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The Oasis (still) Sucks: Talking About VR Gaming

Droewyn

Smol Monster
(She/her, they/them)
Isn't that kind of idiotic when anyone younger than 40 thinks facebook is for geezers?
 

fanboymaster

(He/Him)
Precisely the point, you use accessories like Oculus to capture userdata from people who would otherwise refuse to have a facebook account. Oculus doesn't really have the kinds of killer apps needed to make people keep a facebook account just to use it yet but that's the principle.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Oculus Quest is being discontinued, likely because its successor is being announced next week.

I don’t know what’s more frustrating, that freaking Facebook of all companies is the only game in town for stand alone VR gaming devices, or how quickly they cycle through hardware in this market. The Oculus Go came out in 2018. We’ve had three generations of stand alone VR headsets in as many years, and if his is anything like the transition from Go to Quest, software support for the Quest is going to dry up fast.

At least the home brew scene for the Quest has been really good so far.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
Today in fuck Facebook news, Facebook will be adding an unlisted section to their Quest storefront, and is working with Sidequest to migrate its apps there.

...Okay, that’s probably a lot of gobbledygook for non VR people. Let me explain, as there is a lot to unpack here.

To begin, much like consoles, the Oculus Quest has a curated storefront, and apps need to be approved by Facebook. Sounds perfectly normal, but the Quest is Android based, so this curation presents a bit of a Paradox. Android is supposed to be an open platform where developers can sideload their applications on commercial hardware for testing or alternative storefronts, and Facebook wanted the former to make it easier to develop games for its stand alone VR devices, a market segment struggling to gain wider acceptance, but not necessarily the latter for all the same reasons any platform holder would.

To try and prevent non developers from just side loading whatever they wanted onto their VR platforms, Oculus removed the ability easily sideload applications from devices directly. Instead, you have to setup a developer account, put your device into developer mode so a permitted computer can read/write to it, and use command line tools to install your app. This added layer of complexity was sufficient for the Oculus Go, as it’s storefront was more open, so few people felt the need to jump through these hoops for home brew, leading to fewer home brew applications.

The jump to Quest’s curated approach resulted in a lot of devs with rejected applications, who eventually began to rally around a PC application called Sidequest. Sidequest is a PC application that both provide a GUI for installing APKs to your Oculus Go/Quest, as well as an alternative storefront for developers who where either rejected or didn’t want to work with Oculus/Facebook. Unlike the Go, the homebrew scene on the Quest exploded.

This unlisted section on the surface looks to be Facebook wanting to support this homebrew community. Facebook will host these homebrew apps, and better integrate them into the OS than sideloading allows even, but they won’t be accessible from the store. Instead developers will have to share links to their app. They are also coordinating with Sidequest to shift it to use this process in the future instead. Sounds good at first...

...But this would put the homebrew scene under Facebook’s terms of service. The homebrew scene includes paid applications outside of Facebook’s purview, emulators, ports of old PC games, and political satire, all things Facebook might decide it no longer wants to allow. (Edit: Forgot abouts mods too. One of Sidequest biggest draws early on was Beat Saber modding.)

But Facebook would never do something underhanded like that, right? It’s not like it’s frequently made promises on how it was going to manage Oculus that it later broke...
 
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fanboymaster

(He/Him)
There's a worryingly large but unsurprising venn diagram collision between "tech weirdo with way too much fuckin' money" "fascist" and "VR tech enthusiast" which in that context explains honestly a lot about the facebook buyout to begin with.
 

muteKi

say "fish don't exist" to my face, motherfucker
While I tend to defer to Eco's particular checklist on the matter of what constitutes fascism, for a back-of-the-envelope style figuring I tend to think of fascism (or at least, a fascist movement that gains popular support enough to need to be dealt with) as being built around two things:

- A philosophy built around claims of objectivity to enforce a social order
- That is in service to the ruling/owner classes (i.e., capitalism)

In that sense it's not that surprising that a sort of scientism backed by the financier classes (i.e., Musk and Thiel are not scientists so much as they are bankers) winds up paving the way to overt fascism. One of the reasons I make such a big deal about, say, the SlateStarCodex stuff as that community is sort of peak that, forehead calipers and all.
 

Becksworth

Aging Hipster Dragon Dad
And now for a different kind of VR discontent. One of favorite games of last year was The Under Presents. I think I mentioned it a couple of times on the old forum to blank stares, so don’t worry if you never heard about it. The basic concept was a surreal VR adventure game/immersive theater, so we are talking niches within niches within niches here. Here’s the release trailer for what little context it may provide.


Trying to describe the game is difficult. Part of the game was a social VR hub taking place in a extra-dimensional night club with pre recorded acts and skits that play in sequence. Players would meet each other in the hub, except everyone was a faceless ghost in masks who couldn’t speak, just pantomime and use their masks to cast spells to alter the environment. From this hub world, players could explore the area outside of the nightclub together, which was full of various secrets to discover, or they could go do the games solo content, The Aickman, which was a prerecorded immersive theater play with some adventure puzzle elements sprinkled throughout.

Note how I keep saying prerecorded? That’s because there was live elements to the game. Tender Claws actually hired a theater troupe to use built in dev tools and go into the games hub world and do improv theater for players randomly throughout the day. I only stumbled on these a couple of times, but it was pretty wild trying to interact with actors playing various goofy characters the best you could with just hand and head gesturing. Originally this was only going to last until March of this year, but then covid happened, and regular theater got a little difficult to do, so it got extended, and they even ended up expanding on it by putting together a way for the theater troupe to do performances of the Tempest within the game in its last expansion:


So why the discontent? Well it looks like the live content will finally be coming to an end at the end of the month, or at least the Tempest, as September was the end of its run and I don’t see anything else announced for after that so far at least. I’m not sure the Tempest did as well as they hoped it would. It probably didn’t help that it worked like a conventional play pricing wise, you had to buy a ticket to it for a live showing at specific times. Originally it cost like $16 I believe, which probably scared a lot of potentially interested people off. They slashed the price in half when I looked yesterday, but even at that price, as a parent I can’t rationalize spending money on a theater experience I can’t share with the rest of the family, or at the very least not pause it so I can go take care of my kid if necessary. While I was there I checked around the hub world, and it seemed pretty dead player wise, not shocking given its a niche indie title that has been out for nearly a year now, but still sad to see. The game is still playable with all the prerecorded stuff, but without other players and live actors, it will be missing part of the full experience.

Also, I remember the music performances from the game is pretty good, and I should have nominated some in the thunderdome, except this game is so obscure I can’t find any good audio captures on YouTube, so I guess not?
 
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