Oculus Rift's Exclusive VR Games Are No Longer Exclusive

A user has hacked a way to play Oculus Rift-exclusive games on the HTC Vive.

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Apr 13 2016, 10:22pm

Image: Oculus.

Why should you buy an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and not an HTC Vive? Why a Vive and not a PlayStation VR?

There are differences in price and technical capabilities, but for the most part, just like the competition between game consoles we've known for years, these VR headsets distinguish themselves through exclusive games.

Oculus in particular has been able to invest a lot of money and energy into exclusive games thanks to funding from its parent company, Facebook. It has a publishing arm, Oculus Studios, that helps produce and publish VR games on the Rift. The colorful, Mario 64-like platformer Lucky's Tale, for example, has long been used to demo the Rift at events, and was eventually packed in with every consumer model of the Rift. Much like Wii Sports for the Nintendo's Wii, it's one of those exclusive games that's supposed to convince players to buy a Rift instead of a competing VR headset.

The issue for Oculus today is that it's no longer an exclusive.

Getting this to work seems fairly easy

A Github user with the handle LibreVR has published a piece of software that allows Vive owners to play Oculus exclusive games, including Lucky's Tale.

The Github page explains that the software, Revive, "is a proof-of-concept compatibility layer between the Oculus SDK [software development kit] and OpenVR."

OpenVR is Valve's open source API which gives developers access to the Vive and other VR hardware.

Revive takes functions from the Oculus Runtime and translates them to OpenVR calls. Basically, it takes the software designed to make Lucky's Tale run on the Rift and makes it so it can run on Vive, and potentially any VR hardware that uses OpenVR.

Motherboard wasn't able to test Revive, but several users on Reddit have said it's working for them.

Getting this to work seems fairly easy as well, nothing more complicated than installing a user-made game modification.

Users first need to patch the game the game in question to avoid a code signing check that confirms the software is approved to run on an Oculus Rift. Then all they need to do is launch the Vive software and launch the game.

So far, the author tested this method works with two games: Lucky's Tale and Oculus Dreamdeck.

At the moment, Revive will only work with games that use a 360 or Xbox One controller, but supporting motion controls is on the to-do list, along with OpenGL and DX12 support, and support for games that use the Oculus Platform for online functionality.

If this method continues to evolve and Oculus can't or won't stop it, Oculus will essentially no longer be able to guarantee exclusivity. If we're thinking about the different high-end VR platforms as the equivalent of different game consoles, it'd be as if all your PlayStation 4 games worked on an Xbox One. That would be a big problem for the PlayStation 4.

"I'm the first one who has published such a compatibility layer," the author of Revive, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Motherboard. "Whether Oculus tries to shut me down depends on how they will view the project. Palmer Luckey has said in the past that they don't care whether people mod their games, I hope that he will keep his word."

"If customers buy a game from us, I don't care if they mod it to run on whatever they want," Oculus founder Palmer Luckey previously said in a Reddit post. "As I have said a million times (and counter to the current circlejerk), our goal is not to profit by locking people to only our hardware - if it was, why in the world would we be supporting GearVR and talking with other headset makers?"

Perhaps this highlights the possibility that Vive and Rift, assuming their functionality remains comparable, aren't really separate platforms. They're both accessories for the same platform, the PC, and since the PC is a relatively open platform, it's going to be hard if not impossible to stop users from doing whatever they want with it, including breaking exclusivity.

Oculus didn't immediately responded to our request for comment.