Category Archives: Virtual Reality

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.

VR Horizon: TPCAST Wireless Adapter For Oculus Rift

I was browsing around the internet, and was reminded that this is a thing.

TPCAST Wireless Adapter

It’s a wireless adapter that removes the need for entangling cables with VR, with the tradeoffs (that I know of) being:

  1. Additional cost (it’s listed at $319 at the moment on the manufacturer’s website)
  2. Added weight on your head
  3. You have an external transmitter pointed at you, if you worry about that sort of thing

It comes in three parts:

  1. PC Transmitter module
  2. RX Module
  3. Power box

The transmitter module streams the data to your headset, the receiver receives the transmission and sends it into the headset itself, and the powerbox that recharges the battery.

The battery appears to have a 5 hour power supply, so that’s more than my usual VR time.  I’m not sure how heavy it is, though.

At the time of writing, they are out of stock at the manufacturer’s website, so I likely won’t be ordering one anytime soon.  I see it listed elsewhere… for more than $200 additional!  Eventually, though, going wireless could be worth the cost.  When I’m on the treadmill I’m constantly getting tangled up in the wire when I turn a lot, and dealing with the headset wires in general is a pain.  Also, the systems I’ve seen for suspending the cable would require me to put screws in the ceiling, which I’m not inclined to do.  If it were a plain ceiling, I wouldn’t care, but I don’t want to risk doing excess damage to the textured ceiling.

From the reviews I’m seeing, there are many issues with the base version, and an upgraded 3rd party software (Open TPCast) takes a bit more money and work to get working, but is apparently worth it.  The base version has latency issues, dropped frames, and the microphone stops working.  The upgraded version requires buying and downloading additional software, then installing it on to a microSD card hidden inside the battery pack’s casing.

Still, it’s something to consider for the future.

VR Rig Upgrades: SSD Capacity

An issue I’ve been fumbling around with for a few months now is upgrading my VR rig with a new Solid State Drive (SSD).  I had originally mounted it in a hot swap port on my PC (and had to create a case over it to protect it).  However, it eventually made my PC unstable, and I had to remove it and send it in for warranty replacement.

The replacement came in a few weeks ago, and this time I decided to install it as a replacement for the existing SSD inside the computer.  When I had had my PC built years ago, the computer was built with an SSD to run the operating system and some programs, as it would make them load a lot faster than on a standard hard disk drive.  This was fine.  However, it has filled up over time, despite me installing most things to the hard drive instead.  I had kind of reached a stable maximum on that drive.

The problem was that the load times for games was getting rather lengthy in newer games, largely in part to the time it takes to read the data off of the hard disk.  In regular games, it’s no big deal, but in VR, load times make a HUGE difference.  You are sitting or standing there, blind to the world, with very little input except whatever loading screen the game designer had incorporated… and they didn’t always think those through (holy crap, the glare of a bright logo in a dark background is miserable).

This is why I had bought the new SSD in the first place, to add a terabyte of storage space to transfer all my VR games to.  Anyway, this time I decided to just replace my old SSD with it, and move everything over.  This is where I had gotten stuck until I did some research and talked with a few people I know who are more knowledgeable in this area.  I finally got it to work this past weekend, and I’ve been trying to tweak and move stuff since then.

Here are the main things I wish I had known more quickly going into this.  I know this is not going to be the best detail, but it should be enough to help you find the rest of the information more quickly.  I was doing this over the period of a few weeks, and I wasn’t exactly taking notes.

  1.  When you first plug in a new SSD, you will have to initialize the disk. You have to have it plugged in, and access compmgmt.msc through the cmd prompt.
  2. While you are there, make note of all the details of the partitions that are currently on your main SSD.
  3. You will need another hard drive with space larger than the SSD you are upgrading from.
  4. You will need Acronis software, and a thumb drive to run it’s software from.  Use this to backup the original SSD onto the extra hard drive.
  5. You will need another thumb drive.  Use the tools that come with Windows to make a repair disk on this thumb drive.
  6. Turn off the computer, and use standard computer modding procedures (turn it off, unplug everything, ground yourself, etc) to swap out the SSDs, leaving the original disconnected.  Put everything back together.
  7. Using the Acronis software on the flash drive, and the hard drive you made the backup to, restore the image of the original SSD onto the new one using CUSTOM settings.  You will want to set the system and recovery partitions on the new SSD to the same size as the original, and expand the size of the C: drive partition to fill up the rest of the space on the drive.
  8. When you try to boot your computer afterwards, it won’t work.  You haven’t done anything wrong, the Windows OS apparently uses references not just to the pathname of the drive but references to the specific drive hardware it is running on.  You will need to shut down the computer, swap out the Acronis software drive for the Windows Repair drive, and reboot the computer.  The repair software will fix the install itself.
  9. Now that it’s working, you may still have some cleanup to do.  If you have been running games from your hard drive, you will want to move the installs.
    1. Oculus:  Thankfully, in more recent updates since when I previously tried to install the SSD, the Oculus software has added an option for being able to move installs from one location to another.  Use it to create a new game install location on the SSD and then move all your VR games over from within Oculus.  DO NOT TRY TO MOVE THE FILES MANUALLY.  It appears that Oculus software does not acknowledge files that are already within the correct folder unless Oculus moved it there in the first place.
    2. Steam: For Steam, you use the software to define a new install location, then move the files from their old location to the new one, and try to run the game.  Steam will get confused for a bit, but then track down where the current install is and run from there.

So, that’s the gist of what I did.  I know it’s lacking in the technical details, but hopefully it will be enough to help you track down the latest info on how to swap an SSD out for a larger one if you need to.  I didn’t know enough about some of these concepts when I started to realize that some of those steps were even a thing.

Less loading time, and more game time for me!

Update: 12/31/2018

I’ve added two pages, listing the VR games/programs that are listed in my Oculus and Steam libraries.  They are accessible via the VR Gaming page, and links here:

Full List of Oculus Store Titles

Full List of Steam Store Titles

 

Feel free to ask me for more information/reviews on these titles.  I may have to reinstall them to refresh my memory or retry them, but I might be able to give you more information before you decide whether to buy them.

USB Port Issues

For quite a while now, though apparently I haven’t been looking for it most of the time, I’ve been receiving messages on my computer about a lack of USB resources.  It appears that this is because, while using a USB 3.0 hub to attach all my sensors to for ease of connection/disconnection, I was overloading the 3.0 port that the hub attached to.  Simplest solution is to plug it into a different USB port… but the only 3.0 port I have left on the computer is on the front of the computer (and it still reads as a 2.0 port for some reason in Oculus).  I’m considering adding a USB 3.0 card to my computer in one of the empty slots, but that still doesn’t address the ease of disconnection when not in use.  I could use an extension USB cable… but the sensor I plan on using is already on an extension cable, and the connection point is next to the ceiling.  I may have to swap things around so that I’m using another sensor that’s not on an extension to avoid signal loss.

Why do I care about disconnection?  Oculus sensors are modified webcams, and in general it’s better not to leave webcams plugged in when not in use.

Oculus Sensors Are Technically Hackable Webcams