During Intel’s keynote for Computex 2016, the chip manufacturer showcased a multiplayer VR experience called Raw Data. The game was playable at Intel’s booth for the annual tech show, so naturally I had a go.
What I didn’t expect to get was a nausea and queasiness that lasted for hours. What I expected even less was the fact that I enjoyed the game so much that I’d give it another go.
If you didn’t catch Intel’s keyote, Raw Data is a VR title using the HTC Vive that pits you against waves of ranged and melee robots. It’s currently in Early Access, although it’s not available for purchase and isn’t due out for at least a month or so.
It’s advertised as a “full-body” experience and rightly so: you’re expected to duck, weave and turn a full 360 degrees as you fight of waves of robots. This is what it looks like.
The game looks reasonably decent when you’re viewing the third-person footage on the screen. Inside the HTC Vive wasn’t quite as impressive. It was a touch out of focus, although that’s pretty standard when it comes to demoing VR at a convention, and the view had a touch of pixelation that you get with VR.
The bigger problem is really a first-generation VR issue: cables. During their keynote, Intel showcased Raw Data using one of the new backpack gaming PCs. That keeps all of the cables behind you and off the ground, which solves the problem of tripping over.
But not everyone wants to feel like a Scout trooper just to play VR. And these portable computers almost undoubtedly won’t be around for those who got on the HTC Vive train early — they’ll have cords coming out the back of the headset, running along the floor like everyone else.
So Intel’s solution for Computex is to have a staffer behind you to pull the cords out of your way, stop you from getting tangled and tripping over.
After becoming accustomed to the controls — the right touch controllers uses the pistol and is reloaded by putting your gun to your back pocket to reload, while the left hand controls your vibrosword — the waves begun. There’s four small barriers for cover, and the whole thing looks like it was ripped out of a Mass Effect level.
But having someone behind me all the time was unnerving. And it gets trickier when suddenly you can feel a hand or two moving the wires behind your head. It messed with my senses, and I didn’t really feel I could make move around as freely as I wanted.
It’s possible to squat down and just let projectiles fly over you, but that leaves you vulnerable to melee attackers. The projectiles are slow enough that you could dodge them with a sidestep or two anyway. It’s a 360 degree experience, not a 360 degree squatting competition.
It was too much for my body, however. Immediately after finishing the demo — and I barely lasted a couple of levels — I felt a little queasy and started looking around for a bottle of water. At lunch time another Australian journalist remarked that I looked “a little worse for wear”, a state that didn’t pass after a full meal and several cups of water.
After a few of hours of press gatherings, I eventually made it back to my hotel. Still feeling unwell, I opted for a quick 45 minute recovery nap, which ended up turning into a two-hour siesta. Even then it took another couple of hours, dinner, and a typically insipid performance from NSW before I felt more like my usual self.
It’s the most shaken experience I’ve ever had with VR. I’ve not had a single issue with any headset or game before. I don’t get motion sickness, I don’t have issues reading or playing games in cars or moving vehicles, and I’ve done enough conventions to the point where nausea, dizziness and disorientation was a thing that happened to other people.
Until Raw Data. But I’d still go through it again. I’d rather play without a second person present, although the co-op experience could be great fun. Impractical probably, but fun.
And ultimately that’s the main test for any game, VR or otherwise.
The author travelled to Computex 2016 as a guest of Intel.