Greetings from scenic,

Category: Games
Tags: Game Vr

Cool Stuff I'm Doing in VR

Recently I've had the opportunity to play with an Oculus Quest, a self-contained and incredibly portable VR headset with a ton of neat features like hand-tracking. It has an incredible processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which allows you to play standalone games entirely on the headset, no connection to your computer at all. Additionally it lets you sideload a ton of .apk files using the familiar adb tool, commonly used for hacking with Android phones.

Half-Life 1

So HL:1 was already an amazing game to play on the PC; I can remember unsealing the CD years ago and being astonished at the ability of the developers to tell a story so well through the first-person shooter genre. Using Lambda1VR sideloaded throught the Quest I am currently playing through the campaign again except this time fully immersed in the game's atmosphere and characters.

They're waiting for you Gordon... in the test chamber.

Let me prefix this by saying: this game was scary enough on PC with all the dark corners and creepy monster design; in virtual reality, however, it's all fucking terrifying. All the parts that made me jump on PC make me absolutely scream when playing it on the Quest. The mod itself requires purchase of HL:1 on Steam; once you've sideloaded the app onto the headset, this mod adds intuitive controls on all the controller faces allowing you to do everything you could on PC except now you're moving, leaning, reloading and crouching all as if it were a Quest game released this year. It's all an incredible feat breathing new life into a game which is over 20 years old and I give massive love to DrBeef, the author of this incredible mod.

Garry's Mod: VRMod

GMod has been around for years; it's easily one of the most hackable games on the market and (in my opinion) very few games even rival the scripting interface it exposes for manipulating the engine and creating new and novel experiences. I've exploited this ability (very) recently to write a complete solution for hosting virtual DJ festivals in VR (check out my article about my Steam Workshop).

A bit about URL festivals

A ton of URL festivals were done this Spring in Minecraft (mostly due to the work from one company in particular during the pandemic); while Minecraft is also a very extensible platform, its selection as a medium for virtual DJ'ing seems fairly arbitrary. I believe that players and developers can better express themselves in the Source Engine environment and if we ever revisit the idea of "purely virtual DJ festivals" I have faith that we will choose (or maybe even develop our own) medium which accomodates community interaction and expression in a way we haven't seen in these hacked-together events before.

One really neat thing I discovered about GMod is the existence of VRMod, a deceptively simple mod and set of OpenVR .dlls translating VR headset / controller motions into Source Engine motions. This means you can play Garry's Mod entirely in VR. For a sandbox game with an initial release of 2004, this is fucking nuts... and VRMod works extremely well, even with my hacked-together Quest setup.

While I have hosted virtual raves in the past (see: End of Howler: One More Final: Thank You, and Club Howler Week 2 and Week 3), hosting a VR rave is something novel that I had wanted to do for some time.

Originally I wanted to host this rave in VRChat, a well-known game for meeting new people and friends in virtual reality. The problems with implementing this VRChat are:

  1. VRChat's programming language Udon is still in alpha
  2. It's nowhere nearly as expressive as GMod Lua (GLua)
  3. You cannot self-host a VRChat server
  4. VRChat heavily favors players with VR setups; we want to be more inclusive than that

... so the decision was made to re-use my old GMod DJ kit, this time with VRMod attached.

EVA Online Presents: Synesthesia #002

More detail on

Synesthesia #002 Bump by Ashton Simeon

EVA (Eternal Virtual Ascension) (on Discord, announcements via Twitter) is a neo-rave record label / community of artists and creators; the community was born on the Internet and is constantly evolving with the collective itself. EVA hosts URL festivals regularly; I was invited to play a half-hour set for the second installment of their Synesthesia series on June 26th and I gladly accepted. EVA is a very wholesome and directed community, and they summarize what I love most about creative communities on the Internet.

This was really one of the most fun sets I've done and it definitely was the most ambitious we've ever organized. As a sidenote, it's extremely difficul difficult to operate a mixer with a VR headset on; I managed this by overlaying my mixxx window into my headset so it showed up on my wrist in VR, much like a lot of VR streamers do for their Twitch chat.

Some clips from my Synesthesia #002 set

If you want to watch some other performances from Synesthesia #002 check out the lineup and summary which includes a full 1080p60 copy of my set as well. Using VR like this has a ton of potential; I hope that more social software exposes interfaces similar to what GMod supports and allows its userbase to bend and play with the software to make more events like this.

Echo Arena

Zero-G movement in VR is, despite first impressions, extremely natural. Echo Arena is a competitive team-based game which feels similar to that Battle Room game they play in Ender's Game. It came to Quest this year.

For some reason the game is filled with kids. I haven't figured that one out, maybe it just feels like the most "tame" competitve game (e.g. no blood or guns like many other games on the VR market) but I'm still not really sure. It's a really fun game regardless, I'd encourage you to check it out. I am very bad at the game but I've got a pro teaching me the ropes so I've got no doubt I'll be pro soon! :smile:

Half-Life: Alyx

Alyx is the first AAA title I've bought in a very, very long time.

I first watched gameplay of Alyx when Porter Robinson played it in March but I never thought I'd cave to the hype. It's an extremely fun game and it makes me excited to see what development studios decide to do with the new VR resources in Source 2. The game is not supposed to be very scary but I am very bad at reloading so it quickly becomes a horror / survival game when I'm being chased by headcrab zombies and can't reload a shotgun to save my life; it's difficult because you have to perform all the reload actions by hand (like in Pavlov) by ejecting the spent rounds, retrieving a magazine from your backpack and inserting it all before being fucking mauled to death. Very distressing when that happens, but once you get the rhythm of it it's very fun.

Rez HD and Rez Infinite

Rez is an incredible game and despite being released in 2001 it is an amazing game to play in VR, it feels like it was begging to be played in this kind of environment. This is probably the closest I will ever be to playing Rez in the Synesthesia suit.

Playing in Rez Area X

The free-range movement in Area X is what feels most natural for Rez; unfortunately the parameters of the Dreamcast restricted the game to being run on-rails for its original release. Area X is a beautiful level and moved me in a way that few games have, but it feels tragically short. I am eagerly watching the things Mizuguchi is developing now, as the direction he gives a lot of his games (e.g. Tetris Effect) are inspiring and exciting.

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