So then guys, I have had it for nearly a week now, I guess it's time for some opinions on the HTC Vive and VR as a whole.
Un-boxing and first impressions.
The Vive is a beautifully well made and presented product, everything is held firmly in place with high quality foam inserts meaning you can use the packaging as a carry case too should you need to transport etc, the controllers, headset and lighthouses all have an extremely high level of finish to them without feeling too heavy (more on this later). All in the device does feel like you have gotten your moneys worth.
Installation and Setup.
Although it is explained fairly clearly in the setup program, a good level of tech knowledge is almost essential to getting the thing running for the first time, there were firmware upgrades needed for the controllers and multiple pieces of software to install, not to mention the need to drill holes in the wall for a solid mounting point, all cables are of a decent length and again the quality is exceptional, all in the setup took around 2 hours including time for cable routing and a really clean install.
Software wise the only essential piece of software is the SteamVR suite which you get from within steam itself, there are then optional programs to enable things like wireless control of the light-houses and blue tooth linking of your phone so you can get call and text notifications with the headset on.
Finally you'll need to clear as much space as you possibly can, minimum area is 1.5x2m for room-scale experiences, I wound up with around 4x3m all in.
Experience and Impressions in VR.
If you have not yet tried any for of virtual reality it's very hard to describe just how utterly mind-blowing the feeling really is. Extremely hard to put into words but my brain was utterly convinced what was in front of me was really there, so much so that at one point whilst attempting to adjust the wrist straps on the controllers I went to place one down on a table in front of me only to see if vanish through the table and hit the floor. Initial comments had me worried about the resolution and the SDE (screen door effect) but these are only apparent when you really look for them, once interacting with a game or environment they totally vanish from the front of your mind.
The tracking on the HMD and controllers is second to none, you can, with ease, throw a controller into the air and catch it regardless of the fact you can see neither the controller or you own limbs in reality. Any wobbling or jitter you may have seen in videos is entirely down to the users actual movements, these things track with sub-millimetre accuracy and that goes a long way to convincing your brain that these games and experiences are really there.
After around an hour of messing around with the launch catalogue I began to feel a sharp pressure from the straps just behind my ears, as it turned out I had the top strap of the HMD badly adjusted so all the weight of the device was hanging from the side straps, once properly fitted it became a lot more bearable but you are going to have pressure marks and discomfort after a long session, it's also quite a warm device of itself. When you combine this with the near-acrobatic movement required by some games it can get very hot! it's certainly not a heavy piece of kit overall but when you consider its position on your face and added pressure from the tension of the cable I start to feel a mild discomfort after around 2 hours, it's nothing major though and con be ignored but I feel its worth mentioning.
For the first few minutes you will also be very aware of the cable connecting the HMD to your computer, you quickly get a good feel for its position and after a short while can navigate and manipulate its position subconsciously.
Most, if not all of these minor criticisms are completely forgotten the moment you fire up a game or experience. you are literally transported to another world, it's hard to put into words just how alien (and amazing) this really feels. you simply have to try it for yourself.
I'll clarify on the game Vs experience comparison before I mention any specifically, whilst a good few actual games are available for the Vive, there are a lot more 'Experiences', these can be in the form of cinematics, both interactive and passive, tech demos, apps, photogrametry examples and other small experiences. these are some of the most impressive things you can try in VR.
TheBlu has dropped the jaw of everyone to try it so far. The vast majority of these experiences are free or very reasonably priced (a couple quid a pop maximum) this is in stark contrast to the games which in my opinion are quite severely overpriced at the moment, I fully understand why (small user base and high development costs) and am happy to pay out if a game is worth it but with the proliferation of early access on steam and some very high prices, I can see disappointment in some games futures. This brings me neatly onto one of the biggest problems facing VR right now, the AAA paradox. At present consumers seem to be waiting for a AAA title before buying into the tech, at the same time AAA studios are waiting for the user base to grow before committing a lot of money to development so we are stuck with a slow increase in user base and a lot of on the fence developers. That said, Hover Junkers, Fantastic Contraption, Job Simulator and a few others are well worthy of your time and money all 3 are brilliantly polished and engaging games that really do feel "made for VR" at least on a room-scale level. There are also TONS of games on the horizon, by they end of 2016 I expect an extensive collection of games both big budget and indie.
There are not many sit-down experiences available for the Vive at present, this is largely down to some rather under-handed exclusivity deals with Oculus and facebook. Segregating the PC market with "platform" exclusive content is something that has been avoided for years, it's only now that it's being allowed to happen and I'm strongly against it personally, there are workarounds in place to enable you to play rift content on the Vive but this doesn't change the fact that you need to purchase the content through the oculus store and not via steam for any of it to work, out of principle oculus will be receiving no money from me until they get in-line with all the other VR manufacturers that are already available and on the horizon. All other devices use an OpenVR SDK, for HMD agnostic compatibility. Poor form on facebooks part I think.
So, TL:DR - Is it worth the spend?
Absolutely, I'd quite happily pay more than the asking price for such an awe inspiring experience. If you are on the fence I urge you to give it a try and help kick off what I honestly believe will be the future of gaming.
my only lasting criticism is to do with the resolution, Sure the resolution could be better, but it's plenty good enough for now and will only increase as GPU's become more capable. I just really wish they hadn't used a pentile display! I think the triangular shape of the pixel arrangement makes the resolution slightly easier to notice. very minor, disappears once in a game but again, worth noting.
Apologies for the wall of text, evidently I had more to say than I thought! Hopefully this is of some help to people still debating and if any of you want to try VR, give me a shout and we'll get something sorted, the more people that try it, the more that will buy it. Before long the AAA studios will take serious note and the platform will really start to take off.