Ever wanted to go sailing? VR Regatta can do just that!
Tested Device: HTC Vive
I was asked by the developers at MarineVerse to demo their new VR addition, called VR Regatta. Where I am from (Newfoundland, Canada), we are surrounded by water. But the water is usually frozen over, with a temperature below zero for most of the year. So to be able to take part in activities like rowing or sailing, there's a very limited time window of only a couple months.
Marine Verse's VR Regatta puts you as the captain of a sailboat, and your goal is to maneuver your craft through obstacles, which represent a bayou floating in the water. Along your path, you collect stars for points as you head towards the finish line.
The stars are a great way to get the user to understand how to steer the boat and compensate for the direction the wind is pushing you along the water.
Starting the game off, you are standing on a wooden platform floating on the water -- and may I tell you, I thought I was going to fall into the water. I completely lost my sense of reality, and for several moments I thought I was actually standing on a floating wooden platform as I learned about the different parts of the sailing boat.
When you first start up the game you are presented with several options to test out:
- Start Sailing Academy
- Start Relaxing
- Start Tutorial
- Start Easy Race
- Start Race
- Start Long Race
- Start Experiments
Each of the above leads to its own unique part of this game.
Start Sailing Academy
This is where most of you would probably head first. During your time in the academy, you become familiar with the different parts of a sailboat and you also learn how to go from different platforms within the game to see the sailing ship from several views. You are on sea level one minute, the next you are standing way above looking down at your ship as you move your motion controllers around, detecting items that are required for you to find on the Sailing Academy Checklist.
The only minor issue I have encountered during this stage is going from platform to platform. The details and everything works very well, but when I move to a different platform it sometimes doesn't put me on a platform. I am just over the edge of it, which means I should be falling straight down into the water...I hope it is warm and I am wearing a life jacket. But again, this game is still in BETA stages, and I am pretty sure this is a just a minor tweak to be adjusted. You will see what I mean when you watch my video at the end of this post.
Once you have completed the checklist, you are finished with your Sailing Academy training and you can easily press the menu button on the HTC Vive controller to be taken back to the main menu.
This part of the game is exactly what it sounds like. You get to sit down and just enjoy your peaceful surroundings and sail around the waters.
The thing that did it for me was when I had to sit on the floor. Getting that low allows you to view your relaxing experience as if you are actually sitting on the seat of the boat. You have control over sailing around or just taking in the great views around you.
While I was testing this feature, my 4 year old came down and yelled "Mommy...daddy is sitting on the floor again..." All I could do was laugh. Of course she asked what I was doing, and she quickly saw me sailing around -- I had the display on my computer showing what I was doing. She wanted to try, and she enjoyed it just as much as I did. So needless to say, the game is easy to pick up.
The tutorial shows you how to move your sailing boat, how to read the speed of your boat, and the direction of wind. It is a pretty basic tutorial, and I will cover this in my video review when we do a little sailing later on.
Start Easy Race
The easy race allowed me to collect stars for points and move my sailboat around the waters. It was a pretty simple experiment and worked very well during my gameplay. It allowed me to get the feel for how the boat reacted to water, and my input when I wanted the boat to turn. It was a very impressive attempt, but I failed at it horribly. With practice I am sure anyone can hit the waters and start racing around like a pro.
There were some things I found while playing this beta that could use some special attention to make this simulation more enjoyable. Again, it is in BETA, so I expect at least a few of these changes to be made before the final version is released in June.
- Moving from platform to platform in the tutorial really needs to be tweaked. It messes with your head when you move from one platform to the next, only to find out you never really teleported on the platform and you missed it by a few feet. You have to walk on the platform, even though in reality you would just fall straight into the water.
- While doing some sailing/racing with other boats I saw a whale...and he was floating...floating well above the water. This would have been a really neat experience, if he'd done something like coming up under the boat causing a wave effect as he passed under you, resulting in making the boat rock back and forth. But I have never in my life seen a floating whale.
- Sailboat fighting. When 2 sailboats collide, they tend to move around in a very strange way -- and then before you know it they start floating away as they continue to hit each other. There is no sinking these sailboats, instead they are given some sort of superpower that allows it to fly away. I wish I had a boat that could fly!
- Upon hitting a rock on purpose I was expecting a momentum change and some sort of impact visuals. But instead my boat started to sink as it went upside down. The impact was not strong and I don't think this would cause a sailboat to turn over...but I am not a sailboat operator so I cant say this would or wouldn't happen. It just felt like it shouldn't happen
- Wind during the race was not all that great. There were times my sailboat would not move at all. I knew where I had to go, but getting there was a challenge due to the direction and strength of the wind, however my opponent seemed to have no problem moving around.
- When I completed a race I crossed the finish line...I was awarded with the view of a whale as he made his way up from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the water...then he started to float higher up. And then he stopped and was hovering above the water.
Some other points that are worth mentioning...
- VR is new, and this is a project that I can see making much progress in the future. The ability to stand or sit in a boat and move it around the water is a great experience
- The visuals of the water make it feel like you are actually riding in a boat, and if you lean over the edges you can get the feeling you may fall into the water and go under
- The sunset landscape visuals are just amazing for what I have seen in other games. The sunset is very relaxing and allows for some fun sailing around the water with great visuals. It would have been nice to see some birds or other boats around. Not just sailboats, but fishing vessels, cargo ships, cruise ships, etc. -- just to have more wow moments.
- The Experiment race, which allows you to stand the deck of a huge ship, was a lot of fun. I wish you could control the wheel and ship, but where it is a testing area you are just there for the ride. They offer many options from weather options, like fog, and the water type can range from calm to vicious storm.
- After trying Vicious Storm out on the experiment option, I would have loved to see some rain, heavy winds and more of a roller coaster effect, not just up and down. I'd like to have the boat rotate around, go sideways, and get a little out of control. I can still feel it in my stomach like I was about to get motion sickness, and this is the 1st time I have felt like this on a VR game. They did a great job making me feel like that. If I were in a storm on a ship I would feel just like that...so thanks for bringing that part to my reality
Overall this was a very enjoyable experience. MarineVerse did a wonderful job on working on this simulator. They have a lot of work to get this fine tuned and ready for launch, but I feel with some hard work from the developers, they can really give everyone that sailboat feeling. If they added a option to have a rowing boat where you use your controllers to row your way around, I think it would be more enjoyable, rather than just using one motion at the back to steer.
The possibilities are endless with this, and it is going to be very interesting to see what kind of approach Marineverse takes on the final product. If you have a VR headset, I would say that when this is available on Steam officially, it would be a great experience to try out for yourself. Just watch out for floating whales and sailboats!