Field in View: How Daydream Made A Home For VR’s Most Obscure Gems

by Jamie Feltham • April 23rd, 2017

I’ve shown Google Daydream a lot of tough love over the past six months. The search engine giant’s promise of a vast, expansive mobile VR ecosystem where plenty of phones could be paired with an exciting new headset and intuitive new way to interact with virtual worlds, seemed too good to be true.

And, initially, it was.

daydream-view-box

Daydream’s launch was decidedly lackluster. Google’s Daydream View is an awkward headset, letting in light from either side of most people’s heads and needing constant readjustment to get it to fit just right. The controller takes a lot of getting used to, much more in line with a Wii remote than a Vive wand, and requires you to regularly recalibrate with a long press of its app button.

It’s games and apps, meanwhile, failed to excite unless they were from Google itself. Even then, Street View’s VR compatibility is poor man’s Google Earth VR, which is only available on Rift and Vive. Around Christmas, we’d found that some of the platform’s biggest apps had been installed a surprisingly small number of times. It looked like Google had killed pretty much all the momentum it had built for Daydream in the year leading up to its launch.

But, fours months into 2017, things are looking up.

Daydream’s hardware situation might not have changed (though Huawei’s upcoming Gear VR-like headset looks promising), but its software has certainly taken a turn for the better. Just this week we reviewed Eclipse: Edge of Light, which easily takes the throne as Daydream’s best game with its sprawling sci-fi adventure and excellent productions values that push the boundaries of the platform.

But Daydream has become about more than just blockbuster games. It’s home to some of VR’s most fascinating experiential pieces that I’d classify as essential view for anyone, no matter what headset they own.

untethered-vr-screenshot

Take the BBC’s The Turning Forest, a wonderful children’s storybook come to life with a brilliantly vibrant world that will have you longing to reach out and touch it. Its whimsical style and charm is more than enough to melt the heart of the coldest VR enthusiast, and it breaks barriers in audiences that many apps long to do.

Then there’s the enthralling strangeness of Untethered, a new episodic mystery from Numinous Games. I remember being dropped into the empty recording studio and wondering what on earth I was meant to be doing, but finding fascination in exploring its various elements and discovering what I was meant to be doing by myself.

Currently, I’m playing Virtual Virtual Reality, a game I’ve long taken interest in but am only just getting around to. It strikes me as an Accounting-like look into the surreal future we have ahead of us. I’m looking forward to diving further into it and hopefully finding a vision I haven’t seen on any other headset so far.

The trouble is these games shouldn’t be as obscure as they are; Google needs to do a better job of telling us they’re there. Just looking through the app store today I found new experiences from big developers like Minority Media that I had no idea existed.¬†On one hand I appreciate the sense of discovery there is to it; finding exciting new experiences that I didn’t know were out there. Still, I doubt developers are quite as happy with that situation.

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  • Slo Creators

    As a Daydream hardware & software developer, I can’t agree more. Cardboard was popular because the standard was open, Daydream far from it as I have found out with my NEODIVR uPLAy “Dreamtreader” headset, but can’t go any further because they are unwilling to open up the hardware standard to the controller or make it available separately. This along with the difficulty in getting a Pixel phone, and in my opinion their underwhelming headset and optic’s will continue to hamper the Daydream ecosystem. It would also help if Unreal and Unity were working with the lateat API as well. Unreal is still three GVR API versions behind preventing me from creating a version that will run on UDK 4.15.1.

  • Eelke Folmer

    Check out Gravity Pull – a free portal-like Puzzle game that lets you navigate using walking-in-place

  • Shawn Blais Skinner

    We reached out to Google many times to see if we could get some demo hardware and possibly bring something to the platform. They never even bothered to respond.

    • It sounds like Goog may be making the same marketing / dev relations errors that plagued Glass. We came to them with a serious Fortune 100 RFP that would require 10,000 Glass units in the field, and they never returned calls; we finally met with them face to face and were told: “well, that may be better served a little later in our roadmap; we’re currently focused on consumer and hobbyist apps”. wow.

  • Google’s Daydream website lists some alternatives to Pixel for using Daydream. Within 6 months there should be compatible phones out from most handset makers.
    Not opening up the controller standard does sound lame. But there WILL be 3rd-party alternatives to both headset and controller, right? (yes, at least one 3rd-party controller has now been released) (this comment included a link and was stuck in moderation, sorry for posting late)