Between the usual “running errands,” two different doctor’s appointments (one dental, one the second covid shot), and taking advantage of my change in decor to try a few things in VR–and of course adding pure laziness/procrastination to the mix–I ended up not doing any particular workouts this week.
Instead, I spent most of my gaming time sampling the VR games I’d selected via Vive Infinity.
For those who are unfamiliar with the program, Vive Infinity is a subscription service via Vive’s own VR game store that, similar to the Kindle Unlimited for ebooks that I’ve written about in a few other posts, allows you to “borrow” eligible games for as long as you have the subscription.
And like I’ve done before with KU, I used it not as an alternative to buying those games outright, but as a means to discover if I was likely to enjoy those games enough to buy them outright.
Granted, unlike my reading habits, I tend to take so long getting around to playing video games (case in point, the fact that I had purchased a year-long subscription but barely touched it until the year was almost up) that the cost to subscribe to Vive Infinity would’ve outweighed the benefits of using it to sample these games, were it not for the fact that I’d gotten the subscription on sale for roughly the cost of one or two games. So useful the first time, but not something I anticipate signing up for again unless I see another sale.
And I have indeed made some discoveries.
For instance, when posting elsewhere about some of the glitches and lags I experienced, I discovered that my internet connection is not quite up to par to play PCVR games on my Quest. The suggestions I’ve received are to add other devices to the network–in the form of another router (not merely upgrading the house router but specifically adding one to my gaming area) or an access point–and I’ve also found much online about the benefit of having a band dedicated solely to using in VR.
Price and lack of space being what they are, I suspect my first move would be to upgrade the house router (which needs upgrading anyway–it was $40 on clearance a few years ago so already outdated and probably not a high-quality model to begin with), maybe to a tri-band model if I can find one for a decent price (so I really can have one band used solely for VR while still having 5 GHz available for other devices that support it). Despite the previous suggestions, this might be enough to fix the problems I’ve been experiencing.
After that, who knows? Perhaps by the time I can justify the cost of the extra equipment my room might be decluttered enough to support the presence of yet another router or everything else I’ve been told to install… or perhaps, space depending, I’ll just bite the bullet and get a VR system intended specifically for use with the PC. Meanwhile I should look into physically connecting my Quest to my PC in the form of a suitably long USB cable; while wireless is an asset to my clutzy self, for me the main draw of the Quest has always been about available floor space rather than the lack of a physical tether.
But speaking of the ongoing need to declutter, this was not my only discovery. No, I also managed to get a better idea of how much space I have with regard to specific types of games.
There is of course my test the previous week demonstrating my ability to play Beat Saber in the available space:
But there were a variety of game types in my selection of “samples,” and as such a variety of requirements.
- Seated games of course have no problem, though I’ve noticed that even these sometimes have me reaching far enough that I see the guardian boundary pop up (at least if I have it set to stationary mode). Guess it depends on whether the game is really intended to play seated versus “it happens to be compatible.”
- As mentioned, games like Beat Saber work well enough as even the “workout” really doesn’t force me to move much from my starting position… though I’ve smacked the pull chain on my ceiling fan twice in one session; I couldn’t feel it but I could hear it both times over the music and I could see it swinging wildly upon reviewing the footage above. I’m looking to see if I can get a “bladeless” ceiling fan for dust allergies, and I’ve noticed that most of these rely on a remote control, but until I find something locally I’ll just have to be careful with my swinging… and hope I don’t ever accidentally smack the pull-chain so hard it catches on the fan blades (I’ve done that before just from letting go too quickly when turning the fan on or off).
- I have to be careful with “exploring” type games that actually have me physically moving around for navigation (I’ve smacked my desk, and knocked over the contents of my dresser, a few times despite both being outside of my guardian boundary). I’ve previously been moving my desk chair into the corner so it doesn’t block my view of the monitor/webcam (the chair is too high even at it’s lowest setting, the upcoming Cyberchair might work as an alternative here) or decrease my available space, but I’m thinking I might just have to leave it in front of the computer to provide an extra boundary between me and the desk.
- And games like Oh Shape just don’t work in there because even in the tutorial some of the shapes put me outside of the guardian boundary. There is simply no workaround to this unless the devs themselves add an option to remain centered, so I’ll still be doing some games in the living room. VirZoom, likewise, requires the living room by virtue of requiring the exercise bike.
But space requirements are not the only discovery I’ve made. There is also the matter of why I went with Vive Infinity, and my thoughts on the games themselves.
One of the first games I tried (barring the brief encounter in FNAF) was Apocalypse Rider, the thus-far-only motorcycle game I’ve found. Content-wise, it seems on par with playing an arcade game, perhaps similar to a racing game albeit without an actual opponent to race against. There are several missions (most of which I’ve found via watching someone else play it on YouTube, I simply didn’t sample it enough to play them myself) that earn you points based on how quickly you get through the stretch of road, how far you get, how many times you’ve crashed or had near misses, etc, but the actual gameplay doesn’t vary much from one mission to the next. Not really the type of game I’d normally be interested in but it’s cheap enough that it may be worth obtaining as an occasional “something different.”
Moss is a game that actually confused me for a bit. Not “confused” as in I had no idea what’s going on or how to play it, but rather that the gameplay was so like playing a flat-screen game (with the obvious exception of having the monitor right in my face instead of sitting on my desk) that I still feel a bit puzzled as to why it needs to be VR. A useful way for people to transition, possibly, starting them with something they’re already familiar with instead of jumping straight into “this is how VR is different from flat screen games,” but I’ve seen plenty of games that have VR and non-VR modes and I think this could easily have been one of those if the devs had chosen to take that route. Then again, “samples” being what they are, it’s possible that I just haven’t gotten far enough into the game to see whatever it is that makes this impossible to play on a flat screen. Still, I liked this one enough to add it to my wishlist on the Quest… and on Steam.
Paper Beast was one I enjoyed for the graphics alone. I think I’ll be acquiring both the VR and the “Folded Edition” (non-VR) at some point, though as this is not currently available on the Quest my ability to play the VR version will be limited until I’ve solved my Quest-to-PC issues.
Into the Rabbit Hole gave me a “why is this only in VR” reaction similar to what Moss did, until I discovered areas where the control scheme does require VR… unless, I suppose, you’re in the habit of connecting two mouses to your computer. Haven’t really made up my mind if I’d like this one enough to buy outright, and it doesn’t help that this is one of the ones that kept glitching out courtesy of my internet connection.
I finally made a genuine attempt at FNAF VR, the game that officially started my interest in Vive Infinity (I’ve got a fellow gamer who keeps insisting I need to try the series despite my lack of interest in horror games), with the natural result that I died in the first night. Despite knowing what to expect from watching the other gamer in question, and his constantly watching the series on YouTube, I left the doors closed the whole time, practically obliterating my available power as a result, and subsequently met Freddy before Phone Guy was halfway through giving me instructions. Cue a very loud “Geez! Right in my face!” and realizing in hindsight that I should’ve been recording for my reaction… only to discover to my dismay that the game was no longer available for Infinity (my mild-OCD self had already removed it from my Vive library by this point so I couldn’t simply redownload it without buying it). I might consider buying this game if it goes on sale (I already have one $10 horror game I opted to try and am considering another), but $30 is a bit steep given my general lack of interest in the genre.
I was, however, amused enough by the “waiver” that I had to “agree to” early in the game that I restarted the whole thing just so I could record the intro:
Oh, and just like I suck at shooting game (guns) on the flat-screen, I also suck at shooting games (archery) in VR. Doesn’t matter whether I’m using a longbow or a crossbow, I simply can’t aim. Not sure how much of that is the control scheme and how much is being on a time crunch; as is typical of certain in-game mechanics (like those found in driving games) this is something that is much easier to do in real life than in any video game I’ve ever tried, and “controls” and “time” are both critical differences between the two. Ironic, given that I am the typical “I like archers best” when playing the Elder Scrolls series; this may not bode well once I get around to playing Skyrim VR, unless I choose to employ my self-imposed challenge of only using weapons I’ve found in whatever dungeon I’m currently exploring.
There were other games on my to-sample list, as well as free demos available on the Quest itself, but nothing that made any lasting impact, good or bad. The only other game for me to try at this point would be “Until You Fall,” which I had somehow miraculously purchased from Vive… entirely for free. The “purchase” happened because they were offering a promo that allowed annual Infinity members (and only annual members) to get the game for free; the “miraculous” part is because the promo showed up after I had elected to cancel my subscription instead of getting charged for another year, but before my current subscription actually ended, rendering me unexpectedly eligible.
And I did manage one change regarding actual workouts. I found, bought, and (eventually) received… a step deck designed to be used with the Wii Fit balance board.
Two of them, actually. The first is part of a 5-in-one kit that includes a few extra accessories that I can see myself using in conjunction with the Wii Fit (controller holders etc), but since I couldn’t find any pictures of what the step deck itself looks like I couldn’t be sure if I could use it on its own. (I’ve seen several that are little more than feet, connected by an “x” to presumably make the whole thing more stable, but without the balance board there’s barely any surface to step onto.)
Given that uncertainty (which turned out to be a correctly-anticipated problem as the kit does use the x-style risers), and given that I’ve been looking for a specific model that was proving hard to find, I continued looking even after purchasing the kit… and finally found a bundle on eBay that included both the specific model I was looking for and an extra balance board. Not sure if I really need the extra board for my specific purposes, but this way I can guarantee more durability than the deck alone (which, despite having the fully flat surface that was the reason for wanting that model, has a hollow drawer to store games etc in and therefore still might not be durable enough to use alone) without needing to carry my balance board back and forth between rooms. Once I’ve finished with Zombies Run Homefront, I can just add the extra balance board and whichever step deck I like least to the pile of things to be donated and use everything else in conjunction with the Wii Fit.
Given the difficulty finding these things, I doubt I’ll add them to future Amazon-affiliate suggested-products lists, but who knows?
The final change in response to my rearranged furniture has to do with the placement of my VR headset when charging it.
For a while I’ve been using a charging stand that stores the headset and controllers alike, but only charges the headset itself (I’ve since found many chargers for the controllers, but they all have mixed reviews that focus on the battery losing its connection mid-game with the controller).
And for a while this worked for me. The charger did not actually plug in to the headset, but rather involved a dongle that merely makes contact with the charger, so a certain amount of precision was required to get it to charge, but it didn’t usually require more than a little fidgeting to get it into place. When I finally got around to trying my VR Power counterweight (for comfort reasons), I discovered the weight was enough to keep the headset from making that contact, so I elected to leave the counterweight off of the headset when I wasn’t actually using it.
And then, one day, I put the headset on the charger before I went to bed, and come morning the light indicated it was still charging. And two days later I went to use it and got “low battery” warnings. Clearly it was making some contact, else the indicator light wouldn’t have been on, but just as clearly it was not consistently making the contact it needed. Another option was in order.
I found another charging stand online, one of those with the mixed reviews, and decided to take the risk. Upon receiving it, it took only a few minutes to set it up and begin using. One of the included controller batteries showed as being fully charged within a few seconds of inserting into the charger, while the other took some pushing around before the indicator light even turned on and showed it to be in need of charging. And the headset… still involved a dongle that merely makes contact with the charger.
I elected to return that one, leave the entire headset and counterweight “permanently” connected, and sit the whole kit on my filing cabinet to charge instead of in its former position on my desk.
At some point I’ll get another stand so I can set up the headset and controllers properly, but charging is just going to involve physically plugging in a USB cord. Sadly this does not involve charging through the counterweight (which is also a spare battery) because for some reason the headset just… stops charging after a few seconds. So if I want to keep the accessory charged and not use it solely as a counterweight, I’ll need to dig out another suitable-length USB cable and find myself a dual USB charger.
Suggested products in use, Amazon Affiliate links included where possible:
- Oculus Quest (I have the original, thus the link. I’d done some research on the 2 to decide how it would most likely affect my migraines–weight plus IPD–and decided my best bet was just to stick with what I have.)