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Oculus Rift Taught Me I’d Suck as a Space Ship Pilot

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The Oculus Rift VR helmet can be used for all sorts of games—everything from first-person shooters to side-scrolling platformers. But perhaps the best use of the Rift is in flight simulators like Lunar Flight.

Released early last year, Lunar Flight is, as the name suggests, a lunar flight simulator—with all the physics realistically tuned. In it, you fly from point to point in a lunar lander, delivering cargo and doing surveys. There is also a multiplayer mode and even rudimentary combat.


Over the past year and a half, the game has been massively retooled from its original version to work on the Oculus Rift. At the moment, it is probably the "realest" feeling game the Rift has to offer.


You sit in a fully realized cockpit, surrounded by working monitors and gauges that are all vital for the successful piloting of the craft. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but soon enough you'll figure out what everything means—though usually through trial and error. And even with my 720p Oculus Rift dev kit (the expected resolution of the consumer model is reported to be 1080p or higher), I was able to read all the text on the various monitors—something I have found myself unable to do in many games I have played on the Rift.

After watching a video tutorial on the controls (a necessity, I assure you), I began my first mission: All I had to do was fly in a straight line from point A to point B and then land on the landing pad.


My first three attempts ended in a ball of fire and a pile of wreckage.

It is not easy to pilot something in a low gravity environment. For example, go too fast and your inertia will send you past your target and into a mountainside before you can slow down. And once you start messing with your pitch and roll, it can go very bad, very fast.


My biggest problem, however, was not fully understanding the size of the lander. Twice I caught the landing struts on the edge of the landing pad and thus tumbled wildly—and fatally—across the moon's surface as a result.


And honestly, while it may look simple and boring from watching a video, playing it is actually quite stressful—knowing that one mistake can send you back to the beginning of the mission.

In the end, I learned something about myself: I am not cut out to be a lunar pilot, even in a game. I will say this though. After making a successful flight, climbing out of your lander and looking around at the lunar surface in all its Oculus Rift glory is a reward in its own right.


To see what Lunar Flight is like on the Oculus Rift, check out the video above.

Lunar Flight was released for PC on January 15, 2012. The Oculus Rift enabled version of the game is currently in beta test.


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