I finally had the opportunity to try out The Void’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. I had last experienced The Void’s technology at their Ghostbusters:Dimension experience in New York City back in the summer of 2016. They have come an amazingly long way since then.
Back then, the tracking system relied on Optitrack marker balls, several of which had broken off of my equipment. Tracking was squirrely and the hacked-DK2 HMD felt fragile. There was a ton of latency in the audio causing an uncomfortable echo when speaking. Framerate was all over the place, perhaps because the backpack PC was getting too hot. I left Ghostbusters feeling pretty underwhelmed.
Secrets of the Empire is far more polished. All of the tracking markers are integrated and invisible now. The HMD appears to use the same lenses as Oculus CV1 but the screen was noticeably sharper. Perhaps there was a lot of supersampling in the setup screen, or more likely The Void replaced the Rift’s display with a higher resolution panel. The closest analog in my experience was the Samsung Odyssey, which has the new 1440×1600 per eye resolution that the Vive Pro is getting.
The setup now supports hand tracking via a leap motion buried in the front of the headset. This worked great from a first-person perspective, because when you looked at your hands they always did what you expected. However, when you looked at your fellow rebel commandos, their arms were usually resting by their side even when they were moving their hands in real life, because they had exceeded the Leap Motion’s field of view. Still, it was a good, effective solution. I’ve long been skeptical about Leap Motion hand tracking, because without the feedback you get from tracked controllers, it’s very hard to interact with virtual objects and controls. You need some haptics, something to physically actuate to indicate your intention of providing input. You get that in The Void, because when you see a lever to pull, a button to press, or a blaster to pick up, a corresponding physical prop is available for you to grab. So you get something that goes even beyond haptics and it makes Leap Motion a great tracking solution. It’s no wonder that the company is now focused on selling to high end location based operators like The Void.
After a very cool approach sequence where you sneak into Darth Vader’s fortress on Mustafar with the help of Cassian Andor and K-2SO, the experience is mostly a shooting gallery. The stormtroopers are much better shots than usual, mostly so The Void can show off its haptic feedback trick that buzzes you at the place on your body that accidentally catches a laser bolt. Luckily, unlike the stormtroopers with their useless armor you are invincible, so a few blaster bolts to the torso didn’t slow any of us down. The blasters themselves were disappointing. They don’t autofire and squeezing off hundreds of shots with the spongy plastic trigger was not satisfying and made my hand ache. They are very lightweight and don’t give much in the way of haptic feedback. Eventually BEGIN SPOILER you encounter Darth Vader, which is just about as thrilling and terrifying as the fight sequence where he wipes out the rebels at the end of Rogue One, and I believe that sequence really makes the entire experience worthwhile. END SPOILER
At the end of the day I thought it was well worth the $30. Everybody agreed that they wished it had been longer and I have heard some people say it was not worth the money. However, I was not disappointed and felt it was good value for money. It certainly is a big improvement over Ghostbusters, which cost $50 at the time (although that included access to a very well done Ghostbusters-themed area of Madame Tussaud’s). The experience is more impressive than anything else you can experience at the Disney Resort in Anaheim, and you can see why Disney thought it would be wise to hedge their bets and invest in The Void.