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We played Minecraft in VR with the Oculus Rift

Although the Xbox does not have a virtual reality solution to combat that of the upcoming PlayStation VR (a PlayStation 4 accessory), Microsoft does have a partnership with Oculus, the makers of the $600 Oculus Rift headset. The Oculus Rift will include an Xbox One controller as a pack-in, but the partnership goes farther than that. At least one Microsoft PC game will support the Oculus Rift: Minecraft.

At the Xbox Spring Showcase, Microsoft revealed Oculus Rift VR support will be coming to Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta. The virtual reality headset will allow players to build and fully explore their own virtual Minecraft worlds. We played through a guided Minecraft VR demo and came away impressed. Read on for all the details!

Slipping on the Oculus Rift

Paul Acevedo Oculus Rift VR headset

Paul Acevedo rocks the Oculus Rift at the Xbox One Spring Showcase

Before the Xbox Spring Showcase, I had only used the developer version of the Oculus Rift. The finalized headset includes a number of refinements, including additional straps to perfect the headset's fit. As a glasses wearer, slipping on the Oculus Rift still feels a bit unwieldy, but not impossible.

The headset's display was out of focus at first scratch. I hadn't even considered that focus might be an issue with VR headsets, but there you go. To solve the problem, we tightened up the headset, bringing the display closer to my glasses and eyes. After that, the display looked great and fully encompassed my field of vision. I experienced no fatigue during or after the demo.

Minecraft in VR

Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta Oculus screen

The Oculus version of Minecraft will support two distinct VR modes: Theater and VR (our terms for them).

In Theater mode, players will experience Minecraft from within a virtual living room. Inside this room, a big-screen TV shows the standard Minecraft game so many people know and love. The room itself is rendered in the blocky Minecraft art style. Tilting your head in any direction changes your view of the room and TV, just like in real life. Theater-mode is a relaxing way to play Minecraft, though nothing revolutionary.

VR mode is where things really become exciting. The game takes up your entire view, with your head controlling the position of the camera. Look up, down, beside, or behind you and you'll find nothing but Minecraft as far as the eye can see.

Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta Oculus screen

It's incredibly immersive and adds a sense of scale you'll never get from vanilla Minecraft. Castles, mountains, everything – these vast structures surround and engulf the player. And enemies like skeletons look huge when they're actually rendered to be as tall as you are!

To make interacting with Minecraft's virtual world easier, a crosshair rests directly in the center of the player's vision. Point your head at the object you want to pick up, chop down, attack, etc. and press a button on the Xbox One controller to do so. It feels more like you're really there, having to look directly at the things you touch.

Camera control isn't perfect in Minecraft VR just yet, though. On a regular controller, you hold the right analog stick to turn your character around. Wearing the Oculus, your head only controls the in-game character's head – not the position of his or her body. You wouldn't want to physically turn your body 180 degrees just to turn around in-game, for instance – not while holding a controller, anyway.

Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta Oculus screen

Microsoft and Mojang's current solution is to map turning to flicks of the right analog stick. Tap it and it changes the angle that your virtual dude or dudette faces, without having to physically shift your body. Anyone used to fully controlling the orientation of a character with the right analog stick or mouse will require some adjustment.

That one aspect of having to flick the stick to turn is the only less-than-amazing thing I saw when playing Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta with the Oculus Rift headset. The demo focused on the sheer size of the environments, melee and bow-and-arrow combat, virtual mine cart rides, and more. Mine carts are very well suited for VR since you don't need to worry about turning. You can just relax and take in the blocky vistas.

Virtual Reality impending

Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta Oculus screen

Microsoft promised that Oculus Rift players will be able to play with existing Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta players. You can join a regular PC player's game and experience that world in full-scale VR without issue. For dedicated Minecraft players with the hardware and finances required to pick up the Oculus Rift, Minecraft VR will bring a whole new life to the game.

According to Microsoft, Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition with Oculus Rift support will be available through both the Windows and Oculus Stores this Spring. The VR feature will come via a free update for all Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition Beta owners. We'll have more details in the weeks to come!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

37 Comments
  • Can VR really be a game changer??
  • As long as it is comfortable to wear and doesn't strain the eyes after long sessions, I think so. Same goes for HoloLens. Both could be game changers if they can be used....
  • Less so for the HoloLens I think. It's creative, but I don't think it can really succeed in gaming for anything more than casual games.
  • I disagree. It would be awesome to have the HUD shown through HoloLens where you want it to sit, then it is nothing but game on screen. Another awesome use case is streaming to it from a pc/xbox and using HoloLens to display the stream. I could probably go on all day about the gaming possibilities.
  • Yeah, true, as a supplement to current games it could work as an alternative display. But dedicated holographic gaming - while not necessarily bad - has limited potential.
  • VR 1st person shooters 1st person roleplaying 1st person sims (driving/space/flight) 3rd person using 1st person perspective (ex. deadspace, gears & tombraider)   AR Strategy Isometric roleplaying Moba Sports 3rd person driving 3D Platform Fantasy Card Fighting   Actually once the FOV issues are worked out, I think AR is a more natural fit for more game categories than VR      
  • Why not. Needs to be affordable and work without cumbersome PC requirements. Like what Sony is promising.
  • Sony VR still need PS4 to work. It does not work independently.
  • I think Vhyr is saying that you shouldn't need an expensive PC to use the Oculus Rift.
  • If you want quality you need to pay for quality. No idea why people are expecting this to work on Chromebooks.  
  • There's a middle ground between the extremes. I think the people with mid-range notebooks are the ones who really lose out, since notebooks just don't have the upgrade options of desktops.
  • Rift/Vive will also works with a PC with the same low end specs as PS4 and you would still have the same exprience as on PS4. Its not that Rift/Vive will stop working when you couple them with a low end PC.
  • Are you sure? The Oculus Rift's minimum specs are more powerful than that of a PS4. PS VR supposedly includes an extra processing unit to help the PS4 handle the VR experience.
  • No it's just a different POV
  • Don't knock it till you try it.
  • I want VR for other purposes if you know what I mean. :P
  • No Iccy, please explain further!
  • As much as I don't like Minecraft, I might give this a look if I get a VR headset soon.
  • ....will it work the Vive? I am almost considering changing camps....
  • That's a possibility, but it sounded more like exclusive Oculus support.
  • Even if the current demo is on Oculus Rift, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t compatible with other VR headsets later.
    The fact is Microsoft has a commercial partnership with Oculus, but also made it clear they want Windows to support VR headsets as a standardized peripheral category, unifying the way we display content and track the user’s position. (http://www.windowscentral.com/windows-10-will-natively-support-vr-headsets-and-unified-tracking-across-many-products) This and the fact that Minecraft Windows 10 Edition is a Universal Windows App, they are very likely working on exposing VR headsets through UWP, maybe even unifying some common API between VR and AR, as rendering and head tracking can be identical on both and already developed as part of Windows Holographic for HoloLens apps. I expect VR headsets to have a new class of drivers, something like VR display+sensors and be exposed through something like “DirectVR” as a new piece of DirectX that adds fast access to user’s camera coordinates+direction prediction.
    The only piece that is really specific to AR over VR is the environment scanning (to generate AR real-world-mesh).
  • Didn't want a rift at first but this and a few other games made me want one and will probably eventually get one.
  • Awesome! Fianlly a game that I'd like to play in VR (also the VR capable PC is perfectly fine with my 4K TV).
  • Sounds nice, though personally I think this kind of game works better with the HoloLens. I think I'd like the Hololens more in general. VR needs a killer app. But it can't be just a conversion of an existing game, or a game created with the same mindset as current AAA games.
  • The Hololens is cool, but I don't see how anyone could find that implementation more compelling than this one. Minecraft's Hololens support is something you'd use to impress friends more than you would to improve your Minecraft experience.
  • Until we all use it, hard to say. But from the demos we saw. HoloLens Minecraft looked amazing and probably more my preference than VR. But again, it may be crap for all I know.
  • The FOV of VR is better than Holo, which means anything "1st person fantasy" will be more immersive with VR.   I've done the demo with Holo.  Anything 3rd person will to totally awesome.  By 3rd person, I mean playing minecraft on your dining room table.  Anything 1st person will need to address the lack of FOV.
  • Hololens seems more third person, while Oculus VR is first person perspective.
  • I agree Paul.  When I first saw Hololens' version of Minecraft, I immediately wondered how you can create infinite or very deep depth if it is somewhat based on items in your room.  
  • exciting for a fan of minecraft like me. I play on xbox , pc 2 ways. not as much mobile.  but this does make it intresting. i will keep my eyes on this. Paul I have glasses too. ugg.
  • Here I am hoping that I won't hurl when I use it. I see other people use it and their body was like, nope.
  • This would be at least fun to try! Could be scary
  • How about they just pair this up with a Kinect unit and ditch the controller. Seems like a perfect match.
  • Kinect is rad, but you still need physical buttons and a stick for precision controls. If they let us combine all those things with Minecraft VR, it'd be perfect.
  • This sounds pretty cool and I like Minecraft, but I don't know how I feel about VR yet. I'd really like to try it out for myself and see what it's like.
  • Wow, that was quite an interesting article for someone who doesn’t know much about Oculus Rift, also was checking out the HTC Vive earlier and the prices are a little high, compared to this, I think Xbox/Microsoft are doing the right thing here and cementing themselves with a VR headset which can compete until they can get the HoloLens more mainstream, affordable and improved technology, Oculus Rift is a good start. I know they are two different guises AR & VR, but still it’s nice to have them involved in both worlds, and maybe keep the excitement around the HoloLens. I’d like to see you write a review of the HoloLens, that seems like a much more interesting device if they can in fact get it to do what they have shown in promotional videos!!!
  • This looks really cool!