Oculus Rift, and it brings a handful of surprising changes to Minecraft’s well-loved gameplay.The Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta is now available on
Since Minecraft on Oculus puts you virtually into the game, the size of individual mobs is surprisingly intimidating. I hadn’t even noticed that Zombies were taller than players until I had to look up at one of them who was sticking his big, blocky arms through my front door, making that creepy groaning sound under his breath. The threat of taking damage is the same as it has always been, but the invasion of space that comes with a seemingly giant mob chasing ‘me’ made me run away a lot more often than stay and fight like I usually would. This is made even more intense by the Oculus’ built-in positional audio. It sounds just like whatever chasing you really is physically behind you.
Caves are just as creepy as mobs, especially if you run out of torches. Craning your neck around trying to see in complete darkness is seriously stressful. I’ve probably never been as happy to see lava in Minecraft as I was when I was in VR — the light is a safe haven from completely consuming darkness.
Having your entire field of vision be encompassed by the caves’ near-black is both unsettling and a little claustrophobic, especially since while you’re pickaxing your way down, you’re usually packed into relatively small spaces by stone, too. Not stocking up on torches (or the wood you need to make them) before you head into a mineshaft is now not only an inconvenience, but a pretty big source of stress.
Something about aiming by moving your head rather than my moving your mouse (or thumbstick) makes combat feel a lot more personal, and with that comes a much greater sense of control. It’s a little odd to see your sword floating along in front of you in VR, but facing one of those giant mobs and swinging feels significantly more triumphant than it does in non-VR Minecraft, because it feels like that sword is really yours. It’s like an extension of your body rather than an extension of your character, and that, teamed with the whole ‘mobs are huge and invade your space’ thing, makes combat much more satisfying. The bow specifically is a lot of fun to aim in VR, too, and definitely feels a lot more accurate than using a controller.
When playing Minecraft normally I can get orientated in caves and mines pretty easily because I’m not all that immersed. I’m able to comfortably look around and take mental notes. Your sense of ‘place’ is a very different in VR, where you’re constantly overwhelmed by the appearance of new environments, even if you consciously know you’re only there visually.
This meant I got lost a whole lot — it’s like my short-term memory was totally disabled. I’m sure we’ll learn more about this as VR technology becomes more commonplace, and I’m not sure if this was specific to me, but I feel like the constant feed of new imagery to absorb caused my brain to ignore important things like, you know, where the hell I am, and which direction I came from.
What do you do when you’re 128 blocks high in the Minecraft world?
As a person who isn’t at all afraid of heights, I might sell this a little short, but one of my first experiments was try to get to the highest point in a nearby jungle. I did, and was mostly just impressed by the view — Minecraft’s relaxing music made that feel serene more than anything. So, I decided to step it up, and used the ‘put blocks on top of each other while jumping’ trick to build myself into the highest point of the game — 128 blocks high. The vertigo kicked in at about 60, and by the time I made it to the maximum, I started feeling noticeably dizzy, in ways non-VR Minecraft definitely never made me feel.
But then, what do you do when you’re 128 blocks high in the Minecraft world? You jump off, of course. Seeing the grass below quickly rush towards my eyes was almost inexplicably disturbing, when it’s something that normally wouldn’t bother me at all.
When thinking about video game universes I’d like to exist in, Minecraft was never all that high on the list, losing points for its unnatural, blocky appearance. That, mixed with being in first-person perspective, is pretty brutal in VR. There are various VR-specific options in the settings menu, including one that makes looking left to right more choppy, to avoid the sickness that comes with the world changing horizontally without your body moving that way. It’s helpful, but, as someone who is already motion-sickness-sensitive, it was always uncomfortable. I had to take frequent breaks.
Thankfully, there is a theater-style mode, too, that places you in a chair in a Minecraft-esque house, and has you ‘play’ on a virtual TV in front of you. It seems a little pointless to simulate a living room while you’re playing Minecraft in VR in your living room, but it is a much more fitting environment, at least, and it completely erased any motion-sickness I had.