Quest’s v44 software update is rolling out now, and it’s serving up some long-overdue video capture options along with it, like the ability to record in 16:9 aspect ratio, and increase frame rate and bit rate for video capture. Those features were once only available through SideQuest, and now it seems Meta is equally intent on getting its youngest users away from the sideloading software entirely.

Data miners initially projected the changes to come in v43, but now the new v44 update is here with some options we’ve been patiently waiting for. Meta says Quest users can now go into an ‘Advanced Camera Settings’ menu and change the default format and resolution for videos, bringing more of SideQuest’s creature comforts to official firmware.

The v44 update is rolling out gradually and will let you record in landscape (16:9) instead of square (1:1), and increase both frame rate and bit rate. SideQuest users can tell you though that recording at higher frame rates at the max 1,920×1,080 resolution can cause stuttering in certain games, and of course take up more storage.

Image courtesy Meta

Additionally, Meta has included a new option to let parents remove developer mode on Quest 2, thereby blocking SideQuest for kids entirely. The popular sideloading software can only be installed by entering developer mode first, which then lets you install SideQuest for easy access to a third-party library of games and experiences. While parents have been able to lock specific apps on the Quest platform, that developer mode loophole has no doubt let some kids sidestep content restrictions.

It’s clear the company has been on a mission to effectively reign in sideloading by gradually offering basic feature parity with SideQuest. App Lab, Meta’s official experimental game distribution channel introduced in early 2021, has much of the same content now which was once only available through SideQuest, such as game demos and early access games that haven’t made the cut to be included in the full store. One thing Meta hasn’t done though is stop its users from sideloading all together.

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Since it’s in the name of keeping kids safe, there’s likely to be little complaint from regular users who won’t be affected. That would be a different story if the company decided to entirely block sideloading altogether though. Meta has historically seen significant pushback whenever it’s attempted to wholly close down its headsets from third-party software.

Back in 2016 the company sought to block the Revive service for SteamVR which allowed non-Meta headsets like Vive to play exclusive Rift content from the official store. That was back in the PC days though, which Meta has long forgotten with the entrance of its Quest standalone headsets. Now it seems the strategy is to offer features that are on-par (or good enough from an end user standpoint) to keep people away from straying too far from the Meta Store and its App Lab experimental outlet.

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  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Blocking sideloading isn’t trivial, as sideloading is based on the ADB functionality Android developers use to connect to the device and run and test software on it, which is also the reason why it is activated in the developer menu. Simply blocking ADB would therefore also prevent developers from creating Quest apps.

    Meta could of course limit access to the developer mode, for example requiring developers to register and pay a yearly fee to get access, sort of a parent mode for all, or try to replace the development tools with proprietary versions. But that would be a lot of effort for very limited gain, with a guaranteed shit storm reaction from Quest users and even more trouble with the FTC for locking down the platform. Meta also seems to have given up on trying to replace Android with an operating system of their own making, so sideloading is probably going to stay.

    • Guest

      Don’t give them ideas like that. Within a few years their cronies could be controlling the FTC! Next thing you know they will be banning off-switches, like that old episode of Max Headroom.

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        At least some media will still be out of their reach:

        Paula: “… what’s that?”
        Blank Reg: “It’s a book!”
        Paula: “Well, what’s that?”
        Blank Reg: “It’s a non-volatile storage medium. It’s very rare. You should have one.”

        from Max Headroom, Body Bags

        • Guest

          Ah ha! I knew you were an old VR hipster. You probably still have Scuba and Virtual I/O Glasses…

  • Well we knew that they were trying to kill SideQuest. Btw Sidequest has still a feature App Lab has not: discoverability. As soon as Meta introduces the possibility of searching App Lab titles, Sidequest is doomed :(

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Fortnite data miner HYPEX found newly added VR/Quest code or strings in a recent update. This wasn’t old code that nobody noticed before, but still could have been something unrelated that found its way to Fortnite by accident, no further details are known.

      Just assuming for a moment it actually was something hinting that Epic is planing a Quest version, and considering Epic’s current legal hassle with Apple and Google over having to pay them 30% of all revenue, it would seem unlikely that they would want to give that amount to Meta either. So a lifeline for SideQuest could be not forcing that fee onto every developer, and if Epic would partner with them, that alone should be enough to keep them alive. That is of course speculation based on top of rumor that could mean nothing, but the openness of SideQuest allows for different business models than Meta would allow.

    • ViRGiN

      sidequest also has one feature app lab doesn’t: FILLED 300% WITH TRASH NEVER ABLE TO LAND IN APPLAB!
      they will also deny your game if they see it as ‘gorilla tag’ clone, you know, a game that is essentially abandoned by developer and made no progress at all, despite being in top 5 even on pcvr. FCK SIDEQUEST.

      those who publish on SQ do so because they can’t publish to applab.
      and nobody uses other standalones, so ‘open store for different platforms’ doesnt really apply here at all.

      • Guest

        There’s probably going to be something better that’s going to takeover their niche and improve on it. It’s just a matter of time.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Dr Beef mods are still one of the best games one can play on Quest. I especially recommend highly polished Doom 3

  • ViRGiN

    > That was back in the PC days though, which Meta has long forgotten with the entrance of its Quest standalone headsets.
    How come you never say Valve/Steam has FULLY abandoned any sort of VR?
    Meta is still improving it’s AirLink connection, PC games are still coming to the Rift store.
    Last game came out 2 days ago. Maybe steam is flooded with absolute new VR trash every single day, but nobody can say Meta has forgotten about PC.