HTC Vive: In Depth Review

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So, hooking the thing up is… a little daunting.  I opted to mount the two base stations to the walls, as the instruction video states that they should be above head at least 6.5ft.  I went up to about 7.5-8ft and you need to angle it down about 35 degrees:

20161109_124149The picture to the side makes it look as if the lighthouse isn’t pointing down, but it is.  The light itself seems to shoot upward.  maybe to bounce off the ceiling? who knows, it works how it’s supposed to and that is all that matters.  Both stations are set to opposing channels (A/B, or B/C) and need plugged into a wall outlet for power.  They have bluetooth built in as well and, in a perfect world, that BT connection to the Linkbox allows for the system to put the base stations into sleep mode.  I say perfect world, which this isn’t, but I’ll leave all bugs for the end of this section.

Once you have the base stations setup, the headset plugged in and the controllers paired and powered up Steam should auto-recognize that you’ve got a new toy hooked in and prompt you with this:steamvr-headset-install-pop-up-2Install it.  It’ll add a little icon to your Steam program in the upper-right, right next to the Big Screen Mode.  Just press this and Steam will initiate the headset, base stations and controllers.  in a perfect world, again, all will turn green and you are free to put on your headset!  BUT WAIT! You now have to setup your room!  A few slides will pop up with different instructions.  “Point controller at your monitor.” “Place both on floor.” “Draw the outline of your play area.” and so on.  it’s a few final steps, but then… it’s time to put on your headset!

Once inside your greeted with a vast void of lines and nothing.  Press the system button on the controller, which is fully visible through your headset, and you are greeted with, essentially, Big screen mode in VR.  It’s the BSM screen floating in front of your face.  The system will automatically show your VR titles, the VR store, etc.  but you can run non-vr games as well in “Theater Mode” in which you are playing the game on a virtual big screen.  No head-tracking or 3D, but it’s still cool…when it works.

In terms of technical wizardry VR does some interesting things to maintain playable framerates and performance without making you motion sick, which can happen easily.

First up is something called “Interleaved Reprojection”  Check the link for a more technical run down, but the basics is it will dynamically reduce the hertz rate of the game in order to maintain consistency and reduce motion sickness which can get worse if the framerate is swinging wildly.  VR needs 90fps to feel right, but if the game can’t maintain that rate then Interleaved Reprojection kicks in it cuts that in half to 45hz, locking the game to only render 45fps and SteamVR fills in the rest of those frames up to 90 with the previous frame the game creates.  Is this noticeable? Yes if you are walking around with room-scale.  The tech isn’t that great at anticipating forward or backward movement, but it does a decent job with rotating and turning your head.  This happens until the system can reliably keep 90 pure frames again.  The jumps are noticeable and you are sacrificing overall raw performance, but you are keeping your brain from melting.  Not literally, but you will get eye-strain and motion sickness if it fluctuates too much and that is going to kill overall entertainment and desire to play in the future if you keep feeling sick when you do it.

Most games also make use of Resolution scaling.  Basically the ability to change the resolution without changing the resolution.  I know that sounds stupid, but it’s extremely useful for systems that simply don’t like certain resolution settings, in fact, must LCD monitors look best at their recommended resolution setting and looks fuzzy or unfocused on anything other.  This is a good way to set that resolution for it’s optimal picture quality and then set the resolution scale lower to keep framerates high.  The Resolution Scale simply renders the game at much finer variations and will cause “jaggies” but to a much less extent and gives you far more control as to how much you are willing to deal with, as opposed to huge resolution drops that can distort the image ratio and bloat HUD and GUI text.

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