Arkwood, in his undying depravity, savours the Launch Day. He had been rubbing his groin all yesterday in anticipation.
His Oculus Touch controllers arrived early – 10:30am – and he carefully ripped apart the packaging.
Unfold the artful ergonomics of the buttons, thumbstick and triggers:
‘Oh, feels like slipping on a pair of my leather gloves,’ my Belgian buddy salivated.
He proceeded to configure the Touch controllers with the extra sensor. Now he has one sensor either side of his monitor…
…but the setup software tells him to move the sensors further apart.
‘Damn the physical world and its lack of space! I can’t wait to leave this rotten hovel behind.’
Arkwood also mapped out his play area for the Guardian System. But he soon switched it off, muttering something about gridlines spoiling the gameplay. Premature perhaps, as he was soon punching walls and knocking a toy robot off a shelf as his arms flailed about uncontrollably. Thank goodness for the protective ring around the Touch controllers, his mitts saved from bruises and gashes.
But of course, the huge moment came when Arkwood got to see this hands in virtual reality. So spooky, so real!
‘Oh my god, I have hands!’ he exclaimed. Mrs Lockhart, who was out cutting her grass, could not fathom the commotion that was unfolding beyond our open computer room window. She scratched her head, wondering why a 32-year-old man would suddenly notice he had been born with fingers and palms.
‘He is playing a game,’ I bellowed at her, putting her mind somewhat at rest.
The virtual hands are impressive though. I put on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset myself and wondered at the perfect pair of hands in from of me, placed at exactly the right height to my physical body.
With the hand trigger of the Touch controller I could grip my virtual fingers.
Lightly touching the index trigger contracted my index finger.
And the thumbstick allowed me to flex my virtual thumb.
Plus there are buttons to press, including the A B X Y buttons you’d find on an Xbox controller.
‘Enough fuckin around already!’ my sordid chum screamed, snatching the Touch controllers from my inspection, ‘I want to play a game.’
He started the free Dead And Buried, and his virtual hands turned skeletal:
‘Jesus, I’ve got a gun too!’
Immediately Arkwood stood up. He had never stood up before when using the Oculus Rift. Shit was getting real.
‘Oh man, I am going in for a shootout!’ he shrieked over the burr of Mrs Lockhart’s grass cutting motor:
Not only was it the first time Arkwood stood up when playing in a virtual world. It was also the first time he played online, with other people.
‘Oh, it feels so weird standing here in this Western saloon with other cowboys. I mean, real cowboys!’
He told me that he could hear through his Rift headphones a player talking in a German accent, saying something like “How do we start this game?”
‘Talk back to him, through your built-in Rift microphone.’
No way, said Arkwood. ‘I can see him throwing cards. He’s standing right next to me. I feel so exposed!’
I told him he should think himself lucky, as no one could see him in the real world, prancing about in his partly soiled underpants.
Once the multiplayer game started, Arkwood fired his gun…
…but he was not much good. Respawn, Respawn. Dead again.
I tried myself. I now understand why it was said that the Touch controllers would be a big thing. After all, from primates to office clerks we have used our legs to walk and our mouths to eat, but it is our arms and hands that have clutched at tools and sculptured our natural world. It’s no different in VR.
Arkwood also had VR Sports Challenge and the visually splendid The Unspoken games for free, courtesy of his Touch pre-order. I played them too.
My, the Touch controllers are almost as impressive as the Rift headset itself, I mused, Perhaps more so.
Mrs Lockhart was packing away her lawnmower when I caught her eye through our computer room window. She still seemed shaken. I waved at the old dear. But all the time I was wondering why my real hands could not summon up a fireball. And why I could not thrust out my arm and launch the hot molten orb at her grey wrinkled head.
But as they always say at tech events: ‘We’re not quite there yet.’