My Journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index: Buh-Bye, Facebook!

My journey from Oculus Rift to Valve Index started on August 18th, 2020 when I first placed my order for a complete Valve Index VR kit:

Today, I put my money where my mouth is. I went and placed an online order for the complete Valve Index VR Kit. I am told that it will take eight or more weeks to get to me, because of coronavirus-related delays in production. That’s fine. I can wait. And I’m not going anywhere.

I will be boycotting Facebook hardware and software from this point forward. It’s time for me to kick the Facebook habit, once and for all.

Well, after waiting almost three months (due to manufacturing and shipping delays caused by the pandemic), I was able to confirm the purchase of the Valve Index Kit on my credit card today, and now the shipping process begins! I am so excited!

This is not going to be cheap. The total cost, including import fees, comes to CDN$1,477 (which, according to today’s exchange rates, works out to about US$1,131).

It’s expensive, but I can afford it, and I am leaving Facebook (and Oculus) behind for good. My trusty Oculus Rift has served me well for almost four years now, through many memorable adventures and experiences, and I have certainly gotten my money’s worth from it, but I absolutely refuse to set up a new Facebook account in order to use it. (I won’t sell it, because the headset is so worn; I’ll just box it up and keep it in case anything goes wrong with the Valve Index.)

As for my original version Oculus Quest, I must confess that I haven’t touched it in at least eight months. The empty space I had cleared in my bedroom in order to use it is currently piled high with rice, canned soup and beans, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, face masks, surgical gloves, and various other pandemic preparations. (I have already decided to donate my Quest to my sister-in-law’s workplace, where she is part of a team of people who work with developmentally challenged adults. They can put it to good use. I still need to Google to find out exactly how best to wipe all my personal account information and purchased apps off my Quest before I mail it to her.)

The good news is that I haven’t spent a lot of money on games on the Oculus Store, for either my Rift or my Quest (most of what I do in VR is social VR, almost all of which is free to download), so I won’t lose much money there. And, of course, any purchases I made on social VR platforms like Sansar is tied to my Sansar account, and not to Facebook/Oculus. From now on, I will be dealing either with Steam, or downloading software directly from the company’s website.

Buh-bye, Facebook/Oculus! Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. I am going to enjoy uninstalling the Oculus software from my personal computer.

I just paid almost $1,500 just to be able to say this: fuck you, Mark Zuckerberg.

And, once my new Valve Index arrives, I have decided to completely redecorate my living room to convert it into a room-scale VR space. This means I have to throw out some furniture, including my ancient, ratty old sofa and busted, cathode-ray-tube TV set (which died on me at the start of the pandemic). I have zero plans to purchase a new television set; I never watch broadcast TV anymore, and I do not miss it. I can get all the video content I need from streaming services like Netflix.

I currently have four large bookshelves in my living room loaded with books I no longer read or want, so I will be taking them to the nearest dumpster (I would have donated them to the Children’s Hospital Book Market, but that event has been cancelled and they are asking people not to drop off books at local fire halls.) As a librarian, I am really rather surprised at just how easily I can part with paper books these days; I used to be a book packrat who scoured used book sales like the Children’s Hospital Book Market. I also practiced a lot of what the Japanese call tsundoku: buying books but never getting around to reading them!

I will be creating a new category on my blog, called Valve Index (this blogpost will be the first one put into that category). Wish me luck as I embark on a new adventure!

The Valve Index kit I ordered

The First User Reviews of Facebook Horizon Are Mixed

Wuhao from the RyanSchultz.com Discord server alerted me to the Oculus page for the invite-only beta version of Facebook’s new social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, where (much as they do on Steam) the first users have weighed in with their reviews.

As of this morning, there are 93 ratings in the Oculus five-star rating system, which break down as follows:

Half of the earliest reviewers give Horizon 5 out of 5 stars

One common complaint is that, while people liked the ease of use of the in-world building tools, Facebook Horizon lacks in tutorials and documentation for its scripting abilities. One user said:

The tutorials don’t go deep enough into using Scripts and Gizmos, and I have had to resort to deconstructing scripts inside the script example room. This is a horribly inefficient way to learn for a newbie. I find myself having to Google what some words mean (like [what the f*ck] is a Boolean?), and I’m having to connect the dots to figure out how variables and logic work inside the tools. A YouTube tutorial series, or even a series of help pages is sorely needed.

I met a man with experience in the game industry that said someone helped him learn how to build in Horizon over the last few months (he was in the Beta beta). Not all of us will be blessed with that opportunity to have a mentor.

I had to laugh at the Boolean comment; most people who have done even rudimentary computer programming know what Boolean logic is (AND, OR, NOT). But, of course, the target audience for Horizon is not computer programmers; it is the soccer moms of America, the millions of people who post cat pictures to their Facebook feeds and like other people’s posts. (Make that billions of people; Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly active users worldwide. That is whom Horizon is squarely aimed at. They’re not aiming this at the Second Life crowd, either, many of whom will not doubt be horrified that you can’t hide behind an avatar identity.)

And (of course) there are the usual complaints that are common to any brand-new social VR platform: not a lot of people (yet), and the usual severe gender imbalance, with way more men than women participating. One woman wrote in her review:

I have never been in an online community before, so this was a treat. It was pleasant talking to people and getting help on how to do things. My one criticism is that the few people there were all male. I was the only female there, and it would have been nice to have some female company, especially more mature women. I am 65. I visited some of the worlds and had fun shooting at a monster and a dragon, once I figured out how to make the weapons work (not much help from the app, but another player showed me how). One of the worlds where you build things out of building blocks needed multiple players, and I was the only one there. That was my other criticism: hardly any people were there. I guess that will be rectified once the app hits the market.

There are a few less-than-positive reviews:

Maybe I’m missing something but this felt like just another Rec Room, only far inferior, with other people’s avatars wandering around tring to work out what to do.

and…

Wasn’t that impressed was waiting and waiting for this thought it was gonna be something totally different than what was delivered. I’m not a tech nerd or a genius I couldn’t get anything to work in building mode I don’t know anything about coding or scripting I feel like if you want more people to contribute worlds and items your gonna have to dumb it down a little I actually only found the boomerang throw entertaining in the plaza. I’ve checked out a few worlds I thought some were kinda ok but nothing wow I might continue to pop in once in awhile to see what’s new but this isn’t my go to for fun.

and…

For anyone that has played Rec Room, they know that [it] is much better.

1. When you grab anything in here, the physics are terrible. Almost everything is going through your hand or not feeling realistic at all.
2. The graphics aren’t anything to be in awe of. Many other games have better and smoother graphics.
3. Almost no options for avatars. The avatar options are VERY limited.
4. I tried playing multiple games and I was the only person in any of them. Very very very boring.
5. Facebook takeover…talking about how much they monitor you. It’s just unsettling how they will record and watch and listen in on you and you won’t know.

And some people were just downright cranky:

Interesting. I liked the interaction as I first met up with older beings. But I’m hoping there are some filter/settings? to limit age groups? I think it would be a good idea to keep adults out of kids playing. (obvious reasons) and personally as a older man I had fun working with others until a young man (maybe 9 yr old?) joined us and though he was over all nice… I still got a head ache quickly with his noises and yapping and all around high pitched voice. Nothing wrong with that but it ruined my experience and the two other people I was working with on a puzzle… left. (I think for same reason). So I suggest adding a limit (who you see/join?) maybe setting a low limit of 18 and a higher limit of 40… or older folks like myself might want to limit 40-70. It just keeps those with more in common together and doesn’t let a youngster ruin a good thing like we had happen today. Personally I’d prefer 20+ and prefer no profanity. (maybe a setting). There were a couple of f’bombs and though I’m no prude… I’d prefer no hearing cursing unless it’s a slip.

One user felt that the actual product didn’t really match up to the advertising:

After spending a couple of days doing a little bit of everything, I have to say it’s not at all what I expected. Last year’s commercials set a much higher bar. However, world creation tools exceeded expectations as it almost seems to be a 3D modeling community more than anything else. (The problem with that is the majority of community members today are not modeling artists, so I miss the ‘consistently’ rich environments I get in Bigscreen for example.) IMO if the worlds could be made richer by novices then that would be spectacular! To do that I would suggest you offer room templates and a variety of editable objects like furniture and room boxes that we could customize —but it would be good if you could beat Rec Room’s childish templates, and get closer to the standard of last year’s Horizon commercials.

Here’s the commercial he was probably referring to:

But there are also many positive comments in the user reviews (and half of the earliest reviewers gave Facebook Horizon the highly favourable rating of five stars out of five):

After going through a couple hours of what Horizon has to offer I must say I’m very pleased and impressed by what I’ve seen so far. This definitely has a ton of room for all types of possibilities. I got one am very excited to see what will be coming as more and more developers contribute to this great app!!!

Of course, Facebook Horizon is still in an invite-only beta test mode, and is still very much a work-in-progress. Once Facebook adds to and refines the features of the product, and decides to open the doors to the general public, it will be very interesting to monitor this page over time, to see if the overall tone of the user reviews changes over time. (For example, Sansar has been absolutely crucified in its Steam reviews.)


Thank you to Wuhao for the heads-up!

Editorial: Are Social VR Platforms Dependent Upon High-End PCVR Doomed?

Today’s Melatopia Festival in Sansar: Less than 45 Avatars Total?

This afternoon, I paid a visit to Sansar to attend the virtual version of the Melatopia South Asian festival. I had a chance to catch up with some old friends and listen to some great music. Sansar is still (to my mind) the most beautiful virtual world, with a vibrant marketplace (44,582 items and counting) providing endless avatar customization options (there was even a mini velociraptor avatar running around amidst the crowd at the concert stage!).

But all the while, I had this nagging little voice in the back of my head, asking: Where is everybody?

To the best of my knowledge (and Wookey may correct me if I am mistaken), the Melatopia event never went above a single instance, and there were never more than 45 avatars total present at the festival (and most of the time that I was there, the figure from the Codex was in the low-to-middle thirties). (UPDATE: There was briefly one time in the afternoon where the festival hit a high if 51 avatars, spawning a second instance.)

Even granted that most people would be watching the show via Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, I find that to be a shockingly, abysmally low attendance figure, especially compared to the multitudes that would have attended the real-life version of this festival, were it not for the coronavirus pandemic.

Frankly, this blogger has long ago given up trying to chastise Wookey for their puzzling lack of promotion of events on the Sansar platform. There’s only so many times I can write the same editorial: YOU NEED TO PAY FOR PROMOTION. YOU CANNOT EXPECT PEOPLE TO COME TO SANSAR IF YOU DO NOT PROMOTE THE PLATFORM. But my pleas (and those of many other observers) seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Whatever Wookey is doing to promote Sansar, it’s clearly not enough.

But it does raise a bigger question that I have only addressed in passing in earlier editorials discussing and dissecting the demise of the old High Fidelity and the near-death experience and resurrection of Sansar. And that question is: was it a mistake to build social VR platforms that would only run on tethered, high-end virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the Valve Index? The collective term I and many other people use when talking about these VR headsets, all of which require a high-end Windows gaming computer with a powerful graphics card to run, is PCVR.

Let’s face facts: both now and for the foreseeable future, the clear VR headset of choice by consumers will be the wireless, standalone Oculus Quest, especially now that Facebook has released the newer, cheaper Oculus Quest 2. And Facebook will stop selling its Oculus Rift S tethered, PCVR headset (the successor to the original Oculus Rift) this coming spring. Business Insider reported:

“We’re going to focus on standalone VR headsets moving forward,” the company said in a blog post on Wednesday. “We’ll no longer pursue PC-only hardware, with sales of Rift S ending in 2021.”

The Rift line of headsets required a powerful gaming PC to power virtual reality experiences. The headset connected to the PC with a set of wires, but the latest Oculus Quest headsets are able to replicate this experience with a single detachable USB cable in addition to operating without a dedicated PC.

As such, Facebook isn’t outright killing its PC-driven virtual reality efforts. It will continue supporting higher-end, PC-powered virtual reality on the Quest line of headsets. 

“We’ve seen significant growth in PC VR via Oculus Link,” the blog post said, “and the Rift Platform will continue to grow while offering high-end PC VR experiences like ‘Lone Echo II’ and ‘Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond’ well into the future.”

Two years ago, TechCrunch reported on the disagreements within Facebook over the company’s decision to focus on standalone as opposed to high-end, tethered headsets, saying that Brendan Iribe, the co-founder and former CEO of Oculus, was “leaving Facebook  following some internal shake-ups in the company’s virtual reality arm last week that saw the cancellation of the company’s next generation ‘Rift 2’ PC-powered virtual reality headset, which he had been leading development of”.

If Facebook is leaving the high-end PCVR market, what does that mean for the future of social VR platforms which either do not run on the Quest, like Sansar, or do not run at their full technical capacity, like VRChat? (I wrote about my earlier experiences running VRChat on my Oculus Quest here. Although I’m sure the situation has improved somewhat since then, the fact remains that you still need PCVR to really experience everything that VRChat has to offer.) Are those platforms that run best (or only) on PCVR doomed?

No. So relax. (Yeah, all right, I admit that was a click-bait blogpost title. Sue me.)

While the market for high-end PCVR might mature more slowly than that of wireless VR headsets (and definitely more slowly than most overconfident observers had originally predicted), eventually it will come. Devices may come and go in popularity, but the overall trend is clear: ever more data being pushed to your headset, creating ever more detailed environments. Eventually, that screen door effect that can sometimes make it difficult to read text in a VR headset will vanish. Visual fidelity will only improve from here on in. Consumers and businesses will demand it, and they will buy it. It’s inevitable.

While we do not yet know what future headsets various tech companies have on their drawing boards, we can be assured that other companies will definitely step into the PCVR market while Facebook is stepping out, and up the VR/AR/XR game (many eyes are watching to see what Apple will do, for example). As I like to say, a rising tide lifts all boats. I believe that many people who get their first taste of VR from an Oculus Quest will no doubt graduate to more powerful, tethered devices. (Even Facebook may decide to change their minds at some point in the future, particularly if they should see any potential competitors do well.)

I myself have already placed my order for a Valve Index kit to replace my trusty, four-year-old Oculus Rift, as part of my personal boycott of Facebook/Oculus products and services (more info here). I have heard through the grapevine that they are selling well since Facebook’s decision to force Oculus device users to get Facebook accounts, which is not sitting well with many early VR adopters at all.

And I very much look forward to visiting future virtual festivals in Sansar in my shiny new Valve Index!

Editorial: Second Life Founder and High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale Comments on the Facebookening of Oculus

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 460 people participating from every single social VR platform and virtual world! More details here


Erica joy Baker, Director of Engineering at GitHub, recently tweeted her dismay at discovering that, upon deactivating her Facebook account, her Oculus Quest became unusable:

I deactivated my Facebook, as I often do. It made my Oculus Quest 100% unusable. Not “hard to use” or “unpleasant to use.” Unusable.

She added:

My Oculus Quest didn’t degrade gracefully after I deactivated my Facebook account. Instead, the home app went into an ANR loop. When the Quest came back up after I hard rebooted it, the home app loaded, but blocked me using anything until it could connect to my Facebook account again.

Second Life founder and High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale commented on her tweet:

So true and so sad. I can’t believe VR tech (which is getting better) is dominated by one company whose track record clearly suggests they will cause harm to those who would use these devices. What a bad situation.

And I replied:

This is why we need to promote and support open source social VR solutions such as Tivoli Cloud VR and Vircadia (based on your HiFi code). Thank you for your part in building that universe of possibility, Philip.

And it’s true; Philip Rosedale’s decision to make the original High Fidelity social VR platform software code available for other developers to build upon has already led to two separate, distributed open-source successors to HiFi, both of which I have written about before on this blog: Tivoli Cloud VR and Vircadia (which I would strongly encourage you to check out, if you haven’t already done so). I have recently had a guided tour of both platforms, and both look very promising!

And, of course, there are numerous examples of other, non-Facebook social VR platforms which people should explore (NeosVR, Sansar, and Sinespace* are three I highly recommend you try).

Facebook already has too much power and control over the current and future development of social virtual reality, unnecessarily forcing users of its Oculus VR devices to create accounts on its Facebook social network (so that their personal data can be further strip-mined and sold to corporations and campaigns for profit).

We need to actively promote and support metaverse alternatives to the Facebook ecosystem, which do NOT track our every click, like, relationship, glance, and gesture.

*Full disclosure: I am an embedded reporter for Sinespace, writing sponsored blogposts about the people, news and events on that virtual world/social VR platform.