365/365 Day 79: A Rift Between Oculus and Morpheus - Will Sora Layton Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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365/365 Day 79: A Rift Between Oculus and Morpheus

Virtual reality has been in the minds of video game players for a long, long time. Over the past fifty years or so, we've seen tremendous technological innovation on multiple fronts, from motion control to voice recognition and general hardware power. Now, after several previously flawed attempts at creating a virtual reality experience (sorry Nintendo), we are seeing several developers take on the idea of letting us play a game without a television, and through our eyes. Personally, I'm very excited to try one out for myself someday, but I'm still hesitant because of certain factors, mainly the price point, and how much support virtual reality will actually garner once it's in consumer hands. We've known about the Oculus Rift for almost two years now, but it's still several months away from being commercially released (possibly even a year), and now we are aware of Valve and Microsoft possibly going into virtual reality (come on Nintendo, partner with Oculus!). The most recent development in this field, though, is Sony confirming that it has its own virtual reality device, code named Project Morpheus. If you hadn't guessed yet, I want to discuss this new piece of technology from Sony today, as well as look at why I may be more inclined to either it or the Oculus Rift.

BUT WILL IT BLEND?...I'm sorry.

Considering how technologically advanced Project Morpheus is (at least, according to Shuhei Yoshida, and a few impressions of the device), it's hard to say that Sony rushed the development of the device to compete with the Oculus Rift. I do not actually think that Sony rushed its development at all-in fact, the device seems more capable than the Oculus Rift. The key difference between the two is that Morpheus is able to interact with the PlayStation Camera and track your movements. In a hands-on demo with Morpheus, IGN editor Scott Lowe mentioned how in a demo called Deep, he physically turned around to see a shark coming at him as he played through the eyes of a diver in a shark cage. The ability for the device to detect actual bodily movement is something I find both intriguing, as well as...well, a bit distracting. Distracting may not be the right word, so let me try to explain how I feel about virtual reality. 

Sony has been pushing for the idea of "presence" with Morpheus, which is all good. Feeling like you are immersed in the world of the game has become a major focus of developers over the last few years, and this is the next logical step in that department. However, one thing I'm excited about with virtual reality is essentially eliminating the need to play games on my TV. Of course, Nintendo is already doing this with the Wii U, which I think works mostly fine, but the way that Sony is doing it with streaming to the PlayStation Vita is not what I want to see. The Vita does not have the exact same controller layout as the DualShock 3 or 4, and that means that if I want to stream a game to my Vita in bed instead of playing on the TV, I'll need to adjust to the different control scheme. Virtual reality devices could eliminate this nuisance by allowing me to play the game in bed with the device on, and a controller in hand. Essentially, I don't want virtual reality devices for only creating an immersive experience; I want them to stream the game to my eyes.

Yes, I want to own things like the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus not because of the the possibility of looking through Gordon Freeman's eyes as he swings a crowbar, but because I want to have the ability to play video games in bed, or just without having to look at a television screen. This is sort of because of how the TV that's hooked up to my consoles is aligned in conjunction with my bed, but considering the possibility of playing games without having to squint at a TV screen...I think my desire is valid. I wouldn't need to deal with staring at a screen that potentially contrasted with the rest of the lighting in the room and caused me discomfort, or the frustration with switching to using a Vita to control PlayStation 4 games. I've expressed how I've liked playing Persona 3 more on PlayStation Vita (the PSP game, just on Vita) than PlayStation 3, and while Persona 5 won't be arriving on Vita (and if it does, it probably would actually be on Sony's next handheld). If I could play the game in bed with Morpheus on (this is assuming that Persona 5 comes out on PlayStation Now, but that may not happen in reality...this is just a  hypothetical situation), I believe my enjoyment of the game would substantially increased compared to only playing on a TV screen (this is based again off my experience with Persona 3 FES and Persona 3 Portable).

Is less better?

However, for consumers like me who may only want the device for simple streaming to a different place instead of using it in immersive games, how does Morpheus's PlayStation Camera capabilities come in? What if I end up needed the Camera in order to use Morpheus, in a Xbox-One-with-Kinect type relationship? Personally, I wouldn't be willing to put down extra cash if it was necessary, and this is where the Oculus Rift seems like a better option for me. The device is only meant to stream games to your eyes, and doesn't involve bodily movement (well, there is head-tracking of course, but I honestly would rather just have the streaming aspect, as I'd like to play some third-person games through it). These factors, to me, point toward Morpheus being a more costly piece of hardware compared to the Oculus Rift, and then the Camera may be necessary as well. This could put the device around the cost of the PlayStation 4 itself, or even higher if including the Camera. It's entirely possible that the cost of the Oculus Rift currently could be significantly more than the final one, and that Morpheus's pricing can't be based on their competitor's pricing, but  right now, the Oculus Rift's devkit is expensive, and doesn't require anything else separate from the device. 

Unfortunately, waves of drowsiness are stating to get to me, and I don't want to risk falling asleep, so I'm ending this blog off here...I got to my points a bit earlier than I thought I would, so that's at least a plus. If you have any thoughts about Project Morpheus or the Oculus Rift, leave a comment below...

Peace..

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