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Growing Rift Between Valve and Oculus (uploadvr.com)
258 points by T-A on May 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 137 comments



Been working on VR side projects for 3 years now, I've built against the DK1, DK2, CV1 and the Vive and I have to say there's zero question in my mind that Oculus is FAR behind the curve. The Vive was love at first sight, the Oculus was quite the opposite.

The Vive is stunning, not only because room-scale VR is fantastic. (I don't share the opinion that the future rests solely with room scale, there's plenty of stuff to do in VR sitting down) but also because Valve just seems to have it together more than Oculus. The Lighthouse system is brilliant, it's a much more elegant solution than what Oculus has. The Oculus platform is gross, I don't see any advantages to using it from the consumer side, as far as I can tell it only exists to lock people into a particular ecosystem.

I understand why they did it, similarly to Origin or the Epic Games Launcher, but seriously? Steam won. I find it incredibly frustrating having to futz around with other platforms. Do they seriously think that I'm going to add all my Steam friends on the Oculus platform? That's ridiculous. I'm very doubtful that the platforms will get a userbase outside of the people who are FORCED to use them because they want a particular exclusive.

To top it all off it takes 3 USB ports to run the Oculus (4 if you want the controllers) vs the Vive's one.


It's so satisfying watching them get their just desserts after betraying their Kickstarter backers by taking the Facebook money and then going back on all their words about keeping the platform free for everybody. Meanwhile that acquisition kicked off a race among the other big players which Valve appears to be winning while having the best features. I mean, Valve isn't perfect, but they're a lot better than Facebook. Things seem to have worked out for the best for once.


I only learned this recently, but it's actually spelled "just deserts".

Although desserts (sweet confections) are often associated with rewards, the word "deserts" refers to the element of distributive justice.

Source: I wrote a paper about this for a class and got a C+.


Deserts is an archaic word meaning "reward", i.e. a kind of noun form of "deserve".


"Just Desserts" would be a great name for a bakery, no?



It's been a while since I've seen the marquee element in action.


It's those things left for you - which have been deserted.



So why the c+? Seems rather informative. Just learned something new.


Is it pronounced like desserts still?


Yes (the same as the _verb_ deserts is pronounced)


One thing worth noting is all Kickstarter backers get a free Oculus CV1 from Facebook (that's of course in addition to the DK1 they received after backing in August 2012).

That decision takes away a lot of the "betrayal" of the Facebook acquisition - for backers it's an incredible return on investment (that was unlikely to happen if it weren't for Facebook)


I don't share your conviction that ROI is far more important than any ethical consideration. I seem to recall the KS pitch was full of aspirational language about a democratized future of VR spearheaded by a close-knit team of diehards who wouldn't fall prey to Big Whatever.

You're suggesting that the majority of backers will be mollified by an artifact of the very forces that Oculus promised to avoid; I'm sure some of them will be.


Not sure you recall correctly. I checked the Kickstarter [1], and I didn't see anything along those lines in the video, the description (which doesn't seem to have been modified, per archive.org), or the first few updates. If Luckey talked about that, I think it was somewhere else.

[1] https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1523379957/oculus-rift-...


The video you linked has competing companies all taking about how good it will be to integrate (valve included)... you are right there is no line like "it will be an open platform" but they heavily imply it will be an open platform


I backed the Kickstarter with a friend, backing at the level to get two of the dev kits, because we happened to be living together at the time. After explaining that situation, I was told that I would not get a CV1.

I never expected to get the CV1 when I backed, so I'm not angry about that, it just sucks a bit to hear 'you are getting this for free' and then get told, no you are not.


Can't agree more, especially since the secondary market is quite good right now and you can very easily sell it and turn it into a free Vive. ;)


Can't agree more, especially since the secondary market is quite good right now and you can very easily sell it and get a Vive. ;)


They already got their billions from Facebook, so just desserts at this point mostly affect the consumers who just got locked in, months after their purchase.


> taking the Facebook

It was at that point that I abandoned the platform. Wild conjecture isn't discouraged on Reddit and, over there, the creepy Facebook user tracking was predicted well in advance.

Given the comments here on Palmer's diminishing public interaction, and the quotes in the article, I don't think the founders completely anticipated what Facebook would demand. Although I now have zero interest in the platform, I still can't help but feel a little sorry for them. They clearly still believe in that vision but do not have the autonomy to follow it through.


At first I defended the Facebook buyout because it seemed like a logical move. I feel Oculus was pressured into the buyout because valve was about to kill them. Truth is, Carmarck joining the team made it all that much sweeter.

If you read through the lines of some of Palmer's communications, it's obvious that there is a rift between Oculus and Facebook that no one is talking about. Carmarck, being Carmarck keeps pushing even when the top tries to push you down. Reading the tweets, it's obvious that he remains focused on the technology, which is a good sign.

In the end, I think Oculus is facing a backlash because of the buyout, and their 'simular' to Origin approach rings bells of many gamers and how EA continues to alienate them.

Microsoft proved it could compete with the Xbox. Oculus just needs to change its game or get away from its overlord. Blizzard had some fallout with Diablo 3, it happens.

The real question for Oculus, now is, what is your next move?


> Carmarck

Carmack. Only one 'r' in the name.


Thanks for reminding me I'm on the internet.


I'm reminded again about this very prescient post:

http://assayviaessay.blogspot.com/2014/03/virtual-spaces-rea...


Valve's Lighthouse tracking system isn't particularly elegant from a usability standpoint. I see Oculus' and Valve's current systems as a temporary solution. The future likely is in inside out tracking (i.e. one or more cameras on the headset, looking out). Oculus is working on that. I'd be surprised if Valve isn't.

I agree with your comments on the Oculus platform. It's sad to see them building higher and higher walls for their garden.


I'd like to hear you expand on that, perhaps we don't align on the definition of elegant? I think the Lighthouse system is elegant specifically because it doesn't use cameras at all. That's what makes it so cool is that it's not limited by sensor resolution, to get really accurate tracking using cameras you need to crunch a LOT of data really quickly. I wouldn't be surprised if it's order's of magnitude less computationally expensive, especially since IIRC in the Lighthouse system most of the heavy lifting is done using an FPGA.

I think the system mentioned by jc4p is similarly elegant but for different reasons. Based on a skim through the article he posted I'd say the Lighthouse system is likely cheaper, and can more easily track multiple (infinite really since the tracking is done on the object rather than using the base station) objects, but won't have the same sort of range as MTS. Both are loads better than using cameras IMO.


> I think the Lighthouse system is elegant specifically because it doesn't use cameras at all.

Not to be purposefully pedantic, so please excuse me, but aren't the small "dimples" on the Vive hardware technically very simple, low-res infrared cameras that are designed to pick up the Lighthouse lasers?


They're just simple IR sensors - they can detect when IR is shining on them, but not from which direction. Put another way: each one is the equivalent of a single pixel in a camera sensor.

Position is determined by watching the timing very closely of when each sensor detects the IR sweep, and then doing the math given those timings and the known orientation of the sensors relative to each other.


They're photodiodes, so each one is only capturing a single luminance value, they're not capturing an image.


Have you seen this demo of Jack McCauley's new laser based tracking? http://www.roadtovr.com/mts-virtual-reality-vr-tracking-syst...


Interesting bit from the article:

By some definitions (including his) McCauley is a co-founder of Oculus due to his contributions and status as one of the earliest hires, though as far as Oculus itself is concerned, the company represents Palmer Luckey as the one and only “Founder” (with a capital F). As a seasoned design engineer who played an instrumental role in the creation of the Guitar Hero peripherals, McCauley brought hardware design experience to the young company, which was about to embark on designing, manufacturing, and delivering thousands of Rift DK1 headsets to eager backers of the crowdfunding campaign.

Kind of funny how kingmaking works, eh?


Certainly this is better than camera based tracking but I don't think it's got a significant advantage over the Lighthouse system from a consumer standpoint. Especially when it comes to tracking multiple peripherals I have my doubts when it comes to MTS.


I've used both and the differences between the platforms are so small compared to the huge technological breakthrough that I think which one people buy will be a toss up. I bought the oculus because I have a one bedroom apartment and have maybe a 2x2 foot space to use it in. Room scale isn't really an option for me. I like the Vive, but I really think that room scale is a liability nightmare waiting to happen. In two weeks of doing demos at work, we lost two computers from people ripping the cords out or kicking them and at least one person got clocked with a controller while I was watching people do demos for an hour. (and this was with a full time minder) Encouraging people to move around a swing controllers while wearing a blindfold is a terrible idea and someone's child or pet is going to be seriously hurt, no matter how many warnings you give people.


>as far as I can tell it only exists to lock people into a particular ecosystem.

sounds like a certain parent company..


It's also satisfying watching some hardcore fan in Oculus Rift looks down on other HMD startup has admitted Vive is way better.

Thanks, I didn't jump in the bandwagon early.


The CV1 that Oculus gave me, which I'm very grateful for, won't even turn on when I plug it in. I'm not installing Windows and a sub-Steam walled garden to use it. I should have kept the DK1. :-/


I have experienced a whole host of problems with the CV1, the DK2 is currently my goto headset as it pretty much just works and since the resolution/refresh rate isn't absurd I can drive it even on modest hardware.


The worst part is Oculus sold customers on something more open than they delivered. Now if you buy from their store your purchases are locked to their headset, and if you ever buy anything else in the future.

Oculus/Palmer said they didn't care if you modded their games to work on third party headsets, just they weren't going to provide support themselves; instead they went out and broke it intentionally.

>If customers buy a game from us, I don't care if they mod it to run on whatever they want. As I have said a million times (and counter to the current circlejerk), our goal is not to profit by locking people to only our hardware - if it was, why in the world would we be supporting GearVR and talking with other headset makers? The software we create through Oculus Studios (using a mix of internal and external developers) are exclusive to the Oculus platform, not the Rift itself. https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/3vl7qe/palmer_lucke...

>As I already said in my first reply, I don't care if people mod their games as long as they are buying them. https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/3vl7qe/palmer_lucke...

>Glad there are some sane people out there. [said to someone saying it was only an issue of support] https://www.reddit.com/r/Vive/comments/4etddh/this_is_a_hack...


Interestingly, he abruptly stopped posting on Reddit about a month ago [1]. I wonder if he lost some internal battle on this issue…

[1] https://www.reddit.com/user/palmerluckey


There was a weird feature about Oculus at Facebook some months ago, where it was sort of hinted between the lines that Luckey and Zuckerberg didn't get along all that well. They even had to photoshop to get them into the same picture.

Found it: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/09/oculus-rift-mark-zuck...


I read the article and never got that impression. If anything, he was grateful to facebook for not only purchasing the company, but also believing in his vision.


It's not the case. Iribe just sold everyone out.

He made 5 minute (like literally) decision all by himself. Everyone (Palmer, Carmack, Abrash) heard about Facebook acquisition after the deal was already set. It was already to late for them to do anything at that point.

It might as well be, that everything they said after was just a part of facebook damage control operation.


I don't think Iribe had the latitude to do that at the time. From what I understand Palmer owned most of the company still at that point.

He would have had to get signoff from at least a majority of owners before just doing it.


"Palmer owned most of the company"

Not really. Even before that whole kickstarter campaign he was just a founder.

Roughly, the deal was: Palmer giving full power to Iribe, Iribe helping Palmer with investors/kickstarter.


Iribe gave the company a loan bigger than the entire Kickstarter goal before the Kickstarter launched: I'm guessing he had a bigger share.


Carmack was definitely taken by surprise, though he did eventually voice approval: http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/30/5563440/john-carmack-faceb...

Facebook's acquisition of Oculus was announced only a few days before Michael Abrash publicly joined the company. Not sure when Abrash made the decision to leave Valve for Oculus. He did shine a positive light on the Facebook acquisition in his welcome post, but as you suggested it's not as if he was going to badmouth his new employer either way: https://www.oculus.com/en-us/blog/introducing-michael-abrash...

Palmer Luckey, it seems, was at the very least aware of Facebook's interest and informed of the buy-out, though it sounds like Brendan Iribe handled the business decisions.

This was the best source I could find on what went on behind the scenes between Zuckerberg and Iribe:

http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/09/oculus-rift-mark-zuck...

> Discussions ensued over the next few weeks, during which Facebook offered roughly $1 billion, which Iribe considered low. The deal seemed to peter out until late February, after news of the WhatsApp deal hit: Facebook had agreed to pay $19 billion for the messaging service. That got Iribe’s attention. “Hey Mark,” he wrote in an e-mail, “we should talk.”

> They agreed to meet. “Come up and see me,” Zuckerberg said, according to Iribe. “I’m not going to waste your time.”

> Iribe met with Zuckerberg for brunch on the patio at Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto home on a Sunday, in March. They ordered pizza, and Zuckerberg made a new offer: more than $2 billion in cash and stock. It was rich, considering that Oculus had not yet released a consumer product. Zuckerberg promised that Oculus would operate independently within Facebook, just as Instagram did and WhatsApp would. There would be games, sure, but eventually much more: news, sports, movies and TV, cat videos—everything. “I want to do this, and I want this to be the future of Facebook, long-term,” Zuckerberg said, but Iribe would have to act quickly and promise not to shop the deal.

> Oculus, by this point, had a board of directors that included four venture capitalists, one of whom was Andreessen. The board would have to approve the deal. Andreessen hated the idea of selling so quickly, without talking to Facebook’s competitors. “Don’t do this! Don’t do this! Don’t do this!” Iribe recalls Andreessen saying during a late-night meeting at his house after Zuckerberg’s initial offer. (In light of his role on Facebook’s board, Andreessen recused himself after Oculus’s founders began negotiations with Zuckerberg in earnest.) But the board approved the deal.

> It was sealed at Zuckerberg’s house just three days after his and Iribe’s Sunday meeting, over a dinner featuring mushroom risotto and scallops. The meal, Luckey recalls, was “so good.” And Facebook was the right fit. “I knew I was going to want to work in V.R. for the rest of my life. Anything that can make the industry big and successful … that’s a supercool world that I want to live in.”


Judging by those last few comments, he decided to stop participating in the community after he made a snarky comment, followed by the community snarking right back with a blow-by-blow and sourced list of broken promises and backtracks [1].

(And then he insults the guy who tries to defend him as an "insufferable fanboy".. ouch!)

https://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/4gfpjk/palmer_lucke...


I understand why he might drop out of Reddit posting - the Oculus subreddit has been prone to fanboy flame wars the last few months. But he has also been conspicuously absent from Twitter the last few weeks. it does make me wonder about internal conflict at Facebook/Oculus.


Probably a good idea. VR has become so politicized on Reddit that any sizeable discussion about Oculus quickly becomes a hyperbolic screaming match. Him posting would simply add fuel to the fire.


His last few comments explain pretty well why he stopped.


Only good thing about Facebook buying the Oculus was it's much easer to avoid buying...


The discussion around Vive vs Rift and Valve vs Oculus is getting more and more emotionally clouded and "good guys vs bad guys" with each passing week. People are letting their own frustration around Oculus' poorly managed launch and non-existent PR affect their perspective on the situation. The fact is that although Oculus is adopting somewhat of a walled garden approach, people entirely overlook that Valve maintains a virtual monopoly on PC games distribution. Sure they aren't as powerful as iOS app store or the Google Play store, but Valve wants the same thing as any other player - to be in a position where you can't avoid selling your content through their channel and to take a big cut of all the sales. Those who attack Oculus for trying to be the one who gets the cut are deluding themselves. Apple, Google, Valve, they all already do this. Further, Oculus doesn't make any money on hardware right now, what can a person expect them to do? Just operate without any intention of ever making a profit?

The PC gaming community online can be extremely toxic and idealistic, entirely ignoring business realities.


Maybe I'm not as aware of all the details as others, but it seems to me that Valve has maintained their position by creating an incredible platform and collection of products (Steam itself, Steam Link, the Steam Controller, etc.), not by engaging in anti-consumer practices. For instance, SteamVR has full support for the Rift. The Chaperone features will even work with the Rift.

More than that, though, I see very few examples of people being upset about the existence of the Oculus Store. People are upset about hardware exclusivity. Hence...

> Further, Oculus doesn't make any money on hardware right now, what can a person expect them to do?

I'd expect them to act in such a way as to maximize software sales, which means avoiding hardware exclusivity at all costs.

Again, I and most others don't really have a problem with Oculus creating their own store. Sure, it's a bit annoying, but we understand they can't really survive by letting Valve profit off software sales of games they've funded. None of this justifies hardware exclusivity though.

This leaves open the question of why they are in fact pursuing hardware exclusivity. I don't have a good answer to that and I'm not sure anyone outside of Oculus does. If I were to venture a guess, I'd say that they must have thought that their content was just flat-out better than anything available for the Vive so that it was strong enough to drive both software and hardware sales. Unfortunately, I suspect they were wrong. Their approach backfired and developer support is centering around the Vive now.


I think it's far more likely that they've maintained their position through first-mover advantage than anything else. Steam is a website wrapped in an application that was built before building applications out of websites was cool, and it shows -- what you get is an outdated version of WebKit and a video player that somehow manages to be worse than the one Polygon uses, and Steam doesn't even have "monetization" as an excuse there. They've largely abandoned curation, Early Access and Greenlight are a steady stream of horror stories... there's a large list of things wrong with Steam that nobody at Valve seems to even care about fixing.


I don't agree. I think the first-mover advantage gave them a big leg up, but people wouldn't have kept using the platform for 12 years if they were relying entirely on that. Competitors like Origin might have had a fighting chance if Valve hadn't constantly been creating a superior suite of products.

You mention issues with Early Access and Greenlight, but these seem like trivial problems when compared to how solid the platform is overall. Steam as a platform is just far and away superior to any other choice in the gaming space. I can play any PC game at my desk or in my living room. The interface scales great to a TV screen. The Steam Controller is innovative and incredibly customizable, and it's supported by virtually any game in Steam. SteamVR is very fully developed itself and supports both the Rift and the Vive; it even goes so far as to support Chaperone with the Rift despite the Rift not having any room-scale-tracked controllers yet. It has honestly grown into one of the best software ecosystems I've ever seen by offering functionality that competitors can't even dream of.


I hate steam and I rarely use its features outside its store and the friends list. Yet steam remains my primary digital distributor exactly because they got there first.

Later it has basically become impossible to avoid steam, if you want access to every game at least. X-com for instance required steam. Steam is also where all my friends have their profiles.

Even if steam didn't have a monopoly on certain games they still own the access to your library and won't allow you to take it with you.

If you ask me valve is right up there with the worst of them as far as exploiting their monopoly goes.


What has Valve done that's so bad in terms of "exploiting their monopology"? I honestly don't know what you're referring to. They do not even request store exclusivity from developers. If a developer or publisher decided to require Steam, that was their decision, not Valve's.

I guess you could point to Steam's DRM, but it's always had that, long before it was the de facto standard platform and before any monopoly existed.


I think you're talking about a lot of features here that don't even amount to a percentage point of Steam users. Go look at the Steam Hardware and Software Survey results. SteamOS doesn't even show up in the top five Linux distros that Valve reports. There may be Windows users who are using the Big Picture Mode, but I'd guess not a whole lot of them. There may be Windows users who are using the Steam Controller, but I'd guess it's smaller than the ones using Big Picture Mode. Those are not the reasons Steam is beating Origin.


Just to be clear, SteamOS is not needed for Steam Link and I've never used it. Steam Link just streams content from your PC.


Valve doesn't publish figures on the number of Steam Links sold. But just look at the Steam Hardware Survey[1]. Valve recommends a quad-core PC to be used as the host[2]. But half of Windows users have two CPUs or fewer. The number jumps up to 64% when you look at OS X users. Meanwhile, the top 10 graphics cards are pretty well split betweel the latest NVIDIA cards and a bunch of Intel on-motherboard cards. I don't think the sort of enthusiast that buys a Steam Link is anywhere close to the bulk of Steam's audience; there are a lot of people who are playing games on laptops, not gaming laptops but just laptops.

1) http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/cpus/ 2) https://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=3629-RIA...


I still find it very implausible that first mover advantage alone made Valve into a sustainable multibillion dollar company for so long with very little lock-in and very few anticonsumer practices. They have consistently outmaneuvered all their competitors for over a decade on multiple fronts. Their foray into hardware is just the most recent example. I think pointing to an outdated version of WebKit contained in the app is really grasping at straws for trying to find a way to make it look bad.


It is grossly deceptive to say that Steam has a monopoly on games distribution when a vast number of the games on Steam are also distributed by other channels. I can't name any "Steam exclusives," which is more than I can say for Origin etc.

Frankly it's absurd to psychoanalyze Steam, saying that it wants to do what other companies are doing, and not to recognize that if it wanted to do those things it could easily do so.


I have to strongly agree here. Valve is really very nice about this.

From the Steamworks FAQ

>8. Do you require exclusivity for titles you sell on Steam?

>We think you should get your game in front of as many people as you can, therefore we do not require exclusivity on titles.


It's not a de jure monopoly, it's a de facto monopoly. When a gamer thinks "I wanna buy this game", 90% of them go immediately to Steam.

It's a monopoly in the sense that it's practically financial suicide for a games developer to NOT sell their game through Steam. Whether or not they really "have to" is besides the point if the reality is they'll not make a positive return on their game if they skip out on selling on Steam.

A few big publishers like EA avoid this by creating their own alternative stores and just hoping gamers will deal with it and install Origin, but most games studios have no choice but to accept that they're going to lose 30% because the reality is gamers expect to be able to buy any game on Steam.


It's pretty much the same situation that book publishers find themselves in with Amazon. Valve just hasn't shown its scumbag side yet.


> It is grossly deceptive to say that Steam has a monopoly on games distribution when a vast number of the games on Steam are also distributed by other channels.

This is just from observation without statistics, but I feel once people have a decent number of games on Steam (e.g. from lots of cheap purchases from sales) and no other store, they'd rather stick with Steam instead of installing another store app. Even if another store was a little better, the idea of having to install another app and have games split between two interfaces is a big deterrent.


True, but this would change in an instant if anti-consumer practices were used by Valve.


To play devil's advocate. How do I play Dota2 without steam? No - not even multiplayer matchmaking but just offline with bots.

Almost all Valve titles are Steam exclusive.


> Oculus doesn't make any money on hardware right now, what can a person expect them to do? Just operate without any intention of ever making a profit?

This is confusing. If it's true that they make no money on hardware, then you'd expect them to be ecstatic that people want to buy their games (giving them money) without taking their hmd (which supposedly doesn't).


They aren't producing the content themselves. They have a few titles that they are funding, but mostly they are working as a distributor through Oculus Home. Most titles are 3rd party. They are trying to start the same business that Valve already has in Steam.


But Valve does so by providing a good platform. You have Origin, which is used mostly because of exclusive titles; most people I know would love to ditch origin for Steam.

Value also doesn't have the same approach as Occulus; where Occulus tries to be the iOS Appstore (others not allowed), Valve never had that approach.


I would love to ditch both Origin and Valve for GoG which feels like everything I want out of digital distribution for games. GoG also has a more usable desktop app than Steam which suffers from a very overstuffed UI (not unlike iTunes).

Although Steam unquestionably dominates AAA game distribution, GoG's selection is great for the kinds of games I'm most interested in these days.


Its not like you can get Half Life or DOTA2 outside Steam either (well, Half Life 2 is on the Play store. I guess everyone at some point bows to Ma Google). Every Valve game since HL2 has been Steam exclusive, and uses it for DRM. Since Valve self publishes their own games, can you really blame EA for wanting to do the same with their own DRM system?


I have an Oculus CV1, I had the DK2, and I've been making VR side-projects using their SDK for a couple years now. I'm really disillusioned about Oculus as a platform, though. I didn't even consider buying the HTC Vive because I've been riding the Oculus train for a while and had faith in them as the future of VR, but come on.

I really wish I could know how Carmack feels about this.

Sidenote: for what it's worth, I haven't used my Oculus since the first week I received it. It was supposed to work with glasses (the DK2 does) by shipping with different foam faceplates that can change how far off my face it is (my glasses fit in the Oculus, it's just that the lenses are so close to my eyes that my glasses scratch them) but they silently took that off the "What's in the box" months before shipping.


> I really wish I could know how Carmack feels about this.

My impression is that Carmack is working on GearVR-related stuff in isolation from the rest of the Oculus/Facebook bureaucracy from the comfort of Dallas, TX.

Hard to tell, but I'm not convinced he's even aware (or cares) about what's going on with Oculus in general: https://twitter.com/ID_AA_Carmack/status/733761224098242560


Carmack tends to not particularly care what the business side are up to. He wants to focus on pushing the tech forward and not get bogged down with the office politics or PR spinning beyond what he's forced to do.

Hence John Romero...

Carmack is more of a Woz type character, hence why there is great respect for him in the industry. Many a developer merely dreams of being let loose on the tech and not have to deal with any of the "bullshit".


Carmack is the CTO of Oculus. I'm sure he's involved in a lot more than just a side project like the GearVR.


He was cofounder of id, and had high ranking office until he left in 2013, but still was spending a lot of the 00s building Armadillo Aerospace instead.


I'm pretty sure there is a Chinese firewall in place for legal reasons due to the Zenimax lawsuits and him likely having a non-compete that only applied to desktop games and left mobile free.


Ditto, I was one of the DK1 backers so got the CV1 for free.

I haven't used it much past the first week - only to demo to friends and such, really. I have some disillusionment about it also - it seems like Valve VR/Vive is getting a lot more dev support.

Having tried the Vive also, I think delaying the Oculus motion controllers was a critical error. It turns out the motion controllers really open up a lot of use cases, whereas a "simple" HMD-only feels particularly limiting in comparison.

The Rift is substantially more comfortable than the Vive - the Vive I felt was extremely front-heavy to an extent it actively distracted from the experience. That said, the idea that Oculus Rift "works with glasses" is a statement that's at most 30% true. My glasses are pretty small but while the HMD is on it crams my glasses literally up against my eyeballs - my eyelashes literally brush against the lenses of my glasses while blinking. After using the Rift my glasses are covered with eyelash/eyelid/eyeball(?) smudge marks. It's tremendously annoying.

The backing off of the "switchable glasses faceplate" promise is disappointing.

And honestly, there just isn't much content. Most of the content are tech demos.

Lucky's Tale is a really interesting vindication of the idea that platformers can work in VR - but it's also just not very compelling by itself.

Ditto Eve Valkyrie - the technology is tremendous and you can't help but get that "Battlestar Galactica come to life" glee when you first launch in your fighter... But the gameplay is just not varied or deep enough to hold you for longer than a couple of hours.

Between the discomfort of the HMD and the lack of content, there just isn't much motivation to dive back in.


I have both. The Vive gets way more use, for one simple reason. Room scale is the future of VR. Some of the Oculus games are fantastic uses of the technology. Lucky's Tale has the camera on a rail based on where your character is, and EVE: Valkyrie has great mechanics for seated VR. But both of them feel like you're playing a game, albeit an immersive one, whereas room-scale vive games feel like I'm interacting with a world. Water Bears VR is adorable, but most importantly, the puzzles make use of the physicality of the experience. Moving objects in 3d space is hard with a gamepad, and intuitive with a motion controller. Sitting down isn't the way to use those controllers, either; It's fine to work with your hands sitting down if you're doing detail work, but the resolution isn't there yet for detail work, so you want to focus on sweeping gestures. That means standing up. That means shifting around, wiggling side to side, taking a step. There's theoretically a standing in place mode, but I've not seen it used, everything makes use of the 2Mx2M play area, and for the better.


I am sceptical about this. People like to sit down for their entertainment, that is unlikely to change. Turning, swerving, swiveling, sure, but I bet most would quickly get fed up with having to get on their feet and move around in order to play their games.


So far, you're wrong. I have a Vive and four kids. The Vive sees at least two hours of play time a day, with kids often sneaking time at weird hours. They were even getting up before 6 am, dressing and doing chores in order to play before school until my wife halted the practice.

When friends come over, it's the most offered activity; it's a very compelling experience. Not a ton of long form content yet, but seriously, it's compelling.


I remember people having nearly-identical debates about the motion controlled "party games" of the Wii.


My kids still like to play those with their friends as well! But they've mostly moved on to the vive.


Does it fit a child properly? I have been planning on getting one for the kids, but I read several complaints that it takes some work to to get a good fit on an adult, let alone a child, plus the fact that it seems very front-heavy.

I don't doubt that it will get a lot of play from the novelty factor alone, but I remain sceptical that it will make sedentary gamers change their habits in the long term.


It does fit my kids. The experience gets less sharp if your interpupillary distance is too far out of spec, but down to about 7, kids function with it fine. Even little kids immediately 'get it' when they are using it; it is the least mediated computer experience I've seen.

You can put on a headset with a 75 year old man and hold out the controllers to him, he will reach out and take them.

Inre: weight, the kids don't like to play more than 30 minutes at a time or so, but that's partly because they want to talk about what they're seeing with someone there.

Probably the most frustrating part right now is that you want to engage with other people, ("oh wow!!" "can you believe that just happened?") and it can be hard to do so when you're isolated visually and auditorily. I think it's got a ton of potential as a party game technology though, with a little bit of work at the integration back and forth with friends sitting on the couch.

Inre: sedentary gamers, probably not, but it does encourage movement. In the first few minutes I tried out hover junkers I was literally crouching on the floor, popping up out to shoot at an opponent and then back down as quickly as I could. One of my daughters at her first try was down on the ground crawling around to look at something in under a minute or so.

So, it's at least a lot more movement than we currently have. :)


I'm gonna have to back vessenes on this. It's really a very compelling experience. I'm sure there will be many games/experiences that you play seated, we do still sit in cars/planes/giant robots in real life after all.

However I very much doubt that such experiences will be the overwhelming majority. Dodging bullets and moving around to see things from different perspectives is WAY too fun.


Sitting down is great for passive entertainment, of which Vive has a lot of. But also, VR is for immersive interaction... and for that, standing up with tracked controllers is not only compelling, it's essential.


I thought that about the Wii, but me and my lads still stand to play that. The games are a bit crap, so we only play for an hour or so, but standing to play isn't an issue for us (much to my surprise)


The Wii may actually be a case in point, since it never really got that much consumer uptake, and no other platform has picked up the mantle with physically active games.

As with the Vive, it seemed like the future at the time, the concept games were a lot of fun, and it scared competing platforms to rush out imitating products (Xbox Kinect, PS Move). But neither have ultimately had much adoption.


The Wii was Nintendo's most successful console, selling over 100 million units.

Like you said, Microsoft and Sony both introduced motion controllers for their consoles. The Kinect was the fastest selling consumer electronics device.

Source: http://nintendoenthusiast.com/article/the-false-success-of-t...


I feel like the happiest Kinect customers were research groups and some artists, because it was the first really cheap depth camera system you could buy readymade.


The kinect was crap. It was almost good, but it just wasn't there, it would miss things, get confused, it wouldn't pick up one of my lads (he was too small?) and the games were really boring.


I don't think I could've put this any better myself; I'm also a DK1 backer that got CV1 for free.

Most of my friends who did the same sold their CV1 when the hype was high for a profit and went on to purchase the Vive. I live in an NYC apartment, so I don't really have the room to spare for the Vive, but prior to the free CV1 announcement, I planned to purchase a Vive.

After experiencing DK1, you really got a good idea of what VR at that price point was capable of. Sure, the resolution and comfort will improve slightly, but it was a good calibration of expectations for the market. I just hope there comes more and more interesting software to actually drive the industry, because currently it's looking like another 90s VR cycle.


I also got CV1 for free from being a Kickstarter. Having a Vive, the Oculus CV1 is just a paperweight right now.

Even when Touch finally comes out, it has been under so much secrecy and so many NDAs that I'm thinking it might have significant issues.


Not sure how much I'm allowed to say, but I've been working with both controllers for a while and honestly really prefer Touch over Vive's controllers. They have way more expressiveness, which means we're often running into things we want to do with Touch that don't easily translate to Vive's trigger/squeeze/thumb combo. A basic example, you can do rock paper scissors with Touch. Not perfectly since you still have a controller in your hand, but it totally works.

It's a huge plus for Vive that it has motion controllers on launch, but if Touch comes out by end of 2016, half a year's difference isn't much time in the grand scheme of VR and I bet most of the Vive exclusives will be cross-platform then too.


Vive doesn't have any real exclusives. You can already play most of the stuff on Rift with an MIT licensed Razer Hydra driver adapter that Valve released for free. Valve are treating headsets more like monitors, Oculus is treating them like a gaming console.

You have to dig in a menu and click a "scare toggle" to even run third party software on Oculus. On GearVR they don't even have the toggle. It will only run Oculus store apps.

and apps that you have signed to your individual device, making them impossible to distribute broadly


I'm aware and don't mean exclusive in that sense, just in the sense of being officially released on the platform. Many of the same games be released on the Rift once the touch controllers are out, negating the controller availability difference.

That said, Vive's tracking will still be the better of the two, as well as their cord length. I do wish the controllers were slightly more evolved though... :P


How is Touch a secret? They had stations with it at PAX East. They're different than Vive's wands but seemed equally good.


I think Eve Valkyrie might actually have a lot more depth, but it's hidden behind a progression system. You can pay cash money to bypass at least some of the pain of the progression system which is kind of insane considering it's a for pay game, but this has been the accepted standard in COD and Battlefield for years. At least those don't mock you by offering a pay to win (or more charitably pay to progress) option.

Certainly they could have done a lot more and given you more systems to interact with both inside and outside your ship.

I agree the software situation is dire. I tried VorpX with Aliens Isolation and there is just no comparison with other VR titles I have tried. I admit that doesn't include Chronos or The Climb which I have trouble spending the coin on for fear they are overrated tech demos instead of true AAA experiences.


> I really wish I could know how Carmack feels about this.

That's a really good point - has he spoken at all about the direction of Oculus & HMD VR in general since the Rift was released?


The champion of mods. The champion of being as open as you can (while making money.) He lectures, he helps, he's open and honest.

I'm sure he is disappointed in where facebook+rift is heading.


I have the DK2, doesn't work with my glasses :(. Admittedly i didn't try with a CV unit I got to check out, but my brother did and it worked for him. Might just vary depending on frames.


What a shame. Rift started as a crowdfunded open project and ended up as a disgusting lock-in.

>Frequently secured through digital rights management (DRM ) technology, this functionality is typically standard for digital download stores.

Not really. There are enough DRM-free ones. I don't care about games that are released through some exclusive DRM-infested stores, but what's more worrying is that hardware itself is probably tied to those stores. I.e. can you use Rift with games for example released through GOG?

In this sense Vive isn't better now too, since it requires SteamVR (because no one else implemented OpenVR so far).


As far as I can tell none of the vendors are pursuing that sort of aggressive vendor lock. You can distribute binaries through whatever method you wish and have them work with either the Vive or Oculus. The DRM issues stem mostly from content released on the Oculus Platform.

Your point about SteamVR and the Oculus Platform being roughly equivalent is true but I think about it in a similar context to drivers. Both platforms provide an API that you can build against, though personally I have been using SteamVR/OpenVR with both the Vive and the Oculus and I haven't touched the Oculus platform save a couple tests because building against OpenVR let's me use both the Oculus and the Vive.

OSVR is the real shining light of hope in this ecosystem but as of now it just provides a layer on top of SteamVR/OpenVR/Oculus/etc requiring you to run those services in the background.


> OSVR is the real shining light of hope in this ecosystem but as of now it just provides a layer on top of SteamVR/OpenVR/Oculus/etc requiring you to run those services in the background.

Yes, unless someone will implement OpenVR and whatever Rift is using (OculusVR?) in a fashion that won't be tied to using either Steam or Oculus services, the hardware will be tied to them. And it still didn't happen yet. It's the reason I didn't buy either of them yet. I find such concept of hardware tied to a service to be completely bizarre.


Really cool tech, but kind of a depressing start to this young industry.

I feel like desktop apps are making huge strides in being cross-platform, both in attention from developers and the lower development effort required thanks to a myriad of software platforms and tools. It's just sad to see games still clinging to "exclusives" as if that's a positive thing.


Today's Internet industry is all about vertical lock-in, app store lock-down, and surveillance (customer is product), so an "eyeball grab" and "platform grab" for VR is to be expected.

This is particularly true when we're talking about a company where this is their entire business model.


Well, when you get a big player like Facebook involved...


It's strange, though, because Facebook wasn't in the games business like this before, so they did have a choice of what approach they were going to take. There's no real reason they couldn't have come out swinging for open standards, for example.


True, although Facebook is still a massive company. At a certain point, it's extremely hard to keep the hard-nosed business types out of the game and they're going to have a more closed-minded approach to things.


The natural progression of all software industries has always been to use proprietary first movers to dominate and control the market with DRM and lockin, burn it down, destroy all consumer and fan engagement, and then slowly flicker out where the corporate goliath that dominated first is eventually supplanted by an open community that should have been there in the first place, but everyone drank the koolaid.

Be it web standards, OSes in general, word processing, graphics editing, CAD, 3d modeling, compilers, network protocols, graphics APIs, video game engines, and now VR. The only industry that I've seen even resist for a moment this tempting devil of profit has been 3d printing, which has been in many regards losing to "ease of use" DRM restricted proprietary tonka toys in recent years.


Wow sounds positively Marxist. Some imaginary 'natural' progression is not really science, its just a convenient narrative. Anything can happen, including folks abandoning open source and embracing a new walled garden (think iPhone). Don't have to look far at all to see refutation of the convenient storyline.


There was never an open source smartphone app-based OS before iOS, and Android has demonstrated an open source alternative that has risen in the wake of the iPhones success to take 80% of the market, which absolutely supports the narrative.

Also, comparing observable industry trends to Marxism is on par with Godwin's law. Obviously you are a communist if you observe natural trends in software towards open interoperability and/or community participation in development of established paradigms?


The winner will be decided by third party support. Oculus can continue with their DRM shenanigans, but in the end it's all going to be irrelevant. The third party developers will always exceed what Oculus or Vive put out in quality and quantity. And right now, according to Steam, Vive seems to have the majority of the third party developer support.


Oculus / Vive / PSVR are all "consoles" in a way, and that as competition becomes more and more fierce, profitability on hardware will go down over time. By staying a closed platform, if Oculus can deliver on their hardware while selling software on their platform.

What's different about consoles though is that, at least in Oculus and Vive's case, the software looks to be fairly compatible with one another (hack-blocking aside by Oculus). What I don't understand is, if it's trivial to run Oculus software on other hardware platforms with hacks, why wouldn't they want people to buy their software if it can run on other platforms as well? Is it brand protection? They can't make large margins on their headset forever.


I have both. I greatly prefer my HTC Vive for the room-scale + wand experience. I also really like Steam VR over Oculus Home.

The HTC Vive works like a peripheral. I launch Steam, start Steam VR mode, and put the headset on. It feels like PC gaming.

The Oculus Rift feels like a console. I put the headset on, and it launches Oculus Home. It's a very polished presentation and the HW-SW integration is deep and satisfying.


They're more peripherals than consoles. This is what makes it so frustrating to see what's happened to Oculus. Their recent moves are very anti-developer.


That's what I mean -- they're trying to be consoles artificially. Vive has the Steam platform, Oculus has theirs.


I think it's worth pointing out that Steam might technically be a walled garden, but it's a very open one, and it has full support for both the Vive and the Rift. I don't get the impression at all that the Vive is trying to be a console artificially. There is no content that is exclusive to the Vive only because of business contracts; the Vive is just enjoying temporary and coincidental exclusivity which is a result of Touch not being available and not even having a release date.


I think Valve is trying to create an open platform for VR, so at least you could use Vive or some other device (probably not Oculus, though) that works with Steam VR games. It also makes no sense for Valve to allow anyone else that doesn't abide by those standards to use the Steam store (including Oculus).


Yes, all the stuff the SteamVR overlay is built with are public APIs that competing stores can use to make their own overlay (including notification popups during games, etc.). You can make a competing store in a tab alongside steam, or replace the Steam VR overlay entirely:

https://github.com/ValveSoftware/openvr/wiki/IVROverlay_Over...


Valve is in a very comfortable position. Steam will still be steam if VR implodes tomorrow, and for the opposite case, all they need to do is not getting left behind. There is no way something other than an open platform (well, as open or closed as conventional steam) could help them keep that position.


> They can't make large margins on their headset forever.

They don't. Oculus is selling the Rift at cost.

> Why wouldn't they want people to buy their software if it can run on other platforms as well?

Their goal is to build a user base through exclusives. Exclusives aren't exclusive if you can play them on other hardware.


> By staying a closed platform, if Oculus can deliver on their hardware while selling software on their platform.

Hopefully they will just go out of business instead. No more walled garden bullshit, this is a VR peripheral. It doesn't need an app store attached.


They're owned by facebook so going out of business is not going to happen. What is going to happen is a realignment of their core mission statement once facebook deems what they're doing is non value added.


Why does it need DRM? Can you imagine if you bought a monitor and it turned out you could only run specific programs and could only use approved peripherals?

"Oh, you can't run Google Chome, but we have an amazing equivalent: Oculus Explorer! We're also gonna monitor your mouse movements for the purpose of improving your customer experience. In addition, to ensure a consistent UX, you can only use Oculus approved mice and keyboards!"


Oculus DRM doesn't work like that at all. Anyone can program against the oculus API and release software for it. It's not like there is a standard VR api (OpenVR is anything but, it's controlled by a single company with their own intentions).


Correct, it's more like buying Microsoft Flight Simulator and not being able to run it because your monitor is not a genuine Microsoft monitor.

Oculus DRM works by locking the "Oculus exclusive" software to the Oculus hardware. Hackers, of course, have cracked that nut, so the usual arms race against offensive DRM has begun.


I'm not a fan of lock-in at all but if Oculus don't make money selling the hardware and can't expect a high chance of sales from their store then how are they suppose to make money? Is their whole business model based on purchases from the Oculus store?

Competition is good. I don't like how Oculus is trying to create their own locked in ecosystem but I don't like how some people only want to buy things from Steam either.


Virtual ads, obv.


Rift has two major advantages that made me choose it:

1. Doesn't require to hang stuff on walls, a single sensor beside the monitor is enough. For me dedicating a room to VR is out of the question.

2. It has built in headphones. Yes they look "cheap" on pictures, but when you actually use a VR headset that goes on and off a lot you appreciate the convenience. Sound is also VERY good in them.

I don't get the blind Facebook hate and Steam fanboyism. Remember Steam is a 35% taking monopoly on PC gaming. If anything that monopoly needs to be dealt with.


As much as I'd like to see an "underdog" win the VR wars I think the Space race to market is a very small part of the battle. Facebook will be able to market non-gaming apps much better then gaming companies, imo, and so don't necessarily have to be first, just eventually get close to parity (which is inevitable).


Got a bunch of real questions: do you know if VR is growing? Does people like the experience? How long are the user sessions?


Hey, come on, 3D was huge and the glasses you have to wear for this don't make you look as silly and are totally not going to give you headaches or make you sick, plus there'll be even more content for this, and because of the standards you can just buy any hardware and choose from thousands of great, great games.




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