After launching a special edition of Minecraft for the Samsung Gear VR headset in April, Oculus VR and Mojang are now releasing a free update to the Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta that will enable gamers to play this version of the popular sandbox game/sim with the Oculus Rift. Headset owners merely need to grab the launcher from the Oculus Store to get started.
According to Marsh Davies of Mojang, VR Minecraft includes innate keyboard and mouse support, and new options for the Xbox One controller. The VR Minecraft page syas that fast movements can be disorienting in VR, so Mojang has inserted a system allowing players to turn in “snappy” increments instead of a single arc. This method is supposedly easier on the brain.
Other new features in VR Minecraft include “fancy-pants graphics stuff.” This includes new render distance settings that will take advantage of VR-dedicated graphics cards, optimized DirectX 11 performance on Windows 10, and multisample anti-aliasing (MSAA) for improved image quality. The game also provides even more “granular” customization in the VR settings.
“Many VR-specific options which affect comfort or rendering performance are recorded separately, so you can customize your VR experience, and still retain your traditional Minecraft experience exactly how you left it … when you left the real world, for the world of VR Minecraft!” said Minecraft AR/VR Developer Mike McGrath.
In a video provided by the Minecraft team last month, Saxs Persson said that they were contacted by John Carmack from Oculus, who wanted to bring Minecraft into VR. Thus, they created special teams within Mojang and Oculus VR and began banging out support for the Rift headset. Throughout the development, both teams experimented with different ways to optimize Minecraft for VR, including the new snappy turn system provided in Monday’s update.
Also included in VR Minecraft is a virtual living room to give players a break from the immersive, full-view experience. This allows the player to hit a button and find themselves seated on a virtual couch that’s planted in front of a virtual wide-screen TV. Players can look around to view the room and play Minecraft on the big screen. To zoom back into the actual game, simply press a button.
“When we first started testing with the community, we noticed a couple of things,” Persson said last month. “One thing was that whenever we put a joystick in peoples’ hands, they basically froze. They were just sitting like they were playing a game normally. Some of the most awesome moments are when people get accustomed to ‘actually I can look anywhere I want to’ and sort of break free of that mold. Decades of training have taught people that you sit still when you play games, but that’s all about to change.”
Persson hopes that with VR Minecraft, the community will see their worlds in a completely different way. This will bring creators up close and personal with their creations without actually having something real in their hands. The VR experience is expected to inspire new creations and worlds that were difficult to envision while viewing the game on a flat screen.
“We’d like to welcome you to the game all over again, because it’s a fantastic new experience in VR, even if you’re a Minecraft veteran,” McGrath says. “For new and experienced players, we hope the VR experience in Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta will illuminate just how powerful, evocative, and utterly immersive VR can really be.”