A GEARVR EXPERIENCE REVIEW
Rilix stands for “Real-Life-eXperiences” … well, at least loosely (otherwise it would be Relix, right?) What it is, though, is actually a VR-entertainment company specializing in renting VR-linked two-seater coasters that gyrate and shake like a real coaster to stereoscopic visuals presented in a VR headset similar to the GearVR but run on PC’s.
In order to get their name out there, Rilix created a scaled-down port of one of their more than 18 titles to the GearVR. The VR that comes with their parties is a bit higher end and since there aren’t any other ports available now, most of the images accompanying this review will be from the high-end version they rent for $400 an hour with the use of their simulator-coaster cars (pictured above). In order to obtain greater awareness of their product, they decided to release one free demo of one of their tracks entitled “Diamond Cave.”
By the way, this reviewer is not in any way associated with the sales of Rilix or its products, I’m just providing all the information so you can get a full picture of what’s going on here. I’m doing that because many people are wondering when the next free roller coaster is coming. And sadly, the answer is, maybe never, because it was never about making a GearVR experience, it was about selling awareness of their main business model. It’s an advertisement, folks. So it wasn’t exactly free. They aren’t just going to give away all of their business assets, namely the VR visuals that power their simulator cars. But we should also let them know that we are willing to pay for the coasters at up to $7.99 per ride. That’s my take on it, but let me know yours in the comments on the GearVR sub-Reddit.
Sadly, unless an unexpected amount of crazy-wild demand for more coasters somehow changes Oculus’ minds, this may be the only roller coaster GearVR will ever see in its lifetime, as no other roller coasters have been allowed on the Oculus platform. I suspect there was some back-room handshakes and wheel greasing involved in getting this particular roller coaster through Oculus advisory board concerning which games to publish on their platform. (Of which roller coasters are not allowed due to the potential for motion sickness.) Enjoy this one, folks, it could be the only real coaster we ever see on the Platform. Although I did install the Android game “Caffe Latte Coaster” using APKPure’s mobile app and it’s considerably better than Rilix, although the way the phone has to sit in the GearVR ruins it a bit. But that’s a story for another time….
The graphics are fairly good, although nothing to shout from the rooftops about. But it’s certainly better than watching a 360 video coaster at this time as the resolution of an actual app is far greater than for 360 videos, and the sense of Presence here is pretty decent as well. I feel that the geometry of the rails and timbers holding up the walls are a bit squarish, feeling far more blocky than what GearVR can handle, at least judging by other higher-quality titles. Perhaps the under-developed geometry was done in order to prevent overheating. I have run through the level at least 4 times in a row and never got an overheating warning, so I think perhaps that’s what they were aiming for.
I do wish for a bit more mood and ambience in the setting, there’s just too much “black blank” space going on in this one. But in the last part of the ride, you enter a cave that has much finer graphics and even the designers realized how much better the last few seconds were and decided to add the sound of heavenly voices in a choir motif “ooohing” and “aaahing” at you, lifting you up and making you feel the deep serenity of that moment. It’s a shame the entire ride couldn’t have looked that good or sounded that good for the duration of the ride.
I don’t think hobbling the geometry graphics just to keep from overheating would even be an issue here. Since it’s a roller coaster experience, after 1-2 rides, you would have had enough for the time being anyway. It’s not like other titles which you can play for hours on end. I don’t think overheating could have ever been an issue to worry about in the first place. Thus, in future versions if available, I would hope for a bit higher textures and a bit more rounded geometry where it is possible to do so. The sense of speed is good in places, but in the turning areas where we slow down, there is a sound effect of the clinking chains and gears pulling you over a hump. In that space, the visuals do not match the sound effects. When there is a hitching sound of the chain snapping against the car, there should be a jerk in the car’s motion, so without that, this part falls flat to me.
(Spoiler Alert! –> Skip down to the next chapter “The Real Version” below if you don’t wish to ruin these for yourself!!….)
I like the use of bats to fire off a surprise or two, having a slight jump-scare moment, but I feel the bats are too far away and do not make good use of 3D. A really great way to enhance the bat experience is to have them fall down off the ceiling and flap toward you, then flap all around you crazily so you can see them up close, with at least one bat screeching with wings wide open as it attempts to slow down. But, unfortunately, the fell beast still slams into your face and covers the eyesight temporarily until you shake it off for yourself, leaving a blood trail on your HMD for a moment before fading off. That would have much more 3D depth and also be a tad more frightening. I would ask that you could have a “turn off the bat” mode in the Settings in order to not have to see that every time, just the first time you show it to anyone new. Hahaha. Really snooker them good.
The drop-off concept of falling off the rails through some open void is getting a bit tired. At least, I am very tired of that type of roller-coaster scare. Without the gravity and weightlessness contrasts needed to support the change which comes when one lifts off the tracks, the whole scenario comes off totally false and lowers the experience. I would say in VR, for now, keep the cars on the tracks at all times. If you want to do anything more realistic, add a Settings option (toggle) for “real-time car shake” so we can sense the horrific vibrations of the craft beneath us. The reason is that right now, these roller-coaster experiences are just too smooth (shake free) and this tells our brain that the ride is not really happening accurately. Without the horrific shaking which comes with coasters, the whole ride just falls flat, feels empty of excitement or thrill. At least for me, since my tolerance is very high in VR. I’ve shown this to some children and they were quite thrilled and scared by it as it is. But for the thrill seekers, enabling a few extra modes in the Settings would be a nice way to offer more depth to these experiences for the needs of all types of people.
One of the major experiences in any real roller-coaster ride is the jarring shaking that occurs. It actually does make you feel sick for real and you can’t remove that just because you don’t want people to get sick in VR, it’s almost ironic in its falsehood! Motion sickness with VR roller coasters would not be abnormal at all. It would be expected. And because it’s not, I don’t end the ride feeling like I was actually there. I feel from the lack of shaking and other forces (as in real life, my head vibrates up and down and I’m thrown about in the car left to right at every turn) that I just experienced something fake. In order to get roller-coasters feeling correct, motion sickness must be allowed back into them. That’s real life and my honest opinion. I’ve never left a roller coaster car in real life not visibly shaken and trembling from the forces. At least gives us the option to choose for ourselves!
(SPOILER ALERT OVER HERE!)
THE REAL VERSION:
The large Rilix database of coaster experiences provide far greater visuals than for GearVR currently. Oh, not in screen resolution, as the highest is still 1440p and that’s what GearVR offers, but in geometry and textures which are much higher than what the GearVR can do. Here is an example of one of the rides as shown on the high-end version which is NOT for the GearVR:
That’s way more geometry than what GearVR can do, sadly. But there are some amazing VR HMD’s coming out this year that can do this, and one is the Sulon Q. It will have a Radeon GPU, Windows 12, with support for Direct X, OpenGL, and Vulkan. I’m sure they can port a much higher-fidelity coaster to the Sulon Q when it comes out. Or we can wait until the Samsung S8 comes out, and hopefully Samsung will finally optimize this particular phone for VR to use the newfound CPU speed and VR upgrades built into the new OS and hardware as well. Either way, I really hope to see more roller coasters in VR somewhere, if not in the Oculus Home ecosystem, since they are deathly afraid of publishing anything that promotes motion sickness at all.
As if that one image was enough to satisfy your curiosity, am I right? Am I right or am I right? (Groundhog Day reference haha). I know you want to know more, though, all joking aside. And as my own first question to myself about Rilix was: “What are the OTHER 17 rides like?” … Now that’s a good question! Let’s have a peek at what might be in store for us if Rilix ever decides to share more of their amazing coasters for GearVR down the road someday!
These are only a few of the amazing coaster situations that I could find. But here is an overview thumbnail of all the levels if you can read the small text inside this image:
The list of the levels includes:
- Haunted House
- Space Trip
- Modern Ruins
- Geometric World
- Medieval Village
- Diamond Cave (the one for GearVR!)
- Pirate Island
- Science Fiction
- Shark Island
- Cartoon Town
- Explosive War
- Dragon’s Village
- Desert Valley
- Dark Swamp
- Head of Grooves
- Happy Xmas
Here are a few more visuals concerning the rides:
Although it’s not everything I ever hoped for in a coaster, I am really grateful to have even one real roller coaster on the GearVR at all. This in spite of Oculus’ propensity to say no to exciting apps and thrilling rides that could be happening on their platform if they weren’t so scared about motion sickness. How this one ever got through the barricades of fear at Oculus is a mystery to me. I do hope Rilix will one day offer at least one more ride for free if they’ve no plan to sell the rides. But if they will open up all the rides for sale, I will gladly pay money for each and every one!
If so, however, I would ask that they push the graphic fidelity more to the limits than what we have in Diamond Cave. Heck, you could even implement a “5 minute timer” between games to allow the CPU to cool down if that’s what you’re worried about. One or two rides and we then put it away for 5-10 minutes and then we can open it again for another 2 rides. Whatever it takes to let you ramp up the fidelity just a bit more, please.
One of the things I would truly love to see in the way of a roller coaster experience is a Disney recreation of Space Mountain for GearVR and the other platforms. It’s really dark in there except in some awesome spots. The lighting is very moody and dark, so high-res textures of all kinds wouldn’t be needed (and wouldn’t overwhelm the GearVR). All that’s needed are a few all-important textures in the right spots and you could recreate Space Mountain almost perfectly.
What sells this ride is the dark ambience, the stars, the sense of speed and motion, and the incredible noise in the place! Space Mountain at Disneyland is just incredibly alive with audio effects! The ride should include all the positionally-tracked ambient sounds, from the crowds to the overhead-speaker-megaphone announcements, to the ghostly holographic star clusters, to the loud car rolling noises from the various other cars going at the same time that combine to make Space Mountain so engaging. Most of the ride, I could only sense the tracks due to low lighting but it feels so great. Since it’s mostly all in the dark anyway, a few really nice textures in just the right places could sell a high-fidelity experience even on GearVR if you ask me! Space Mountain, people! Disney has the pull to get through Oculus’ objections, too! So it’s a win for all.