What can I say, getting up at 4:15 in the AM, guzzling a cup of coffee and driving to the airport isn’t all that its cracked up to be. Check in was uneventful – and other than being scanned in what looked like a Star Trek transporter, my flights were uneventful. Coming in for a landing, I looked out over San Jose and this alien landscape of desert mountain ans sparse vegetation – different from anywhere I’ve been before.
Since check in wasn’t until 3, I screwed around in the San Jose airport, checking e-mails and eating crappy pizza. The ride into town was quick and easy, and my driver liked pointing out the various offices, over here is Adobe, there is Microsoft and we chatted about the VR conference (he had only tried Google Cardboard) Since the convention center was across the street from the hotel, I wandered around for a bit taking in the sights – grabbed a few pix of palm trees and exhaustedly wandered into the hotel, and was able to snag an early check in.
After a brief, failed, attempt at a nap, I showered, changed and went to the registration, got my badge and headed down to the opening reception, nibbled on snacks; chatted with other devs and carbo loaded on several ales to help power me through the rest of the night. I had to force myself to stop accepting every tray of food being offered to me, so I could at least have some of the Start Program members dinner. Which, if I didn’t start wending my way there; I was going to miss it.
Which really wasn’t going to happen, since other people leaving all had Oculus Start hoodies, easy enough to follow them to a banquet room, set up with tables and more free appetizers and ales for all. Ate and chatted some more, until Jim the Grim found me and led me back to the table where Dark_Muppeteer was. We ate, drank and talked like we were already old buddies, all of us impressed with how swank Oculus had set us up.
About half way through beers and figuring out which presentations we’d attend, I suddenly felt the weight of being up for 20 hours and the extra ale percolating through my system didn’t help – a bade my fellow VRTK’ers a good evening and proceeded to flop out for a good long time.
Next AM, up early, coffee, email and got to the convention center just as people were starting to mill about, waiting for the doors to open.
Breakfast was a pretty fancy affair, long tables set out with steam trays, offering dietary options for every taste:
Dark showed up a little later and we ate and chatted until people started queuing up for the Keynote address, and filed in with the rest of the VR enthusiasts. I was impressed with the sheer size of the room, and that they had 19 screens set up, of various sizes, with the OC5 logo pulsing around, giving the auditorium an electric feel.
The Quest announcement was exciting, kinda bridging the Go and its portability and the 6 DoF of the Rift. I kinda figured we weren’t getting them, because I took a pre-emptive look under my seat – which was sadly barren. The rest of the speeches were a bit of corporate rah-rah fluff, but still; it was hard to deny the enthusiasm they had for their new product, and Dark & I wondered if a farm equipment convention would muster the same excitement.
After the keynote, I sat in on a chat about using Medium and Quill for prototyping, but it ran for only half an hour and seemed more like a live advertorial for the programs, rather than actual usable instruction on things like reducing polycount, UVs or texturing. Other programs were far more informative – like the Fireside Chat with John Carmack.
Dark & I met up and as we were seated, we ended up near a very excited gent, who told us of his adventures tracking down an original 3.5″ floppy of Doom, that he hoped he could get autographed. I swore right then and there if I get to do this again, I’m bringing my original Quake CD for Carmack and Abrash to sign…
The day was packed with more lectures and boxed lunches and strolling around looking at stuff until my feet were sore. I had planned to join Dark & his wife for dinner at an Indian place they had heard of, so I asked him to text me later so I could join them and headed back to the hotel.
There I saw the oddest thing… coming out of an alley between the hotel and The Bowers Institute was Palmer Luckey, with a couple of hanger on-ers chatting with him, like he was some sort of sleazy VR dealer followed by junkies looking for a fix. It was so odd, I totally forgot to get a photo, and had to resist the urge to scream insults about meme factories at him.
Back at the hotel, I didn’t want to lay down – thinking that if I fell asleep, I’d never rouse myself for dinner – so I opted for liquid carbs in the lobby bar. Sipping my ale, I noticed a bunch of devs approaching the front desk and asking where the dev dinner was. ‘Whoops,’ I thought to myself, ‘better follow these chaps and see what’s up.’ Trailing them, I soon found myself in a conference room with a huge buffet table set up, a bar at the end and tables everywhere loaded with computers, VR rigs, peripherals of every kind and people checking out demos. I wish I had known about this.
The 2nd day had a fairly similar start – breakfast with the VRTK gents and hanging out until the keynote – this time delivered by Carmack, which was interesting because after a while; Dark & I sorta looked at each other like, ‘wasn’t this in his fireside chat?’ – and we realized that he was touching on the same topics (almost in the same exact order, too)
We split up and I ran back to the hotel to grab my stuff and check out – a little sad that this was the first step in this trip coming to its conclusion. In order to lighten the mood a bit, I decided I was going to dive into some VR. First up: Face Your Fears 2.
I enjoyed the Quest – it was lighter than I had anticipated, the controllers felt pretty similar to the Touch and it felt pretty liberating to not be tied down to a box with a cord. I impressed the demo helper because I didn’t scream, yelp or freak out – he seemed amused that I actually laughed at some of the jump scares (to be fair, I play a lot of them and can almost anticipate when a jump scare is coming, and I was laughing at just how predictable their timing was with them) – as my day progressed I kept seeing this:
Carmack was always talking to people, always seemed to have something positive to say and was just at it for hours. If they made him the face of VR; they could not think of a better tempered, more enthusiastic person to be its representative.
As I wandered about (after grabbing a box lunch) I just so happened to be outside this lecture as it was starting (it was on my ‘to do’ list, but had been debating to do more VR demos) and it was one of the better ones:
When this was done, I found a quiet spot to call my kids, since they were getting ready for bed and my time was coming to an end. Told them I would see them soon (after a bit of GDEX!) and went to the closing reception with Dark & Jim. We shared ales; ate and generally agreed that if the opportunity arises next year –
we will be back. I bade them farewell and went to my Oculus Office Hours meeting and discussed my game, getting the feeling that people are having problems passing the store and getting stuck in ‘keys’- basically hanging out in limbo giving free keys until get get enough positive votes to be put into the store proper.
My leaving was a bit sad, but still filled with promise, as I made some new friends at the airport (damn, those Oculus Start hoodies were everywhere ) and as I took off, I wondered about the future, my family, my game and the promise of exciting days to come.