Virtual reality is the next big thing in gaming, but one major hurdle is that it is a fairly isolating experience. Putting a headset on can transport you to another world, but anyone else in the room will only see someone wearing a goofy set of goggles. All that is about to change with VREAL.
VREAL is a platform that allows friends to not only join in on your VR gaming session, it's also possible to stream a game with VR or even record something to watch later. This is all a little confusing, so I'll walk you through my experiences with the platform.
After putting on an HTC Vive headset, I was transported to the VREAL lobby. This was a basic room where I met up with two VREAL representatives to show me around. Once I was settled, one of the representatives started playing Surgeon Simulator. Through VREAL, I could jump into the game, and watch the representative play in real time. It felt like I was actually in her game, simply standing on the sidelines. In fact, I even had the opportunity to move around in the game, putting myself just about anywhere I wanted. I could even shrink down to the size of a toy, putting myself right in the action.
That's only one way to use VREAL. Another example provided was a way to stream games using the platform. While VREAL still sends video out to other popular streaming services like Twitch or YouTube, players are able to set up virtual cameras in a game. This allows for the stream to be able to jump between all sorts of different views in the game, instead of only getting the player view that you'd get from wearing a VR headset. Setting up a virtual camera is a breeze, and dozens can be set up in a game to provide whatever views are wanted.
This can be seen in the video above. Jump to the 16:40 mark, and you'll see the Hyper RPG team has set up around 30 virtual cameras in the Surgeon Simulator operating room. This allows the Hyper RPG team to jump between any of these views, giving those watching the video the best angle on the action. It also allows those watching to have a stable video, as opposed to watching the player's view, which would feature every slight movement the player makes.
VREAL can also be used to make recordings that can be watched later. These recordings work almost like the Penseive from Harry Potter. Players are able to freely move around a recording, watching the playback from any angle desired. This recording feature can also be used to make machinima, giving viewers the opportunity to be inside of a video, instead of just watching on YouTube.
While this all sounds pretty amazing, VREAL cannot work with any game right away. "Ultimately, the viewing experience is decided on by the developer," Bryan Chu said. Chu is the vice president of marketing at VREAL. "They own the play and viewing experience, so they can start saying 'How do I want my game to be shown?'" Integrating VREAL will one day be simple to do, but for the time being, the company encourages developers to reach out and work together to make something right for each game.
Right now, Surgeon Simulator is the only game working with VREAL, but it won't be that way for long. "We've talked with a lot of developers, and there's a development pipeline, but there's nothing we're announcing yet," Chu said.
VREAL is still very much a work in progress, but based on what I saw at GDC this year, things are coming along incredibly. The service is aiming to include all VR headsets, with the Vive and the Oculus Rift already up and running. More details, such as other games that will support the service, are coming down the road, so be sure to keep an eye out if you have any interest in virtual reality gaming.
So what do you think? Are you excited about being able to play VR games with friends easier? Do you think you'd watch an interactive video on your VR headset? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.