steamvr logoToday Valve has released an update for SteamVR, the virtual reality mode for the popular game distribution service. The update enables Oculus Rift DK2 support for Half-Life 2 and the Steam Big Picture mode. Here’s a detailed guide to get it working.

Valve has been an early supporter of Oculus VR and virtual reality. Their popular shooter Team Fortress 2 (2007) was one of the first existing games to be updated with Oculus Rift support. Half-Life 2 (2004), arguably one of the greatest games ever made, was also updated with Oculus Rift support early on, way back in May, 2013.

In January, 2014, Valve released a beta version of SteamVR, a mode for the company’s massively popular Steam game distribution client that allows it to be viewed in a virtual reality version of ‘Big Picture Mode’.

See Also: Valve’s SteamVR, Now with Support for Mac and Linux, Is the Best VR Web Browser Yet for the 2D Web

Today Valve has updated SteamVR to work with the latest Oculus SDK 0.4.1. This brings support for the Oculus Rift DK2 for the first time and also enables positional tracking, the much lauded feature that provides a more immersive and comfortable virtual reality experience. Half-Life 2’s virtual reality implementation relies on SteamVR, and now that the package has been updated, it too works with the Oculus Rift DK2. If you own Half-Life 2 and the DK2, there’s pretty much no reason to not drop what you are doing right now and get your head into that world. Excuse me… I’ll be back in about an hour.

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How to Enable SteamVR for Oculus Rift DK2

steamvr main menu

SteamVR supports Windows, Mac, and Linux (no positional tracking on the latter yet).

  1. Make sure you are using the latest version of the Steam client: Go to Steam [menu item] > Check for Steam Client Updates.
  2. [Mac and Linux only] Opt into the Steam client beta: Steam [menu item] > Account. Under ‘Beta participation’ click ‘CHANGE…’ In the new window, select ‘Steam Beta Update,’ then click OK. Restart Steam.
  3. Click Library > Tools. Scroll to find SteamVR, right-click and select ‘Properties’, then click the ‘BETAS’ tab. From the dropdown list, select ‘beta – SteamVR Beta Update.’ Click ‘Close’ at the bottom right of the window.
  4. Still in the Tools menu, right-click on SteamVR again and select ‘Install Game’. Click ‘Next’ twice to install.
  5. Ensure your Oculus Rift DK2 is turned on and set to Extended Mode. In the Steam menu, select View > Virtual Reality Mode (BETA)

How to Enable Half-Life 2 for Oculus Rift DK2

half life 2 oculus rift dk2 how to

After following the above steps to make sure you’ve got SteamVR working correctly, you might want to jump into Half-Life 2 with the DK2. Here’s how:

  1. Install Half-Life 2 as usual if it isn’t already.
  2. In the Library, right-click on Half-Life 2 and select ‘Properties.’
  3. Select the ‘BETAS’ tab. From the dropdown menu, select ‘beta – Beta updates’.
  4. Click close and wait for Half-Life 2 to update to the beta version.
  5. Ensure your Oculus Rift is turned on and set to Extended Mode. Launch Half-Life 2.
  6. In the Half-Life 2 menu, select ‘Options’, then the ‘Video’ tab. Switch the Virtual Reality Mode option to ‘Enabled’.
  7. Quit Half-Life 2 and relaunch it.
  8. On the Half-Life 2 menu, select ‘Activate Virtual Reality’. The window should automatically display in your Oculus rift DK2.
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Optional Tip: Set to 75Hz Mode to Decrease Blur

  • In your Steam Library, right click on ‘Half-Life 2 [beta]’. On the ‘GENERAL’ tab, select ‘SET LAUNCH OPTIONS…’. Type ‘-refresh 75 -freq 75’ into the field and click OK.
  • Launch Half-Life 2. Select Options, then the ‘Video’ tab, then ‘Advanced…’. Set ‘Motion Blur’ to ‘Disabled’. Click ‘OK’.
  • Select the ‘Keyboard’ tab, then click the ‘Advanced’ button and select ‘Enable developer console’. Press the tilde key (~) anywhere in the game to launch the developer console.
  • In the developer console type ‘disconnect’, then type ‘fps_max 76’ [sic, framerate will be -1 from value entered].
  • In the developer console type ‘net_graph 1’ to show an FPS counter to verify your framerate. Type ‘net_graph 0’ when done to disable the FPS counter.

Thanks to Reddit user strickt for this tip!

Optional Tip: Increase the Size of the Positional  Tracking Volume

For some reason the positional tracking volume inside of Half-Life 2 is artificially limited. Here’s how to fix it.

  • Enable the game console in Half-Life 2 by selecting Options, then the ‘Keyboard’ tab, ‘Advanced’ button, and select ‘Enable developer console’. Press the tilde key (~) anywhere in the game to launch the developer console.
  • In the developer console type ‘vr_translation_limit 100’.

Thanks to Reddit user hagg87 for this tip!


Here are a few things to try if you’re having trouble:

  • Ensure you are running the latest Oculus Runtime and that your DK2 has the latest firmware installed. Here’s a guide on updating the firmware (which also shows where to get the latest Runtime).
  • Make sure you have your DK2 turned on and set to Extended Mode. You can change from Direct Mode to Extended by double-clicking the Oculus eye icon in the Windows System Tray and selecting ‘Rift Display Mode’. Mac doesn’t currently support Direct Mode so it should bet set to Extended by default.
  • If positional tracking isn’t working, first make sure that the blue light on the positional tracking camera is turning on when you launch SteamVR or activate VR mode in Half-Life 2. If it isn’t turning on, right-click on the Oculus eye icon in the Windows System Tray and select ‘Configuration Utility.’ Then in the menu, click Tools > Advanced > Restart Service, click ‘Yes’ on the following prompt. Quit SteamVR or Half-Life 2 and restart Steam.
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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Alci

    In “enable SteamVR” between steps 4 and 5 it’s CRUCIAL to restart Steam while OR is on. Steam VR menu item won’t show if there is no OR detected during Steam start (like just after SteamVR tool installation).

    • Ben Lang

      Are you certain? After installing for me, all I had to do was turn on the Rift to see the option appear. (On Windows).

      • Alci

        Almost sure of that.

        Tested it again and once I turn OR off the choice in menu disappears. After turning OR back on the menu item is still not there. Tried few things but I have no idea how to get VR version back on. It requires steam restart. Otherwise all I get is big picture on second (OR) monitor and then even desktop steam goes there as big screen switch it automatically as primary. But no VR choice there until restart with rift on.

        PC, win7-64, steam beta, steamvr beta, extended mode, dk1 legacy on.

  • animagix

    i’ve followed all steps but when i try to launch steamVR with my dk2 on, i get this message “cannot find resources directory”, any ideas?
    I’m working on OSX (Mavericks 10.9.4)

    thanks in advance,

    • Alci

      don’t know about the error, but you are not supposed to “launch SteamVR [beta]” anyway (if that’s what you are doing).

      It is supposed to start Oculus configuration tool but that doesn’t work on PC either as it is packed with 0.2.4 SDK OCT

    • le_marton

      I had the same error and found a simple solution.

      It seemed weird that that comes with SteamVR wouldn’t recognize my DK2. So I hunted it down and found it in:
      / Library / Application Support / SteamApps / common / SteamVR / drivers / oculus / utils

      Now I just copied the that came with the Oculus runtime (Applications / Oculus / Tools) over the old one of SteamVR.

      Relaunched Steam client via with connected Rift and voila there it is: (menu) View / Virtual Reality Mode (BETA).

      Have fun!

      • le_marton

        Somehow the commenting machinery swallowed an important bit of the first path:

        It has to be username / Library / etc…

      • Alci

        you don’t need OCU at all. Just install SteamVR, restart Steam while it’s on and it works.

      • animagix

        thanks guys for your help but i still can’t see the option Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) and i get the error (cannot find resources directory) when i launch SteamVR…
        i reinstalled SteamVR[beta], etc. i think i did everything but nothing

        • Ben Lang

          Might be worth re-installing Steam completely. Also note that you aren’t supposed to launch SteamVR itself, though not seeing the utility pop up when you do might be a sign that something is wrong.

          You may first want to right-click on SteamVR tool and go to Properties > Local Files > Verify Integrity of Tool Cache.

          • animagix

            Thanks Ben, but i’ve re-installed Steam completely in an iMac and macbook (both with osx 10.9.4) pro and i still have the same issue.
            I have everything configured, i followed every step… but Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) isn’t available and if i try to launch SteamVR i get the error message.

  • spyro

    View > Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) isn’t visible for me (it was just, now it isn’t). Oculus utility is set to extended (why isn’t Direct Mode working?), it’s on, Steam is on Beta, SteamVR is installed an on Beta to (when I launch it manually it just opens the config utility from the DK1).

    • Ben Lang

      Did you give everything a nice restart (including the entire comp)? Also, are you running the latest DK2 Runtime and firmware?

      • RocketCorgi

        I’m having the same problem as Spyro. I had SteamVR running perfectly yesterday, and even played some Half Life 2 with the oculus.
        Today, without changing anything, view > Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) isn’t available.
        Tried re-installing steamVR, restarting computer, turning on the oculus in extended mode, and THEN starting steam. No luck. Other DK2 demos are working perfectly. Got the latest Runtime and firmware as of yesterday (Aug 14th).
        Time to start fiddling around to see what works.

      • spyro

        Yes, everything is up to date, did several restarts. Menu entry is just not visible.

        • bcozier

          You do not need STEAM VR to get Half Life 2 to work with the DK2. I’ve have done it both with Steam VR and without and there is no difference in game.

          The easiest way to get it to work is to first set your DK2 to extended mode and make sure you can run the config utility demo desk scene. Then open steam and go to your games library list and right-click on your Half Life 2 and properties and opt-in to betas. Then verify game local files integrity to download the beta updates.

          Next just run Half Life 2 and it will appear as normal on your primary display. You can choose to start a new game if you wish or load a saved game. Once the game starts then open up the developers console (the key beneath the escape key on your keyboard) and enter the command vr_activate. The console will disappear from your primary display and instead begin to show up on your rift display. Exit the console and you will be playing the game on the rift. It doesn’t get any easier than that, no need to run Steam VR beta or anything else.

          • bcozier

            You can also set the launch options for half life 2 “-refresh 75 -freq 75” and all the other in game commands recommended on this site.

  • JFlynn

    Will this work with the mod that turn Half Life 2 into a coop game (Syngery mod). Is it just the renderer that is changed or is it more comprehensive than that?

  • theTMO

    Steam VR works fine, but half life 2 in VR mode just give me a black screen and the HUD. the game is running, but is just all black on the rift. Any help?

    • slamtastic

      I’m having the same issue. Were you able to resolve this?

      • d1xt1r

        Hi, before launching Half Life you need to make your DK2 as a primary display. This will solve the problem. I had the same problem as you both. But now i’m facing new problem for which I asked help @ reddit. Here’s the text “After I start the game in VR mode (DK2 is the main display) I see the menu, I can switch to 1920×1080, I cant start the game and play. The problem is that the game is not displayed correctly – I can see the game properly only if I close my right eye. If I look with my both eyes the picture is somehow displaced – The picture in the left and the picture in the right lenses is independent of each other”

        • Alci

          just notice.. it should be enough to run it from steamvr. That itself set primary to rift whatever monitor it is set as.

        • d1xt1r

          Success! At last! The problem was that I was trying to get it work, not from the SteamVR (Steam / View / Virtual Reality Mode (BETA)), but from the regular Steam Client, and then Activate Virtual Reality – it works, but the result is the one that I was talking about above this post. I didn’t know that SteamVR is separate Steam Client, I thought it is just an addition, not that I was supposed to run the game through it. Yesterday the option was visible I clicked on it, but nothing happen (may be the DK2 was @ Direct Mode), then it disappears and I totally forgot about it. I was struggling to make it run via the normal Steam – Installing, Uninstalling, Reinstalling … how wrong I was. In a moment of despair (been three days since I’m trying to get it work, and I was really desperate) I decided to install Windows 7 (thought it might be the version of the OS i’m using – Win 8.1). After I installed all the necessary software the option Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) showed up, I set my DK2 to be the primary display and I finally managed to start it properly. What a relief. Now to set up those launch and console settings.

  • Aaron Rasmussen

    Great tutorial, worked like a charm!

    HL2 looks beautiful even at the higher resolution of the DK2, and the positional tracking adds a lot to my appreciation of the care that went into the design of that game. Unfortunately, like with the DK1 on HL2, I can only play for about 15 minutes before simulation sickness starts to set in. It’s not as severe as with the DK1, but it still stops me playing. Anyone find any tips that help reduce sim sickness?

    • Tony Spaniels

      You probably have already done this, but just in case…have you set the mouse sensitivity down to almost nil? It helped for me.

      • Aaron Rasmussen

        Thanks, it helps a bit, but then the gameplay degrades a lot.

        Also, if your comp is not seeing your DK2, try unplugging all its cables and plugging them back in. I know, it’s an IT Crowd fix, but I kept having the same problem (and still do sometimes), and it’s the only thing that’s worked.

  • Tony Spaniels

    Hmm..I had this working last night, but I’ll be damned if I can get it working now. :(( just wont see my dk2

  • Played a bit yesterday :D Or was it the day before? Haha. I got screen tearing so it was a bit painful. With the DK1 I just plugged it into the #1 port on my graphics card… but eh. Now I’m not sure what to do. Oh well, I’ll bump into a solution sooner or later :P

    • Ryan

      I also have the tearing problem. Please post if you find a fix. I’ve tried many combinations of -refresh -freq command line options and max_fps settings in the autoexec.cfg. net_graph 1 shows 75 fps, but tearing is still bad. I’ve also set my primary monitor to 75 Hz. No joy.

      I played HL2 and episodes all the way through in the DK2 and loved it. Looking forward to getting this fixed.

  • Okin

    I’ve tried everything I could find so far, but nothing can get Vsync working.. I’m starting to think it’s a bug with this HL2 update. Or they just need to allow us to full screen the game while in VR mode, so that vsync CAN work.

  • JHibbins

    I found out why I am getting Judder on Elite Dangerous, Half Life 2, Euro Truck Simulator and any Extended Mode Game…

    My primary monitor (iMac 27inch) is NOT running at 75mhz it’s running at 60mhz, if I force it to 75mhz (I do not recommend this if your monitor does not support it), no judder AT all!!! I tested both games.

    This is a major issue with extended monitor games, and needs a propper solve, anyone got any ideas?, I thought that switching the main monitor off my solve the problem, or setting the primary monitor to DK2 (this does not seem to work).

    It may not be the monitor drivers as mouse look and moving don’t cause Judder for me, it’s only head movement, could it be the camera setting it’s self to 60mhz when the monitor is ??, i don’t know enough yet, just interested what other people can make of this

    Crystal Rift Author

    • Gerald Terveen

      Small note – it’s Hz not MHz. And there is currently no solution when mirroring a 60Hz monitor, that is actually what the direct mode is for so that those problems are solved.
      I already gave up on anything that does not allow for a direct mode since my monitors run both at 60Hz, just a question of time until everythings supports it. And if titles like HL2 and Elite do not, then that might be a good thing too (because I can see myself wasting a lot of time on Elite ^^).

  • JHibbins

    On OSX I had a-lot of luck with the switchresx app, I just disable the primary screen on a key press and that solves the judder

  • bcozier

    Does anyone know why the DK2 version renders internally at 640×480? It completely ignores whatever video setting you have on the menu. To prove this open the console and enter “mat_setvideomode 1920 1080 0” the screen will blink and then it will reset to 640 480. Why is that?

  • rbreve

    I am on a Macbook Pro Retina 13″, The DK2 Demo is working well I can’t get to run HL2 on VR mode.

    When I try to run Virtual Reality Mode on Steam I get VR Mode failed to initialized for unknown reasons. (Error: Connect to VR Server Failed (301))

    When I try to run HL2 with -vr on the Video Options I always get a “No display detected. Connect your compatible VR “

    • Nisei

      Are you in Direct or Extended mode?

      • rbreve

        Using mirroring that’s the only way I got oculus to work on the mac.

    • cmartin

      Any luck? I have the same problem with my imac 27.

  • Ryan

    Please fix the guide to say “fps_max 76” rather than 75. Thanks,

    • Ben Lang


  • drewcox

    Arggh, I cannot get this to work. Steam VR is fine, but whenever I launch HL2, I get the menu (at a very low resolution) over a black screen. I can hear the game running, but just black display. Intel i5, GTX770, windows 7. I’ve tried making the DK2 the primary monitor, didn’t seem to help and huge pain….

    • d1xt1r

      Hmm, I had the same problem when I was trying to start the game via the non-VR Steam Client – the exact same problem. After that I realized that I have to make my DK2 main display, then via the non-VR Steam client to select Stram VR Beata – and after that from it to start Half Life 2. The menu is still black (not a big deal), but you can play. I know that in Half Life 2 VR (the WormSlayer version) the menu is not black (it is the same as the original Half Life 2 Menu), but in the original Steam version is.

  • Grepsy

    It took me hours to get this to work. HL kept saying there’s no display, and I couldn’t enable VR. Finally I noticed a message in a log somewhere noting that VR requires DirectX 9.0. For some reason my hardware defaulted to DirectX 8.0. You can fix this using the launch option -dxlevel 90

    Hope this helps anyone!

  • polo

    Hey there,

    I’m facing an issue with this f*cking SteamVR that display the message “RV mode is not available because the VR headset is not detected” (translated the message from french).

    I’m on mac maverick 10.9.5 with DK1, downloaded the latest oculus runtime and sdk (0.4.2), opted in for beta for steamVR, HL2 and steam, have the steam client up to date, SteamVR up to date and try displaying the rift both in extended mode and mirroring mode but still can’t launch the SteamVR (Steam menu, select View > Virtual Reality Mode (BETA) !!! I also try to launch vr mode within HL2 like bcozier said with the console but the console doesn’t want to display :/ I purchased yesterday “world of diving” and it’s working like a charm both in extended and mirroring mode. I don’t understand why Steam VR won’t launch. I want to play HL2 so baaaad.

    Anyone already faced this issue and fixed it ?

  • pegnose

    My firewall (Windows 7 Firewall Control) blocked all data traffic to and from hl2. After allowing hl2, it found the DK2 and I could enable the Virtual Reality Mode in the game. :)

  • Morlo

    Trying everything on this thread, still no dice. When I ‘Activate Virtual Reality’ in game menu, I’m getting split display on main monitor, and Oculus sensor light goes blue – but Oculus itself is staying dark (Orange light). If I switch to Extended Mode, the PC does not detect the Oculus at all.
    Windows 7 Ultimate, M68M-S2P, 8GB Ram, GeForce GTX750 Ti, Runtime O.4.3, (tried O.4.2 as well), 2.12 Firmware. PC Display options only showing main monitor.
    Running most other demos fine.
    Used to love HL2, dying to play in VR – Can anyone offer any ideas please?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Morlo

      Oh – it’s a DK2, btw!

  • Sean Foreman

    After several months away from the DK2, I got Half Life 2 working again last night for it. I made a visual guide of exactly what needs done. It generally follows the instructions on this site taking several of the comments into consideration: