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A REALLY-REAL VIRTUAL REALITY? FOR REALLY-REAL? – THE FORGE

OCULUS RIFT WILL MAKE VR A REALITY IN 2016

GET READY TO JACK INTO THE MATRIX

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Oculus Rift

Oculus

Virtual reality is about to meet actual reality. Oculus VR, the company behind the long-in-development Oculus Rift, has announced that it will finally begin to ship the virtual reality headset beginning in early 2016.

Pre-orders of the device, which can been used for everything from immersive space sims to interactive VR movies, will kick off later this year, at a yet undisclosed price point. The shipping device, based on the company’s Crescent Bay prototype, will include built-in audio and what Oculus describes as “an improved tracking system” that works regardless of whether you’re sitting down or standing up.

The ergonomics and industrial design have been tweaked as well to make it a product that’s a little more polished for the consumer market. Previous models were only available for developers interested in building apps and games for the headset, though the company also helped produce the Gear VR headset being sold by Samsung.

We’ll get more details from Oculus VR in the coming weeks, including the price and full technical specifications, and the company teased that the upcomingE3 gaming conference might be one venue in which it would deliver further information. The big question remains exactly what software will work with the Rift upon launch. We’ve seen some examples already, including space simElite: Dangerous and the aforementioned interactive movies. Given how long developer kits have existed, it seems likely that game companies and others have had time to add support for the Rift into their products, but I’d expect to see some game announcements at E3 and more as we get closer to the Rift’s actual ship date. Like so many new peripherals, however, there’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma; some will no doubt buy a Rift sight unseen, but many may wait to see whether this is a literal game-changing experience before they invest. Yet if nothing else, there’s always Oculus’s parent company, social media behemoth Facebook, which has said it intends to provide some sort of social experience through virtual reality.

Of course, Oculus isn’t the only company interested in VR: HTC has teamed up with Valve to produce a headset targeted for later this year and gaming company Razer is taking a bigger picture approach with an open source platform that’s compatible with multiple VR platforms. One way or another, virtual reality will be a fact of life in the next year or so.

SITUATIONAL ENRICHMENT – GAMEPLAY

SITUATIONAL ENRICHMENT

This is a sort of parallel post to one on Easter Eggs that I will post here later on.

Today a buddy of mine sent me a link to an Army video on Hyper-Realistic Tactical Training. (Think of it as a kind of live-action wargame involving TSS/Transferable Skill Simulations. I cannot herein reproduce the link because the link has since been extinguished, probably due to security REASONS.) He knows that I’ve been active in experimenting with and developing gaming related training techniques for a long time and thought I’d enjoy the video. (I did by the way. I had never seen it before.)

Anyway the video reminded me of a technique I use both in-
game(s) and in training scenario development that I call Situational Enrichment.

You might think of situational enrichment as the non-combat version (or parallel development version) of Hyper-Realistic Immersive Training.

It has a couple of objectives, but this is basically how it works. You take a non-combat situation, but one highly charged, and interject the players into this situation without warning. The situation will be filled with a veritable plethora of challenges, obstacles, and enrichments. Usually these enrichments will be multi-layered, have various applications, will sometimes compete against each other (in nature, or for the player’s attention), be in continual motion, and have some immediate or demanding application.

The point of an enriched environment is to provide a high level of stress and potential danger without anything that might necessarily induce a combat situation. It will simply be that the enriched environment will be filled with so many potential problems, devices, articles, objects, creatures, movements, events, etc. that are all happening either simultaneously or in quick succession that attempting to react to everything available might very well produce exhaustion, or information, observational, and functional overload. Plus a well-enriched environment might present so many “potential dangers” (regardless of whether the dangers are real or not) that to the player it seems as dangerous if not more so than a standard combat situation.

One of the advantages to this kind of situation (among others) from the point of the DM or scenario developer is that you can test the participants’ reaction capabilities, see how they react to conflicting and/or multiple stressors, and to conditions of “overload.” The advantages to the player are manifold, but include learning to handle high stress situations that do not involve combat, improvement of observational skills, learning to organize reactions to environmental demands (conducting environmental triage), improvement of mental capabilities and problem solving abilities, and so forth and so on. Plus such situations are usually very interesting and fascinating to both develop and play through.

You do not want to inflict conditions of Situational Enrichment on players continuously as they can become mentally exhausted, just as protracted periods of combat or unknown danger can also take a mental and psychological toll.

But used occasionally and judiciously they can, I think, provide a fascinating enrichment experience, and serve as a great training scenario for future actions.

Let me give an example of what I would call an Adapted Gaming Enrichment Situation.

Situation: (this is a situation I have actually used before) The players have been moving through a set of underground ruins. It has been a relatively long time since they encountered any creature or real danger or threat. They are walking down a seemingly ordinary corridor when suddenly there is a blaring din, like several horn blasts going off simultaneously. The noise does not abate but only grows louder over time. At about the same time the walls begin to pulse and glow in a variety of different colors, and it can now be seen that the walls are covered in complex and strange glyphs and designs. As the noise gets worse the walls glow more fiercely until the light becomes almost painful. Fire erupts behind the players and seems to run along the floor, ceiling, and walls. Smoke begins to accumulate along the ceiling and the temperature rises. From the fiery ceiling suddenly erupts a huge swarm of buzzing, flying locusts, all alight. They are careening crazily towards the players. Forced forwards by the fire and the burning insects the players tumble into a room ahead that is also blaring non-stop and whose walls both pulse and seem to bleed. The locusts begin landing on the players, threatening to set their clothes afire. There is apparently a pool of water ahead but as the players move for it a large flesh golem erupts from the water and it can now be seen that the liquid is corrupt and foul. The golem does not attack but screams relentlessly, gesturing wildly at the players and a corner of the room in which lies a man, seemingly a fellow adventurer, moaning in pain and severely wounded. As the party watches some of the locusts swarm around the golem and it and the pool catch fire. The pool was actually filled with some type of highly combustible liquid, not water.

The golem screams even more loudly and rushes towards the wounded man. Before he can reach him the floor drops away spilling both the golem and the man into some type of pit. The players can hear the man is crying and begging for help, but just barely due to the intense and relentless blare. Many of the blocks upon the floor begin to heat, but some seem dark and cool. The air begins to shimmer and several characters vanish from sight, only to wink back into view ten to twenty seconds later. The ones who disappeared swear that it was the other players who actually disappeared. This continues at random intervals until one player reappears in different clothing, and with different possession than he had before.

Suddenly three doors appear which might allow escape from the room. One is on the ceiling and is apparently made of stone and metal. One is on the floor and has already caught fire. One is on the wall on other side of the pit where the golem and man disappeared, and has a demonic like face with a horn for a mouth. The din seems to be absorbed by the mouth of the monstrous face but any time the players try to speak or communicate with one another the demon mouth also instantly absorbs their words. Suddenly the din is gone but there is no noise at all as the face mouth absorbs all sound.

How would your players react at each stage of such a scenario or situation? What would they make of it? How would they attempt to solve such problems, and in what order? What would they fear might be happening?

The point of an enrichment environment however is not necessarily to do any physical harm to the players at all. It is to misdirect, exhaust, and test them with seemingly dangerous, bizarre, and confusing situations. Although occasionally I will throw in a trap or series of them or a real fight in the middle of such a disordered or over-stimulated environment.

However the example I just used was one of “Stress Enrichment.” You can also enrich an environment in any number of ways, such as providing so many amazing, wonderful, and valuable things, all operating at once that the players have a difficult time sorting priorities and modes of reaction.

Anywho, that’s some of the ways I use situational enrichment. Do you do something similar or related, and if so, how do you o about it? Can you cite examples?

THE VIKING AGE AND HUMAN SACRIFICE

This is what living in the Viking age looked like

December 1, 2014 – 06:23

Explore one of northern Europe’s largest Viking settlements in Denmark through this digital reconstruction.

Video: The National Museum of Denmark and Fugledegård Information Centre

The largest treasure ever found in Denmark, a 1.83 kilogram heavy neck ring of solid gold, was ploughed up on a field near the lake in 1977.

After the discovery, the National Museum of Denmark began snooping around the area with metal detectors. But this was only the beginning.

“In about 1990, amateur archaeologists started using metal detectors in the field further north along the banks of the lake. Here they began to find jewellery and parts of weapons all the way along the edge of the lake. This is when we “woke up” started taking notice,” says Lars Jørgensen, research professor at the Danish Antiquity section of the National Museum.

More diggings revealed human sacrifices from the Viking Age. This was the first evidence of human sacrifices during the Viking age.

The Tissø excavations soon turned out to involve one of the largest Viking settlements in Northern Europe.

In the animation above, the National Museum shows us round the entire 50 hectare site.

Viking settlement in Northern Europe

Excavations were conducted every year at Tissø from 1995 to 2003. The result was an immense amount of discoveries.

“This is the best example if a Viking settlement we have in Northern Europe, primarily because it is so easy to dig,” says Jørgensen, who has been working intensively on the Tissø site.

Over the years more than 12,000 items have been found, and together they tell the story of a group of extremely wealthy men and women who inhabited the area for some 500 years between 550 and 1050 A.D.
But nothing beats the gold treasure that set it all going. Even today, the 30-centimetre diameter neck ring — better known as the ‘Tissø Ring’ — was the reserve of wealthy people.

In the Viking age, it was highly likely that a person had to be a member of the nobility to own such an extraordinary gold ring, and archaeologists have gradually become convinced that Tissø was the backdrop to a royal residence.
The aristocratic architecture of the buildings contributes to this assumption.

Sheds new light on similar finds

Two things make the Tissø excavations very special. One is that they have given archaeologists the opportunity to follow the comings and goings of a royal residence over a period of 500 years.

“The other interesting thing is that there is a wealth of ritual facilities, some of them in and around the chieftain’s residence, where we are certain that there are ritual buildings and sacrificial sites, and partly in the area as a whole, where there are several other ritual sites,” says Jørgensen.

This gold neck ring, weighing 1.8 kilos, was found on a field in Denmark in 1977. Made around the 11th century, it is some 30 centimeters in diameter. This amount of gold could buy 500 head of cattle in the Viking age. (Photo: Den Store Danske)

In 2011, archaeologists found a religious site at the highest point in the area. Here, the inhabitants ate ritual meals — and sacrificed jewelry and human bones.

For the first time, archaeologists are reasonably certain they have proof that written reports of human sacrifices in the Viking age are authentic enough. Until 2011, it had been doubted whether there had been human sacrifices during the Viking age — the fact that they went about sacrificing real living people doesn’t exactly add clout to the Vikings identity.
“But after Tissø we started taking a look at some of old finds of human bones at Viking sites,” explains Jørgensen.

Vikings sacrificed small children

This led to the resurrection of an old theory about some peculiar sites — which resembled wells — at Trelleborg, one of Denmark’s six ring castles from the Viking age.

When the wells were excavated in the 1930s, the archaeologist involved suggested that they might’ve been sacrificial wells. But the theory was ignored — at least until the finds at Tissø gave grounds to reconsider them.

In the wells they found bone remnants of five people — four of them were small children aged 4 to 7.

Child sacrifices were ‘the ultimate’

Jørgensen explains that the Vikings’ belief in the Nordic gods was significant in relation to practically every activity in life, its everyday aspects as well as aspects of it concerning warriors in battle.

This is why the Vikings often sacrificed jewellery, weapons, tools and even animals to the gods to gain their favours. But human sacrifices were probably something very special, says Jørgensen.

“They constituted the ultimate sacrifice, especially when children were involved — they only did anything like that if they wanted to re-establish connections to the gods when things had gone seriously awry,” he says.

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Read the original story in Danish on Videnskab.dk

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