E for All Strap-on / 3rd Space Gaming Vest

3rdspacevest

Immersion. We’ve all heard it at least 4 million times throughout our gaming careers. It’s the big buzz word game developers and gamers throw around like a cheerleader at a frat party. As the gaming generations march forward, making improvements in graphics, sound, AI and interaction, there’s a growing desire from both developers and players to make one feel more in-touch with the game world and its surroundings. TN Games have taken notice of this burning desire and are taking it to the next level with their 3rd Space Gaming Vest.

Strapping on the vest feels very much like preparing for a game of laser tag or a scene from those cool action movies you tried to mimic as a kid where Badass Soldier #1 makes inappropriate, but manly comment to Wimpy Soldier #2. There’s a sense of anticipation for awesome that’s a little tough to describe, but it put a silly little grin on my face and got me more than a little pumped.

While being suited up, I was given an explanation on the device’s workings. Using a small air-compressor — much, much different from rumble –, 8 air pockets (4 in the front, 4 in the back) will inflate/deflate depending on what’s going on in-game, such as firing a gun, falling, being shot and other sensations that I will touch on a little later. Strapped and ready, I was let loose on a game designed specifically to showcase these functions: Incursion.

Incursion — which comes with the vest, alongside Call of Duty 2 — is your standard “kill everything in your way until it is dead” FPS where you run around a Quake 2like environment, laying waste to mechanical abominations and generally ugly, badass things using shotguns, rocket launchers, lightning guns and more. It’s very familiar territory and FPS veterans will feel right at home with the gameplay, but with the vest attached to your person, it’s a new experience.

The nice thing about the feedback is it’s directional, so if you’re hit in the back, you feel it there; same goes for frontal assaults. This is especially helpful when you’re running through a heavily infested area, purely focused on what’s in front of you when all of a sudden you’re tagged in the back causing the pockets to inflate, creating a “punch” that physically lets you know to spin your ass around, right round, like a record, baby and smoke some bitches. Firing a weapon has the same effect and will adjust the intensity depending the weapon — I even pulled off a rocket jump that shook me to the core! Falling is especially cool because all the pockets in the vest constrict like you’ve tensed up and had the wind knocked out of you. It’s something you really need to experience first-hand to know why I was grinning and giggling.

The vest isn’t just about the FPS genre, even though it seems tailor-made. Throwing a bone to the non-FPS crowd, TN Games was demoing the vest with everyone’s favorite life waster: World of Warcraft. Now, I’m no fan of WoW, not even a little, but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to play around. The reason being what the vest does with the game’s magic sounds SO F***ING COOL! Let’s say someone casts a healing spell on you. The air pockets will react all around your body with a sensation similar to a massage — soft and gentle. On the flip side, if someone were to cast a spell that causes harm, you will get an intense and aggressive feeling swirling around your torso. That kind of stuff makes the kid in me run around the room, pull off cartwheels and yell incoherently.

From my time with the 3rd Space Gaming Vest I came away impressed. While its price point of $169.99 will probably keep away your average gamer, I think there’s a lot of potential for the hardcore looking to get a little extra from their games. Specifically, the vest coupled with the force feedback helmet (due in 2009) could be the next step for professional gamers and tournaments to really amp up competition. Currently around 20 high-profile PC titles are supported with more rolling in steadily and with a SDK readily available, indie devs have the ability to tinker with the tech. If you’re at all interested, be sure to hit up the TN Games website to see the full list and stare at purdy pictures of the pink vest. I really wish they had the pink one for me to wear on the show floor.

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