The Gig of Ham

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Apr 3, 2016 - 8 minute read - Comments - Oculus VR

Oculus Rift: My Thoughts

I’ve had the Oculus Rift setup and working for a few days now, and had several friends over to get a variety of opinions, and..well..we’re slightly disappointed.

Ergonomics

This is the one place where there is very little improvement since the DK2 and in some cases it’s backwards. Like me, most of my friends wear glasses and that’s the biggest problem. Thin framed wire glasses or metal frames are fine but if you have thicker framed glasses like those from Warby Parker just don’t fit well. Even with my wire framed glasses, the lenses from the glasses are really close to (or touching) the Fresnel lenses in the Rift. This also causes problems with alignment and smudging, so much so that I now keep a box of eye glass cleaners by the Rift as they are basically necessary. The Rift also really, really wants to pull into your face which can also make glasses really uncomfortable if they don’t have a lot of give by pressing in on your noses pieces (and the trend right now in glasses are that they are fixed part of the frame and thus just dig in) or driving the corners of the frame into the side of your head. I’ve also found that the nose piece can be really uncomfortable if you have a large schnoz like I do.

As I said in my initial thoughts, this is a place where I’m hoping that VR Lens Lab and VR Cover will help. More padding will make everything more comfortable, and not needing to wear glasses even more so. We’ll see what happens there.

Optics and Displays

There is a lot of improvement here over the DK2, and it’s light years better than the DK1. I’ve read a lot of reviews of people complaining about the “Screen Door Effect” which was a real problem with the DK1, but was largely mitigated but a higher DPI display in the DK2. The custom displays here with the non-square pixels are a further step to address this, but comes with interesting side effects: diagonal lines can be strange. Anti-aliasing is your friend here, as are large chunky fonts (hint hint EVE: Valkyrie). ELITE: Dangerous did a great job here with their subtle font changes for VR, and games that were re-factored to work with Gear VR and then ported back to the PC (like Radial-G and Darknet) looks spectacular since they have so much more GPU to work with. But the “Big Titles” are having problems, which I find interesting.

The other interesting thing I have discovered is that overdriving these custom AMOLED displays to run at 90Hz (or whatever) means they never go “black”. Black screens have a very pronounced red almost backlight feel. I worry what that will do the longevitity of the displays.

I’m also finding that there is a lot more (for lack of better word) starbursting than with the DK2, especially with white text on a black background. It’s obviously an effect of the new lens design, but can be annoying.

Fit and Finish

The materials used in the headset are interesting to say the least. The adjustable bands being kinda stretchy are a good thing now, but we’ll see how the longevity of those materials are here in Central Texas. Also, it’s next to impossible to keep the fabric on the outside clean of pet hair and fingerprints. Sigh. The other side of this equation is that the headset is remarkably light, something that I never found to be a problem, but I also move around large heavy objects as a pastime so YMMV.

The Software

This has been the biggest disappointment. Many people say Steam sucks and that they can do a better job (see Uplay, Origin), and most of the time they fall flat on their face. Oculus Desktop is no exception. There are so many things that make me angry. From the “YOU SHOULD BUY A NEW COMPUTER” billboard, the requirement for a credit card when creating the account (that’s going to cause all sorts of problems around Christmas), and the inability to add games you already own, it’s just a large pile of disappointment. On top of this, the lack of Parental controls I can see as a problem for my friends who have kids. I hate the whole idea of a card on file and a 4 digit PIN to buy stuff. I hate that you HAVE to buy things from their store for it to show up in the launcher.

Now, I have got third party titles to work but it’s tricky. Project CARS is a great example, I couldn’t get it to work at first because I was launching the game without having the headset on. Apparently if the headset is asleep then pcars takes that as a sign that there is no headset. Normally not a problem, especially if you launch from the Oculus Desktop, but it is a problem if you are launching from any other method since you can’t see that from the Oculus Desktop with the headset on.

There have been a lot of other complaints about where the games get installed (unchangeable default location), but I got over that years ago when I just gave into the ways of the Dark Side of the Force and have one big C drive and that’s it. Doesn’t really bother me, but I can see why it bothers other people. In the age of SSDs, Window’s continued lack of an expandable storage manager (ala LVM on Linux) in the desktop product is kinda unforgivable.

Misc Shenanagans

What’s the point of the Oculus Controller? I used it during setup because I had to, but once I needed the XBone controller to go “back” in a menu. At which point it went back into the box and hasn’t come out, and I doubt it will. Then there is the apparent AMD hate. Being a bit of an AMD fanboy, the every present “non-compliant” billboard is annoying, and it looks like no currently available AMD processor will pass their HCL. That’s disappointing as well. My machine handles everything we have thrown at it with flying colors, but no. Buy a new one.

The Terms of Service (which you get to read in VR because that’s a great idea) is exactly what I would expect from a Facebook company. “We collect everything about what you are doing” is surprising to some folks, I don’t understand why. At least we don’t have to buy everything in FB coins.

The head tracking situation seems to be less improved since DK2, but I’m betting that’s mostly because of the titles I’ve been playing . Darknet, for example, seems to recenter on every level change. This means that when you look up and left to select a node, if you don’t snap back to center right as you push the button, up and left becomes the new forward. Technically, I get it and they do support a recenter button, but I was really hoping for better.

The Games

I’ve only downloaded a handful of games, and don’t really plan to get a bunch more in this walled garden. The titles from “Companies you know” are exactly what you would expect: First. Person. Shooters. Only because this is VR and we don’t want everyone hurling on their Magic Lantern, they are all 3rd person perspective. I’m not really inspired by any of them right now. The Space games and Simulators work great. The stuff that thinks about “What can we do in VR” has been cool (I’ve already lost many hours to puzzle solving in Darknet). The predictability of the major studio titles is expected and disappointing. Everyone says PC gaming is dying, and then I point them at interesting little indie games and suddenly it’s a whole other conversation. But I’ve been done with stuff coming out of the big studios for years because it keeps being a shitshow. I hoped VR would wake them up, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Overall and Going Forward

I’m not upset that I have an Oculus Rift, but I feel like if you have to buy one that this isn’t the product to buy. After using a Vive I knew I was buying a Vive, but I also wasn’t going to take a perfectly good “free” (I bought a DK1 via Kickstarter, and then bought a DK2 later, but Kickstarting at the DK1 level got me this rift for no additional monetary outlay) and put it on ebay. I am disappointed that this product is what it is. I really feel like they should have taken the Crystal Cove and shipped it 6mo later. If this product came out a year ago, it would have been a no brainer for early adopters to buy. With the Vive coming out in a couple of days, that feels like a complete VR experience and a better ecosystem. But I’ll hopefully have more on that in a week or two, once mine arrives.

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