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Jogging with the DK2 in EvilMech Runner

By Review

This past week saw the release of EvilMech Runner,

a small experimental survival game that we have mentioned before by estonian developer Filipp Keks, meant to achieve the feeling of natural movement with minimal hardware. This means in-game movement without the use of a gamepad/keyboard/treadmill, using simply the Oculus hardware and clever software. Since my first encounter with the game fell short due to the long que of people wanting to try the demo and me being able to get stuck in a virtual wall, I was exited to fire the game up at home.

Setup: as the readme file suggests, I put the Oculus IR camera about eye level on a tripod and stood (yes, this game is meant to be played while standing) about 1 meters away. I also had a small carpet on the floor to give me some feedback as to where I was located in reality (pro tip for playing alone). There is a need to press the spacebar key multiple times in the beginning. Make sure you press it until you see “RUN!”, otherwise you false-start and miss half the fun (the EvilMech part).

Experience: Two players tried the game, me and the wife. Neither of us fell over, but having your feet wide apart is definitely a smart choice. Some funky graphical glitches aside (water splashes in the ceiling), the experience was quite impressive workout-wise. Quote from one of us: “How am I out of breath in my living room!?”. The main selling point, step detection, worked very well, but of course one could also cheat by just bobbing the head up and down. There was a huge difference in playing styles however – while I managed to stay on the tiny carpet without problems, my other half took a much broader approach and constantly actually ran off in different directions. So, just in case you don’t want to yank your computer off the table, find a running partner to hold you back:)

I also caught up with Filipp Keks (“hopscotch” in estonian, quite approprietly) for some background info.

Where did you get the idea for this kind of solution?
The idea came to my head the first day I received my DK2 back in August. After trying first couple of demos I noticed that the motion tracker range is capable of much more then just “peering around corners” as it was announced. In almost any demo you can actually walk a couple of meters from the initial point. At the same time solutions like [Virtuix] Omni and Cyberith seemed a bit too over-engineered. I also tried to mix gameplay with a standard treadmill, but it limits you by speed and direction, so I rejected the idea and stuck with simple jogging in place. According to some fitness and medical sites I found, jogging in place is also quite healthy and beneficial 🙂 The disadvantage of my solution is that you can not turn back as you would block the tracker camera view. I worked around this problem by making the game forward running, so the player never have to turn back. Later it came out that Oculus developers are moving the same direction as they made the new Crescent Bay prototype with IR sensors visible from behind.

How easy was this approach to implement?
It took me one weekend. Most of the time I spent rewriting a part of the Oculus Unity driver. Version 0.4.2 was quite a mess, now 0.4.3 came out and it looks much nicer and logical. Currently I’ve rewritten the code for the latest SDK. I plan to release my code as open source so others could make more demos with the same type of gameplay.

Will this kind of movement control catch on?
Maybe not exactly – DK2 wasn’t designed for it after all 🙂 But this is definitely the direction where VR will be moving in the near future. Oculus newest Crescent Bay prototype has a wider position tracker range and IR sensors on the back which perfectly suits my idea of gameplay.

Lastly, what are your next plans?
I have plans to experiment with full body motion tracking using something like a Kinect. I also have a couple of ideas how to make the gameplay more interesting and unsusual, so stay tuned.
EEVR will keep a close eye on Filipp! If some of the readers are unable or simply lack the stamina to try EvilMech Runner, here’s the official gameplay clip


Hello, (virtual) reality!

By News

This blog is the brainchild of a few estonian VR developers (see below) who met recently in Tallinn at the Night of Games (MängudeÖÖ). After a great evening of networking and Oculus demo sessions it was clear that the estonian VR scene needs a proper home. And so EEVR was established. This site will do its best to keep up with all the local VR-related news and happenings. This might include some new tech gadgetry from a near-by startup, a game demo from an unknown developer or a scientific study from one of our universities. Since not everyone in the world speaks estonian language though, this blog shall contain mostly english-compatible material.

First, a quick review of VR-related content from the Night of Games event. Mario “Zuurik” Saarik entertained the crowd with some well-known demos, including Black Hat Oculus, Lava Inc, Dreadhalls, Pixelrift and a nasty surprise (which was of course Alien: Isolation). Some were presenting their own work, like a western-style bar shoot-out called “Better than life” (GitHub). The guests also had a wonderful opportunity for a quick haircut thanks to Erkki Trummal and his “Guillotine Simulator” (the most famous estonian VR experience to date?). Another big surprise was “BMX Ride“, a VR-enabled bike game, that apparently is also developed right here in Estonia by Rando Tkatsenko. Stay tuned for an in-depth review.

Further back you could see Filipp Keks putting people through their paces, literally. He was showing a simple survival game, where you run through a sci-fi tunnel. The really interestin bit was the running – this was achieved not via a controller, but with actual running in one spot. Filipp’s program then read out the vertical movement of the Rift IR LEDs and fed that info to the game as forward motion. For such a simple hack it worked amazingly well. Although a few people managed to hit the wall while running. Overall a great event with tons of content, props to the organizers at!


What next? Our FB community is live and we are in the process of organizing EEVRs first meet-up for devs and other interested parties.
Date: 28th november.
Place: Tallinn, Estonia.
Schedule: Some presentations, some demostrations and the viewing of the first Virtual Reality Awards (submission deadline for your creation is november 9th!).

About the authors:
Mario “Zuurik” Saarik is a gamer and hardware engineer with too much ideas in his head. Fortunatelly he also knows how to make them a reality.
Madis “Mad” Vasser (MadVR) is a psychology MA with a keen interest in using VR for experimental research and non-gaming purposes.

Just Creative