They’re coming. Hoardes of them. You can hear them everywhere: behind you, in front and off to the sides. The undead. They want your flesh.
A quick check of your pistol reveals that you don’t have enough for the job ahead, and your back is up against the wall. Time to fight.
All of a sudden, your eyes refocus as the Oculus Rift unit is lifted from in front of your eyes, and you realise that you’re safe in a warehouse. But the fear was real.
This is Zero Latency: Australia’s newest large-scale VR gaming project.
Zero Latency has a twist, however: instead of actually filling said space with real-life actors posing as zombies, Zero Latency straps you into an Oculus Rift, a wireless backpack unit and a wireless pistol to make the terror feel as real as ever.
So how does it work?
The project has been in development since early-2013, and started as hacked together bits and pieces from the PlayStation 3 to get it all working.
The original weapon prototypes used to be Nerf guns with a PlayStation controller and Move remote duct-taped on, while the motion capture system was constructed from an array of PlayStation Move cameras to track subjects in a virtual space.
The project slowly evolved over 12 months until the controller became just a pistol with a motion-capture light indicator on the top to feed data back into the system.
The gun, the sound and what the player sees via the Oculus Rift VR headset will all be controlled via a wireless backpack that was developed in-house by the guys at Zero Latency down in Melbourne specifically for the game.
The best part? It’s completely wireless, so you’re free to play however you want, without having to fall over an invisible cable on your way to the next objective. It’s experiential gaming at its very best.
And the weapons won’t stop there: the final Zero Latency experience will include a pistol, a sub-machine gun, grenades and other armaments.
The main scenario that the Zero Latency team has developed right now is a zombie invasion, and it’s successfully scaring the crap out of people thanks to the immersion created by holding a weapon and seeing it unfold on the Oculus Rift.
Eventually, Zero Latency will be a two-player experience where you and a friend can hunt each other in a sprawling warehouse space yet to be established in Melbourne. The guys want to expand it to four-player co-op over time.
Like all amazing gaming projects in Australia right now, this one is still in the crowdfunding stage. Hosted on Pozible, the crowdfunds raised will go towards building more backpack processing units and renting the space required for the events. Hopefully it will be one without giant poles every 20 metres like in the Pozible video.
By November, Zero Latency wants to have its game space up and running for two-player co-op or combat, with early-bird tickets on Pozible starting at just A$60. Normally, the tickets will be sold for A$75. There are a variety of backer rewards in place, including a top-tier reward that means you get to become a character in the game space.
The zombie apocalypse will probably never happen in the real world, meaning Zero Latency is as real as it’s ever going to feel.