is likely to be closer to the final consumer retail device. Supporting this within the game is relevant for a few reasons, as it allows us to better optimize our use of the available resolution, and change various interface settings based on the device. We haven't actually seen the game on an "HD" device yet, but we hope it looks cool.

The VR display surface is anti-aliased, as this drastically enhances the visual quality on the current (lower-resolution) devkits.

There are a few points worth noting about the state of the current implementation, as well as what we'd like to enhance:

- We do not yet support the integrated compass. This means we are not magnetically disciplining the head-tracking of the device, it is purely using the accelerometers. We find it usually works pretty well for awhile, maybe 15 minutes or so, but it may eventually get out of calibration (with your head pointed "straight" the view is "off-angle" in some way). We have added a console command (/resetovr) to allow you to re-calibrate quickly during gameplay, which you can also bind to a key (access the console with ~ aka tilde, then "/bind z resetovr" would set it to your 'z' key). Plus, the game auto-calibrates the view on every station launch. We will add support for accessing and independently calibrating the Rift's compass on startup, which should help, but for the moment we're more interested in putting it out there and getting some player feedback.

- Multi-pass renderer effects are not enabled on the Rift. This includes things like full screen lighting effects, glow, and the like. We need to make some engine changes before this will be possible, but it's not a big priority at the moment. Functionality >>>> Glitz.

- Depth is in the "eyes" of the beholder. We did a fair amount of tweaking of the "3D depth" of various HUD elements, vs the game objects, to reduce eye-strain or the need to re-focus. But, given the different eye spacings and other individual factors, people may find other depth settings to their liking. We've made this a variable that can be re-defined during gameplay.

- For the moment, our Oculus Rift support is limited to the Windows version. The Rift device itself does support Mac and Linux, but we have not as of yet. Again, this is just a first-generation implementation, and as always you can expect us to refine and expand it to other platforms as we move forward.

- We expect you to have a fairly decent videocard. There is no explicit "hardware requirement", but keep that in mind.

I'd also like to make some design changes to the HUD, to bring more of the critical elements into the FOV at all times, but this is more of an issue with the lower-resolution "developer" kit than it's likely to be with the final "HD" retail device. Showing more of the outline of your current ship around you, to help with spatial relationships, would also be nice.

I'm sure there will be lots of input and thoughts and suggestions, and as always I welcome them. Please feel free to start related threads on our Suggestions forum, etc.

I hope you're all as excited about this as we are. Take care, and as always, thanks for your support.