Along with the Steam Machine initiative, Valve has also been working on virtual reality. The Oculus Rift beat Valve to the news cycle, so Valve followed the philosophy it always has: if you can’t beat ’em, make sure they join you. The house that Gordon built has announced SteamVR, an experimental virtual reality mode for the famed digital distribution platform.
Despite what the rampant internet fandom may suggest, Valve’s greatest strength does not lie in coming up with original game ideas — it lies in business strategy. Valve is very good at identifying something that will succeed, then snatching it up. Portal, for instance, was not internally conceived at Valve. A group of students made a game with the original concept, Narbacular Drop, and Valve hired them, basically buying the idea for Portal. The massively successful DOTA 2, of course, was also not Valve’s idea, but the company contacted the original creator of the Warcraft III mod and subsequently hired him to help make the sequel. The same story applies to Left 4 Dead — a developer was working on it, and Valve purchased them. With Steam, Valve got other developers to put their own games on its platform. For however much you love Half-Life, Valve’s greatest skill is convincing others to join up. The Oculus Rift has released (in dev kit capacity) ahead of Valve’s VR effort, so Valve enacted its usual strategy of having other people join its platform, and launched SteamVR.
SteamVR is an experimental mode that supports the Oculus Rift; a timely announcement following the release of the Rift’s new Crystal Cove model. SteamVR actually puts the Steam client interface in Rift mode, displayed as a giant floating curved-screen UI, complete with head-tracking support.
If you have an Oculus Rift development kit, it’s easy enough to activate the mode. Simply run Steam from the command line with the “-vr” variable. Once it loads, select Big Picture mode and it will load in VR. You may need to prep your client, and to do so will take just a few simple steps. First, run Steam without the “-vr” option, then locate and select SteamVR under the Tools menu; if it doesn’t appear, you’ll have to install it. Select SteamVR’s properties menu, then opt into the Beta Update option, which will begin to download. Once the download is complete, quit Steam, and restart with the “-vr” option. If you’re still having issues, there are some more things to try in order to get the Rift up and running.
This Rift support announcement precedes Steam Dev Days, a Valve developer conference that is thought to see the reveal of a Valve-made virtual reality kit. It’s interesting that Valve has either not attempted to — or been able to — acquire the Oculus Rift developers, as is Valve’s general strategy of gobbling up all things good. Sadly, it doesn’t appear we’ll have John Carmack working for Valve anytime soon, but at least we’ll still have the internet considering it won’t have exploded.
Stay tuned for news from Steam Dev Days, which is being held over the next two days.
View more information: https://www.extremetech.com/gaming/174661-valve-announces-steamvr-an-oculus-rift-mode-for-steam