Virtual reality experiences like ZED will change gaming as we know it -

Virtual reality experiences like ZED will change gaming as we know it


Following my recent column, Killer VR App + Killer VR Machine = Awesome VR Sauce , my head has been metaphorically spinning with thoughts of Virtual Reality.

As an aside, someone just posted a comment to one of my columns saying: “These are not jokes, Max; this is Reality!” And I immediately responded: “Really? I always thought reality would be more colorful and smell better — pass me my Virtual Reality headset,” but we digress…

In my Awesome VR Sauce column, I mentioned that I'd just been introduced to a game called ZED, which is the latest offering from Chuck Carter. After making major contributions to the legendary Myst game, Chuck has spent the past 20+ years working on state-of-the-art games, television shows, and other projects. His illustration and animation work has appeared in a wide range of publications and other venues, including the BBC, National Geographic, and NASA.

Chuck Carter (Source: Eagre Games)

Chuck is the founder of Eagre Games — a small Central Maine-based game company whose mission it is to develop non-violent, beautifully immersive, story-driven games. I just got off a 90-minute phone conversation with him, in which we discovered that we have read many of the same science fiction books (we also shared a number of recommendations for future reading) and we both prefer games in which we explore strange worlds and solve puzzles as opposed to running around shooting anything that moves.

Of course, one of the main topics of our conversation was ZED. The underlying architecture and look-and-feel of this game have been underway for some time. Its creators are now ready to take things to the next level (no pun intended), so they recently launched the ZED Kickstarter Project. I've pledged at the $30 level, and I just heard from my chum Steve Manley in the UK who says he's done likewise. This project has already raised ~$22,000 of its initial $48,000 goal, but I really want the folks at Eagre Games to reach their $100,000 Virtual Reality Stretch Goal because I lust to explore the ZED universe via my soon-to-arrive Oculus Rift VR headset.

The idea behind ZED is that you are in the dreamscape universe of an aging and dying dreamer who is suffering from dementia, which explains why things can appear a tad bizarre and the mood of the game can transition between the sublime and the sinister (you should experience some of my dreams). Your task is to explore this universe, navigating shape-shifting corridors and pathways, looking for hints and clues, solving puzzles, and gathering fragments of the dreamer's memories so as to leave a lasting legacy for his granddaughter.

A scene from ZED (Source: Eagre Games)

A scene from ZED (Source: Eagre Games)

A scene from ZED (Source: Eagre Games)

Earlier today, in advance of our call, I visited the Eagre Games Download Page from whence one can access a preview that allows you to experience ZED's art style. This really is only a tantalizingly tempting teaser of things to come — the frame rate needs to be optimized, bugs need to be addressed, and all of the remaining scenes and levels need to be finalized and added — but it's left me squirming in my seat longing for more. If you download this preview yourself, use your mouse to indicate the direction you wish to travel and use the W, A, S, and D keys to move forward, left, backward, and right, respectively (when you get close to an object you can interact with, a hand-cursor appears on the screen and you can use your mouse to select the item in question).

Check out this video in which Chuck explains some of the philosophy behind his work in general and ZED in particular.

Also, there's this video in which an interesting character who calls himself “Seb The Gamer” takes the preview version of ZED for a spin.

Now, although ZED is more than impressive on a regular display, Chuck was describing a show he and his team attended this past weekend in which they were demonstrating it on an Oculus Rift headset. Apparently, this is so spectacular that they had to keep prising the headset away from whoever had their hands on it at any particular time so as to give the next person in line a chance to take a peek. I can only imagine what this looks like in true 3D and I cannot wait to try it for myself.

There are some who say that playing computer games is isolating and non-social, but I know many guys (and a few gals) who had a fantastic time solving Myst and Riven with their parents and/or with friends. Based on this, I suggested to Chuck that I think it would be very tasty to have the ability to explore the ZED universe with one or more friends. I'm not talking about a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG or MMO) here; I have no desire to interact with thousands of people blundering their way around the ZED dreamscape; I just think it would be fun to explore the world with one or two close companions at one's side.

In this case, you would each continue to see the world from your own first-person point of view (POV), but you would also be able to see each other in some form or another; perhaps just as misty outlines. This really wouldn’t involve a lot of overhead when you come to think about it. The only information you need to convey over the Internet is each person's X-Y-Z location, the direction in which they are currently facing, and any gestures they are making like pointing; each player's graphic card would be tasked with adding the other players to the local rendering of the scene.

I'm currently performing my Happy Dance (avert your gaze it you wish to preserve your sanity) because Chuck says that he agrees with me. He also says that, once the first release of ZED is out of the door, this is something they will look into for a future upgrade. So, what say you? Would you be interested in joining me on a Zest (a ZED Quest)?

2 thoughts on “Virtual reality experiences like ZED will change gaming as we know it

  1. “”The idea behind ZED is that you are in the dreamscape universe of an aging and dying dreamer who is suffering from dementia,”nnYou don't consider this a downer of a scenario?”

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  2. “Well, I take your point, but not all games can involve a cheerful Italian plumber bouncing around a Mushroom Kingdom.nnThe thing is that I tend to have pretty bizarre dreams myself, and from what I've seen of ZED I'll feel right at home.nnIf you read

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