Eyes-on Impressions of Soundself 2.0 From PAX Prime 2014
Soundself was easily one of the cooler experiences I had while at PAX East this past spring, which is why I was excited to stop by Robin Arnott’s booth again at PAX Prime to check out the latest build, which is a complete overhaul of what was shown only 4 months ago. If you need a bit of background on the Soundself experience, which it very much is over being an actual game, you can check out my PAX East preview. This Oculus Rift supported adventure into your soul and mind is more of a meditation tool than a traditional video game, but in its current form it’s a very powerful application for allowing you to get lost in your sub-consciousness while you soak in the various tones, patterns, and light effects that blast into your brain and body while you explore the secrets of a trance state.
Soundself 2.0 is an entirely new experience than what I had before, so it’s clear that Robin and his small development team have taken fan feedback to heart to improve upon the project. The most notable new feature is the inclusion of bass tones, which are reflected via a rumble pad that you can lay on while playing. With these deep tones in place your body can now get in on the fun that was only previously available to your eyes in mind via the Oculus Rift. The use of a wearable mic that fits snuggly on your neck has also amplified the Soundself experience by providing the illusion that the software is breathing with you, while also taking your chanted tones and incorporating them into the visuals and audio being displayed and pumped through the rift and headphones. This breathing effect really impacts the visuals being shown, and completely alters the rhythm of the audio tones disseminating from the speakers to provide a much more visceral trance-like experience.
Robin also explained that he’s added in heuristic commands into the code that will take cues from the player to alter the somewhat randomly generated visuals and tones being produced by the engine. For example, if the player has breathed in a set number of times Soundself may change colors, visual palettes, or the audio tones to reflect this, and it will continue to alter the experience based on built-in metrics that the team has added to the game.
The visual experience as a whole also changed in the latest build of Soundself. Before I couldn’t help but be reminded of a screensaver, or a kaleidoscope, while viewing the elliptical based shapes being displayed on the two screens of the Oculus Rift, but now the visuals follow a much more shapely presentation. There were times when I was presented with stark white backgrounds with a few lines here and there mimicking my chants, while others would sport large colored circle shapes coming at me from all directions. I also experienced a few hyperdrive moments, which will make sense to anyone who has watched the Millennium Falcon make the jump to light speed.
In speaking with Robin it appears that Soundself is nearing completion, and that the code just needs to be further optimized to make sure it won’t bog down PCs while playing it. He’s also waiting on the Oculus Rift team to launch the retail version of its VR glasses, but for now no release date is in site.
After experiencing Soundself 2.0 I’m still convinced that it should be a launch day title for the Occulus Rift, or at least a pack-in game like Wii Sports was for the Wii. It’s just a fantastic experience that fully embodies the VR movement, while also opening gamers up to a meditative experience they may never otherwise pursued. If you’re open to being in a trance state, or realizing the power of your mind when it’s stimulated with audio and visuals, then Soundself is an experience worth pursuing. It’s not a video game by definition, but rather it’s a tool that can surely take you on a journey through your mind’s hidden corners allowing you to slip out of reality and become one with your consciousness and body.
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