Welcome to VR
If (to your surprise) you happened to unwrap a new HTC Vive or Oculus Rift this Christmas, then CONGRATS, and welcome to the future of gaming!
It wasn’t long ago that geeks and the tech aficionados dreamed of the handheld communicators from Star Trek becoming a reality…then the iPhone hit the market. The next generation longed for portable flat screen devices…enter the tablets. And now, at the apex of innovation comes virtual reality.
After decades of anticipation, virtual reality is now an actual reality for you and me; allowing us to go where no man has gone before (except for Tron).
Fact is, you’ll probably never visit the moon, swim with sharks, or compete in the Olympics, but with VR, all those things and more can become your reality (virtually of course).
VR allows you to simulate virtual worlds without ever leaving your Lazy Boy recliner. Whether its flying a plane, conducting mock surgery, or saving the world from aliens, VR can make it happen.
Christmas has come and gone. You opened what turned out to be an amazing VR headset, but are not quite sure what to do next. Have no fear, we’re here to help guide you on your first test drive down the VR highway. If you’re looking for a more in-depth how-to guide, we highly recommend you grab this free in-depth VR Beginners Guide PDF download.
Current State of VR
First, a little background info to wet the palette.
In 2017 VR took the gaming world by storm, with over 1 million VR headsets sold in Q3 alone! With the market and demand for VR heating up fast, we’re bound to see a load of new games, applications and headsets hit the market between now and the end of 2018.
Sony is leading the pack in units sold, primarily due to integration with their popular PS4 console, but Oculus and HTC are hot on their trails, offering competitively priced units (the Rift and Vive respectively) that pack a punch.
Choosing between the Vive and Oculus headsets is no small task. Good news for you is you’ve already got one of the two best headsets on the market. Let’s take a quick stroll thru the basics of each (or simply skip to the model you have).
Oculus Rift Basics
The Oculus Rift is a VR headset manufactured and developed by Oculus VR (now a division of Facebook, Inc.). The Rift, which hit retail shelves in 2016, boasts a 110-degree field of view, integrated 3D audio effect headphones, and rotational and positional tracking.
Oculus offers a comfortable and adaptable fully immersive VR experience with intuitive controls, intelligent designs, and transcendent sound capabilities.
Immersive VR experience
Compatible with both the Oculus and SteamVR platforms
Oculus Touch controllers and conventional gamepad
Lacks whole room VR mode
Requires the use of 4 USB ports to fully function
The Rift offers up a powerful PC-tethered VR experience and a newly lowered price point that includes the Oculus Touch motion controllers.
HTC Vive Basics
The Vive, developed and manufactured by HTC offers up one of the most advanced VR systems available. With an incredibly powerful headset, and internal specs to match, exploring virtual worlds has never been more invigorating.
Incredibly immersive experience
High price tag
Size and weight can cause neck strain
Not as comfortable as the Rift
The HTC Vive, despite its larger price tag, really does deliver a VR experience like no other. The level of immersion is nothing short of breath-taking, allowing you to walk, duck, or pick up things as if you were in the real world.
Getting Started with your VR Accessories
Oculus Rift Accessories
Ok. So, you’ve finally gotten your hands on an Oculus Rift and you want to find out the best ways to maximize your experience. Let’s dive in on how you can make that happen…
- Oculus Touch
Originally the Rift came standard with an Xbox One console controller. Now, Oculus has replaced the traditional console controller with something much cooler…Oculus Touch controllers. These gems are lightweight, provide laser tight tracking of movement and are well worth setting up.
- Oculus Sensor
To achieve a fully immersive room-scale setup, you’ll need to grab and set up the Oculus Sensor. Typically, the best way to do this is to use two sensors near the front of the room, and another in the back corner. This allows the Rift to track movements no matter which direction you turn. To learn more about how to set this up please check out this in-depth VR Beginners Guide.
- HDMI Commercial Extension
Simple, but we had to mention it. If you’re looking to get a “room-scale” setup in place, a 6ft or longer HDMI cable is necessary. Using a cable length that affords yourself the extra room to move by twisting and contorting can mean all the difference.
- USB-A 3.0 Extension
Like the HDMI cable, you’ll no doubt want to extend the length of your USB cable to allow for worry free movement.
- Microfiber Cloths
Another no-brainer if you ask us. There is NOTHING worse than having your Rift lens fog up in the middle of gameplay. Using a microfiber cloth can help prevent this and clean your display without risk of scratching the surface.
HTC Vive Accessories
The HTC comes ready to rock your world right out of the box. But, there are some handy accessories on the market that can help make your VR experience with the Vive even better. Here are just a few fan favorites to consider…
- Vive Tracker
The Tracker is an external sensor that can be mounted to any number of objects for use in your VR environment. In short, the “Tracker” can transform any real-world object into a VR accessory.
- Deluxe Audio Strap
Direct from HTC, the deluxe audio strap offers an all-in-one head strap + audio solution. While your Vive comes with standard fabric straps, this deluxe version offers up a mount to improve management of cable wires.
- The Vive 3-in-1 Cable
Included with your Vive is the 3-in-1 cable, streamlining all three cables into a single, durable case.
- USB Extension Cable
The Vive comes with a USB port located on the top of your headset, allowing for additional accessories to be directly hooked up into the headset.
- Nose Rest
Your Vive already comes with a single nose rest attached to the headset, but, its not one-size-fits all. By default, retail units come shipped with the “narrow” version of the nose rest. Luckily you can grab wider sets online for a more comfortable fit if needed.
Setting up Your Rift
Getting your Rift set up for use is simple, we promise. But if you need a more info, check out this free downloadable guide to learn more.
First step, download the Oculus software on your PC. This software will walk you thru any necessary steps. Then, plug the headset and sensors into your PC using both an HDMI cable and all three USB 3.0 ports.
Once you’ve completed steps one and two, you may now suit up for action! Strap on the headset and jump into the Oculus software.
At this point, you can play any software available to you in the Oculus Store. If you are interested in learning how to set up your Oculus to load apps from “unidentified sources” (so you can get your Rift to work with SteamVR for example, check out this guide).
Setting up Your Vive
Unlike the Rift, setting up the Vive can be a bit more complicated depending on the type of setup you choose. We’ll cover the basics here, but if you need more assistance please check out or download the Beginners Guide to VR to get squared away.
First, you’ll need to install both the Vive and SteamVR software. Steps on competing this process can be found here: https://www.vive.com/setup/.
Once installation has been successfully completed, run the setup file, and follow the on-screen prompts to finalize the install.
Setting up your room / area for gameplay. Here you have two options; standing-only play area and room-scale play area. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be covering the standing-only setup.
- Open the SteamVR app on your PC.
- Click on the dropdown menu and select “Run Room Setup > Standing Only”.
- Review the on-screen prompts and follow the instructions until complete.
Setting up a Space for your VR Experience
Each system has its own specific recommendations and specs, but we’ll cover the basics here. For more detailed information please see the HTC or Vive user manual or check out this VR Guide.
- Up to 16ft of diagonal space is supported
- Minimum play area of 6ft x 5ft is suggested
- No minimum room size requirements for “seated” or “standing-only” setups
- Pick a room with free uncluttered space
- Make sure you have some room overhead for reaching up
- Clear the room of unnecessary furniture or items you may trip over
- Book shelves located at opposite corners can be effective places to set up base stations (Vive).
- The VR play area does NOT have to be a perfect square
- If used, base stations should have an unobstructed view of each other
- If the provided power cord is too short, any generic 12V power cable extension will work to extend reach to an outlet
Games for your VR System
Most of your “old” games will NOT be VR compatible. Games must be developed and designed specifically to work with VR for you to use them with your headsets.
So, just because you plug in your Oculus Rift into your gaming PC, doesn’t necessarily mean you can use it with all your favorite games. However, one saving grace is that some of your favorite games (while not exactly VR) can be played in what we call “theater mode”, which allows you to play your games on a large floating screen (like a theater screen) from within your headset.
Similarly, games for consoles like PlayStation VR will let you know right on the box if they are VR compatible, what you need to play them, and any other considerations.
As for those VR headsets that work with your mobile phones, the Google Play store and Apple App Store will have a selection of VR compatible mobile games for you to choose from.
The Oculus store has an ever-growing selection of games (both free and paid) to explore. However, you’ll likely also want to set up Steam VR to access an even bigger catalog of games and apps. We’ve listed a few of the top free games below, but be sure to check out the guide to the Top Free Oculus Games to learn more.
Here’s a short list of a few free Oculus games to help get you started…
- Free Games
- Lucky’s Tale
- Mountain Goat Mountain
- Dragon Front
- Herobound: Spirit Champion
- Robo Recall
- NVIDIA VR Funhouse
- Dead and Buried
- The Lab
HTC Vive Games
The Vive also comes with a substantial amount of both free and paid games to choose from, ranging from first person shooters to RPGs.
Here’s a short list of a few free Vive games to help get you started…
- Free Vive Games
- Robot Repair (The Lab)
- Google Earth
- REC ROOM
- Budget Cuts Demo
- Irrational Exuberance
- Xortex 26XX
- Waltz of the Wizard
Even the most dedicated of gamers could likely spend a lifetime with the available selection of free apps and games, but to get the most out of your VR headset you’ll likely want to invest in some “paid” games from time to time.
Here’s a short list of the top paid games for both the Rift and Vive…
- Project CARS
- The Climb
- Elite Dangerous
- Damaged Core