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The VR Hits and Misses of E3 2021

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So the traditionally ‘biggest videogame event of the year’, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2021 has now concluded and it was a very mixed bag of announcements wasn’t it? Heavyweights like Microsoft/Bethesda and Nintendo certainly helped carry the show when it came to all the normal fair, whilst quirkier entries from Limited Run Games gave the event some much-needed frivolity. As for all the virtual reality (VR) news, there were some updates, too few surprises and some glaring omissions which could’ve stolen the show.

A Township Tale

The Good

Let’s start with the good stuff and there were some highlights worth mentioning. A Township Tale by Australian team Alta was definitely one of them. A big open-world role-playing game (RPG) that has been available direct from the studio for PC VR headsets for a little while now is getting a native port to Oculus Quest. A virtual server can be created for up to eight friends to team-up, choose various classes and explore the world together. Most importantly, there’s not long to wait for A Township Tale which arrives on 15th July.

When it came to updates Cloudhead Games’ Pistol Whip didn’t disappoint by officially unveiling the new Style System to mix up the rhythm action gameplay. It’ll be a bumper summer update as it’ll be combined with the new Smoke & Thunder campaign.

Another update that VRFocus is looking forward to and isn’t too far away is Waltz of the Wizard: Natural Magic. This is a magical videogame that seems to keep going and going, with developer Aldin Dynamics constantly enhancing the title. The update will add new ways to cast magic spells and offer new locations to explore and fight monsters in.

Looking ahead into next there’s the visceral Samurai Slaughter House by Tab Games. Instantly bringing back memories of MadWorld for Wii thanks to the black and white aesthetic, Samurai Slaughter House is a physics-based combat where the only splash of colour comes from the enemies blood. It’s coming to PC VR headsets in 2022.

The Dull

Then there were the announcements which really didn’t feel like proper E3 news, lots of brief videos with a bit more gameplay but no launch dates or anything really tasty.

Green Hell VR, Song in the Smoke, Rhythm or the Universe: Ionia, and Against are all exciting projects which saw new footage arrive or went behind the scenes yet there was no wow factor, nothing that jumped out genuinely new.

The same could be said for Windlands 2 finally coming to PlayStation VR this summer, a whole three years after its original debut for Oculus Rift. It’s nice for PlayStation VR owners to get access as well as a physical version, however, there was no mention of new content to spice up the reveal.

And then there was NERF. The next project from Secret Location, NERF Ultimate Championship only provided a teasing cinematic trailer for the 2022 shooter. A surprise, most definitely. A good one, well we’ll have to wait and see.

NERF Ultimate Championship

The Glaringly Absent

So what was missing, or more accurately, what were we hoping to see that never materialised? There were three VR titles VRFocus was hoping to see appear in the press conferences, two from Ubisoft in the form of Splinter Cell VR and Assassin’s Creed VR, and Resident Evil 4 from Capcom.

Only revealed back in April and the first confirmed Oculus Quest 2 exclusive, Resident Evil 4 is a collaborative effort between Capcom and Oculus Studios to bring one of the best versions in the franchise into VR. It being reworked for the standalone headset with new controls allowing you to dual wield guns and melee weapons for the first time. The last update came during the Oculus Gaming Showcase which was only a couple of months away so some new footage would’ve been nice. A released date definitely wasn’t expected, with a 2021 launch currently earmarked a date will likely arrive during Facebook Connect.

Splinter Cell VR and Assassin’s Creed VR, on the other hand, is a very different scenario. These were both teased by Ubisoft at Facebook Connect in 2020 and nothing has been heard of them since. If ever there was a time to drop some details it would be E3 week. Any info on either of them would’ve been the big VR reveal of the week, instead, Ubisoft’s big news was a sequel, Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope for Nintendo Switch – loved the original so that’s a bonus.

Keep that VR chin up

Don’t dispair though, this isn’t the end of VR. This summer has some awesome VR videogames on the way like Sniper Elite VR from Rebellion and Just Add Water, Fracked by nDreams, Winds & Leaves by Trebuchet, and Song in the Smoke from 17-BIT. Plus Resolution Games has Realm of the Rat King DLC for Demeo coming or if there’s a Zero Latency location near you there’s always Far Cry VR.

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Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2021/06/the-vr-hits-and-misses-of-e3-2021/

AR/VR

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters to See Official Oculus Quest Store Launch This Week

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Back in March, Home Net Games launched the popular Warplanes: WW1 Fighters for PC VR headsets as well as Oculus Quest via App Lab – making it one of the earliest. The studio has now announced that Warplanes: WW1 Fighters will be officially released on the Oculus Store at the end of July.

Warplanes: WW1 VR

Whilst App Lab has been a great way for indie developers to get their projects onto Oculus Quest finding them is another matter, with services like SideQuest or App Lab DB simplifying discovery. The end goal for all developers is to get their videogame onto the proper Oculus Store and that’s exactly what Home Net Games is going to achieve this month.

Through App Lab Warplanes: WW1 Fighters has received lots of positive feedback for its World War 1 aerial combat, where you can jump into the cockpit of authentic planes from the era. With single-player and multiplayer modes where you can complete campaign missions or go head-to-head with other pilots, multiplayer battles include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch and Last Man Standing or team up with friends on co-op missions. Warplanes: WW1 Fighters features 18 planes; from light scout planes to heavy bombers. Progression will allow you to build your own squadron, upgrading and customizing your planes.

These can realistic or simple to control thanks to Warplanes: WW1 Fighters‘ customizable flight models. Set them for a more arcade-like experience or go full simulation with real-life aerodynamics. Gameplay options allow further in-depth tweaking such as enabling manual takeoffs and landing, aggressive AI, disabling HUD and realistic damage which affects flight.

Warplanes: WW1 VR

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters supports Oculus Quest 2’s 90Hz mode for improved performance, great for those dogfighting exchanges. The studio also confirms that: “If you purchased the game on App Lab, the game will be upgraded to the Oculus Store version with no extra cost. All saves and settings will be compatible with the new version. Of course, you’ll be getting all future updates as well.”

Home Net Games will be officially launching Warplanes: WW1 Fighters for Oculus Quest on 29th July 2021. For further updates on the latest App Lab titles, keep reading VRFocus.

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Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2021/07/warplanes-ww1-fighters-to-see-official-oculus-quest-store-launch-this-week/

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Facebook is Unlocking AR Capabilities for Developers on Quest 2

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Facebook announced today that an upcoming update to the Quest development SDK will include experimental support for a Passthrough API which will allow Unity developers to build AR experiences and features into apps on Quest 2.

Although Quest wasn’t launched as an AR headset initially, its impressive passthrough camera capability showed that it could handle AR functions surprisingly well. In fact, if you use the passthrough view as your default background, the Quest boundary and main menu floats against the backdrop of your playspace—effectively making it an AR experience that’s been available on the headset for some time.

Until now Facebook kept the tools for building AR apps on the headset to itself, but today it announced it’s unlocking the same capabilities for third-party developers too.

Initially rolling out as an “experimental” feature, the so called ‘Passthrough API’ will become available in the v31 update to the Quest development SDK. The Passthrough API is only available on Quest 2 for now; it isn’t clear if Facebook plans to extent it to the original Quest.

Facebook expects the new capabilities will enable a brand new class of applications on Quest 2 that take advantage of AR in interesting ways. Here’s some examples and explanations of the features developers can use:

Composition: You can composite Passthrough layers with other VR layers via existing blending techniques like hole punching and alpha blending.

Styling: You’ll be able to apply styles and tint to layers from a predefined list, including applying a color overlay to the feed, rendering edges, customizing opacity, and posterizing.

Custom Geometry: You can render Passthrough images to a custom mesh instead of relying on the default style mesh—for example, to project Passthrough on a planar surface.

Although transparent AR headsets—like HoloLens and Magic Leap—give a much clearer (and color) view of the real-world, passthrough AR headsets like Varjo XR-3 (and now Quest 2), tend to offer a much more immersive field-of-view and more convincing virtual imagery thanks to complete opacity control and the potential for perfect latency between  real world imagery and virtual imagery. Though Quest 2’s AR view is still fairly low resolution and black & white, it’s expected that future headsets from Facebook will focus on improving the passthrough AR view.

While developers will be able to start experimenting with AR on Quest 2 with the v31 SDK via Unity, support for other engines—and the ability to actually publish AR apps to users—is expected later this year.

With a device like Quest 2 loaded full of cameras, it’s definitely worth thinking about privacy, especially now that third-party apps can make use of AR capabilities. On that front, Facebook says that “apps that use Passthrough API cannot access, view, or store images or videos of your physical environment from the Oculus Quest 2 sensors,” and that “raw images from device sensors are processed on-device,” meaning that the images the camera sees don’t get sent to Facebook or to third-party developers.

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Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/facebook-unlocking-ar-quest-2/

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Two New ‘Harry Potter’ VR Experiences Launch at Harry Potter New York

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Two new Harry Potter VR experiences have launched at the Harry Potter New York retail location. Wizards Take Flight and Chaos at Hogwarts were developed in collaboration with Dreamscape, Wevr, and Keylight.

The Harry Potter New York store, which launched last month as a retail destination for fans of the series, is now home to two new VR experiences offering visitors a chance to cast spells with wands at Hogwarts and ride flying brooms through London.

Both experiences launched last week, supporting up to six players at at time, and have a total run time of about 30 minutes (including gearing up and down).

Chaos at Hogwarts

After missing the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station, Dobby helps get us to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Students! Dobby needs your help. Journey through Hogwarts Castle, cast spells with your wand, round up Pixies, discover hidden secrets, and find whether you and your friends can manage the Chaos at Hogwarts.

Wizards Take Flight

Take flight into the wizarding world on your own broom. Fly freely in the skies above Hogwarts before meeting Hagrid at Knockturn Alley. Then battle Death Eaters over the city of London, casting spells with your wand as you try to escape through the clouds to the safety of Hogwarts Castle.

For Chaos at Hogwarts, players will wear a VR backpack, headset, foot-trackers, and hand-trackers. In Wizards Take Flight players will each be seated on a physical broom accessory and wear a VR headset and hand-trackers. Both experiences are said to make use of “various haptics and special effects.”

Both Harry Potter VR experiences are priced at $34, and while tickets are technically available on the Harry Potter New York website, it appears that both VR experiences are completely sold out through August 15th.

Chaos at Hogwarts and Wizards Take Flight were made in collaboration with VR LBE, development, and production companies Dreamscape Immersive, Wevr, and Keylight.

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Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/harry-potter-vr-new-york-chaos-at-hogwarts-wizards-take-flight/

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The VR Drop: A Breezey RPG Summer

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It’s hot, it’s sunny so why stay inside playing virtual reality (VR) videogames? Because it’s hot, too sunny and quite frankly July has been filled with awesome releases. And that’s set to continue as the month comes to a close next week with more VR titles than you can shake a stick at gearing up for launch. Here are five that VRFocus is looking forward to in the coming days.

Winds & Leaves

Winds & Leaves – Trebuchet

After previously releasing Prison Boss VR Canadian developer Trebuchet returns with a far more open-air experience. In Winds & Leaves you become a virtual gardener bringing life back to a barren planet. Using a unique connection to the trees and plants around you, the only way you can explore the world is by planting forests that provide life-giving energy whilst offering a safe haven to return to. A VR experience for nature lovers.

  • Supported platforms: PlayStation VR
  • Launch date: 27th July

Arcsmith – Bithell Games

In Arcsmith you become a space engineer guided by a rather reluctant master arcsmith Korith Dinn. Onboard his usually quiet space station you’ll learn how to construct a variety of space-based items and machinery, fitting parts together in your own way. Whilst these three-dimensional engineering puzzles have specifications to work to, the modular design of the components means you can get creative with each assembly.

Arcsmith

Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever – XR Games

Initially due for release earlier this month on Steam, Zombieland fans can get in on the action in a few days. An official franchise tie-in with the films, Zombieland VR: Headshot Fever is an arcade-style shooter testing your aim and speed across a variety of zombie-filled courses. Get two headshots in a row to activate slow-mo, giving you more time to rack up those kills and points to unlock more goodies.

Vengeful Rites – Deep Dive Interactive

A Steam Early Access title that arrived back in 2018, Vengeful Rights is a big, story-driven role-playing game (RPG) set for an official launch next week. Filled with puzzles to solve and monsters to fight you’ll be able to wield swords, bows and magical abilities as you seek to save the world in this classic fantasy adventure.

Neon Hat

Neon Hat – Entalto Studios

From Spanish indie team Entalto Studios, Neon Hat is a very vibrant, cyber racer designed for use with PlayStation Move controllers, each one serves as a rocket booster allowing players to fly around corners and through checkpoints. Featuring its own original synthwave soundtrack, Neon Hat features ten courses across three gameplay modes. 

  • Supported platforms: PlayStation VR
  • Launch date: 29th July

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Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2021/07/the-vr-drop-a-breezey-rpg-summer/

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