For the last month and change, I’ve spent an hour each night strapping an HTC Vive to my face and playing a game called Audioshield. It has resulted in the loss of fifteen pounds, but that’s not really the point of this article. It’s merely an interesting side fact to take note of.
I’ve played a lot of things in VR. I’m currently designing a few things in Unreal Engine 4, and I’m also dabbling in Unity as well. I’ve had the opportunity to try things I never would have been able to experience otherwise, thanks to my time with the Oculus development kits and the HTC Vive. However, with all I’ve seen and done, I have found Audioshield to be the pinnacle of what this nascent industry offshoot has achieved thus far. It’s not the fact that it does anything special, it’s that it does what it does incredibly well, and in that simplicity lies a thing tantalizingly close to objective perfection.
You play Audioshield by holding each of the Vive remotes in your hands, a blue shield on your left hand, an orange one on your right. Colored orbs fly at you from the horizon, much like Guitar Hero‘s notes, but aimed directly at YOU. Your job is to block the blue shots with the blue shield, the orange shots with the orange shield, and the purple shots by combining your hands to form a mixed-color shield. These shots are timed with the music being played (streaming from Soundcloud or your own music library), and the stages are procedurally generated, meaning no stage will play the same way twice. And that’s all there is to it.
There is no “death” condition. There is no way to fail a stage. You simply score what you score based on accuracy and physical movement / exertion, and how highly you score is how well you’ve done. There is no reason to have a fear of failure, because the game only offers the player degrees of success. As such, the game’s scoring mechanic and lack of punishment is nothing short of liberating, because it’s all about personal development and how well you can read what’s coming to you. Your speed, attention and ability to think a few steps ahead separate the flailing from the fluid.
I have picked up quite a few games in the past month and a half, but Audioshield is what I keep coming back to, because I do far more than just “have fun.” It’s where I access that quick-reward center of the brain that is normally reserved for fighting games, but I’m doing that with my whole body, not just my hands. This imparts a feeling of success via effort much like Dance Dance Revolution used to, but the way this is set up leads to something that is at least somewhat better. Not only does your arm motion rely on proper foot planting, pivoting and movement — much like boxing — but combining this with your ability to read a track with your eyes and ears simultaneously gives a feeling of synaesthesia that no other game before it has ever, EVER been able to approach. This is the fulfillment of Rez‘s promise.
This is the f’n future right here, people. I swear it.
I don’t care what you have to do. I don’t care if you have to beg, borrow, steal, crowdfund, whatever. You need to get a PC that can handle VR, and you need to buy Audioshield. You need to experience this thing, this feeling that has taken over my life. I’m stronger, more agile, more physically graceful than I have been in years, all thanks to doing an hour of Audioshield (on the hardest difficulty) each night. This is what every other rhythm game whishes it could be, this is what every other exercise game wishes it could be, and hell, this is what every brick-and-mortar gym wishes it could be, too.
If this is where the video game industry is headed, then our world is about to experience a complete and total sea change — and one for the better, at that.