Having never experienced virtual reality I was both nervous and dizzyingly excited to attend this year’s Virtual Reality World Congress at the Marriott Hotel in Bristol City centre. Organisers Opposable VR‘s plan was to attract 600 VR enthusiasts to play with and learn about the latest cutting-edge VR tech, and it worked! Rest assured I came away more convinced of VR’s world-changing potential than ever before.


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Drawing in an impressive line up of developers, VRWC was host to some of the platforms’ most exciting games. Crysis developer Crytek was showing off the power and flexibility of their game engine with their first VR title, ‘The Climb‘. Essentially a mountain climbing simulator, The Climb proved to fully take advantage of VR’s most exciting qualities.


Don’t look down! TechSPARK assistant editor Alice clearly enjoying The Climb

After quickly picking up the game play, I was instantly enjoying the experience of racing up the side of a cliff, but it wasn’t until I turned my head round 180 degrees that I realised just how powerful VR will be. With the graphical power of their Cryengine, Crytek created environments in The Climb that literally take your breath away, being fantastical, yet still real enough to fool your brain into thinking it’s really there.

“The most mind bending aspect was being able to look round in any direction and observe your new environment”


Some of the VR experiences were not quite as good looking as The Climb, with some of the demos being a little blurry. Even the slightest distraction such as this is enough to make you aware of being in VR. This being said, even the more indie developed games were powerful experiences, and the fact that you were aware that the characters or world did not look real never stopped me from enjoying the games.

This was especially apparent in The Assembly, by nDreams, a VR cinematic story experience that puts you in the shoes of a kidnap victim who is drifting between dreams and ‘reality’. This conference was my first go on VR, and the most mind-bending aspect was being able to look round in any direction and observe your new environment.

VR headsets aplenty

Every VR headset currently on sale was available to try, with the HTC Vive being by far the most impressive, and the only headset at the conference offering the use of specialised VR controllers.


Taking aim: Doing some virtual archery with the Vive’s two controllers

Combined with some basic haptic technology, the experience of using the controllers to play a simple archery game was the most visceral and also one of the most enjoyable at the conference. The game, included in Valve’s The Lab, was one of several that could be tried on the Vive, including a bizarre overworld environment in which you have a virtual robot dog companion that follows you about as you choose what game to play.

Immersive play

The power of VR comes from its ability to completely fool your brain into thinking the virtual experience is actually real, and this was definitely the case for me when I tried out a brief demo of Life of Lon from studio Block Interval.
The very beginning of the game starts with you flying a spaceship into orbit, only to end up crashing into the planet’s surface. As the ship tilted and rumbled I genuinely felt as if my body was being moved around even though I knew that I was completely still. It was an experience like no other, and although it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I found it to be mind blowing.

These simple VR ‘stories’ are within the capabilities of indie developers to create, and although Life of Lon had some game elements such as the freedom to move and explore, the experience is interesting purely through the level of immersion that VR offers.

Not just gaming

Other examples of some of the demo’s were some practical uses of VR. PropertyScape are using Oculus to allow architects to construct virtual houses for potential customers to allow them to live in the house before it is even built. In the virtual environment you can choose what time of day it is, fly around the house, or even change the decor in real time.


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by and are investing in VR tech

Social networking is also set to change with the release of VR, as VTime has created virtual locations for you to hang out with people across the world. An avatar of you and your friends appears in the virtual so you can have meetings without ever actually having to physically meet up.

Make your own VR experiences

The event also offered a whole host of lectures for attendees to hear about the challenges of making content for VR, the limitations of the technology, its future, and a host of other topics. Hearing the problems and solutions that some of the developers had to tackle when producing these games was the perfect way to appreciate how much work has gone into making these new platforms great.


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speaking about Elite: Dangerous’ sound design

The congress was a huge success, with many of the developers saying they had nothing but positive feedback for the games and the VR headsets. The quantity and variety of talks meant it was impossible not to find something interesting to go and hear about.

Opposable VR has not only put on a great event for enthusiasts and exhibitors, they have helped thrust VR further into the public spotlight, allowing these amazing experiences to be shared with the world.

VRWC will undoubtedly be returning bigger and better than ever next year, so keep an eye on their Twitter feed @VRWorldCongress for news about future events. If you are interested in playing a role in next year’s bigger and even better event, contact conference organiser Dan Page on dan.page@opposablegroup.com with the subject line ‘VR World Congress 2017’.

All of the exhibitors and speakers can be found on their website, so it’s a great place to check out some of VR’s upcoming experiences. The Climb will be available to buy this month. My top picks of the show were Life of Lon and The Lab, so check out their respective trailers.