Category Archives: Virtual Reality

Beat Saber Fully Released on Oculus

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I didn’t intend to be on hiatus like that.  This might be a bit of a stream of consciousness post, as I am reading and looking up things as I write, and don’t plan on going back and making the earlier portions more concise/accurate/up-to-date.  Beat Saber has finally gotten to version 1.0, and is out of Early Access!  I am cautiously excited.

Sadly, as in previous updates for Beat Saber, the updates are still not working correctly.  I had to completely uninstall the game, and reinstall it.

This version apparently comes with a built in tool for customizing levels.  I’ve only messed with it slightly, and I’ve come across a few concerns already.

The level editor is accessed from within the game, rather than as a program you can access externally.  However, as soon as you open it, it tells you to take the headset off and use the program on your monitor.  That’s not an efficient design.

I’m gonna have to try again, but so far I don’t see a tutorial for it.  I would think I’d be able to add in my own music to make brand new levels for myself, but I don’t know how to do that yet.  I’ll have to update this once I’ve had a chance to learn the system.

So, here goes.  I’m watching a video on how to use the level editor (here for reference).

Apparently my first mistake is that I don’t have my music converted into a .wav or .ogg format.  Great, I’ve gotta convert the music files, and can’t pull them straight in.  Strike 1 for this editor.

I’d prefer if this thing had a kind of automatic pregeneration option, that would at the very least mark beat locations in a track for you to add the boxes to, and then you add your own customization on top of that.  This appears to be completely manual.

At least the visualization of the sound wave on the left makes it easier to see what is going on, and they have a reference line across the screen that helps you line things up.

After watching this a while, I get the feeling I’m not going to make many if ANY levels in Beat Saber.  This is a tedious and time-intensive process, without any real aide from the software.  It seems like a decent tool, but I was hoping for some sort of algorithm to help with generation, and being able to switch to an advanced mode IF I wanted to customize to an extreme degree off of the preselected beats.

Update:

At time of writing, just finished another Beat Saber workout.  I hadn’t played lately, but I was still able to finish the campaign!  Go figure that the last mission has a minimum requirement of bad cuts.  Those kinda suck.  Now that I’ve beat the campaign, I guess it’s back to trying to get the new songs up to faster speed on Expert level.

Beat Saber Updates

Beat Saber has recently put out some updates that couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

I use Beat Saber as my preferred mode of exercise nowadays, and I had gotten kinda tired of playing the same songs over and over again.  Also, I had one set of settings that seemed to really work for me, but it got very repetitive.

Beat Saber has added new songs for free, a new set of songs for sale, and a campaign mode!  The new songs definitely bring more playability back to the game, and the campaign mode mixes it up.

The campaign also finally gives a decent tutorial to the game.  I saw that there were different point values assigned to the hits I was scoring on the blocks, but had not seen an explanation for what criteria went into the scoring.  Now I know how, and I’ve been practicing for score somewhat, so I’m getting new high scores.

The campaign also adds a wide variety of new challenges.  It changes up the standard settings, and adds weird requirements.  Examples are:

  • Move your arms 100 meters (you have to move your arms in the widest motions possible while still beating the level)
  • DON’T move your arms more than 50 meters (move your arms as little as possible)
  • You have a maximum of misses and miscuts
  • DON’T get a combo of more than 25

The one I’m currently daunted by has a minimum combo length AND a maximum combo length.  Particularly challenging with the barriers occasionally obscuring the current combo counter.

Right now I am enjoying playing solo mode with the new songs the most.  I get some new challenges and variety, and a good workout.

Keep it up, Beat Saber, and keep adding new content!

Sansar Update

I’m giving Sansar another stab.  I’ve tried it a bit before, but at the time it seemed to give me headaches.  I also had issues with intermittent movement when trying to use my treadmill with it.  I would start moving in the world, but it would quickly slow and stop my character.  I did enjoy that they made a couple of locations from Ready Player One in it.

They’ve recently added a quest system.  I’m not sure how extensive it is or planned to be, but it’s definitely more of an incentive to play.  Having a goal in a game is more likely to keep me invested.  You add the quest, fulfill the quest, then earn some in-game money.

In VRChat, you have whatever assets you’ve uploaded or have temporarily borrowed from another location (the avatars, for example).  In Sansar, to get new things you have to spend the coin in-game (unless you are creating content, but I don’t know how that works yet).

I do still have a biiiit of an issue that I’m working with their customer support on (hello, Garth!).  When I start moving forward in the game, I continue in a straight line no matter which way my head (and the headset) is facing at the time.  Thankfully, their support staff responds quickly, as I have already gotten a response from the email I sent on Friday about the issue.

I haven’t noticed headache issues yet this time, but my playtime has been limited by the frustration with the locomotion system.  Hopefully we’ll get this resolved quickly.  I also hope that we get some good quests added to the list in the future.  I recommend adding a quest board.  My preference would be to have a brief description of quests visible in the form of flyers on the board, and interacting with them to get more information with an option to accept after reading it.  I also recommend putting some variety in there to get people to explore the content (if it’s do-able).  “Go to the X world.”  “Stab a target dummy on X world with a sword.”  Stuff that involves going places, and if the detection can be done right, interacting with things that you have to go find in those worlds.

I’m looking forward to exploring those worlds more on my treadmill.  Sansar is the VR-compatible successor to Second Life, and I know that I enjoyed running around there with my mouse and keyboard.

Nostalgia VR: SEGA Mega Drive & Genesis Classics

I just found out that there is a way to play old SEGA games as if it was on a console in VR… and it’s on sale on Steam right now.  This brings back memories of hanging out at my friend’s house as a kid.

… and I’m apparently not much better at Sonic 2 now than I was then.  In fact…I’m probably worse, as I’m kinda abusing a feature they included that allows you to rewind or fastforward play of the game, so if you screw up you can undo your mistake.

Yeah, I know it’s cheaty, but it’s built right into the game.  And it’s hard to keep from sliding to your death in these older games.  I never did spend quite that much time with consoles to be familiar with it.

VR Feature Wishlist

Here’s a list of features in various media, including some VR games themselves, that I would like to see implemented across most if not all VR games.  I may have to come back an update this every so often as I remember or come across things.  I’ve separated them into things I think are needed, things I’d like, and things that would be cool but I don’t expect to have anytime soon.

 

Needs:

Standardized Controls:

Depending on the VR developer, they will choose different control schemes based on what the developer thinks is a good idea.  In particular, the control to grab or to interact is often moved around between the A button, trigger, and grip on the Oculus Touch controls, which gets confusing when switching games.  “Let me just grab this item from you… HOLY CRAP, I DIDN’T MEAN TO SHOOT YOU!”

Customizable Controls:

I don’t know why we’ve gone backwards on this, but most VR games do NOT have a controls screen that allow you to remap the controls at all.  It can be difficult to even find instructions on what controls do what within a game.

Sometimes I disagree with what a developer thinks “makes sense” for controls, or maybe I want to unbind a command entirely.  For example, Skyrim VR puts the Shout command on the right grip… and the grip button is the easiest to accidentally activate.  (Sorry, Companions, I didn’t mean to Fus your guildhall up).

In-game height adjustment:

I’m looking at you, Portal Stories: VR.  The game appears to have my eye level set at the floor, and I have yet to be able to get it to work with me being at the correct height.  It’s kinda hard to interact with the puzzles when I can’t reach the buttons, objects, or get enough altitude to aim the teleport.

Treadmill Compatibility:

Go figure, the treadmill owner wants games to take treadmill input.  Anyway, I tend not to buy VR games that don’t have the inputs for it, but that is troublesome to determine, which I’ll get into below.  I know that those of us with treadmills are early adopters, but we would like at least some support for them.

Adequate Labelling in Stores:

There isn’t standardized labelling for certain aspects of VR games in the Steam or Oculus stores.  The following items need to be addressed/identified as features when they are present and/or explicitly being listed as absent:

  • Peripheral Compatibility
  • Keyboard/WASD input accepted (this also ties into peripheral compatibility)
  • 1st person / 3rd person / variable
  • Flexibility (again, this ties into the treadmills.  Games that require picking stuff off the ground do not work well with treadmills that have a solid ring around waist height.

Currently I have to go asking around their forums and hope someone responds to figure out some of these things.  You don’t always get answers, and I’ve seen gamers being ridiculed for even asking some of these questions.  I mean, come on, peripherals are thing, and they’ve often used keyboard input mapping to interface with games for decades at this point.  False superiority among ignorant people bugs me.  The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again!

 

Wants:

Swipe to open in-game menus:

Obligatory Sword Art Online reference is obligatory.  I like the idea of a standardized gesture opening things vs fiddling with controls on the controllers breaking immersion more.  I’d just like for the rest of the menu to actually be made sensibly instead of their insanely nested menus.  I didn’t notice how insanely nested/badly designed the menus were until I watched this video on youtube channel “Mother’s Basement,’ but I still like the gestured-based menu opening.

Partial/Full Body tracking:

Immersion currently has issues with free-floating hands in VR.  Also, for more social games such as VRChat or Altspace VR, a lot of body languages is lost with only the headset and hand controllers tracked.  And, sometimes you wanna dance… and it just doesn’t come across.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Then again, with using a treadmill your body posture can be altered oddly, so it might be for the best that we don’t have that much body tracking for now.  Maybe we just need some upper body tracking.  I know that there are ways to get this in your own rig, but I don’t see it widely supported right now, and the main method I know involves a Kinect camera, which has been discontinued and requires digging through secondhand stuff.

Intuitive inventories: 

This pretty much requires hip and possibly shoulder tracking.  It would be great to have a belt inventory and possibly a back inventory for a lot of games, but so far I don’t usually see this implemented often or well.  I want to reach for something on my belt, but the few games that do have a belt inventory are having to guess at what the appropriate spot is, based on the current position of your headset.  I would like to be able to reach for items on my belt or weapons on my back without having to look and hope that I’m reaching in the correct spot.  Then again, the belt is a more difficult place for me to use things now that I use a treadmill.  It would still be nice to have the option, though.

Full-body avatars:  

Once again, kinda requires some body-tracking for the arms to not drive you nuts, but freefloating hands can get weird.  I have run into some odd implementations at times, where the avatar’s arms are shorter to mine and the game doesn’t somehow make adjustments for it, so I end up in situations where I’m still extending my arms and the character’s arms are at full extension, which is a weird feeling.  I also find it kinda odd when in most games you look down and you are still a free-floating head with no body, and your in-game shadows reflect this.  It breaks immersion to not see “my” body and to see a headset and controllers (or hands) via my shadow.

Avatar-Centric Persistent Space Through Loading Screens:

I know it’s a mouthful, and I might need to change what I call this.  I don’t know of an actual term for this, but many games completely remove even the rendering of your controllers, let alone your avatar’s hands and body when you go into a loading screen.  You go from being able to perceive your own body location and orientation of your hands via sight to suddenly being bodyless, and in some cases blind.  Star Trek: Bridge Crew is bad about this, everything goes to black when you load during warp from one location to another.   It’s disorienting and uncomfortable.

We should have at least a digital skeleton of some kind (think of what Neo sees when he uses his code-based vision in the Matrix movies) when loading from one place to another, and not suddenly lose all reference points.  In other games we might need even more, as whether you have a weapon drawn when you walk into a place can drive an entire interaction, and it would be great to be able to see whether it is still drawn and possibly do some inventory management.  You might say “you should remember whether you have it out.”  Well, first, depending on the user’s equipment, loading screens can take a while, to the point you would almost feel more comfortable taking the headset off, and you can forget in that time.  Secondly, the loading screen can trigger the doorway effect, like when you walk to another room to do something and you forget what it was when you get there.

In any case, I would like to have some persistence in my experience through the loading screens, particularly since they block out the rest of your world.  I would have listed this as a need, but I get the feeling that the code and hardware requirements would be driven up a good bit by this, so it’s in the want category.

 

Would be awesome:

Haptic Gloves:

Yeah, I know it’s cliche to mention this from Ready Player One, but they would really make interacting with objects more intuitive.  Grabbing objects to pick them up, turning doorhandles, and similar interactions would be more comfortable.

I know this is a niche thing, but it would also be really helpful for thrown objects.  With controllers in your hands, throwing objects without throwing your controller is a pain, even if you keep the wrist-loop on so you don’t accidentally throw the controller through a window.  I wanna be able to use grenades, throwing axes, throwing knives, etc. in games, but having a controller in my hand and not actually letting go while still throwing the object correctly in game is difficult.

Cross-compatible Avatars:

Again a feature from Sword Art Online and from Ready Player One, but I would like to be able to create an avatar that I can carry from game to game, probably with different resolution scaled between games.  This would particularly be great for people wanting to do VR livestreaming from within VR.

 

Well, there you have it.  My current list of things I think VR games need, things I want, and things that would be awesome.  Feel free to comment what else you think it might need, I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ve overlooked… and if any game devs are reading… PLEASE READ THIS POST AND THE COMMENTS AGAIN.  It will improve our experiences and likely improve your sales.

 

VR Sensor Rerouting Update

The hooks appear to be working pretty well, though only time will tell whether they support the weight properly long-term.  I decided not to rearrange the sensors due to the hassle involved, and just repointing them a little in their existing mounts seems to be enough to get better coverage.

And the process of just redoing the wires was enough of a pain to begin with.

  1. Removing the wires from the walls (I accidentally tore off some paint in one spot)
  2. Removing old tape from the wires
  3. Cleaning gunk off of long wires with tiny alcohol wipes (there are better ways to do this, but I didn’t think of it beforehand).
  4. Measuring the locations for the new hooks.
  5. Spending thirty seconds per hook pressing them in place for the adhesive to stick.  (This suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.  Repetitive tasks with a lot of force on your fingertips starts to hurt.)
  6. Clipping all the wires into place.

Also, You have to be careful with corners and long stretches.

Rerouted Wires 2.jpg

You probably can’t tell in the upper left, but when I was making the 90 degree turns in plane, you might have to be careful with which way you make the hooks face based on the direction you expect tension in the wires.

Also, at the sensor itself, having those additional couple of hooks is kinda crucial, to take torque off of the wire as it leads into the sensors so that it doesn’t rotate or get pulled out of the mount after you’ve set it.

Anyway, it took a while, but it’s (mostly) done.  There is a stretch of wire that sags a bit because you are supposed to put a hook every 2 feet, but that section of wall is completely taken up by a window, and the frame is not a flat surface (the hooks need a flat surface to adhere to).  I’m debating adding some additional hooks at an angle on the opposite side to kinda provide some friction to hold the wire up a little better.

There is a bit of annoyance at the end of the setup.  I clicked on the “would you like to set up 360 tracking” popup after plugging all of the sensors back in, and it ran through the entire setup process… which includes the unskippable tutorial sequence with the small robot.  Thankfully, it’s a well-made sequence, so it’s not too bad having to go through it again.

Weirdly, throughout that entire in-VR portion of the setup, there was a message inside the headset saying that the headset wasn’t plugged in.  Um… I didn’t have mirroring setup for this… so… how does that message serve any purpose?  How do you see the “no headset plugged in” message if you don’t have a headset plugged in?

In any case, I am DONE with this for a while, and it looks much nicer than the masking tape and the painter’s tape before it.  It should hold better, too.  Command strips are like magic for hanging stuff on my walls without damaging them.  One could even say… technomagic…

VR Sensor Rerouting

In order to get a 3 sensor setup for 360 degree coverage with my Oculus Rift, I had to route cables around the top of the walls quite a while back.  First I mounted it with painter’s tape, but that was glaringly ugly.  I’ve also tried variations/combinations of double-sided tape and masking tape.  Given that the color of the masking tape is closer to that of my walls, it’s not quite as bad.  However, I realized later that this is leaving a nasty residue on the wires, and still sometimes falls.  And still looks crappy.

So, I’m trying something new.  Previously I’ve picked up some pieces that are for routing cables for phone chargers and such, but they are a bit of a pain to use.  More recently, I picked up some command strip hooks meant for wiring holiday lights.command hooks.jpg

I took down the sensors and the extension wires, and spent rather longer than I’d like cleaning the gunk off of them with alcohol wipes.

My next step is to figure out how I want to rearrange my sensors (I’m doing some reading/viewing on Oculus sensor layouts), moving the sensors with some new command strips, putting the command hooks in to support the wires, and clipping all the wires in.  It’s a lot of work, but hopefully it should get me some better sensor coverage and look a lot neater in the process.