GDC 2018: Oculus Go Feels Like A Solid $200 Standalone VR Headset

by Ian Hamilton • March 21st, 2018

One of the very first things I did in Oculus Go was lean.

I was playing Settlers of Catan at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and they were demonstrating cross-play from Rift to Oculus Go. There was a person sitting to my right in VR and I instinctively leaned to get a better look at the far side of their viking-like avatar. Obviously, that didn’t work in the $200 system.

What I’ve just described is the key difference between Oculus Go and its more expensive competition, the $400 Lenovo Mirage Solo and $600 HTC Vive Focus. In those other headsets you have the freedom to move around a room and have that movement recognized by the headset. With all three of these systems, though, your single hand controller only recognizes simple pointing movements. So even though you could walk around a large space in Vive Focus, for instance, it is likely best used in seated positions where you don’t need to move around much. People bob their head around a ton even in a seated position and that’s not something Oculus Go can see. So essentially you have the first generation of standalone VR headsets all likely to be best used in a seated position. Those backed by Google and HTC, however, give you that added bit of freedom to get a better look at the things around you.

I didn’t get enough time with Go to arrive at a conclusion about whether or not that extra freedom to move your head around is worth doubling or tripling the cost of the system. At GDC, though, Oculus is looking to demonstrate the value of cross-platform support in titles backed by Facebook — showing cross-play from Rift to Go in Settlers of Catan as well as space battling game Anshar Online from Ozwe Games. In theory, this solves two problems at once — giving players picking up Oculus Go people to play with while simultaneously expanding the player base for people getting these games for their Rifts.

Oculus revealed today the headset can run at either 60 frames per second or 72 frames per second, opening up some greater smoothness to developers that want to take advantage of the feature. I’m unsure the frame rate at which Catan was running, but there was some notable flickering visible particularly in the bright areas of the scene. It is possible the game is just not optimized yet because subsequent hands-on time with Anshar as well as They Suspect Nothing from Coatsink didn’t have the same limitation. Each appeared pretty crisp, with Anshar’s dark space scene standing out as particularly lovely. I don’t feel like I noticed enough differences in the optics compared with other mobile systems to really comment on how it stands up to them in terms of resolution, field of view or screen door effect, but I didn’t notice any god rays like I do in the Rift. The most memorable thing about the optics was that it was a joy to use a mobile VR headset and not see a hair or piece of dust in between my eyes and the screen.

The controller felt pretty standard in comparison to Gear VR and Daydream, though with a nice ergonomic fit in my hand. The headset also fit well, with the same hole as Rift where I can look down and see a sliver of the outside world next to my nose. Sound came out of the headset at the sides of my head, though even at max volume it didn’t seem as loud as a Pixel 2 with Daydream. Oculus Go is said to be binary compatible with Gear VR, so developers should be able to bring their titles to the new standalone system pretty easily from Gear VR.

Facebook appears to be targeting a launch at its developer conference F8 for the headset.

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  • daveinpublic

    Awesome to see how VR has come

    • Thoemse

      Not far when oculus sells a non positional tracking HMD as the new thing. Yes it is cheap. But that’s it.

      • daveinpublic

        This resolution, this quality, and this software at this price is a new thing, unfortunately. Remember how far we’ve come from 2 years ago?

        • Thoemse

          When the new oculus headset is using rotational tracking we haven’t come far enough. 2 years ago I used a DK2 that was better than that.

          • daveinpublic

            Crazy how quick we expect bigger and better at lower prices. I know about the spec differences of 6dof rift vs 3dof go, but I was including price in my comparison. This combination was not only unheard of 3 years ago, it still is today.

          • Thoemse

            It is a good kit for the price. I just think 3dof hurts VR more than it helps. Afforable or not… it is simply no good experience.

  • airball

    Thanks for the updates, Ian. In your opinion, is this thing a game-changer, or just a slightly more convenient Gear VR?

    • Ian Hamilton

      It’s really tough to say without seeing the complete operating system they’ll ship at launch. Can it sit there in sleep mode then wake and announce a Facebook Messenger call, for example? It is more convenient than Gear but it’s hard to see how that convenience changes how we’ll use it without also spending a lot of time with the complete software package.

      • Firestorm185

        Not to mention the obvious fact that it only has one controller, so any software packages will be on-par with Gear and can’t be too complicated.

  • polysix

    santa cruz to accompany my rift if anything. Go will be good for basic “VR” for some but without positional it’s only telling half the story.

  • Firestorm185

    Excited to get my hands on a Go for the purpose of showing off VR to friends on-the-go, but it’ll be nothing compared to having a Santa Cruz and playing mobile versions of my favorite PC VR titles when they undoubtedly come out. Especially now with the joysticks coming back. ^^

  • James Friedman

    I am looking to get my parents a standalone headset. They don’t need anything crazy because I doubt they will do much other than try things within VR. I really don’t like the ability to not be able to move in VR. They have tried both my Rift and PSVR and they have seen what that can do. I might have to step up to the lenovo. Although I won’t be buying it till the holidays so there is plenty of time to make that decision. I really want to see how the go works with the Oculus eco-system. I can buy 2 x GO’s for the same price so that might be key.

  • dk

    yes a solid gearvr with sd821 and 250$-280$ of the 64gb version

  • Stefan Küppers

    Even tough the price is exiting I am kind of let down by the compromises they had to swallow for that. For example I tried facebook spaces on the vive and even tough its in its infancy I really liked the aesthetics and promise it had. Now they bring a “device for the masses” yet that device won’t have real hand or head tracking which probably makes that experience pretty useless.
    To me it seems that facebook like google is grown big to focus on a single goal (unlike apple i.e.) so various products dont even play well with each other. Needing a $800+ budget i.e. for something like facebook spaces which should be their main fokus seems odd.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Baby steps. While Go won’t be able to leverage Facebook Spaces, it does have Oculus Rooms which does some of the same things and it’s integrated into the Oculus Home platform.

      Ultimately, a communication platform like Facebook Spaces is the future of digital communication, but neither the hardware nor software is ready for it yet.

      Also keep in mind that although Facebook owns Oculus, they largely operate independent of each other. The team that works on Facebook Spaces is part of the Facebook development team, not Oculus’.

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    I will buy one, this is what Nintendo should have done, not the stupid Sandwich.

    • Justos

      The switch is actually a fantastic portable console. They were burned on VR, and just dont have interest in it right now. Thats ok.

      You really think a gearVR like Nintendo HMD would sell better than the swtich? lol

      • Nintendo wasn’t “burned on VR”.
        When tne “Virtual Boy” came out,”VR” was a hot buzzwiord in the industry,
        with Atari, SEGA, Virtuality and PC peripheral makers all taking a stab at it.

        Nintendo tried hopping on the tech bandwagon with a POS that had NOTHING
        whatsoever to do with VR, and the rest, as they say, is history ….

        • Courtney A Jeff

          Jesus loves you and you need Him.Vr alone is vanity learn by giving charity.

        • impurekind

          This is unfortunately the truth: The Virtual Boy had basically nothing to do with actual VR other than it having a stereoscopic display.

    • impurekind

      Well, I agree that Nintendo should be doing something with VR at least. It is the next big paradigm shift in gaming and interactive entertainment, and it’s sad Nintendo isn’t on board with this–yet.

  • John Collins

    I think I may pick this up. Just for some casual games and Netflix streaming on the plane without needing to bring an extra battery pack to charge my Galaxy is worth it. Liked the gear but just awkward with the phone and not being able to run it with a case on was a pain and it is collecting dust. I will have my Rift for real immersive gaming.

  • impurekind

    These more limited headsets are fine for getting noobs into VR now seeing as they don’t realise it’s a drop in quality from what most of us playing in VR are used to already, but I’d honestly rather they focused bringing the current more advanced headsets down to this price somehow, without compromising the functionality, rather than selling a lesser experiences to casuals that might somewhat taint and undersell what VR is actually capable of right now and how compelling it can be when playing on a proper setup. But, small steps I guess. I just hope all these cheaper headsets that offer a lesser experience don’t end up poisoning the well for everyone in the short-long term.

    • WyrdestGeek

      The VR manufacturers need to get a lot more “noobs” buying low end hardware so they can be stronger financially. Then the companies can also spend some $$ making the high quality, expensive hardware tech better. And sell it to the high end user.

    • Standalone VR DOESN’T suck. It’s just that devs are fucking lazy.

  • Ted Joseph

    Definitely day one purchase for me. I have a Rift, but want a stand alone that I can play in bed at night while the wife sleeps. Best of both worlds. I will also get a Santa Cruz when it comes out for the mobility, and removal of the wire for free movement.

    • Firestorm185

      Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that, but Go will be great for watching videos in VR while lying in bed!
      Can’t wait for a mobile Youtube App now!

  • I’m reading only positive reviews of the Go, it seems a solid product