While it’s long been technically possible to play Oculus exclusive games on Vive and other SteamVR headsets thanks to an unofficial mod called ‘Revive’, the actual experience has always been decidedly clunky due to the significant differences between controller inputs. With Valve’s new Index controllers—which offer input-parity with Oculus Touch controllers—Oculus exclusive content finally feels truly playable with minimal compromise.
Facebook has far and away been the top funder of PC VR content, but has sought to keep it exclusive to the company’s own Oculus platform which only supports Rift headsets. Revive is a free, unofficial mod which allows SteamVR headsets to play Oculus exclusive content (provided the user owns the titles).
Revive has been around for a few years now, but trying to play Oculus exclusive content has always felt clunky because the Vive wand controller uses a trackpad, lacks face-buttons, has a grab button designed for discrete presses, and can’t detect index finger pointing.
The Oculus Touch controllers, for which the Oculus exclusive content is specifically designed, uses a thumbstick, two face buttons, a grab trigger designed to be continuously held, and can detect index finger pointing.
That means that Revive has to emulate a lot of the functionality expected of the Touch controllers in Oculus exclusive content, including mapping the thumbstick and face buttons to different quadrants of the Vive wand’s trackpad. Meanwhile, the difference in the wand’s grab button vs. Touch’s grab trigger makes a surprising difference—most Oculus games expect players to continuously hold the grab trigger to pick up objects, but doing so with the Vive wands is both uncomfortable and easy to accidentally let go because of the specific design of the wand’s grab buttons.
That leaves the overall experience of playing most of the Oculus exclusive content with Vive wands massively compromised. Yes, it technically works, but in many cases is an exercise in input frustration.
But everything changes with Valve’s new Index Controllers, which are readily compatible with any SteamVR headset that uses SteamVR Tracking.
Using the latest stable release of Revive, I tried out a handful of Oculus exclusive content with Valve’s Index headset and controllers, and was surprised to find what felt like a nearly native experience.
I knew that Revive was well architected, but wasn’t expecting to see it this functional with the Index controllers ahead of their official release later this week—even the ‘Oculus Touch Basics’ tutorial, which walks users through the inputs of the Touch controllers, worked flawlessly with the Index controllers.
I tried games like Robo Recall and Echo Arena (both of which deeply rely on the ‘continuous grip’ design of the Touch controllers) and found them significantly more playable than they ever were with the Vive wands.
In the case of Robo Recall, the player is constantly grabbing and throwing objects, and the game expects the player to consciously hold the grab button while objects are in their hands and then release on the fly to throw. On the Index controllers this is as easy as gripping the controller’s capacitive handle, which is translated to a ‘grab’ input, and then releasing the handle to throw. What’s more, Robo Recall’s locomotion uses a trajectory-based teleport which employs the thumbstick to independently define your forward facing position after the teleport. This works flawlessly with Index’s thumbsticks.
In Echo Arena, players are constantly grabbing the environment around them to move themselves around in zero-G, as well as using the face buttons for arm thrusters and the thumbstick center-click to boost and break. Once again, this is all wired up perfectly for the Index controllers and it feels very natural and easy to control.
I also tried First Contact, a short but interactive intro experience which makes extensive use of grabbing and button pressing with your index finger. A capacitive trigger on the Touch controllers allows the controller to infer when your real index finger is outstretched. Many Oculus games use this feature as a means of pressing small virtual buttons (and it works pretty darn well). Index also has a capacitive trigger and this pointing functionality is replicated perfectly with Revive, making First Contact practically feel like it was made for the Index controllers.
In fact, the Touch controllers have several capacitive sensors which allow your virtual hands to animate correctly depending upon which buttons or sticks you’re touching. Valve’s Index controllers have all of the same sensing capabilities, and it’s all rigged up correctly to animate your virtual hands even in Oculus content. (This does not include the middle, ring, and pinky fingers which Index controllers can track but Touch cannot).
The only caveat I found is that ‘grabbing’ with the Index controllers is very sensitive and thus takes some getting used to; basically Revive sends a ‘grab’ command as soon as you touch the handle of the Index controller with your fingers (even lightly), so you need to be very ‘binary’ about when you are or are not intending to initiate a grab.
SteamVR Input, Valve’s extensive system for modifying VR controller inputs, should allow users to create input bindings that even more closely match the functionality of touch controllers, which could solve this sensitivity problem.
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I’ve yet to test the entirety of the Oculus exclusive library with Index, but from trying five diverse experiences so far, things seem extremely promising. It was beginning to look like a sad state of affairs—with Valve offering one of the top VR headsets, but Oculus offering much of the top exclusive VR content—but especially with the potential for game-specific fine tuning of Index controller inputs via SteamVR Input, it seems more possible than ever to have the best of both worlds.