Time to share some personal impressions from the VorpX beta driver that adds support for the Oculus Rift VR headset in games that do not have official support for the device. I’ve purchased a beta license soon after it has been released earlier this month and played a bit with the software, so I can share some experience about how it works, what I like and what I don’t and so on as a user. If you already have a Rift Development Kit or are planning to get one, then getting a license for the VorpX beta driver is definitely a must do thing (costs around $40 USD) as the software really works very well considering it is still a beta. Aside from the VorpX, there are other alternative solutions that offer similar support for playing games that are not specially designed to support the Oculus Rift HMD and these are the Vireio Perception (open source driver) and DDD TriDef 3D software that offers beta support (trial mode available, the software is commercial). Other than these three there is the Stereoscopic Player (commercial software with trial mode) that supports Oculus Rift viewing mode for 3D videos and the rest is pretty much games and software demos that have official built-in Oculus Rift support. Don’t forget that Oculus Rift is still in a development stage and that the consumer model shoudl be available by the end of next year (probably), so we should not be too harsh on a development kit hardware and beta software for it…
I’ll start with the most serious problem that VorpX has pretty much since day 1 – total lack of information. I know that the guy(s) behind the project are probably quite busy with the programming part of the software, and they are doing really good job now that I have finally seen the beta version of VorpX, but they should pay attention to other things as well… especially if they are going to be charging money for the software. To tell you the truth I was a bit skeptical at first when I read about the project, due to lack of information an updates on the progress it all seemed like it may not happen at all, so I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw when the beta and tried it in action even though there is more work to be done. Unfortunately the problem with lack of VITAL information about VorpX still exists – the beta is here, people buy it and they are left with no manual or detailed documentation on all of the features and functions that the software offers and it has quite some. You are pretty much left to tinker with them in order to learn what they do and how they affect things. Next up in the list of problems is the game compatibility list, you may spend quite some time looking for it and you may end up not finding it, I have ended up finding it on another website. Don’t get me wrong, I like the VorpX driver, but when you are asking money for something you cannot have the most basic things like proper documentation and game compatibility list missing!
And now it is time for the good stuff. The software is quite easy to use, just install, register your license and run it. The registration part may take up a few days, because after purchasing the software you need to download and install it, run it to get a request code and then send that code over an email in order to get your registration license – this can surely be streamlined as you probably would want to try out the software immediately after you purchase it. Anyway, make sure to have your Oculus Rift connected when you run VorpX, otherwise the software will not start, though just giving you a warning and still running could be helpful when testing for games compatibility and you don’t actually need to use the Rift. If the software’s icon is in the system tray when you run a game it should normally run in a Rift friendly mode, though if it does not, you can create a Desktop Shortcut to run the game with VorpX enabled and that sometimes can help (use the “Create Desktop Shortcut” from the menu you get by right clicking on the VorpX tray icon). For the moment you can expect to have problems with some games if they are ran through Steam, Origin or even if they have their own game launchers before actually running the game, it is also possible that some other software that hooks up to DirectX calls such as FRAPS drawing overlays on the screen may cause problems though I did not have any when using FRAPS specifically.
According to the list of officially supported games VorpX should work with about 80-90 games (that means they have profiles and stereoscopic 3D support), but then again as I’ve said you may have trouble finding which ones are these and even if you do find the list you may have trouble understanding it. Unfortunately while the VorpX software should have profiles for all officially supported games with some settings preset such as the stereoscopic 3D rendering mode used, the control panel of the software currently does not offer even listing these profiles let alone allowing you to edit them, though it should offer that functionality apparently. You can edit the settings while inside a game by calling up the in-game VorpX overlay menu with the DEL key, that is if you are able to read it as it is semi-transparent and you need to find a good place with a darker image on the screen. Also a useful tip, you might want to disable the HeadTracking Roll option from the in-game menu in most if not all games as when it is not properly supported in a game it can cause some issues. Also you might want to play a bit with the Aspect Ratio option as the default Smart option may not always provide the best results in some games. The HeadTracking Sensitivity is another option that might help you get better experience while playing if the world “spins around” too fast or too slow when you move your head.
What makes difference is that in games that will work with VorpX, but are not yet “officially supported” (not have profiles) the stereoscopic 3D rendering will not be enabled and available for the user to enable through the in-game VorpX settings menu. The two rendering modes for stereoscopic 3D that VorpX supports are: Z-Buffer Mode that is the kind of “fake” stereo 3D effect that offers faster performance and decent results and Geometry Mode that is supposed to be full dual view rendering with better stereo 3D effect, but with more performance hit. Now, I completely get that if a game has not been tested to work with the two stereoscopic 3D rendering methods the VorpX supports things can get messy, but having it just disabled at start and still giving the user the option to try to enable it to test might actually help in finding faster what games work and what have issues. We all have played the profile game where you recognize the game by the name of the executable file and run an appropriate profile for it, so by just renaming the executable of a game to a supported game by VorpX you can get the stereo 3D rendering option back, but why should we have to do this. There are also some really useful features available some of which I find very useful, like for example the Edge Peek functionality that allows you to look around the corners of the screen that may normally not be visible when using the Rift as well as the Image Zoom function that allows you to zoom-in or out the whole image displayed on screen (good feature to compensate for the use of different lenses of the Rift).
You should have in mind that currently the VorpX software only works with 32-bit games , it will not work if you run a 64-bit game executable. The software does work just fine under 64-bit Windows, it will just not attach itself to 64-bit game executable, but fortunately there are not many of these and the games that come with 64-bit executable usually have a separate 32-bit ones as well. Other important things that the developers of VorpX note in their forum are that VorpX requires AMD/ATI or Nvidia graphics card and it may not work on Intel graphics (who would play games on an integrated Intel GPU anyway) and SLI or Crossfire multi-graphics card setups may or may not work (could not test that as I currently do not have a SLI/Crossife setup). Also disabling stereoscopic 3D support on systems using other stereoscopic 3D drivers before running a game with VorpX is recommended, so if you have a 3D Vision system for example don’t forget to disable the stereoscopic 3D support from the Nvidia Control Panel.
One more thing as last that is not yet very clear and that is how updates for the VorpX will be distributed. Since we are not downloading the software from anywhere directly and there is no Update option available anywhere in it we might have to use the web downloader to reinstall it by downloading a newer version or we may get notified by email with an update link. Again according to information in the VorpX forums we are most likely going to see the first update for the VorpX beta by the end of this month, hopefully addressing at least some of the issues mentioned above.