In recent months SteamVR has been seeing updates with new features for power users. Following improved virtual window management with controller docking, the latest beta update has added a clarity-boosting field-of-view option and the ability to adjust the scale of the virtual world.
If you dig into SteamVR’s Video settings, you’ll already find a wide range of options for making application-specific adjustments to enhance the performance and visuals of VR titles. The latest beta update of SteamVR, version 1.17.8, now offers two more.
First is a ‘Field-of-view’ adjustment which works a bit like foveated rendering—you can optionally choose to reduce the size of the application’s field-of-view, thereby concentrating all of the available processing power in a smaller region.
Although every VR headset is ultimately limited in clarity by its lenses and resolution, in many cases ‘supersampling’ (rendering the image at a much higher resolution before scaling it down to fit the display) can make for a significantly sharper image. Similarly, the new feature in SteamVR essentially allows you to trade some peripheral view for a sharper view in a smaller area.
Another new feature, called Override World Scale, allows you to change the perceived scale of the virtual world. This could be helpful in games that are not designed at an appropriate human scale and thus make the user feel too small or too large. Valve specifically suggests this could be useful for some simulator games like flight sims, or even as an accessibility feature to “help short people reach tall places.”
That’s interesting though because it suggests the option will not only change the scale of the world, but also the height of the player, which could be problematic for multiplayer games (ie: a player scaling themselves down to be much smaller than others, making it easier to hide behind cover, or taller than others to make it easier to shoot over walls). We’ll have to wait to see if it has any impact on game balance.
The settings for the Override World Scale option also warns, “Changes may […] modify interactions in unexpected ways. Depending on the application, features such as throwing may be affected.”
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At the beginning of last year Valve said it planned to launch “SteamVR 2.0” in 2020. While there has been a range of improvements since then, it seems the company fell short of that goal as it is still using a 1.xx version number. Steadily improving features like those released in the latest beta updates seem to be steps toward “2.0,” so perhaps it is still on the horizon.