Oculus shuts down that one weird trick players were using to run its games on the Vive
Oh, Oculus. Still waging that land war in Asia, I see.
You have to feel a little sorry for the companies going head-to-head in today's burgeoning virtual reality market. The most natural platform for their hardware is the PC, but PC is way harder to lock down than a dedicated games console: there are near infinite combinations of possible components and a strong hacking culture which has, over decades, seeped into the blood of its users the belief that anything can and must be cracked, copied, and shared. Information may not actually want to be free (for it is an abstract noun and is not capable of desires) but there is a never-ending supply of individuals eager to free it.
So it is that within a month of launching, Oculus VR found that users of the rival HTC Vive virtual reality headset had devised a workaround to get Oculus-exclusive games running on the hardware. It takes some doing, of course, and isn't exactly in compliance with anybody's terms of service, but exploiters gonna exploit. At the time, Oculus made a statement voicing disapproval for the workaround plugin -- called Revive --and added:
Users should expect that hacked games won’t work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software.
...Which is precisely what Oculus VR has gone and done. A patch released earlier this week has killed Oculus software compatibility with Revive, the plugin's own developer has confirmed to Vice Motherboard.
"Even if Revive wasn't targeted, [Oculus] were probably more than aware of the collateral damage," said the developer, whom Vice identifies only by their pseudonym, Libre VR. The patch apparently works by checking the player's hardware at startup, and if it detects they're using something other than an Oculus Rift, it will refuse to run the game. "While this helps prevent piracy from people who didn't buy an Oculus Rift, it doesn't do anything to prevent piracy from those who did buy an Oculus Rift."
What's more, it runs extremely counter to remarks made by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, who said in a Reddit thread five months ago that it would support modders playing on other devices, and in another statement made two months ago that Oculus could extend its software development kit to rivals if those companies made the request. It would appear the rest of Oculus VR -- and more probably its partner, Facebook -- have other intentions for its customers.
I hate to beat this drum so incessantly here, but Oculus can push patches all it wants, it's not going to ultimately win an arms race against plugin developers like Libre VR. Worse, by taking this more draconian stance and trying to lock down Oculus Store games exclusive to its hardware, it risks alienating the people currently most passionate about virtual reality technologies: modders, technologists, and developers.
Top image: Lucky's Tale, an Oculus Rift exclusive, running on the HTC Vive with the Revive plugin. Screen courtesy of Ars Technica.