One thing that you’ll end up doing a lot, as an early adopter of the Rift, is demo-ing it to other people who are interested to see The Future.
I’ve certainly ended up doing this a lot, from individual demos in my flat to a demo for the entire staff of my favourite coffee shop. Fortunately, I’ve been demo-ing technology for 15 years now at conferences, film festivals, investor pitch meetings and so forth.
So, here are a few tips on how to make your Rift demos run smoothly from my dozen or so Rift demos so far.
Inform your audience
It’s very important to make sure the person being demoed to knows a few key things. You might assume that they’ll know them already - don’t! Remember, you’ve probably been using the Rift for days, so stuff that seems obvious to you won’t be to a new user.
Particularly if they have something else to do that day, make sure that they know to tell you as soon as they’re feeling sick. Rift sickness comes on fast, and if you don’t bail them out when they start feeling ill, there’s a good chance they’ll get a very bad dose.
Remind them that they can move their head! Heavy gamers are particularly prone to keeping their head still and using the Rift as a monitor. If they’re not looking around within a few seconds of going into a Rift demo, gently remind them that they can do that!
Check that they understand the controls for the demo. Gamers will probably be familiar with the standard controller setup for an FPS, but don’t assume that - one serious gamer I did a demo for had never played an FPS on a console in his life, and was thoroughly confused until I ran him through the basics.
Bear Comfort In Mind
The Rift can be really uncomfortable in several ways - make sure to avoid them, or you might give someone a very negative impression of it!
For starters, before the demo make sure to clean the lenses with a microfiber cloth. They get surprisingly oily and misty, and that nearly ruined one demo I did.
Loosen the straps and dial the lenses as far away from the user’s eyes as possible. Then, once they put the Rift on, help them adjust the straps until they feel comfortable, then adjust the lenses inward until they’re just at the point where the user feels them on their eyelashes if you move them any closer.
In my experience, people with glasses almost always do better with the Rift using their glasses. This also means you don’t have to keep swapping lenses out.
Finally, I usually tell people to keep their eyes closed until I’ve actually got the demo loaded. The Windows desktop or loading screens flashing in and out can give some people a headache very quickly indeed.
Best Demos To Try
Over a dozen or so demonstrations of the Rift so far, I’ve come to the conclusion that:
VR Cinema is actually a great first demo to use. It’s very easy for the user to understand where they’re meant to be and what they’re seeing - plus, as it’s static, it’s a very gentle introduction to the concept of the Rift.
For almost everyone, the RiftCoaster is a great demonstration of the potential of the device. Again, it’s simple. It’s quick to get into, which is good when you’re racing against the clock for Rift-sickness. It’s a major adrenaline rush, a total departure from conventional reality, and it looks really good. We almost always use this as demo #2.
After that, I tend to tailor the next (and usually final, unless my demo-ee has some serious natural Rift legs on them) demo to their interests. For most people, Half-Life 2’s opening is fantastic - it’s atmospheric, scary, and demonstrates both a virtual world (or at least a good simulation of one), the power of drama in the Rift, and the sense of scale. Tuscany’s great for people who like the outdoors or would love to be in Italy in real life. And whilst it might seem like a slightly alarming choice, a test flight in War Thunder is a pretty jaw-dropping demo for anyone who would like to fly a small plane.
Demos I avoid include Doom 3 (because the aiming and weapon-swapping are quite unintuitive - it hasn’t gone well when we’ve used it as a demo), Team Fortress 2 (too much fast movement, and it’s not as impressive as other games) and anything that needs a Razer Hydra. The Hydra’s a pretty jaw-dropping piece of kit on its own, but it can take a bit of getting used to, and particularly with a Rift on, isn’t well suited to immediate pick-up-and-play.
Finally, it’s worth considering Proton Pulse as a demo for the Rift! It might seem extremely wierd to show people a psychadelic Breakout clone rather than something more high-budget or photoreal, but in my demoing of the Rift, about half the people I’ve shown Proton Pulse to have absolutely loved it. The “Breakout with your FACE” gameplay is extremely compelling.
Other Stuff To Remember
If you’re traveling somewhere, double-check all your kit beforehand. Nothing like arriving to discover you’ve forgotten your DVI cable. I once screwed up a demo to Gabe Newell of Valve by forgetting a key piece of hardware (a disk drive) - don’t be me!
Non-obvious things to carry: you want to make sure you’ve got a microfiber cloth to wipe the lenses and that you’re carrying a coin or something to adjust the lens distance, amongst other things.
Controller: we’ve found that the XBox controller is by far the best one to use for demos. A lot of people are at least casually familiar with them, and joysticks are pretty intuitive anyway. However, if you can, start off with a demo or two that doesn’t require a controller at all!
Do you have any tips to share on demoing the Rift?