Game Highlight: Conjuror's Eye

Game Overview

Conjuror’s Eye, from Escality Games, is a short puzzle game where the simple mechanism of being able to magically resize objects is used in surprising ways throughout 5 levels. It is single player, but it’s a fun one for others to watch and try to assist with solving the challenges. We’ve seen it solved in 15-20 minutes in most cases, so you’ll have time to fit it into a single session.

Difficulty

Our usual scale for difficulty is simply ease of use. Are the controls easy to learn? Is the interface intuitive? How hard is it to step in and just start playing? This game is a bit different: while the mechanics themselves are very easy, the puzzles can be challenging and require some patience and thinking outside the box.

Most Fun Moment

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As with many puzzle games, the “aha” moment that comes upon realizing the solution is quite rewarding - particularly if you’ve tried and failed a few times. The third puzzle is especially hard to solve, as it requires a sense of timing along with some analytical skill. You can always ask staff members for a hint if you need it!

Ideal Audience

Both teens and adults have enjoyed this experience. If you like puzzles and brain teasers, you'll like this, and it's a great choice for those who want something with a fantasy element that isn't filled with waves of enemies. 

Bottom Line

If you want something that's a bit unique and slower-paced, with more thinking and less physical movement, this is perfect. Even if you don’t want to spend the time to beat all the levels, solving the first couple is still fun and worth spending part of your session on.

So You're Not a Gamer: Casual VR Options

 Players try out Google Earth and chat about what they're seeing

Players try out Google Earth and chat about what they're seeing

When we check in with players after they finish a session, many tell us how surprised they are that they had so much fun since they’re “not gamers.” While it’s true that we are an arcade, we make sure to offer a wide variety of both games and experiences which can appeal to hardcore gamers, casual gamers, or those who just want to explore VR without gaming.

Even if you wouldn’t want to play games in VR very often, it’s likely that VR is coming to transform your industry outside of gaming: retail, manufacturing, training, and other diverse sectors are beginning to realize the potential of VR (and AR) to help them cut costs, increase safety, and standardize processes.  It’s worth exploring the technology and getting familiar with it before it shows up suddenly in your workplace.

No controllers

The simplest VR applications that we have require only the headset. InMind VR is a roller coaster ride through the brain which allows you to experience the sensation of movement without having to worry about steering yourself. Fantasynth is a colorful light and sound show which you simply step into and enjoy. Either of these options can also be done seated, if needed.

Minimal interaction required

 A player flies over Central Park in Heli

A player flies over Central Park in Heli

Some experiences require only one controller or are very simple to interact with.  Racket Nx puts a racket in one of your hands, and you only need to use that one controller to whack the ball around the arena. In Heli, you can explore a hangar and select your desired tour, and then sit back and enjoy the provided helicopter tour. A staff and spectator favorite, Plank Not Included, puts you on an actual plank and just makes you walk the plank and catch birds with your net.

Explore at your own pace

 A beautiful scene in Nature Treks

A beautiful scene in Nature Treks

Many games can be a bit more complicated, control-wise, but there’s no pressure to pick up the details quickly or to get used to every single button at once. The Lab has several casual games and experiences, many of which go at your own pace or are very low-stakes. Google Earth can feel confusing due to the incredible amount of functionality built in to allow you to get exactly where you want to, but just flying through the sky is an amazing experience on its own. Google Blocks is an art application where you make creations as simple or as complex as you would like to. Nature Treks allows you to explore around a dozen environments at your own pace, and finally, Job Simulator lets you interact with various workplaces as robots from 2050 might imagine them.

Sharing your time

As a final note, remember that you can always share your booked time with others: so if you think that 30 minutes will be more than enough for you to get a taste of it, feel free to bring a friend or two and swap in and out of the headset. You can choose from our several casual or easy options, and they can choose different options for their portion of the time if they’d like. Check out the full game list with trailers.

Game Highlight: Front Defense: Heroes

Game Overview

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Front Defense: Heroes, from Fantahorn Studios, is set during World War II, and that atmosphere pervades the game in several senses. The maps have a very Call-of-Duty feel to them, the weapons are modeled on WWII-era ones, and when you look down, your arms are covered in a heavy cloth uniform. This shooter can be set up as a free-for-all, but it shines as a team-based game, with ample opportunities for buddy rushing opponents or combining a sniper with a close-range weapon to cover all angles. Unique movement options also allow for some interesting tactical decisions in the heat of the game, allowing you to sneak around corners with a VR-specific movement technique.

Difficulty

While it’s pretty easy to set up, this game is slightly more on the challenging side. It’s a good fit for players who feel comfortable with using most buttons on the controller and with moving around in their space. However, the difficulty will scale depending on the skill of the players you’re playing with, and we can set up either a private or public game.

Most Fun Moment

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While the combat is of course fun, having to actually crouch to duck down into tunnels and crawl through adds a surprising level of immersion to the game. Small details like this can make a huge difference in the realism of a VR game when done well, and Front Defense does them right. As another example: pulling a pin from a grenade with your teeth is something you might see a character do in a movie, but it could easily feel gimmicky in a video game if you just had to press a button on a controller to do it. In VR though, actually putting the controller towards your mouth to pull that pin is a whole new level.

Ideal Audience

Those who enjoy Call of Duty or other war-based video games will enjoy this, of course. In general, it’s a very solid multiplayer shooter that supports large groups (up to 6 players with us). If you enjoy shooters, it’s worth a try simply due to the level of immersion you will experience.

Bottom Line

Front Defense: Heroes has quickly become a staff favorite, and we find ourselves continuously discovering great new features as we play. We expect this game to keep improving and to become one of our more popular multiplayer choices, particularly for larger parties, fairly quickly.

Racing Simulators Now Available

Our blog post is a bit early this week because we're so excited to launch our racing simulators! Bookings are live RIGHT NOW for our special Memorial Day hours beginning at noon and all normal hours after. The best part? You can get a 20% discount when booking any station or package that includes racing with the code RACEVIRTUAL (valid on spots through June 30, 2018).  

We'll try to answer all your questions below, but if you have more, don't hesitate to get in touch at info@augmentalitylabs.com.

What is included?

We have 2 stations with adjustable seats, force feedback wheels, and pedals. Both stations run Project Cars 2, from Slightly Mad Studios. This game has an incredible number of customization options, including tracks, vehicles, weather conditions, types of race styles, and more. 

Do I have to understand racing rules and types to play?

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No, of course not! If you do have specific requests, then we can work with you to customize what you'd like. But if you just want to hop in and race, then we have pre-set options ready. As long as you can turn the wheel and push the pedals, you'll be good to go.

Will this make me sick?

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There is a slightly higher risk of VR sickness with these stations than with some of our other options. However, if you let us know, we can make adjustments that are likely to help you enjoy the session, such as camera position and increasing audio volume. We offer these on a walk-in basis, so you can just try a single race and see how it goes.

How do I book?

These stations are available on a walk-in basis: $5/single player race or $8/2 player race.

 

Game Highlight: Pixel Arcade

Game overview

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Pixel Arcade, from Corrie Green, is a platformer with deceptively simple mechanics. Maneuver your way through a course of neon blocks as you climb, toss, and slide your way through each level. Even though it’s single player, it lends itself well to competition (with others or with yourself) with its built-in time trial mode. Attempting to bypass the whole level by throwing yourself directly to the end block is definitely worth a few (dozen) tries, but the heart of Pixel Arcade is in quick movements, spins, and hops from checkpoint to checkpoint.

Difficulty

This game scales difficulty very well. Level 1 has a built in tutorial that explains what each of the block styles do, and there aren’t so many that it’s overwhelming. The challenge in Pixel Arcade is not at all with understanding the game, but in actually beating the levels - which is exactly how an arcade game like this should work.

Most fun moment

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The satisfaction of beating a difficult level - especially if you’ve had to give it several tries - is definitely the peak here. If you enjoy challenging yourself through several replays to get the steps exactly right, then you’ll want to jump into the later levels after the tutorial. We’d love to see a multiplayer mode added, because beating your friend in a race would be a great moment as well.

Ideal audience

While this game is simple enough for anyone to step into and start swinging around, it’s really intended for those who want something that’s fast moving. Though you control the speed, climbing through the neon blocks can feel disorienting if you get moving faster than you intend to. For some players, that will be a thrill of the experience, while some won’t enjoy that challenge as much. Regardless, the movement is smooth and doesn’t cause sickness in the way that other similar games with "self-throwing" movement can with some players.

Bottom line

Pixel Arcade puts you inside the game and uses room scale VR in a way that many other games don’t quite accomplish. Many players describe feeling “just like Spiderman” once they get the hang of scaling tall obstacles and sending themselves soaring off to the next one. This is a game that can easily be enjoyed as a quick experience or for a long session (which is bound to turn into quite a workout).

Unlimited Play Pass: How Does It Work?

We’ve had several questions on how our unlimited play passes work. Here, we’ll clarify some details.

When is this deal available?

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It's available every Tuesday during our weekday hours of 3pm-10pm for $35.

Do I have to book it in advance?

Because we limit them to a specific number in order to ensure lots of playtime for everyone, we do highly recommend booking in advance (head here and click on “All-day pass”). The pass can only be booked in advance up to 2:59 that day. If you're still interested, you'll need to call ahead to check availability before just walking in.

What do I actually get with this deal?

With one pass, you can come in anytime between 3-10pm the day of the deal and hop onto a station. Racing and standard stations are available. You can leave and come back if you'd like. You can choose any or all games on our list to play, and we’ll be there to help you out with recommendations and controls. We’ve even been known to hop into the co-op multiplayer games and help players beat that level they’re stuck on.

Can I share?

While you can share stations when you book time-based slots, you cannot share the unlimited play pass. It’s for individual use only. If a group of players all book it together, then we can align your play times in order for you to play multiplayer games together, if you’re interested in that. Learn more about multiplayer games.  

Will I have to rotate with others who’ve bought the pass?

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Possibly. However, after testing in previous months, we’ve decided to cap the passes at 2 available per station. This means that if the passes fully sell out and we cycle through 15 minute rotations, you’ll play at least 30 minutes out of each hour. If you show up before others do for the day, then you’re welcome to play for as long as you want until there’s a line or until closing. If you show up at 3 and plan to stay until 10, then you are guaranteed to get somewhere between 3.5-7 hours of play.

Can I apply membership credits towards the pass?

If you’re a member and interested in this, please contact us at info@augmentalitylabs.com for details.

Multiplayer Gaming in VR

One of our best features is the ability for players to enjoy a multiplayer experience, like Trickster VR or Loco Dojo. However, it can be a little complex for players to understand how exactly this works, especially if they’re not used to playing console or PC multiplayer games at home. Here, we’ll answer a few of the most common questions about multiplayer VR gaming with us.

Setup

 The Vive's Deluxe Audio Strap is comfortable, easily adjustable, and has quality headphones built-in.

The Vive's Deluxe Audio Strap is comfortable, easily adjustable, and has quality headphones built-in.

The HTC Vive (with Deluxe Audio Strap attachment), which is the virtual reality system that we use, comes with a built-in microphone and easily adjustable headphones. This means that as soon as you are linked together in a multiplayer lobby, you will be able to hear each other and see each other’s in-game avatars. Of course, our staff are there to assist you with that multiplayer setup.

Most multiplayer games do run online, meaning that you could connect with a player anywhere else in the world. However, we specifically select only games that allow for private multiplayer lobbies, meaning that you won’t have a random person jump into your game unless you choose to open it up. We understand that if you’re out having a date night or a family outing, you might not want anyone external to the group to join in.

Co-op vs. Competitive Gaming

 BAAM Squad is our newest co-op multiplayer game: a 1-4 player zombie defense scenario.

BAAM Squad is our newest co-op multiplayer game: a 1-4 player zombie defense scenario.

When it comes to selecting a game, one of the best places to start is by deciding if you’d like to compete or cooperate against a common enemy. We maintain a list that includes both options, because this really is a personal preference. However, we tend to recommend the cooperative games to groups who are mixed between self-identified gamers and non-gamers. This helps to ensure that everyone has a chance to participate without getting frustrated, because everyone can work together as they learn the controls and adjust to VR at their own pace.

Game Choices

 These players are enjoying multiplayer gaming in Rec Room, which is for 2-6 players.

These players are enjoying multiplayer gaming in Rec Room, which is for 2-6 players.

In order to play multiplayer games with us, players do need to reserve at least 2 simultaneous stations. Only 1 person can use a station at any given time, though players are welcome to swap in and out of a station during their reserved time. Multiplayer games support different numbers of players: for example, Hell Dimension holds 1-2 players, while Loco Dojo is 1-4 players. Some games, like Protonwar, can hold more than 6 players. However, we note it as 1-6 players because we only have 6 stations in our venue, so you'll only be able to have 6 players from your group play at once.

On our games page, we break our list down by multiplayer and single player, so you’ll always be able to tell what your options are. We’re happy to make recommendations when you arrive, but many players like to decide ahead of time.

Game Highlight: 2MD VR Football

Game overview

2MD VR Football, from Truant Pixel, is a game that, like Space Pirate Trainer, has a great old-school arcade feel while updating the gameplay, graphics, and responsiveness for VR’s capabilities. The concept is simple: you’re the quarterback of your team, and each game is a 2 minute drill. Throw the ball downfield to your receivers and advance along the field to score, and then take on a bonus round to perfect your accuracy and speed. A 3rd person spectator view is included for those watching on TV.

 Spectator mode, which shows on the TV out of headset, allows for a nice viewing experience.

Spectator mode, which shows on the TV out of headset, allows for a nice viewing experience.

Difficulty

This game scales difficulty pretty well. If you just want to hop in and test out how throwing a VR football feels (the answer is: very realistic), then you can do that easily. However, the game also allows you to shift your receivers and draw your own plays on a whiteboard if you’re interested in the details of passing plays. You can also choose to audible once you’re on the field.

Most fun moment

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As you might expect, the most fun moments for players tend to be scoring those touchdowns, or completing long passes on 4th down. If it’s a good football moment in real life, then it will feel great in VR. Getting in a rhythm in the bonus round and hitting those hoops one after another is also satisfying.

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Ideal audience

Those who are into football or sports in general are the most likely to hop in and enjoy this. Because of the scaling difficulty, we’ve seen both kids and adults love this game. And yes, it works for both left-handed and right-handed players: this picture shows a left-handed player surveying the field and preparing to launch a pass.

 

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Bottom line

2MD VR Football is a good example of VR allowing people access to a real-life situation that is hard for most people to get into in real life. Not everyone is built to play football or has the skill of a quarterback. But, in this game, anyone can feel the thrill of throwing that perfect spiraling pass into the end zone.

Game Selection, Part 3: Arcade-ready

Part 1 and Part 2 of our game selection posts discussed how VR games can help you access a world beyond reality and then can fully immerse you into that world. This part is a bit more practical: how we decide if a game is arcade-ready.

Will it make anyone sick?

 Teleporting is the most reliable movement option for players to avoid VR sickness. It's usually indicated by a marker like this one in The Lab.

Teleporting is the most reliable movement option for players to avoid VR sickness. It's usually indicated by a marker like this one in The Lab.

First, we have multiple staff members test each new possibility to ensure that it’s unlikely to cause VR sickness (which is similar to simulation or motion sickness). Though some players are more prone to it than others, we do watch out for specific characteristics. In particular, movement within a virtual space can cause sickness when implemented as “walking,” an option where you press a button and the world slides by. We won’t feature a game in our arcade that only has this option available, and we watch out for other possible causes of VR sickness as well.

Easy to set up & learn

For us to select a game, it doesn’t need to be simplistic, but it does need to be simple to learn and set up. We want our players to fully enjoy and immerse themselves in the experience, not to spend half their session trying to set up multiplayer lobbies and struggling with complex controls. Though some players book out and play for 2 hours at a time, most are only playing for 30-70 minutes. This is hardly enough time to get fully engaged with a game like Skyrim VR or Fallout VR - while these options are fun, they're really best for home play, which is part of why we have other choices instead.

 In Google Earth VR, the controllers always show you what the buttons do. It's easy to remember that way!

In Google Earth VR, the controllers always show you what the buttons do. It's easy to remember that way!

Of course, some people will pick up game mechanics more quickly than others, and we do maintain a list with a range of complexities. Staff will always be available to talk you through multiplayer setup and to assist with controls, but it’s best if a game is intuitive and/or has an engaging tutorial to teach players the basics before scaling up difficulty. Per Bushnell’s Law, the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master.

Commercial licensing

Finally, for us to offer a game, the developer and/or publisher must be willing to license it commercially. Because we don’t develop our own content on site, we must have permission to offer it to the public. This agreement can take a variety of forms. Most commonly, we pay a fee to license each offering per station per month. We do get a lot of questions about why we can’t offer certain content, or why we have to rotate our game offerings: generally, commercial licensing restrictions and costs are the answer.

Event Highlight: VR at You Are Here

Last weekend, we were invited to be a part of the opening party and all-nighter for the North Carolina Museum of Art's You Are Here exhibition. We had an amazing time immersing ourselves into the exhibits: first, we helped artists Britt Flood, Scott Renk, and Adam Peele perform in Google's Tilt Brush, and then we demoed Space Pirate Trainer to lots of attendees. Check out some highlights below! 

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Don't forget, we're happy to bring VR to you if you have an event that we could augment. We're pretty flexible - get in touch and let us know what you're looking for.