On Saturday I went with a friend to try the Sandbox VR Startrek Discovery experience, I haven't seen startrek discovery myself but it didn't seem to matter. My friend I went with who does follow the show said it was made with people from the show and it was an officially licensed vr thingamy made with CBS.
Sandbox vr are one of the many vr experience outfits this one was in the Hilldale Mall and they had a very nice shopfront all screens nice wood and fancy lights with a bunch of tv's showing footage from games they offered.
First up the helper guy took us down to the room and outside they had us put on tracking markers on our feet and hands they were small velcro strapped units with a plastic plate with some small balls on sticks at various angles they used to track the balls things looked like retroreflective material I assume a IR based camera tracking system. Then they took a picture of our faces (that got used in the highlight video which I'll link at the end) and had us pick our avatars there were no appropriately bearded options so I picked generic white dude 2.
Once we had that done they took us into the room which was a pretty large space (they have a max of four players and it looked like it would be fine for that number but not any more with two we had a fair amount of room to walk around in) it was all painted green with cameras mounted on the ceiling along with other stuff like fans. The far wall had a green curtain the guy pulled that back to reveal a load of equipment various props that different games used and the vr equipment.
First we had to strap on a haptic vest which zipped up then pulled tight with velcro next the computer backpacks and headsets (which looked like oculus rift cv1) at this point we could see the intro video playing around us with a ship flying about and our names inserted into the text about the adventure. The guy then put on our headphones which were voice chat linked so I we could hear each other and then handed us our props a phaser and a tricorder (which more resembled a flashlight).
Once we were all geared up and equipped the guy kicked off the game which started with a tutorial where I repeatedly shot my friend in the back. The game tracked your hands feet head and the props it didn't seem to have finger tracking so everything was done through the buttons on the props with the gun trigger firing and the tricorder scanning. The tutorial told us about shooting scanning and reviving a team mate (by placing a hand on their shoulder) and then gave us a quick trial run. It also projected a red safety zone line on the floor where the edges of the room were with some margin so you didn't run into it.
Once we finished the tutorial we started the game proper which began in the transporter room with a voiced character telling us what our missions was (she was apparently a character from the show voiced by the original actress). Then we teleported to an ice planet where we investigated a crashed shuttle. Once there we did a bit of scanning of the wreak then were dropped into a fight with alien worms that attacked (and had a habit of sneaking up and wrapping round you which was a bit disturbing) then a big boss and we teleported out. After that we headed a wreaked starship where we did a bit of investigation about why they were wreaked (the mission was recovering some data about kingon cloaking tech this ship had gotten) and then got attacked by the klingons in a big battle where we were teleported about and had various shooting gallery type battles ending with a boss fight against a gunship.
The graphics were ok not amazing but not bad the polygon budget seemed to have mostly gone on the character models. The environments were a little reactive with nice touches like on the ice planet you could shoot the iceicles and they would break off and fall, there were also what looked like explosive barrels but they didn't seem to actually explode. It made good use of things other than visuals the haptic vest did things like pulse in waves up your chest for the teleporting and buzz in locations when you took a hit the fans were also well used adding a cold breeze on the ice planet.
Shooting was pretty fun although I found the trigger action on the gun a bit spongy and sometimes it wouldn't register making it a little hard to rapid fire the guns. The torch based tricorder thing worked fairly well it was the main puzzle solving tool with things like using it to scan points of interest and then following a trial of footprints or a track on a screen or in a holo display. tracking in general worked pretty well I had a few moments where it lagged slightly but mostly it felt accurate maybe not up to vive/index lighthouse base tracking or oculus quest but good enough that it didn't make me ill or make the game unplayable.
Playtime was about 40 min or so and that was about right moving about loaded down with that much equipment is fine for that sort of duration but any longer and I think it would get uncomfortable. I was finding my headset was slipping down towards the end. The startreck fiction worked pretty well for the VR system in that teleporting is part of that so whenever we needed to move to a new location we could just zap over there and it fitted the world and the story. They even did some interesting stuff like having my friend and I teleport to different locations so in the game we were on different balconies even though we were still in the same room we were in different virtual places the real area partitioned between us.
One thing that I found a little difficult was knowing when someone was attacking from behind or sneaking up. In the later game melee enemies would sneak up behind you and attack and there wasn't really any feedback to suggest it was about to happen. I suspect the location damage would clue you in when they got to attack you but sometimes in the heat of a fight with damage coming from every direction you could be unaware there was this guy with a batleth smacking you in the back of the head. You can see it happen in the highlight reel where my friend had that happen for quite a while till I noticed he had a guy behind him and killed it.
All in all it was a really fun experience it cost just under 50 bucks which is fairly expensive but for this sort of unique experience of multiplayer vr it was pretty fun. The little extras they could do over something like a home vr system oculus rift/quest or vive or index with the haptic vest and the fans and just the large play area took it a notch above what you can get at home. They had a bunch of other experiences you could try some of which looked pretty cool a pirate game and a robot combat thing I'd probably be willing to try one of those at some point although not being a big property they don't have quite the same appeal as the startrek thing. I have seen another outfit called Void are opening in one of the other malls and were offering a star wars experince so I might try that when they open.
As a value add they took video of our game showing us wandering about the green room in all the gear as well as the virtual version of what we were seeing which you can see bellow. All in all a fun application of VR tech I would have liked a more wireless system but what they had worked and it was a fun game to play. You can see in the clip I was the commander of our away mission our team called the Redshirts and with an astonishingly accurate shots of 20 and 19 percent :D