One foot in reality, one in virtual reality

  Video games as a whole have grown in complexity over the years, from a ball bouncing across the screen to today’s advanced systems. The technology needed to run these games have been growing as well, branching off with various companies with different ideas. One of these is the well known HTC Vive, but is it worth the price?

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Basic HTC Vive package with controllers, earbuds, and headset. Photo by Jordan Rust

  The HTC Vive is one of the most popular Virtual Reality (VR) headsets on the market, with the Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality following behind it. The Vive definitely has a lot to it (as it should at the price point), but why is the price set so high? To understand why it cost so much, you must first know what VR is.  

  But what exactly is virtual reality? VR is a relatively new adaption to playing video games. Instead of looking at the screen just in front of your face, VR lets you physically turn in real life to see the worlds around you. This makes many types of games more enjoyable, with the developers given more creative freedom to express their ideas.

  This increase in technology provides plenty of opportunity for the developers of video games to show their creativity. When the Vive first came out in 2016, the majority of the games that were developed were fairly simple. Of course, these were mainly made by indie developers, meaning made by small teams. Now that it has been around two years since the release, there is definite improvement to the quality of games. There are a variety of genres available, from horror to basic shooters.

  The main thing that draws people into VR games is the immersion they offer. If you have ever watched someone play a VR game, their reactions to the game may seem exaggerated to you. However, when you are playing the game, the things going on around you may seem a lot more realistic. Depending on how well the game was made, you will often get sucked into the games you play. This is one of the reasons horror games do well on VR, as the player gets very immersed into the game, thus spooks happen with greater impact.

   The Vive is pretty cool to play around with, but there are some downsides. The most obvious is many gamers are not able to even run the Vive. VR usually needs a whole lot of power in order to properly play the games. This is why the Vive is not like a console, where you can plug it into a TV or monitor and be good to go. In reality, the Vive needs a decent CPU (processor) and a good GPU(graphics card). These can be fairly pricey, especially for someone who just wants to enter the video game market but doesn’t want to drop $1000 on a computer. The hardware needed to run the Vive will cost more than what is needed for other VR’s of lower quality, like the PS4 VR.

  Let’s just say you already have a computer that can handle the requirements for the Vive. Now you have to actually buy the headset, and I hope you have been saving your pocket change. The price of the Vive is currently $600 for the headset, controllers, and some decent earbuds. Back when it was originally released, the price was $800, so it dropped $200 in two years. Again, this is a lot of money for people who only play games occasionally.

  Money aside, there are other minor quirks present to consider. One being the wire that acts like a ball and chain to your movements. This cord is, of course, important, but it is pretty annoying whenever you play a game where you have to move. I know I have stepped on the thing while playing a game, only to have my head pulled down to the floor, which, incidentally, tends to break the immersion created by the headset. Another note to consider is the amount of pixels given in each eye of the Vive. With both eyes combined, there are 2160×1200 pixels. This amount of pixels is pretty good as of now, but it tends to make things in the distance blurry, so reading anything with the headset is a struggle. And don’t even get me started on the microphone. Who doesn’t put a decent pop filter on a mic?

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Vive headset that I jury rigged with a sock to make a pop filter. Photo by Jordan Rust

  Do these negatives outweigh the benefits? Based on the amount of hours I have put in, and the rest I intend to, I’d say so. If you already have a decent computer to use and the money for it, the Vive can make a really great piece of technology to use. However, the cord and blurriness can put off many, so it might be best to wait. The Vive Pro is coming out soon, and it features a wireless headset and much better clarity, but will cost more. All in all, the Vive is a solid buy and a stepping stone in VR as a whole.

Jordan Rust, Print Design Editor

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