Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jul. 23rd
Dedicated followers of the blog will know that I can't shut up about the Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset I finally got my hands on at at E3 this year.
The latest news from the folk at Irvine-based Oculus VR has me particularly pleased. The company is teaming up with IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games to launch a competition that challenges game developers to "build the most innovative virtual reality games and experiences designed specifically for the Oculus Rift".
Oculus VR is putting up $50,000 in prizes–including a trip to this October's IndieCade for the grand prize winner–for the VR Jam.
For those who watch the games industry closely there's a sense of momentum building around the Oculus Rift. The VR Jam ads to that sense, as more developers are getting exposed to the technology. Oculus is arraigning for those who don't have access to developer kits to be able to test their games at "Playtest Hubs" they are establishing in at least two cities (New York and LA).
Most game jams are, by their nature, sprints to turn out minimum viable products. The most famous of the game jams is the Global Game Jam, a 48-hour hackathon. The VR Jam is being billed as a long-format jam, with participants having three weeks to craft their work.
Oculus is seeking the most "innovative" games and experiences, which is not necessarily synonymous with the "best". Three weeks is long for a jam, but affords little time for polish. Some great work can be accomplished by teams in that amount of time, but it will still be festival-level work.
We're still a long way off from either the commercial release of the Rift and the killer app it will need to become a breakout mainstream hit. What we could see come out of the jam are the seeds of the latter, and for that the jam is worth watching closely.
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