Oculus has been notoriously hard-nosed about the location-based entertainment (LBE) market for virtual reality (VR). Prohibitive clauses in the use of their hardware and a reluctance to offer a more rugged version or a ‘business edition’, has seen the company responsible for the modern rebirth of VR seems almost ignorant towards one of its most rapidly growing sectors. There’s always an opportunity to change however, and the Oculus Quest could well be the device to do it.
During the Oculus Connect 5 keynote, wherein the Oculus Quest was officially announced as a product evolved off of the Santa Cruz prototype, Mark Zuckerberg spoke openly about the device’s large area capabilities. This is a stark change for a company that insisted just two years ago that modern VR should be led by seated experiences, but undoubtedly a welcome one. There’s room for all types of experience in VR, from seated to standing to moving several feet very quickly.
Dead & Buried Arena is Oculus’ first attempt at the latter. Built on the Oculus Touch launch title developed by Gunfire Games (it’s not yet been confirmed whether or not the studio worked on this follow-up, but is more than likely) Dead & Buried Arena is a fantasy wild west shooting experience for six players. Forming two teams of three, players took to the arena using cover to avoid one another’s fire.
The basic mechanics include destructible scenery (boxes that exist in the real world and fade out to blue when shot in-game), a 10 second respawn to allow players to find a new cover position when killed and collectible weaponry. It’s nothing revolutionary on the surface, but in the minutiae Dead & Buried Arena makes some interesting design decisions for a robust LBE title.
In order to keep the players apart and prevent collisions, the centre of the arena has a train which passes through. This is automatic on occasion, but it also can be manually triggered whenever a player steps upon it, this results in instant death and no respawns until you’re back on your side of the map. The destructible scenery doesn’t send particle effects flying it alter the polygons presented at all in order to allow for accurate real-time mapping for all players – VRFocus was informed that the map and the player’s location within were networked via wi-fi even in a local environment – and the weapon variety (although plentiful for this short demonstration) was far more limited than the original title.
Dead & Buried Arena is a strange beast: at once presenting an argument for Oculus to join the push for the LBE agenda yet at the same time feeling less complete than the year-old original. It may well be that Dead & Buried Arena was purely a technical demonstration designed specifically to showcase the capabilities of Oculus Quest, but it’s definitely not a huge leap to see a market for this kind of experience.