Sat. Feb 4th, 2023
How can billiards work in VR?  PoolNation has an answer

Sam Machkovech

The exercise sports craze has given us approaches to just about every café game, parlor game and lawn sport, from darts to bowling to bocce. But one Western real-gaming staple somehow never got a proper version during the Wii and Kinect eras: billiards. Wii game‘s billiards mode was too limited, while Pool Hall Pro was not very convincing in terms of implementing real movement. But how the hell do you translate the physicality of billiards into a home system?

Pool Nation VR has an answer, and it comes thanks to the required use of the HTC Vive virtual reality system, as opposed to Oculus or any other option. The $20 game will officially launch on June 1, but the makers were kind enough to offer Ars a beta key and free play to post impressions ahead of launch. So I set up a camera setup, dressed in my orange, Fight clubcaliber leather jacket (I never leave the house with that thing on, swear), and cracked open a cold one to recreate the billiard room experience in my living room. (Watch until the end to see how I ‘pick a fight’.)

Ars tests PoolNation VR; edited by Jennifer Hahn

This video specifically shows you how Pool Nation VR is about your inability to lean on a table and physically line up pictures. Basically, you use both hands to get your stick into position, then hold down the trigger button on your aiming hand to lock the position and angle of your stick. A red aiming dot and optional ‘ghost’ reticle help you line up where the ball is going and whatever English you want to put on your shot.

The main problem right now is the blurriness of the Vive screens. Pool is one of those games where squinting and lining up your shot is essential. Any lack of detail makes it more difficult to determine angles and other geometric considerations before cracking a cue ball. You can walk around (and even through) Pool Nation VR‘s charts to estimate your shot and use your stick to figure out good angles, but once you’re behind the ball and aiming, the blur makes it a little too tricky to tell which angle you’re going to hit. So the current game’s ghost-ball boost is damn near essential.

If that feels like cheating to you, you’re not going to have a great time with this VR game. We also hope Pool Nation VR soon adds some pass-and-play options for local multiplayer. Currently you can only play against other people online. Those issues are a small price to pay for what otherwise adds more physicality and real-life flavor to pool than any video game version I’ve ever seen, and it’s worth noting that an $800 VR system pales in comparison to a real pool table, both in terms of cost and how much space it takes up in a home in real life. That financial consideration can help you handle the cost of a VR system more easily.

By akfire1

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