PC VR, The Future is Here!

I’ve been somewhat of a (PC) VR fanboy for the past year or four and I can’t help but share that with everyone. I can’t get you up to speed with EVERYTHING ever released since 2015 which marked the debut of modern VR but here’s some basic information to get you started, starting from the currently relevant hardware manufacturers (in the PC space which is my primary interest, PSVR is cool for what it is but could have been so much more if they didn’t retrofit the lacking Move technology for it)! Anyway, here goes.

Valve with their Index stuff, lighthouse base stations (impeccable room scale/controller tracking), high quality HMD (what you stick your head in), and superb controllers with touch and force sensing. You may mix and match the components of other companies utilizing the lighthouse system.


Oculus with their Rift line of products, initially the Rift which used external cameras for the tracking and now the Rift S and stand-alone Quest which use multiple cameras mounted on the HMD for tracking and, before Index came along, the best VR controllers yet (which have proven very forward compatible).

HTC with the Vive line ranging from the basic to the Pro Eye. Their older stuff use Valve’s lighthouse system (v1.0, compatible with 2.0) but basic wand controllers. The newer Cosmos and Focus are VERY Rift S/Quest esque but so far unable to provide equally high quality tracking.

Various companies as part of Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality initiative offer products similar to the Rift S, all using the same HMD mounted 2-camera tracking and Microsoft’s own controller. Again, not as capable in tracking yet potentially cheaper or with a better HMD, it all varies.

Pimax which aims to offer super high resolution and high field of view HMDs, as well as now working on their own Index-like controllers. They can use Valve’s lighthouse tracking solution also.

Many more companies offer products for specific niches, like super high resolution HMD with XTAL or all kinds of location based VR solutions, or advancements in specific fields like light fields, hand or body tracking, body suits with force feedback, or essentially whatever else you can think of.

Games and software are on a variety of stores like Valve’s Steam which (generally) any PC VR hardware can use via SteamVR/OpenVR, HTC’s Viveport which is becoming platform-agnostic itself, and the Oculus Store which only (officially) works for Oculus hardware (there are fan made ways though, like Revive).

Here are some of the VR focused (or at least heavily dabbling in VR) websites and channels I check:






https://www.roadtovr.com/
https://uploadvr.com/
https://vrscout.com/
https://www.vrfocus.com/
https://vrgamecritic.com/

General gaming media sadly seem to only post about VR in a clickbaity or very surface level manner, often ignoring major breakthroughs, news, products and publicizing (or advertising) the worst of it, similar to how some random newspaper’s ignorant tech column’s gaming talk can easily make you cringe.

Here are some random (ish) videos showing off a glimpse of the gameplay possibilities in virtual reality.











The last explains basic methods of locomotion in 3D space in VR though it’s quite old and misses some.

Personally when I’m asked about the hardware I tell people that if they have the money to burn Index is the best and a premium product (there were kinks with the Index controllers but Valve has been quick to replace them for those affected as far as I know), if they can afford half that or less then the Oculus Rift S or the Oculus Quest (now that it too can connect to PC, though it’s not as comfortable, its portability and stand alone aspects can push you toward it) offer the best price/performance/quality ratio, and if they’re strapped for cash then a Windows Mixed Reality kit makes some hefty compromises in the range of the hand tracking but is still good enough for most games and you can often find formerly premium products like the Samsung Odyssey heavily discounted depending on your region. Folks still need to ensure any of this will work for them first given aspects like pupilary distance they all handle differently of course.

I myself have an Oculus Rift (not S) with 3 trackers for 360 degree somewhat room scale VR (mostly just standing, my play area is small) and don’t yet see a reason to upgrade, it’s not obsolete until we can get vastly better controllers, resolution and new features like eye tracking for an equally modest price if you ask me. The only older hardware I find truly obsolete are the Vive wand controllers as they weren’t the most well thought out design in terms of inputs, but people with a Vive can upgrade to the Index controllers (which are quite costly) without replacing the rest of their gear so they’re basically all set too.

Moving past all this, the game I’m currently playing the most is The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners. It’s not a game without flaws but it gets so many things right. It’s neither a tech demo, nor a lousy excuse for a physics sandbox like other recently hyped releases and shows some actual game design know-how. Outside of a few mistakes that the developers have been quick to start addressing, it’s been a great immersive sim-esque experience that shows game design knowledge accumulated over the past decades of 3D gaming can apply in VR despite the different interface as it alone doesn’t make for good, fun games.



Feel free to look up these other great games I tend to recommend to new or not so new users. Some of them can be seen in videos in the original post but most you’ll have to search on Steam or Oculus Store. Of course it’s impossible to convey the feel of VR in footage, some cool mixed reality clips do try though.

And here is a preliminary, not necessarily updated with all the latest things (so, just participate in the thread, duh) list of VR games I can basically recommend, obviously always depending on your preferences:

TWD: Saints & Sinners is a sweet immersive sim-lite with great action and resource management.

Budget Cuts is a stealth puzzle adventure with nicely integrated teleport mechanics and a new sequel.

Apex Construct is a sci fi action adventure game with archery systems at its core.

Stormland is an open world shooter, more limited than it seems at first but still fun as hell.

The Thrill of the Fight is a boxing sim, if less fancy than the gamey Creed and its Rocky license.

Journey of the Gods is a Zelda-lite linear action adventure that’s simple but polished and works well.

Pistol Whip is the new kid on the rhythm game block, I love it like it’s a funky musical Virtua Cop-like.

Drop Dead is a fun riff on The House of the Dead, not nearly as tight but maybe the best in VR.

In Death is an archery based rogue-lite I spent many hours in early on despite the limited scope.

SUPERHOT VR is a puzzle action shooter with cool slow motion mechanics. Be like Neo!

Racket Fury is a very polished table tennis game, the realism was surreal at first despite the sci fi.

Catch & Release is a fishing game. Who doesn’t like fishing? I want Twilight Princess fishing in VR now.

Moss is a third person action adventure, you lead a sword wielding mouse as if in a diorama of a fairy tale.

Space Junkies is a PVP zero gravity arena FPS, like Quake in space, great for some instant action.

Ultrawings is a flight game, not quite a sim, maybe a bit like pilot wings, goals and stuff to get through.

Windlands 2 is an action adventure with not-web-swinging and archery, it’s also co-op capable.

Vox Machinae is a PVP mech combat game with awesome cockpits.

Raw Data is probably the best of the arena/wave shooters with different classes, progression & co-op.

Onward is my favorite “standard” FPS, PVP focused, some co-op & the best feel for weapons/gadgets.

Lone Echo is a must play astronaut adventure, the free PVP Echo VR and its $10 Combat DLC rock too.

Red Matter is another sci fi adventure with a different spin than the above and great interactions.

Blade & Sorcery has the best physics based melee combat but doesn’t yet have progression etc.

V-Racer Hoverbike is a cool futuristic racer where you can lean to realistically control your jet moto thing.

There are many great early access games too, I like where Vengeful Rites is going as a VR RPG action adventure with sword wielding, spell casting, the works and there’s also the free-for-now A Township Tale alpha to try for some online rpging/surviving/crafting alongside social playgrounds like Rec Room , VRChat , even Bigscreen . VTOL VR is a great indie combat flight sim with wonderfully interactive cockpits. There are also ports of non-VR games or games that are both for VR and regular play, which are done very well, as long as you like the base games. Titles like Skyrim VR , No Man’s Sky , DCS , Elite Dangerous , DiRT Rally 1 & 2, PayDay 2 , IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad and others were converted very well. Some like Fallout 4 VR weren’t as successful however so some caution is necessary before purchase. Others have been converted by fan modifications, MotherVR is a great mod for Alien Isolation , without hand tracking, while the same creator is working on ReclaimerVR, a mod for Halo: The Master Chief Collection that will include that and another guy works on an Outer Wilds mod with hand tracking as well.

There are also mods for classic FPS like Doom (up to 3) and a ton more stuff including fan games like Project Stardust (knock on wood for none of them to get C&D, hehe).



All that before even getting to apps like VorpX which convert almost any non VR game to VR, either in cinema modes, with or without stereoscopic 3D, or with true headtracking capabilities (but retaining their non VR control schemes). It’s not quite my thing, if there are no hand interactions I don’t see much point in VR with the exception of vehicular cockpit based games. I’ve not invested in VorpX for that reason and prefer fan mods that enhance games more thoroughly as proper VR adaptations. EmuVR is the exception and only for its lightgun support. There’s also 3dSen VR which weirdly converts NES games to both 3D and VR but again it’s not for me. The point is, there are basically no limits to what people do with VR.

I’ve been obsessed with VR for the past couple of years as well. I’ve played some great PC games as well as Gamecube, Wii and N64 games in Full VR, using the Dolphin VR emulator. I’ve also used a separate program called VorpX to play many non-VR games in VR like:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Half-Life 2

I’ve also been using Virtual Desktop found in the Oculus and Vive store along with a program called ReShade to play many older games in VR/3D using various emulators like: Wii U, PS2, PlayStation, Saturn and N64. I’ve palyed all of the Panzer Dragoon games in 3D using my Oculus headset. Here is my setup guide for ReShade:

And some of the best Oculus games I’ve played from the Oculus store:

Windlands 2
Rez Infinite
Lone Echo
The Gallery Series
The Mage’s Tale
Twilight Path
Super Hot VR
Vanishing Realms
Eclipse: Edge of Light
Doctor Who the Edge of Time
Vader Immortal Episodes 1, 2 and 3

But best of all, I’ve been religiously playing Wii, Gamecube, and N64 games in full VR using an emulator called Dolphin VR. Here is my setup guide:

Here is an example showing Skies of Arcadia:

Can’t wait, gonna be so good.


You can reserve it on steam right now to get 10% off!

Apparently the game being announced caused a considerable increase in sales of the Valve Index . It seems like this game is already a system seller, something VR in general is in need off. I still only have a PS VR but Sony’s headset is in need of an upgrade on the PS5 if it wants to stay in the competition.

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Recent cool/ish stuff (I maintain the PC VR thread on gaf - it’s a $hithole, I just want to promote VR - if you care to stay up to date daily, I also post everything in the VR thread on metacouncil though I didn’t start it).























BBC Half-Life Alyx coverage.

Uuurrrgh it looks so great but at the same time I just can’t justify VR for it.



















My impressions for Alyx, I’m nearing the end while taking it slow. I have to say I do have a few minor complaints compared to other VR games I enjoyed. It kind of shows that the game and/or its technology have been in development for a long time as some design decisions have that “early VR software” feel. They’ve done a good job adapting the systems to contemporary VR methods but there are still traces of how it wasn’t originally meant to be that intense/free in locomotion options and what not.

There are for example a couple instances per level, more on some, where even though you’re using free locomotion pressing forward will just teleport you through the obstacle/situation with a fade out/fade in and accompanying sound effect of the action you didn’t really do/see. That only happens rarely and in all other cases they’ve adapted the game to free locomotion very well, you can vault over stuff, crouch under obstacles and drop off ledges seamlessly. Jumping across gaps however can also only be done with a teleportation interface and that’s just weird as some sections do have a bit of platforming to them. If they feared the abuse of a physical jump they could have done it Zelda style or something, pressing forward where you need it and unable to do it at will at any other time. There are also invisible walls to stop you from falling off some ledges and stuff, that’s also just weird, it rarely restricts you from going to places you think you should be able to but it’s still weird it doesn’t just let you naturally fall to your death.

The above obviously mostly doesn’t really apply if you’re among the people that get motion sickness in VR and therefor always resort to using the teleportation based locomotion options, those are consistent.

Besides that the guns and tools are attached to your hand rather than physically held with an active input so that they drop if you let go like other objects do. It’s a pure old school inventory system where you hold a button to bring up the wheel with the guns/tools then hover your hand over the one you want and release the button to have it attached to your hand. A quick press will toggle between a free hand and the last thing you were holding a la MGS. That’s contrary to most other modern VR FPS where you can conveniently attach things to various slots on your body (even if it’s invisible in some of them, or optional) and your guns behave just like other objects, being able to let go or toss them or whatever which makes it feel more immersing and physical. The backpack for storing stuff and grabbing ammo to reload with works well.

Edit: the above also means you can’t switch hands on the fly, you have to choose the dominant hand that will be handling the tool/guns from the settings menu/when first starting the game. Also the vaulting over is very gamey, you just press the right stick forward to match your left stick while walking against the object you want to climb, not physically do anything as in other games where you grab and push against the environment for similar actions. All the actual interactions with stuff/puzzles/objects are fairly well done.

Finally, this is Oculus (and potentially similarly non-Index) specific but once again the default hand pose is a very flat open palm hand, so at your normal resting position where you have your fingers around the controller and your index finger resting on (but not pressing in) the index trigger, it gets a very unnatural default pose where your last 3 fingers are open/flat (as you don’t press the grip trigger with your middle finger unless you want to grab something), your thumb is appropriately tracked by which input it’s resting on (or do a thumbs up if it’s on nothing) and the index finger is sadly constantly curled in way too much because the trigger it’s resting on is touch sensitive and they’ve somehow decided to use it as a full trigger pull input. That just looks off and like your natural resting pose is almost a constant “ok” signal or something. You get over it and personally I now will myself to not touch the index finger trigger at all when not actually using it but yeah, it could be handled better so it only bends the index finger if you’re actually pressing it in and maybe have all the fingers a little bit bent in more naturally as the default. For an Index-first game with all its finger tracking and all that jazz, it’s okay and doesn’t negatively affect playability.

Still, it’s the most polished single player story based VR FPS/adventure and just like you’d expect a Half-Life game to be in VR with all that entails like amazing vistas, cool scripted sequences, NPCs and interactions, great atmosphere and intense combat (and loading screens). There’s the occasional glitch as I fell through the floor twice and noticed other physics bork and the occasional less well designed spot as I sort of missed a brief supposed to be impressive/surprising boss activation event because I was busy looking around as the area’s visual design and layout didn’t divert my gaze where it should have.

So yeah, it’s overall a great Half-Life game but if it could get the VR basics more like Onward and other more intuitive and physical shooters that would make it perfect. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners gets very close to being this but maintains some Boneworks-like jank (not nearly as much, it’s awesome) and doesn’t have the high production values Valve could afford here. I’m still really glad it reviews so well, the ~15k user reviews on Steam are 98% positive and the critic review aggregators pin it at over 90% too.

The game also sports a seated and an one-handed mode, it’s very nice of them to be inclusive like this.



Just beat Alyx today! Great game!

Cons:

What I didn’t like was the locomotion options. Why not just have an option to run forward instead of slowly walking everywhere? It felt like I had weights inside my pockets the entire game. Sure, I could just teleport everywhere, but that feels un-natural. Maybe a patch can add a full on run option in the future?

I also had various times where my left hand would completely disappear. This happened to me 3 times throughout my 20 hour playthrough. I had to completely reset the game.

Pros:

Best VR shooter hands down: Story, gameplay and atmosphere are top notch. Shooting the 3 weapons feels intuitive and like you are handling a gun in real life. Little touches like having to load in a clip and pull back the gun make it feel even more exciting as you get caught in tough situations! The Chapter called Jeff, was fantastic, as it made you hide from a monster while you cover your mouth; trying not to make noise or get caught!

Voice acting is all high caliber and nothing feels forced. The story is what you would expect from a Half Life game and gets the job done. In the end this VR game is worth your time and a showcase of what VR can truly do. A few tweaks here and there and this will be the standard for what all VR shooters use as their blueprint!