Virtual reality was a huge theme at this week’s Game Developers Conference, with companies that include Oculus, Epic Games and Sony presenting hardware and software demonstrations. However, one game managed to dominate the show floor without even being anywhere near it.
Earlier this week, Microsoft hosted a special off-site event, where fans and journalists delved into the world of Minecraft, one of the hottest selling titles in video game history. It was making finally making its way to virtual reality, and would arrive on both the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets.
The familiarity of the Minecraft world, which millions of console, PC and mobile gamers have been fervently playing for years, could be a tremendous launching point into VR, perhaps more so than many other games. The openness of the game, combined with the ability to creatively build or take apart objects will while fending off enemies, could be the kind of appealing gameplay that encourages more consumers to adopt VR. Availability through the low-cost Gear VR is sure to also have an impact.
“In VR, I want to go explore the world,” said Oculus chief technical officer John Carmack earlier this week (via Polygon). “I think that the ability to be wireless, to spin around and have that freedom, really makes this a unique experience.
“Minecraft hits all of those buttons very, very well. It is the quintessential open-world game, and being able to explore that world in VR was what I always thought the core of this was all cracked up to be.”
The enhanced play style for the game, being able to move by looking around the world and interacting with objects more closely, is bound to become a big hit, even among those still skeptical about the technology. “Knowing that you don’t simply control your character to turn 90 degrees this way, to move over here and turn around, but instead to actually turn your body all the way around [is powerful],” Carmack explained. “You know that you’re 200 meters away this way down the hill and around the bend from where you started, and that sense of being in a big world is wonderful.”
While a release date for the game wasn’t given yet, Carmack believes that it could be coming out this year. “I said this was my grail for VR, that this was the most important gaming application that I could do, or that I could be involved with, and so I’m very proud for the part that I’ve had and I’m happy to have worked with Microsoft and Mojang to get this at the point that it’s at. I’m excited to be supporting it in the coming years as things continue to improve.”
Minecraft is one of many popular game experience coming to virtual reality. A special version of the hit multiplayer game Star Wars: Battlefront is already in the works for PlayStation VR, and Sony has hinted that other franchises will someday have a VR experience, possibly in the same way Until Dawn will have a VR spin-off.