Valve’s CEO Confirmed Work On New Headsets Ages Ago And We All Missed It

Valve CEO Gabe Newell made some comments back in May that went unnoticed until recently, confirming work on “new headsets and games” at Valve.

Newell gave a talk at the Sancta Maria College in New Zealand and fielded some questions from students. The talk was recorded and uploaded online, but the comments about new headsets only gained attention recently when YouTuber Brad Lynch reposted a clip from a recording to Twitter, embedded below.

 

His comments came in response to a question asking whether Newell thinks VR/AR technology will ever become a staple of the gaming industry.

Newell confirms that Valve is “making big investments in new headsets and games” but also feels that VR/AR is a stepping stone toward brain-computer interfaces.

Here’s his full response, transcribed from around the 14:00 mark of this video:

“There are interesting questions, which is: are things sort of stable end goals or are they transition points? My view, which is not in the accepted sort of middle ground, is that VR and AR are transition points towards brain-computer interfaces. That everything you have to do in terms of control speeds, in terms of understanding visual processing, in terms of content design, are leading you towards brain-computer interfaces and what they do. 

So that’s the main thing, and then I think brain-computer interfaces are going to be incredibly disruptive, one of the more disruptive technology transitions that we’re going to go through.

So I think it’s super valuable. You know, we’re making big investments in new headsets and games for those application categories, but also looking further down the road and saying what does that evolve into.”

Back in September, Lynch also found evidence of a standalone VR headset in development at Valve, referred to as ‘Deckard’ in SteamVR driver files. Sources at Ars Technica corroborated the headset’s existence.

Newell also previously said Valve was exploring work with OpenBCI to solve VR motion sickness. If you sign up for the newsletter on the OpenBCI website for its upcoming “Galea” interface, the organization promises to ship an initial production run to testing partners in early 2022 fully integrated with the Valve Index, offering “image-based eye tracking” as well as sensors for “EEG, EDA, EMG, PPG, EOG” and access to “raw data” from the “BrainFlow” application programming interface.

“We’re working on an open source project so that everybody can have high-resolution [brain signal] read technologies built into headsets, in a bunch of different modalities,” Newell said previously. “If you’re a software developer in 2022 who doesn’t have one of these in your test lab, you’re making a silly mistake…software developers for interactive experience[s] — you’ll be absolutely using one of these modified VR head straps to be doing that routinely — simply because there’s too much useful data.”

galea bci indexValve’s current focus is seemingly locked on the Steam Deck for now and the foreseeable future, but new VR headsets are in the offing from other companies and additional sensors seem to be planned for competing high end systems. The HP Reverb G2 currently comes in an “Omnicept” edition with additional sensors and Meta is preparing a sensor-laden headset currently going by the codename Cambria for next year as Apple prepares its own sensor-filled VR headset for potential launch soon.

Valve shipped the high-end Index PC-powered VR headset starting in 2019 and it is in use by around 17 percent of SteamVR users as of this month. Prior to launching Index, Valve reportedly explored a ‘Vader’ headset project that “sort of maxed everything” and would’ve cost the thousands of dollars to buy even if it “had somehow been manufacturable.”

We’ll be interested to see what sensors actually do make it into the next generation VR headsets given the difficult reality of securing key components and manufacturing millions of VR headsets amid ongoing developments with the pandemic as well as continuous supply chain challenges.

What are you thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.

Unplugged for PC VR Delayed by 2 Weeks

Unplugged

Last week Anotherway revealed that its virtual reality (VR) homage to air guitar, Unplugged, would be coming to PC VR tomorrow while the Meta Quest version would also get an update. Both of them have now been delayed until mid-December the team confirmed via the Unplugged Twitter account.

Unplugged

No reason was given for the delay with the tweet saying: “Hi fellow rockers, we need some more time to finetune the #SteamVR release and #MetaQuest update for #UnpluggedVR. We’ll be jumping back on stage on December 14!” So that means there’s just under two weeks to wait for the rocking VR experience.

Unplugged moved away from the classic guitar rhythm action gameplay of old by utilising Oculus Quest’s hand tracking, thus aiding that air guitar feel. On PC VR headsets, however, native hand tracking isn’t available so instead Anotherway and Verigo Games have utilised the Valve Index controllers to provide that finger tracked experience. Of course, that does mean only those controllers are supported so don’t go buying Unplugged without them.

Also now due on 14th December is that Meta Quest passthrough update previously mentioned. It’ll add a new venue to the roster, so instead of playing to a virtual audience, you’ll be able to see your living room, bedroom or wherever you happen to be playing. Plus there’s that new Steel Panther song Unplug Yourself to look forward to.

Unplugged

Featuring songs from the likes of The Offspring, Ozzy Osbourne, Weezer, and many more, Unplugged is all about unleashing that inner rock god without all the hassle of actually learning how to play a guitar. Steel Panther’s lead guitarist Satchel is your mentor, teaching you all about the various intricacies of Unplugged, from playing a basic note to some freestyle jamming. You can freely reposition the virtual guitar for easy playing, there’s left-handed support and don’t forget to work the crowd at the end for maximum points.

VRFocus will continue its coverage of Unplugged, reporting back with further updates.

See the Difference Between Green Hell and the Upcoming VR Version

Green Hell VR

Ever since Incuvo teased the first details of Green Hell VR almost a year ago one thing fans have been asking for is a proper showcase of the differences between the flatscreen version and the new virtual reality (VR) edition. Well, today the studio delivered, dropping a new video that details a few of the mechanics that’ll make the world of Green Hell VR come alive.

Green Hell VR

Some of these mechanics have been shown before, such as being able to heal a wound by wrapping a leaf around your arm or starting a fire with a few sparks by using a rock and a weapon. Even though the video clocks in at under a minute there’s still plenty to dig into. Like the flexibility you’ll have with weapons, shown here by flinging a machete up and catching it – without the worry of it slicing your arm off!

The environment will be interactive, of course, so you’ll be able to grab logs with both hands or fling a grappling hook onto a high branch to hoist yourself up. Even little things like the light off your walkie talkie have an effect in real-time and you can cycle through features on your virtual smartwatch with a tap of the finger.

Managing your inventory and making sure you’ve got plenty of resources for crafting is a big part of this survival adventure. Resources are split into three categories that can be accessed at a quick press, grabbing the necessary items to drop on the crafting table. Green Hell VR doesn’t seem to go as in-depth on the crafting side as Song in the Smoke, automatically combining the various components together.

Green Hell VR

And what would a jungle survival adventure be without having the ability to physically chop down trees, swim through rivers or just trash the place at will? Yep, that’s all there.

Green Hell VR is currently in development for Oculus Quest and PC VR headsets. Scheduled to simultaneously launch for both platforms in Q1 2022, it won’t be a single-player title as co-op support has been confirmed. Incuvo has also teased the possibility of a PlayStation VR version although that’s likely a long way off. As further details on Green Hell VR are released, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Valve On Steam Deck VR: ‘Technically’ Possible, But Not Optimized

A new FAQ page says that although it’s not optimized for it, VR on the Steam Deck is technically “possible”.

The question, listed in the Steamworks documentation FAQ page for Steam Deck, says “Will Steam Deck Support VR?” Here’s Valves answer:

Technically it’s possible. We’ve seen people jury rig it, but we didn’t design and optimize Steam Deck for VR.

This is probably the most well-rounded response we’ve seen so far from Valve, given it’s a question that has come up time and time again since Valve announced the device.

The Steam Deck, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is Valve’s upcoming handheld gaming system that is essentially its response to the mega-popular Nintendo Switch, but decently more powerful.

Unlike the closed Switch system (and many other handheld game consoles), Valve pitches Steam Deck as “an open PC” that can “connect with any hardware,” with a starting price of $399.

After its announcements,  Valve’s description of the device led many to ponder whether it would be possible to connect a headset and run VR content on the Steam Device, and whether it might even be officially supported.

Valve told IGN that it had “all the connectivity” for VR but that performance is not optimized for it. Gabe Newell then said that the device could be used with an Oculus Quest, in that you could give it your best shot — Valve just won’t guarantee good performance.

We then caught a glimpse of a headset running SteamVR Home when connected to a Steam Deck, as well as an attempt to run Pistol Whip that displayed on the Steam Deck screen but not outputting to the headset itself.

Last month, it was revealed that a new ‘Deck Verified’ system would let users instantly know if any game works on Steam Deck or not — VR games are all listened as ‘Unsupported’ which simply means they’re not designed to run on the device.

All of this seems to lead to the same conclusion — we’re still not sure whether any VR content will run on a headset through a connection with a Steam Deck. Valve has at least now acknowledged the somewhat successful attempts to get VR to running, but are still re-iterating that it isn’t part of the design intention and maybe not perform or behave as expected.

Are you getting a Steam Deck? Let us know in the comments below.

Steam Autumn Sale: Alyx Goes 50% Off, Saints & Sinners And More Big Discounts

The Steam Autumn Sale is now live, with substantial discounts on some big VR games.

The Steam Autumn Sale is one of many seasonal sales available at the moment for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, such as Meta offering store or retailer credit for Quest 2 headset purchases and the PSVR software discounts available on the PlayStation Store.

The most notable discount in the Steam sale is Half-Life: Alyx, which is available at half-price for the first time ever. Alyx has regularly been discounted by 40%, but this marks a new record saving since the game launched in March 2020.

Here’s a selection of the Steam Autumn Sale discounts on offer:

– Half-Life: Alyx for $29.99 (down 50% from $59.99)

– Boneworks for $23.99 (down 20% from $29.99)

– The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners for $21.99 (down 45% from $39.99)

– Star Wars Squadrons for $14.79 (down 63% from $39.99)

– Pavlov VR for $14.99 (down 40% from $24.99)

– The Room VR: A Dark Matter for $19.49 (down 35% from $29.99)

– Walkabout Mini Golf for $11.99 (down 20% from $14.99)

– Eleven Table Tennis for $9.99 (down 50% from $19.99)

– Ragnarock for $16.24 (down 35% from $24.99)

– Eye of the Temple for $17.99 (down 10% from $19.99)

– Vermillion for $15.99 (down 20% from $19.99)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR for $19.79 (down 67% from $59.99)

– Superhot VR for $14.99 (down 40% from $24.99)

– Into the Radius VR for $20.99 (down 30% from $29.99)

– Phasmophobia for $12.59 (down 10% from $13.99)

– No Man’s Sky for $29.99 (down 50% from $59.99)

– Five Nights At Freddy’s: Help Wanted for $23.99 (down 20% from $29.99)

– Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond for $31.99 (down 20% from $39.99)

Trover Saves The Universe for $10.49 (down 65% from $29,99)

– Myst for $26.99 (down 10% from $29.99)

– I Expect You To Die 2 for $19.99 (down 20% from $24.99)

You can view the full list of VR titles discounted as part of the Autumn sale here.

What will you be picking up in this year’s Steam Autumn Sale? Let us know in the comments below.

Unplugged Jams Onto PC VR Next Week, Passthrough Coming to Quest Edition

Unplugged

Want a unique way to rock out in virtual reality (VR)? Then Unplugged is probably just what you need, if you have an Oculus Quest 2, of course. However, next week that headset exclusivity will end as developer Anotherway and Vertigo Games have announced a PC VR release date – with one small caveat. Plus, the Quest version is getting passthrough support and a new song is on the way.

Unplugged

As you may already be aware, Unplugged is about emulating air guitar by utilising Oculus Quest’s hand tracking functionality. At no point do you need controllers which makes porting to other platforms a little bit tricky. Anotherway has managed to though, supporting all Valve Index Controller compatible headsets on Steam.

And then there’s the new Oculus Quest passthrough feature. You may already use passthrough as your background (rather than an Oculus Home environment) but in Unplugged it allows you to blend the virtual stage with your physical environment.

“We always knew that blending a virtual stage with your real place would be a super interesting feature for Unplugged. Getting to see your friends or family cheering you while you play… that’s a perfect combo! Now, thanks to the Quest Passthrough, we can make this kind of experience possible,” says Anotherway in a statement. “On the list of venues, you’ll be able to select a new mixed reality one, which can be your own living room, your kitchen, or wherever space you feel like rocking!”

Unplugged

As for the new song, the developers once again worked with Steel Panther with the rock band creating a tailor-made song called Unplug Yourself, a teaser of which you can see below.

All of this free new content as well as the PC VR release will all land on 2nd December 2021. The Steam version will retail for $24.99 USD/€24.99 EUR. For further updates on Unplugged, keep reading VRFocus.

Hitman 3 to Support PC VR in 2022

Hitman 3

IO Interactive launched Hitman 3 back in January across multiple platforms, with virtual reality (VR) support exclusive to PlayStation VR. Today, the studio has revealed its plans for 2022, these include Ray Tracing on PC, a new gameplay mode and support for PC VR headsets.

Hitman 3

Currently, IO Interactive has confirmed that PC VR support will be implemented in January but didn’t go as far as to say which headsets specifically or any in-depth technical details regarding its implementation. It did say that all: “will be revealed before Year 2 starts on 20 January 2022.”

However, in a short YouTube video showcasing what’s to come IO Interactive did tease a feature that isn’t available for PlayStation VR owners, motion controller support. When Hitman 3 first arrived, the videogame only supported the standard PlayStation controller so you couldn’t independently wield guns or use your hands. The PC VR version won’t have that issue, as the footage clearly highlights a Valve Index and the Index controllers being used, as well as the two-handed operation of guns. So Hitman 3 in 2022 is going to get more immersive.

On the subject of immersion, the PC edition of Hitman 3 is going to get a visual upgrade thanks to Ray Tracing support. As PC players are already enjoying “support for 8+ core CPUs and Variable Rate Shading,” the addition of Ray Tracing (if your rig can handle it) will give those assassination missions an improved ambience.

Hitman 3

In the announcement, IO Interactive revealed that Hitman 3 has been to most successful yet, with 50 million players stepping into the shoes of Agent 47. 2022 will also see the addition of new maps, storylines and modes, with Elusive Target Arcade revealed today. “Prepare to take on the ultimate Elusive Target challenge in a change to the established formula in this fan-favourite game mode,” notes the team in a blog post. “All Elusive Target Arcade content will be a permanent addition to the game.” Details on how the mode will function will be unveiled in January.

So finally PC VR players will be able to enjoy Hitman 3 in VR. As further information is released, VRFocus will let you know.

More Ruins Magus Details Released as Kickstarter Begins

Ruins Magus

A couple of days ago VRFocus reported on an upcoming Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) called Ruins Magus for Oculus and Steam headsets. Developer CharacterBank plans on making an English language version so to help in that endeavour the team has launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign.

Ruins Magus

As expected, the Kickstarter goal isn’t that high in comparison to other virtual reality (VR) projects, only looking to raise a mear £32,000 GBP (¥5,000,000 JPY) to help make English language support possible. Backing tiers start from £23 to get an early bird digital copy of the videogame. Higher tiers add more goodies, of course, with the maximum tier only costing £69 (¥10,500), giving backers a digital soundtrack, 3D models, digital artbook and more.

CharacterBank doesn’t want to stop at English dubbing if it can raise the funds. The studio wants to add a new language for every ¥5,000,000 raised, announcing each new language as the goal is met. Which ones the studio has next in mind haven’t been revealed. The campaign ends on 20th December so there’s plenty of time to hit several targets, how many VR players crave a JRPG is the big question?

Ruins Magus is a fantasy action RPG set in the city of Grand Amnis which houses a colossal ruin at its centre. You play an unnamed novice wizard who plans on unravelling the mysteries within with the aid of Iris, a new researcher at the Enigma Research Institute. With the launch of the Kickstarter, the studio has revealed a little more about the gameplay and the characters you’ll meet along the way.

Ruins Magus

The title is being built around the idea of an interactive visual novel, with a rich cast of characters and a storyline to match. There will be over 30 characters across 26 chapters to converse with as you stroll around the city of Grand Amnis. Areas will include “The Square in front of the Ruins” where you’ll find shops like Nandemo-do selling useful wares. Or if you head down the back alleys you’ll find interesting characters and the Tomarigi Cafe for some respite.

When it comes to the inhabitants of Grand Amnis, Uketsuke-san is a friendly demi-human and receptionist at the guild counter in front of the ancient ruins. Or then there’s the Guild Master, the current head of the Wizard Guild, described as a “mysterious person with a strange dignity and a great sense of humour.”

Currently, CharacterBank expects the English version of Ruins Magus to be ready for early 2022. As further details regarding the release are announced, VRFocus will keep you updated.

Gorgeous JRPG Ruins Magus Getting English Version in 2022

Ruins Magus

There are some great Japanese virtual reality (VR) titles available at the moment and for those who love role-playing games (RPG) CharacterBank’s Ruins Magus is another to keep an eye on. Originally revealed earlier this year, the developer plans on releasing both Japanese and English dubbed versions, with a Kickstarter campaign to launch later this week to help support the cost of the English edition.

Ruins Magus

Ruins Magus looks set to offer a classic JRPG experience in VR, supporting both Oculus and SteamVR headsets. Set in the city of Gran Amnis, at its centre is a large archaeological site which players need to explore. You take on the role of a novice wizard, who teams up with a researcher called Iris, from the research institution Enigma, to unlock the mysteries within the ruins.

CharacterBank has revealed so far that Ruins Magus will contain a 26-chapter story, with players having to utilise their magical abilities to defeat the Guardians that dwell within the ruins. Plus, it wouldn’t be a JRPG without plenty of quirky characters to talk to, Ruins Magus will have over 30 to bring some life to the adventure.

Aside from a few screenshots and short trailers, very little of the Ruins Magus‘ gameplay has been revealed just yet. One thing’s almost for certain, it looks quite the spectacle with rich character designs and huge Guardians to fight.

Ruins Magus

And so on to the Kickstarter. CharacterBank originally supported the project via a Campfire campaign with plans to launch both Japanese and English versions of Ruins Magus this year for VR headsets. This week the team announced via Twitter their intention to launch a Kickstarter campaign this Wednesday, 17th November, purely to help support the creation of an English edition. This would then be released in February 2022.

Currently, the studio hasn’t revealed how big the funding goal will be or what backing tier incentives there might be. As the money raised will be used for translation, it’s unlikely to be a huge Kickstarter in comparison to other VR projects.

As VRFocus learns more about Ruins Magus we’ll let you know.

Wanderer Takes a Steady Stroll to Launch in January 2022

Wanderer

There are a number of virtual reality (VR) projects VRFocus has been looking forward to seeing arrive in late 2021, one of which is M-Theory and Oddboy’s time-travelling adventure Wanderer. Originally expected to arrive in Q3 2021 before an update pushed it a little further back, this week the development teams have confirmed another delay, meaning the multiplatform title won’t arrive until the new year.

Wanderer

In a post via the Wanderer Discord channel, M-Theory and Oddboy revealed that the videogame will now launch on 27th January 2022 for PlayStation VR, Oculus and SteamVR headsets. In a statement, they said: “As you will quickly have noticed, it’s uh… not coming out before the end of 2021 – Sadly we have had further setbacks from COVID, as well as other factors that come with being an indie team. The overall choice comes from us wanting to deliver a well polished game that we are PROUD to share with you all. Pushing back to a solid date gives us the confidence to create that!”

This has been a common factor of late, even big studios like Ready at Dawn with Lone Echo II had to continually delay project launches. On a plus note, the Wanderer teams have released new details regarding some of the mechanics and locations you will be able to tackle next year.

As Wanderer involves plenty of time-hopping, no easy task when this involves harnessing and manipulating black holes to carry yourself across time and space. To help in that regard you’ll have your trusted companion Samuel the watch to guide you, plus you’ll have to learn how to use the Temporal Transporter, a mysterious mechanical device that’s integral to saving the world.

Wanderer

As anyone who’s watched a time-travel movie knows, messing with time can produce alternate futures and that’s exactly what you get in Wanderer. For the first time, the developers have showcased Boston in 2061, seeing the city in “a new light, with a modern, futuristic setting that’s designed with all the modcons one could dream of or is this the nightmare you were warned against?” 

Taking on the role of Asher Neumann and with Samuel the Watch on your wrist, you have to jump to key moments in history such as the moon landing and alter events to save mankind. In addition to all the digital editions for the various VR platforms, Wanderer will also get a physical edition for PlayStation VR. For further updates, keep reading VRFocus.