Mojang’s Minecraft has evolved in a lot of different ways over the last five years, but adding support for the Oculus Touch controllers should have been its most dramatic departure from the original survival formula yet.
Sadly, that’s not quite the case.
An update to the ever-popular game earlier this week brought Touch support two weeks after the controllers themselves launched. At first, the controls feel liberating; for the first time in series history you’ll be able to move your rectangular, pixelated arm as if they were really your own. You left hand becomes the item bar, which you can point at with your right hand to select items.
The idea of bringing a little physicality to Minecraft’s resource gathering is exciting, if potentially exhausting, but this isn’t actually how the game works. Instead, the Touch controllers really just work as pointers. While your hands are positionally tracked, all the controllers really determine is where you’re aiming. If you swipe away at the dirt and trees at the start of the game, nothing happens. Instead you have to push a button to activate the regular mining action.
Weapons are the same story. The second I grabbed a wooden sword I prepared to do mortal combat with a pig, but was disappointed to find that swiping at it realistically had no effect. All I really had to do was hold my hand near the animal and then press the attack button. Instead of it working like this…
It really has to work like this…
Essentially, you’re just decoupling the aiming from the head-tracked controls, which is how you play Minecraft in VR with an Xbox controller. That in itself is a welcome addition, but it definitely feels like more could have been done here to make the Touch version of Minecraft easily the best. As it stands, it’s not that much different from the regular way of playing the game.
But all is not lost for those willing to add a few mods. If you want to play Minecraft with Touch and have your swings actually mean something, then you might want to take a look at Vivecraft. As the name implies, this unofficial mod of the game already supports the HTC Vive, and added Touch support just a day after launch on December 7th, though it’s still in an experimental phase. It allows you to actually swing your hands around to mine and fight enemies in-game.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft about the direction taken with Touch support. It will be interesting to see if there are any plans to bring deeper Touch integration to the game.