Will Half-Life: Alyx Become Virtual Reality’s Killer App?

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 300 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! More details here.

A killer app, if you are not familiar with the term, is a piece of software that you want so badly that you will purchase the hardware required to run it:

One of the first recognized examples of a killer application is generally agreed to be the VisiCalc spreadsheet for the Apple II series. Because it was not available on other computers for 12 months, people spent $100 for the software first, then $2,000 to $10,000 on the Apple computer they needed to run it.

And it would appear that at least some rabid gamers are willing to shell out for a VR headset, just to be able to play the latest installment in the Half-Life videogame franchise, as this tweet suggests:

Valve is releasing Half-Life: Alyx in March of 2020. The game will work on any VR headset that supports SteamVR (and Valve Index owners will get it for free):

Note that Oculus Quest owners will also be able to play the game if they have a powerful enough computer with a supported graphics card, the proper USB 3.0 cable, and the Oculus Link software.

Here’s the promotional trailer for the game, which has racked up over 7 million views on YouTube in less than two days:

So, what do you think? Will you buy the game? Will you actually buy a VR headset just to play the game? (It is a VR-only game; there will be no equivalent flat-screen desktop version available.) Please feel free to leave a comment below, or even better, join us on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server and tell us what you think there! We’d love to have you.

Oculus Link: My First-Time Setup Experience, and Running Sansar on My Oculus Quest!

One of my projects this weekend was to see if I could get my Oculus Quest wireless VR headset set up with the newly-released beta Oculus Link software, in order to operate it as a tethered VR headset capable of running Oculus Rift apps (including, specifically, Sansar). Would I be able to run Sansar on my Oculus Quest, and if so, what were the differences between the Sansar experience in my original Oculus Rift VR headset and the Oculus Quest?

On Friday, the Anker USB Type C Cable, Powerline USB C to USB 3.0 Cable (3ft) with 56k Ohm Pull-up Resistor I ordered arrived from Amazon. This Anker cable is the one which is officially recommended by Oculus to use, at least until the official Oculus cable is released later this year, which is expected to retail for about US$70. (Note that you will NOT be able to use the cable that originally came with the Oculus Quest for this purpose. That is for charging the Quest, and you need a cable both for charging and for data transfer. Yes, it gets complicated!)

Now, that might seem rather expensive for a simple USB 3.0 cable, but, as Mike from the Virtual Reality Oasis discovered, it is exceedingly difficult to find a cable that will actually work with Oculus Quest and the Oculus Link software. Mike tested quite a few USB 3.0 cables, and found only one that would actually work for him:

So, take Mike’s advice: do all your research before you buy a cable for use with Oculus Link, and do not buy a cable unless you know for certain that it will work. Either buy the Anker cable recommended by Oculus, or wait until the official Oculus cable is released by the company. You could also check with other people who have tried other brands of USB 3.0 cables in the OculusQuest subReddit (particularly the very helpful Oculus Link megathreads), or on the Virtual Reality Discord server (I had to turn to the latter when I ran into trouble).

The Oculus Link installation procedure was not without its fair share of hair-pulling frustration. First, I turned on the Public Test Channel (PTC) in my Oculus Home desktop software, which turned out to be a mistake. It installed version 12 PTC, which I later learned doesn’t work with Oculus Link. Then I was told to turn PTC off, and the regular, non-PTC version of Oculus Home would then automatically reinstall. That didn’t happen, so I had to reinstall my Oculus Home software from scratch. Argh!

Then, I discovered that I only had two available USB 3.0 ports on my computer, both of which were being used for my Oculus Rift VR headset. So, I had to unplug one of the USB 3.0 ports used by the Rift in order to use it with the Anker cable and the Oculus Quest. Then, finally, I was able to connect the Oculus Quest to my PC, install Oculus Link, and…

It worked! IT WORKED! I was able to see my Oculus Home window on my computer, and run Oculus Rift apps from my library on my Oculus Quest!

And I can now happily confirm that Sansar does indeed work on the Oculus Quest with the Oculus Link software and the cable. (I also tested VRChat, and that worked too.) I did not notice any major differences between the 90 Hz refresh rate of the Oculus Rift and the 72 Hz refresh rate of the Oculus Quest when I was in Sansar. The scenery looked as gorgeous as ever.

The only problem I did encounter (and it was significant) was that the audio level was noticeably lower when I used the Quest compared to the Rift, even when I turned up all my volume settings to 100%. I noticed the same problem when I was in VRChat, so it seems to be a problem with the Quest headset, and not Sansar.

So, in answer to the question up top: Yes, you can indeed run Sansar on the Oculus Quest, provided that you have all three of:

  • a powerful enough gaming computer with a supported graphics card;
  • the proper USB 3.0 cable (this part is critical); and
  • the beta Oculus Link software.

But the follow-up question is: Would I consider using Oculus Quest and Oculus Link as a replacement for my trusty old Oculus Rift?

NO. Why? For the simple, practical reason that every time I want to use my Quest, I will have to pull my computer away from the wall, wrestle with the mess of cables in the back to free up a USB 3.0 port, plug in the Oculus Quest, enable the Oculus Link software, etc. Frankly, it’s just too much hassle, when I have a perfectly good, more powerful Oculus Rift already plugged in to my PC, which gives me a better audio experience and a higher visual refresh rate. (I don’t know why Oculus is choosing to lower the refresh rates on their newer VR headsets. The Rift S has a rate of 80 Hz, and the Quest is 72 Hz, whereas the Valve Index VR headset has a refresh rate of 120 Hz.)

But, if you were in the market for a VR headset, and you were trying to decide between the Oculus Rift S (which replaces the original Oculus Rift model) and the Oculus Quest, it is looking more and more like the smart decision is to go with the Oculus Quest. It’s really quite amazing what the Quest can now do, with capabilities far beyond what I had ever expected before it was released! It really does look like the Oculus Quest is going to become the flagship headset product for Oculus, and it is so attractively priced that it might just land up under a lot of trees this Christmas!