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Valve adds experimental support for VR headsets to Steam

Valve Software has added experimental support for Oculus Rift and other virtual reality (VR) headsets to Steam digital video game distribution platform. Owners of the VR gear can discover games that support virtual reality helmets in Big Picture VR mode. While at present the support poses interest only to select enthusiasts, Valve’s move shows that the company sees promise in virtual reality headsets.

Back in March, 2013, Valve officially added support for Oculus Rift virtual reality gear to Team Fortress 2 (which is often used to test drive new technologies) as well as Half-Life: Source and Half-Life 2 video games. In December last year the company added a special “VR Support” section to Steam, but for some reason did not include its own titles there (as well as a number of other titles that officially support the product). This week, the company added an experimental Big Picture VR mode for the Steam client.

While select games with Oculus Rift support work just fine (in fact, users have to launch a game on desktop and then select VR mode in the game), many of those, who have tried virtual reality mode for Steam client report that it does not work. A person who managed to get Big Picture (BP) working  in VR mode complained about inversion of roll axis in games (i.e. when one turns head left, game character turns head right). Other users criticized BP VR mode for crashes, instabilities and so on. One user offered a step-by-step guide how to launch Steam client in virtual reality mode without issues.

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In general it does not look like Steam Big Picture VR mode works just fine for everyone. In fact, only four Oculus Rift games are said to be listed under the VR Support category in BP VR mode: Team Fortress 2, Lunar Flight, Strike Suit Zero, and No More Room in Hell. Still, it is possible to manually run games that support Oculus Rift, switch to VR mode and enjoy good-old titles in a new way.

Keeping in mind that Oculus Rift is only available as development kit hardware nowadays and there is no firm release date for the consumer version, it is not surprising that there are teething problems with the VR helmet. At the same time, the fact that it is supported at all implies that companies like Valve see potential in virtual reality headsets and consider them as part of the video game market’s future.

KitGuru Says: The situation with virtual reality helmets is a classic chicken and egg question. There is no point to release consumer version of Oculus Rift headset for the mass market before there is a strong support by available video games and platforms like Steam. But for game developers it barely makes sense to implement support for the VR helmet before it hits the mass market.

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