This content marks the beginning of our in-depth VR testing efforts, part of an ongoing test pattern that hopes to determine distinct advantages and disadvantages on today’s hardware. VR hasn’t been a high-performance content topic for us, but we believe it’s an important one for this release of Kaby Lake & Ryzen CPUs: Both brands have boasted high VR performance, “VR Ready” tags, and other marketing that hasn’t been validated – mostly because it’s hard to do so. We’re leveraging a hardware capture rig to intercept frames to the headsets, FCAT VR, and a suite of five games across the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive to benchmark the R7 1700 vs. i7-7700K. This testing includes benchmarks at stock and overclocked configurations, totaling four devices under test (DUT) across two headsets and five games. Although this is “just” 20 total tests (with multiple passes), the process takes significantly longer than testing our entire suite of GPUs. Executing 20 of these VR benchmarks, ignoring parity tests, takes several days. We could do the same count for a GPU suite and have it done in a day.
VR benchmarking is hard, as it turns out, and there are a number of imperfections in any existing test methodology for VR. We’ve got a good solution to testing that has proven reliable, but in no way do we claim that perfect. Fortunately, by combining hardware and software capture, we’re able to validate numbers for each test pass. Using multiple test passes over the past five months of working with FCAT VR, we’ve also been able to build-up a database that gives us a clear margin of error; to this end, we’ve added error bars to the bar graphs to help illustrate when results are within usual variance.
We're getting sick of hearing “VR” at every meeting. It's not that the technology is bad – it's just getting a little exhausting to hear as a tag-along to literally anything. Everything is VR premium, VR-ready, VR approved, VR, VR, VR.
Despite this, we're still posting some coverage of a few VR trends that make more sense than empty badges or paid-for certifications. MSI's VR backpack is one of the noteworthy creations, seemingly inspired from Intel's prototype VR backpack at CES 2016, and arrives at Computex alongside immediate competitors from ASUS and Zotac.
"VR is a fad" was the pull-quote which propagated through the internet when Warren Spector made the comment last year, reinforcing it at ECGC a few days ago. The veteran designer indicated a belief that virtual reality could generate "interest among hardcore gamers," but remained cautious to grant too much early praise given personal experience with earlier VR attempts. Spector's decades-long industry experience grants weight to the statement, and made us curious what some long-time colleagues of Spector's might believe. Richard Garriott is one of those – friend and former employer of Spector – and has previously spoken to us about a history of effectively inventing MMOs, new graphics techniques, and more.
Richard Garriott joined us at PAX East 2016 for an impromptu discussion on the viability of virtual reality. The conversation started as small talk – "what do you think of VR?" – but evolved into an in-depth look at the challenges faced by the emergent technology. We rolled with it; you can find the video and some of the transcript below:
We've not been shy in our fierce criticisms of VR from a gaming perspective, but the maturation of development has yielded increasingly more mechanically-focused titles targeted at gamers. Mars 2030 aims to be more than a “VR Experience,” as most titles are, and we had the opportunity to get hands-on with the new game at GTC 2016.
Mars 2030 is developed by Fusion and was first shown at the GTC keynote, the Mars rover helmed by industry icon Steve Wozniak. The open-world game takes place on the surface of Mars and deploys unique techniques to match surface color, heights, and physical interaction with terrain. It's playable on non-VR displays as well (and it does look good on 21:9 aspect ratios, based on the keynote), but hopes to stake its flag into the VR market with an agnostic disposition toward the Vive and Rift. Mars 2030 will work on both major devices.
Our hands-on impressions with Mars 2030 left us reasonably impressed with the early demonstration of Fusion's attempt to cast players as astronauts.