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.

  1. In your Steam games list, right-click on SteamVR > Properties > Select the ‘Betas’ tab
  2. In the drop down list, select ‘SteamVR Beta Update’
  3. Allow SteamVR to update

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.

Image courtesy Valve

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.”

Image courtesy Valve

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.

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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.

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  • Charles Bosse

    With some “small human” mode users, it will be nice to be able to set up some other games besides Vacation Simulator for the littles to do in VR (don’t be sarcastic, I am not going to throw them into Serious Sam VR, there are lots of potentially kid friendly VR experiences that don’t scale well though).

    I also wonder if some of the field of view adjustments could help users feel a little better about motion?

  • Ad

    I’m also wondering if this would make it easier for kids to pretend to be adults and vive versa, but maybe most games equalize height anyway,

    What is the math on FOV? If I set it to 50%, is that half as much surface area or a smaller fraction? If I want the same density, should I use 50% resolution as well? If you’re playing anywhere around 150% SS, I don’t think you get much from lowering FOV to increase density.

  • TechPassion

    Great feature with world scale.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I wish SteamVR would be more like NVidia Geforce Experience where it can provide the best settings for you current setup, instead of having to do it all by hand. I must admit I never even tried messing with all these extra settings and I’ll bet 80% of the VR users haven’t. And that ofcourse is the advantage of a system like the Quest 2 and its native apps, it can be optimized perfectly for that hardware so the user doesn’t have to fiddle with these kinds of settings.

    • mirak

      It works the other way around.
      This is up to application developpers to provide the best settings, and you can override them in Steam VR.

  • jiink

    Tried this in HL Alyx. You can go crazy with the scale, it was pretty wild being in the hotel level like it was a dollhouse, and grabbing high-up resin without using the gravity gloves. The moment I placed down a bullet mag two stories up, I became a little worried about how people would use this in multiplayer stuff. Also it’s hilarious to see how the hands don’t change sizes, so they feel tiny!

  • mirak

    In Pavlov there are tall and short people, and it doesn’t matter much overall.

    You get advantages and disavantages.
    In Pavlov if everyone as an advantage beeing 2 meters tall, then so be it. It’s to the game to fix a balance issue then.

    I can imagine a basketball game where it would allow anyone to play a 2m10 tall player xD

    That’s what virtual reality is for after all.
    It’s virtual reality, not real reality.

  • mirak

    The Fov thing was already in some games, like Batman VR or Contractors, you can use a fixed foveated rendering.

    This makes sense on Vive lenses where the sides are blured anyway.

  • Nice to have more options… the world scale thing is something pretty new, too

  • Tabp

    It’s time to ask the burning question: Why is it that people who insist on making virtual height the same as real life height are so desperate to find out where all the children and women are? It’s fortunate that valve has put in an easy method to handle games that don’t make it virtual.

    Also, regarding using world scale as a cheating mechanism, it was already possible to manipulate scaling by hacking, and this just makes it accessible to everyone. A game that doesn’t have any bounds checking should be considered bugged to begin with. (Unless being giant or ant sized is considered a feature, which can be pretty fun)