What you will need
- Two Android smartphones (connected to the same WiFi network)
- Hardcode game downloaded onto both smartphones (it’s free from Google Play)
- Two Google Cardboard headsets (or similar VR headsets)
- Two pairs of earphones
- Two USB OTG cables + USB controllers (or Bluetooth gamepads)
Since the Google Cardboard 3D virtual reality glasses were first released in June 2014 I’ve been searching for a fun multiplayer game. Demoing the system to friends and family has been lots of fun, but I thought it would be even better if I could inhabit a virtual world with them at the same time. Some 18 months later I have finally found what I was looking for. The game is called Hardcode and I’m writing this guide to explain how get it up and running with suitable controls.
As you can imagine, the game requires a controller to enable you to move and shoot. The basic Google Cardboard system is weak in this area, you have head gestures and an unreliable magnetic switch. For any serious gaming it is clear that an additional control method is needed.
There are several Android compatible Bluetooth gamepads on the market costing up to £50 or more, these aren’t cheap and where there are budget options, the online reviews aren’t exactly positive. Thankfully there is a solution that’s both much cheaper and far more reliable.
We are going to connect old Xbox360 controllers that I have had for almost 9 years via USB. As you know smartphones do not come with standard USB ports, nor could they traditionally act as a ‘host’ to enable devices such as keyboards and mice to be connected. However, in recent years the USB OTG (‘On The Go’) standard has meant that combined with a small convertor to connect standard sized USB plugs to the small USB form factor used with modern smartphones this is now possible.
What’s even better is that these small cables are exceptionally cheap. I had been expecting a price of up to 20 euros and was pleased to be able to buy two for just 5 euros each from an otherwise expensive electronics store.
If you own an Xbox360 then for sure you have some old controllers that you have probably replaced with wireless models, well we can now put these antique devices to good use! Other USB game controllers will also work.
To play you should first connect the USB OTG cables to your smartphones, 99% of modern Android smartphones should be running a suitable version of Android. Connect the cables then connect the USB game controllers to the USB OTG cables. To test, move left and right on the game controller and look to see if the phone is moving between apps on your phone’s home screen. If you see a blue box surrounding the currently selected app then it is working.
Next, launch the Hardcode game, then carefully place your smartphone inside your Google Cardboard headset, additionally connect your earphones.
Hardcode will first ask you to press a button on your controller to confirm all is working okay, once you have done this you will arrive at the main menu. From here, select ‘Multiplayer’, then choose a level, in the version that I have there is currently only one multiplayer level available, but I’m sure more will be created in the future.
All being well if both players choose the same level and both are connected to the same WiFi network then both should appear together inside the level. Currently Hardcode supports a straightforward deathmatch mode, where the object of the game is to kill your opponent more times than they kill you.
You will notice that the game is played from a 3rd person rather than a 1st person point of view. This might seem disappointing at first, but fear not, after a while it quickly becomes obvious that not only is this by far the most comfortable viewing method, it also doesn’t take away from the game play at all.
According to the developer of the game, when this sort of game is played in first-person mode the fact you move with the game controller rather than actually walking forward and backwards very quickly leads to nausea. This makes a lot of sense, a key issue that these VR headsets all share is how to enable somebody to traverse a large 3D world without actually moving in real life.
Tracking real physical movements is possible, but would mean the person would need to be standing in a sufficiently large room as to not to bump into anything when roaming around. Most VR experiences will take place at home, either next to the computer or in the middle of the lounge, therefore mapping walking to actual physical movements isn’t feasible.
Thankfully people are used to moving around 3D games using game controllers, and this seemingly works fine as long as the person is given the sensation that they are moving an object seen in the simulation, rather than themselves. Another solution that some games use is to put the player in a moving object, such as a car. I think the viewpoint that the developer of Hardcode has chosen works extremely well for entirely free roaming games such as this.
As I said I spent 18 months looking for an experience like this for the Google Cardboard. Finally I’ve found what I believe to be a really fun ‘Goldeneye’ style shooter which not only has a fun single player mode, but is utterly superb in multiplayer.
I don’t know what plans the developer has for the future of the game, but I’m sure they’ll go on to add many more multiplayer levels and single player missions.
Hardcode can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store. USB OTG cables are available from any good electronics store, as are USB game controllers. Google Cardboard compatible headsets are widely available online and also in electronics stores.
Please let me know if you discover any other Cardboard games that have a fun multiplayer component.