Beyond being a great VR game, Beat Saber has inadvertently turned out to be an excellent benchmark of controller tracking performance, and thus a great test for the upcoming Oculus Quest standalone headset, the first from the company to feature inside-out tracking. Having played Beat Saber’s highest difficulty (Expert+) on Quest, I’m now confident that it’s up to the task.

With Quest launching in this Spring, and one of the most successful VR titles to date—Beat Saber—confirmed as a launch title, the measure of any other standalone VR headset in the near future is very likely to become ‘Can it play Beat Saber‘?

It’s a tall order for any VR system, considering the high level of tracking performance necessary to make Beat Saber not just feel good, but be truly playable all the way up to its most challenging Expert+ difficulty. PSVR’s tracking just barely makes the cut, but seasoned Beat Saber players will immediately notice the added latency (and considerably smaller tracking volume) compared to the gold standards of VR tracking on the Rift and Vive.

Even then, Beat Saber players were pushing the Vive controller tracking to limits which Valve had not initially considered humanly possible, prompting the company to update its tracking code to account for the speed of high-level players.

So it would be no small feat for Oculus Quest, which uses an inside-out tracking system, to be able to handle Beat Saber at Expert+ difficulty. But when I tried the game on Quest at last month’s GDC, I found that it is definitely up to the task.

The first thing I noticed when putting on the headset and firing up ‘POP/STARS’—the most challenging Expert+ track of the four-track selection presented in the GDC demo—is that the latency and accuracy feels much tighter than on PSVR, and much closer to what I’d expect from the Rift or Vive. For reference, this video shows the note sequence of the song on Expert+ and the corresponding movements that the tracking had to keep up with:

Lower latency and higher accuracy means a better alignment (in space and time) between your real hand and your virtual hand. With too much latency, the swords in Beat Saber will feel ‘floaty’, which can be especially challenging when dealing with strings of opposite notes (ie: lots of up/down arrows in a row). Without enough accuracy you’re prone to miss more often.

With latency and accuracy feeling very good, another big question for Beat Saber on Quest is tracking coverage. Coverage is a challenge for inside-out tracking because such systems typically rely on line-of-sight between cameras on the headset and controllers in your hands, which can sometimes be blocked. While Quest’s four cameras do indeed have some blind spots (notably behind the forward position of the headset), the front-facing nature of Beat Saber never comes into conflict with them. And in those occasions where an arm might briefly occlude the other controller the system seems to handle it without flaw.

Quest has four cameras on the corners of the headset to track the world around the user including the controllers. | Image courtesy Oculus

Consistency—how often the tracking works without any gross errors—is of course essential for high-level Beat Saber play, because you never want to feel like the headset is causing you to make errors. Having completing ‘POP/STARS’ with on Expert+ with a ~90% combo, I played four more times (on different tracks). Across those five players there was only one instance where I missed a note and felt like it was the system’s fault and not my own. Estimating roughly 650 notes per Expert+ song, that’s an error rate of ~0.03%, which is below the 99.9% consistency threshold that I would say any form of input needs to not frustrate the user.

SEE ALSO
'Beat Saber' Scoring Explained – It's All in the Technique

So Quest’s tracking, for Beat Saber specifically, feels pretty darn good—much better than PSVR, and nearly as good as I’d expect when playing Expert+ songs on Rift or Vive. Of course, certain environmental factors (things like bright lights, mirrors, etc) can cause challenges for inside-out tracking. Until we have Quest in our hands to try anywhere and everywhere, we won’t know how robust it is to varied environments, but in the right setting it achieves a surprisingly high bar for tracking performance.

Graphically speaking, Beat Saber on Quest has been visibly turned down a few notches—everything is a little blockier and less shiny—but it’s otherwise the exact same core gameplay, interface, etc.

The ability to handle Beat Saber at Expert+ difficulty is good news for Quest, which seems to be leading the pack in inside-out tracking performance among any standalone headset we’ve seen so far.

Update (April 3rd, 2019): Adjusted a sentence about ‘Quest launching in just a few months’ to be less ambiguous. The most specific information Oculus has provided about the Quest release date is “Spring 2019.”

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  • Bob Disqus

    “…Quest launching in just a few months…”

    I really hope you don’t know something we don’t! Most people are expecting it to shop shortly after F8.

    Good article, thanks.

  • gothicvillas

    Im curious to try Quest… im worried that graphic downgrades will make me sad

  • kuhpunkt

    But can it run Crysis?

    • Zbyszek

      Yes.

  • ale bro

    Quest runs LIV!!??

    how is mixed reality possible on such a low powered device?

    • Wildtz0r

      The youtube link doesn’t show a Quest run – it’s just meant to show the song that the editor actually played on the Quest.

      • cartweet

        That’s true however the beat saber quest trailer did use LIV.

  • Pre Seznik

    I’m mostly interested in how well Robo Recall runs. That game needs an untethered headset to fully enjoy, I think.

    • MOT

      It will run fine but look like roblox. This is 6 dof cell phone vr. The overhype is ridiculous.

      • Daven Bigelow

        Ah I see you are a troll now. Nothing here is overhyped, the gameplay matters far more than graphics to the majority, otherwise everyone would be PC gamers or at least on Xbox One X and PS4 PRO.

        Instead data shows the Switch had the most explosive growth this generation

        • The Mogget

          The Switch is the right comparison, because it is the Switch that I am not buying this year because of the Quest. I was never going to buy a gaming pc to get VR. I have the money, but I don’t tolerate that level of hassle.

          • Lisa

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      • The Mogget

        I am really excited to play Roblox Recall. Some of us really enjoy games that are fun and ugly. Some of my favorite games I played this year have been indie retro 2D-platformers, and a Nintendo 64 port to the Gameboy 3DS of Starfox. Looks like garbage, but is a blast to play.

        For the console and mobile gamer, what makes this headset amazing is the tracking. Never before has a system had such a wide play and accurate tracking in something that costs 400 bucks all in. No playstation or PC or wires. Compared the the graphics on my gameboy, this is insane. Yes, this is cell phone VR, and yes I am hyped for it.

    • gothicvillas

      check some Minecraft videos and you will have good idea :D

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    • The Mogget

      I think people underestimate how satisfying the untethered experience is in a game where you look around a lot. The reviewers of the Quest all love it for that Tennis game and Superhot.

      • Nepenthe

        Especially because it’s so portable. You can fairly easily bring it with you to a location with a larger space available.

  • MOT

    Wait. Beatsaber has been toned down graphically? Beatsaber? What do we play after that? Skyrim? Asgards Wrath? Resident Evil 7? Elite dangerous? I wonder if it could manage manic miner.

    • Daven Bigelow

      Post processing is what mobile struggles with most of all, so it is no surprise a game that uses excessive post processing effects and shaders needs some toned down.

      Otherwise generally expect a Quest to have much less anti-aliasing available too

    • The Mogget

      Who plays Skyrim? That game is boring.

      • Mike

        I doubt that there will be the Skyrim VR for Quest. However, it is 8 years old game. I believe Quest could handle the game itself fine if they decide to port over to Android OS version. ;)

        • The Mogget

          And I am sure there would be someone who would like to play it… although I am not sure who that is. There are people who play Skyrim cause graphics, and those who don’t play it. I haven’t met the person who thought that the experience of playing Skyrim was actually fun.

          • jj

            uhhh what? i know a lot of people, including me, who would say skyrim is one of their favorite games and skyrim vr was one of their favorite vr experiences. Plus once you add mods (which it sounds like you’re ignorant to) ay graphics issues go away. Exploring an open world like that is simply amazing. be gone troll.

          • The Mogget

            Who invited you to this conversation? You show up to harass me. That makes you the troll. You cannot banish me.

            I also know people who loved skyrim, including my brother. I still can have my own opinion that this game is super boring. The world is open, yes, and in many ways it is also empty and dreary and full of quests that feel like chores in order to rack up points and gear in order to do more chores. Unless the mods make the game more fun and colorful and interesting to explore, I would still hold that opinion. I don’t care about ‘graphical issues’. Some of my favorite games have characters that are 16 pixels high.

            There are also many other games where you explore a world that also happen to have gameplay I find much more entertaining. I am not alone in the ‘skyrim is boring’ crowd. Just google that phrase.

            That said, I am not as hatery as this makes me sound. I wish the skyrim crowd the best of luck, and the gaming world is plenty big for the both of us, and I might even check it out if it comes to the Quest. What I don’t like is the general condescending attitude of the pixels-polygons-fps crowd who complain that the Quest cannot run the most graphically demanding games at their most graphically demanding settings. If Skyrim is fun, it will be just as fun on the Quest even if it is less pretty. If you think making everything more pretty or fixing ‘graphical issues’ with mods is going to make that game less boring, you need to reconsider your definition of boring.

        • Matthew Veinotte

          Hhahahahha You doubt that Quest will have Skyrim. TODDDD??? Someone wants to have a word with you!

  • superdonkey

    if it gets linked to pc by ALVR and supported then im in for sure.

    the future of vr is wireless

    • The Mogget

      The future of VR is standalone, not just wireless.

      • Nepenthe

        Ackshually… actually the future is not just wireless, not just standalone, but probably a “dumb” standalone that only handles getting player tracking data and sending tracking data out, and then receives video and audio streamed with extremely low latency from a bunch of powerful computers rendering everything in a warehouse hundreds of kilometers away. That’s years away though.

        • The Mogget

          You win. It is hard to argue against ‘the cloud’ continuing to eat up the world. Hundreds of kilometers is hard to do low latency…. that whole speed of light thing. The stock exchanges speed races encouraged the new microwave stations because ‘speed of light through optical fiber’ was just too slow. Definitely years away, but definitely possible.

          • Nepenthe

            Well, 300 kilometers per millisecond ain’t half bad. :o)

            In the time it takes one frame on a 90Hz headset to render, light can travel 3300 kilometers.

            Anyway, 5G is sold as having extraordinarily low latency, something on the order of only 1/50th the latency of currently wireless technologies. We’ll see.

          • The Mogget

            Right, but how many back and forths does it have to make that trip to get the calculations requested and answered? It sounds like the requirements of VR are much lower than the latency arms-race in the electronic stock trading markets.

            I am excited for 5G. I am pretty sure it can handle that level of data with good signal and probably can do long distances. I am hopeful, but a bit skeptical, of it being able to completely offload VR reliably with the sorts of signal coverage we have where I live. I am also a bit worried what my data bill would be when I am wirelessly streaming VR. Just to play mainstream games on PC on Steam I would need a lot more expensive internet.

          • Nepenthe

            All valid concerns. Smarter folks than I will be applying themselves to them in the 2020s, I have no doubt.

    • Lulu Vi Britannia

      ALVR is exactly what I’m waiting for as well xD.
      I find the Quest more attractive than Rift S, but I need to be able to connect my VR headset to my PC. It’s not just about the graphics, it’s about everything else as well: a bigger hard drive for my VR content, the ability to use Virtual Desktop, and (of course) the PC-only VR games.

      If ALVR can link the Quest to the PC, the Quest is definitely the way to go for me.

      Now, I heard some testers did see a few tracking losses with the Quest… Time will tell if that is really a hindrance or if it’s tolerable.

  • The Mogget

    Yahoo! The haters said it couldn’t track, and here it tracks. The Quest now does everything I need it to do.

  • The Mogget

    That game feels like the worst sidequesty bits of other games, propped up with very high end but very dreary graphics. Its like someone took a beautiful world, threw a bunch of dirt on it, then drained some of the color out. My brother thought it was the best thing ever, but I didn’t get Skyrim at all.

    Full Disclosure: I am not an RPG gamer beyond Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy. Open-world ‘run and chop and get forging materials for new gear’ genre in general seems like points farming and overworld marching of the worst kind to me. I might hate Skyrim less if I liked that genre of game more to begin with. Give me a good story with bright colors and tough tactical decisions and a bit of humor any day.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3faaa1ab4158930b7b3ef999b94b8dff337d064c981bb97f6f9ec5541f45edae.jpg

    If I want some action, Robo Recall will do nicely.

  • James Cobalt

    I tried KDA POP/STARS at Expert+ on Quest at PAX East and my controllers occasionally lost tracking – sometimes appearing as slight drift, sometimes flying out of my hands into the horizon, and sometimes disappearing briefly.

    Hopefully I just had a bad unit, but it worked fine on Expert. It wasn’t until Expert+ that they got confused. Very disappointing experience in that regard, but most other things about the headset were pretty solid.

    • Matthew Veinotte

      Well KDA Expert + Tempo is i belive 120-130? The songs in the game go up 190. It must of been something to do with that unit. Because they say it can keep up with the 190 tempo songs. A measy 130 tempo like kda would be nothing. I use KDA to warm up lol

      • James Cobalt

        I’m also hopeful, but song tempo doesn’t have as much to do with tracking as some may think. Mainly, song tempo and arrow tempo are not equivalent – POP/STARS arrow rate is sometimes half and sometimes double the song’s overall average. More importantly, do arrow patterns result in repeated occlusion or moving the controller outside the tracking camera field? A number of songs are simple up + down patterns, while POP/STARS has a decent number of cross overs, resulting in one arm moving over they other, briefly obstructing the view of the lower controller.

        My suspicion is something about the demo conditions – an overused, overheating headset throttling the tracking rate, or low controller batteries, or even IR interference, was to blame. Hopefully. Because it doesn’t matter how good a player you are if your sabers are shooting out of your hands like bottle rockets. I don’t plan on getting a Quest for myself, but I do want to see VR succeed, and this is a really smart product if they can pull it off.

    • But when? Maybye they updated software, Quest still isn’t out so they are definitly working on it all the time.

      • James Cobalt

        3 days ago.

  • The Mogget

    Everyone likes what they like, but asking the Quest which is the mobile running around exercisy VR to run games like Skyrim and decide that it is no good if it doesn’t is narrow minded. I hope one day soon the next generation of mobile chips makes such games possible on standalone, but it doesn’t matter for most of the market.

    I played a Fallout game once…. it was fun. I was in a RTS kick at the time, and Supreme Commander 2 ate up my time instead. I wonder if there are any good RTS on coming to the Quest?

    • jj

      “to run games like Skyrim and decide that it is no good if it doesn’t is narrow minded.” Literally nobody said that….

      the fact that you said you’ve only payed a fallout game once, is a great indicator that you’re too close minded to critique games because you haven’t even tried them.

      You’re also just a fucking weeb for posting images like that. So again nobody cares about what you have to say, because its crystal clear right off the bat you don’t try shit outside of your little bubble. Which you don’t have to if ur just gaming, but if you’re going to come in here and talk about whats enjoyable, then youre small sliver of a selection does not line up with the majority.

      • The Mogget

        What is a weeb and what is wrong with the image of a great game?

        I have tried your bubble, and its boring. I have tried flight simulators on super high end PCs that are ultra-realistic and as open as the real world is…. and they were super boring. You couldn’t pay me to fly that plane across the country. Give me Starfox and a couple friends and we will laugh so hard we cry. That is the kind of flying game I want to play, cause it is fun.

        Skyrim is to an RPG like Fire Emblem what a flight simulator is to Starfox – more realistic in all the wrong ways. It has lots of things to do… I just happen to not be interested in doing most of those things.

        That said, I would say that Skyrim is probably the best game of its type…. which is like action-RPG-simulator or something. It’s more open than other games that are all about being open. You can like it. My brother does too. That’s ok. Don’t Panic.

  • johann jensson

    “Graphically speaking, Beat Saber on Quest has been visibly turned down a few notches—everything is a little blockier and less shiny […]”

    Haha, pity the fools who buy into this VR-console named “Quest”. As a PC gamer i can’t understand how someone can cut themselves off from the freedom and endless possibilities of a PC, but to each their own, right? :)

    But on topic: This is just another confirmation of how good the inside-out tracking of Rift S will be. I can’t wait!

    • wcalderini

      You know, you are allowed to have BOTH, right?

      • johann jensson

        Ah, like i’m allowed to own two or even more houses? Good to know.

  • VR4EVER

    This is awesome news, thank you! Not that I wouldnt already hit the preorder button twice after every Quest news …

  • MW

    So- tracking almost as good, and looks much worse than on the old Rift/Vive? No, thanks.

    • disboi

      Don’t underestimate it. I have watched a TON of Youtube videos talking about how great the tracking is. The only fault is when the controllers are practically touching the headset and putting your hand behind your back for a second or two. (Two things that basically never happen in a game) And if these faults do mess up gameplay for some ports, the games will be optimized for Quest, and any new games will be built for Quest or with Quest in mind anyways. Basically: Dont judge a product you haven’t tried.

  • Mauro Sylos Labini

    Yes, praise the lord, an unthethered headset with inside out 6DOF tracking, super portable, which doesn’t require 600$ PC to run. Please