March 18, 2016
'Star Wars' Lightsaber Hits Virtual Reality, And The Force Is Strong With It

The Star Wars lightsaber is one of the most sought-after weapons in movie history. There is proof of it all over YouTube, even in a video featuring cats fighting with the iconic swords George Lucas helped bring to life.

We were first introduced to probably the most dangerous weapons ever conceived outside firearms and bombs when Luke Skywalker was given his first lightsaber aboard the Millennium Falcon. He swished it around a few times as Obi-Wan told him it was the weapon of a Jedi knight. Eventually, the elderly Jedi master fell to Darth Vader's lightsaber, and the legend (like the circle) was complete.


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The fight scene in The Empire Strikes Back between Luke and Vader proved beyond a doubt that the Star Wars lightsaber was something every fan wanted. To this day, we have yet to accurately make such a thing, although some scientists have come close.

Thanks to the latest evolution in gaming, we may be closer than we thought to actually wielding the Star Wars lightsaber. Using the HTC Vive, a pricey PC peripheral which supports only the latest high-end systems (sorry, console gamers), Valve's Star Wars: Trials on Tattooine gives gamers the next best thing. You can use a virtual lightsaber in a fight against storm troopers.

The game begins with the classic text crawl to get you in the Star Wars mood, and as Adam Rosenberg says on Mashable, the story doesn't really mean much. When the text is done, you find yourself standing on Luke and Anakin's home planet, just looking around. Eventually, you hear a set of familiar engines, and the Millennium Falcon flies in, landing close as Han Solo greets you. You are a padawan, a part of Luke Skywalker's Jedi Order, and you are on a mission.

That mission suddenly becomes more interesting as two TIE fighters fly by and fire at Han's ship. You are suddenly thrust into the job of fixing the Millennium Falcon as Han tells you what to do. No sooner do you complete this than an Imperial shuttle lands nearby and a squad of stormtroopers emerge.

This is where you get your chance to wield the Star Wars lightsaber, as you attempt to deflect fire back at them. As expected in a real-life scenario, this is trickier than you are probably prepared for. The movies made it look easy. Thankfully, the Vive VR headset works much more accurately than previous attempts at motion tracking technology.

You might remember the Wii, Nintendo's attempt at literally putting weapons, fishing rods, magical wands, and other things directly in your hand. It didn't work as well as expected. Microsoft's Kinect has been through two phases, and neither works as well as it should. In both cases, you will probably end up just waving your hand around and waiting for the game to acknowledge it.

Of course, both the Kinect and the Wii were improvements over much older attempts at motion control. There were probably plans to use the Power Glove and the U-Force, both failed peripherals for the Nintendo Entertainment System, but neither would have given the Star Wars lightsaber a chance to really shine.

For now, Star Wars: Trials on Tattooine is just a demo having been revealed at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. When it is released, though, you will finally be given the next best thing to a Star Wars lightsaber.

[Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images for AWXII]