Throughout the development of the Rift hardware and software, early adopters have mostly dabbled with that demos, short films and unique experiences rather than full-blown games. Some, like Private Eye and Technolust, have led to games, whilst others like Asunder: Earthbound have given us glimpses of what the future might be like. We’ve also had hints of social VR applications in AltSpaceVR and Convrge, where entertainment, education and friendly hangouts have occurred in equal measure.
As with any new medium, some have deliberately crafted bizarre digital worlds for us to explore. Psychedelic experiences, surrealistic interpretations and experiments with size and scale have helped create some truly unique demos about what VR can offer, and many of them are very playable, too.
We went diving into forums and the depths of the Oculus Share site, to find some of the strangest, mind bending experiences that also adhere to all of the standards of VR development. They play well, don’t cause instant nausea and, most importantly, send your mind on a trip that it is not soon to forget.
There are a lot of companies and enterprises that could benefit in a promotional or sales sense from VR. Architects can show clients around homes that haven’t been built yet, window sellers could show off designs pre-sale and travel agents could take you to exotic destinations within the comfort of virtual reality, to give you a taste of what a locale can offer.
Nobody really expected food companies to get into virtual reality though. Despite the fact that you cannot smell, or taste within VR (yet!) Groupe Bel, a multinational French cheese marketer teamed up with Hammerhead VR, the company that put together the original Undercurrent VR demo, to create a short experience, all about Boursin cheese.
The spreadable soft cheese features in the demo, which is in essence a rollercoaster ride through a fridge, as well as all of its ingredients. It’s very detailed and beautifully rendered, making for quite an immersive, albeit bizarre experience. All about cheese.
Not every experience in VR has to be interactive. That creates all manner of difficulties for film makers, because as much as there is lots to show an audience, it’s often what you don’t show them that can be most important. How do you control that if you don’t know where they’re going to look?
That wasn’t a problem for Tyler Hurd, who made sure he’d know exactly where the audience is looking with Butts, “an animated VR short about love, trust, and learning what it means to be truly free,” according to the official site. While you can question that all you like, it’s very difficult to watch this bizarre minute or so of film without cracking a smile and wondering what strange happen-stance gave Mr Hurd the idea for it.
One of the older Rift demos on this list, Dumpy Going Elephants was originally released for the DK1 and was recently ported over to the newer, better DK2. It puts players in control of Dumpy, an elephant, and more importantly, its trunk. That appendage is all that players can see of themselves while playing, but crucially they can control where the trunk goes with a turn of their head.
Swing left and the trunk swings with you, likewise in other directions, which makes for a surprisingly effective weapon to mess with the physics-bending, impressively colorful world that players find themselves in. You’ll knock down buildings, send football playing children flying up impossible cliffs, and even sling trees at aliens. There isn’t much point to it, but it is fun and very, very strange.
This one is on the verge of drifting into the type of Oculus Rift demo we won’t be covering as part of this piece, though loading the game up makes it clear it’s meant to be silly rather than pornographic. Players find themselves faced with a multi-mouthed alien (of specified gender) who is rather keen on them. In order to progress to their spaceship for more intimate canoodling, they need to first kiss them on various sets of lips.
Each set must be kissed for a certain amount of time to progress to the next round. While the game does move quicker and become more complicated as you go, it’s not difficult to succeed. You’ll have more trouble trying to explain what just happened, and you’ll probably spend more time telling friends about it than you did playing.
I almost didn’t include this one on the list, as out of all of them it is the least polished, the most amateur feeling. Textures are a bit ropey in places, the text is jarring and broken, and some of the automated camera movement can be nauseating. But by god, is it weird!
BadBox start by making you a human sacrifice. From there, you progress through the afterlife into your own “BadBox,” which involves flying through alien landscapes, strange lighting effects, impossible architecture, and surprisingly foreboding geometry. Spikey, anthropomorphic collections of flesh and metal appear to threat you with their sheer oddity rather than jump scares.
The story you’re put through doesn’t make a lot of sense, and a number of portions of the demonstration can feel broken or at best, dull, but you will spend the majority of your time in the “BadBox” having very little idea what is going on — and it puts even the bravest players on edge.