Programming for fun and profit

A blog about software engineering, programming languages and technical tinkering

Sun 12 June 2022

Eleven Table Tennis: A VR masterpiece

Posted by Simon Larsén in Blog   

As a software engineer, I sit and stand still for large chunks of the day. Unfortunately, I'm also a big fan of playing video games, which traditionally falls into the same category of physical exercise. Much to avoid repetitive stress injury and everything else that comes along with sitting at a computer day in and day out, I've in the past year started to devote more time to virtual reality (VR) gaming. In some VR games you actually get to move around, and I'm writing this article to fawn over my favorite experience yet: Eleven Table Tennis.

Table tennis is an excellent fit for VR

There are two things about table tennis that makes it very well suited to VR. First, the playing field is small enough that it can fit into a fair-sized living room. Granted, fitting a full-sized table tennis table into a smaller apartment can be somewhat inconvenient, but when playing in VR you actually only need the space for half of the table. That is not to say that I don't occasionally physically assault some furniture that was unfortunate enough to come in my way, but most of the time it works well even though my playing space is only roughly 2.5x2.5 meters.

Second, the real-life feedback of hitting a table tennis ball with a racket is rather realistically reproduced by a vibration in a motion controller. There's just not a lot of feedback from those tiny and hollow table tennis balls, so even though most motion controllers can't produce particularly strong vibrations, it's still enough. I've played both with a Valve Index and an Oculus Rift CV1, and both provide a perfectly serviceable experience.

Eleven Table Tennis delivers on that premise

So the actual game of table tennis is really well suited to a VR treatment. Eleven Table Tennis takes this premise and delivers an almost realistic physics engine that for the most part just feels right. Granted, there are the odd "wait, what?..." moments from time to time, and I especially feel like some serves can be delivered in a way that's not really possible in real life. But overall, it feels true to life.

While playing against bots in Eleven Table Tennis is a perfectly fine challenge, what really sets the game apart is a stellar online multiplayer. I jump into the game both in early mornings before work and in late evenings before bed, and it rarely takes me more than 30 seconds to find an opponent. While waiting, you can keep playing against the bots as well, so there's never an idle moment.

As icing on the cake, playing table tennis in VR is a really decent workout. I'm over the moon about how I can combine my love for video games with physical exercise. There are games that do that even better, such as Beat Saber, but I find the competitive nature of table tennis to be much more engaging and worthwhile.

If you're a VR fan and don't have this game yet, do yourself a favor and get it. Just ensure that you don't have any expensive furniture in your immediate play area.