Monday, September 12, 2016

Gnomes & Goblins: a VR experience so amazing, I rearranged my furniture for it


Gnomes and Goblins is a VR experience for the HTC Vive (reviewed here) by Jon Favreau, who has directed films such as Iron Man.  It is so amazing that I rearranged our living room to experience it.

Normally, with the HTC Vive, I prefer games more than VR experiences.  But I have heard pretty good things about Gnomes and Goblins, and I was curious what a skilled director such as Mr. Favreau could do with VR.


This VR experience places you in a beautiful forest on a moonlit night.  The detail is breathtaking, with seemingly every tree and branch individually modeled.  Soon, you notice that the trees are actually homes of little people, with windows, doors and tiny furniture.  However, the inhabitants are nowhere to be seen.  You do hear what seem to be sounds of something scurrying around you from time to time.  Eventually, with some patience, you'll catch a glimpse of shy little goblins.  Most of them run away as soon as you see them but one of them looks at you cautiously.

That's how this VR experience introduces you to the goblins.  There's more to it than that, of course, but I wouldn't want to spoil anything.

a 3D screenshot
Gnomes and Goblins is currently only in preview but even this short preview was incredible.  So much so that after trying it out, I literally rearranged our living room furniture to maximize the playing area, from a space that was barely above the minimum to around 2.6 meters x 4 meters (around 112 sq ft), just so that I could experience it more fully.

The remarkable detail, combined with the Vive's room-scale tracking, created a strong sense of presence, as though I was in a fantasy world.  It reminded me of just how amazing VR can be.

a 3D screenshot.  Imagine this, but all around you, in 1:1 scale, and you could walk around in it.
Unfortunately, because the graphics are so detailed, it demands a powerful PC.  My PC has a Xeon W3565, 15GB RAM, and a GTX 1060 6GB card.  It scored a 7.9 (High) on the Vive VR-readiness test.  But even with reprojection, the framerate would drop frequently when I looked around the forest.  I haven't seen that happen yet with native HTC Vive apps on my PC (except the NVidia Funhouse on Medium or High settings). Notwithstanding my PC's inability to keep a smooth framerate, Gnomes and Goblins was still a beautiful experience, and is among the best, if not the best, VR experience I've tried to date.  I'm really looking forward to the release version of this VR experience.

[Incidentally, after temporarily increasing my playing space, I tripled my previous high score in Space Pirate Trainer! ^_^ ]