Last week, Valve’s SteamVR platform added full support for the Oculus Rift S. You can use SteamVR to play many PC VR games not sold on the Oculus Store.
You can download SteamVR from Steam.
What is SteamVR?
Steam is a popular digital store and launcher for PC games (both VR and non-VR).
SteamVR is software that lets developers create PC VR apps, and users (like you) with any PC VR headset play them. SteamVR itself is installed via Steam, and most SteamVR apps/games are sold on Steam.
Both are created by the company Valve.
Oculus API / SteamVR
Not all VR games on the Steam store use SteamVR- some use the Oculus API only, and some support either Oculus API mode or SteamVR mode- letting you choose which to run.
SteamVR supports the Oculus Rift S. This support is however not native. Instead, SteamVR acts as an Oculus app in itself, so when using the Rift it translates the developer’s SteamVR API calls to Oculus API calls. This process usually works well, but sometimes can be buggy and can lower performance.
A Steam store page won’t tell you whether a game supports your headset natively or through SteamVR, so if you want to know you’ll need to look on the game’s forum or ask around to be sure.
Oculus API games, with a few exceptions, will automatically output their audio to your Rift S, even when a different audio device is selected in the Windows taskbar.
SteamVR does not work like this. Instead, you need to set it to switch the Windows audio device to your Rift S when SteamVR is launched, then back to your normal speakers or headphones when it is closed.
To do this, open the SteamVR settings and click on the Audio tab.
Choose Your Platform
While using your Rift S on SteamVR, you may notice that you’re simultaneously using two platforms. You have an Oculus Home and a SteamVR Home, and you have the Oculus Dash and SteamVR Dashboard.
If you want to only use SteamVR for content and not its platform features, you can disable them in the SteamVR settings.
If you prefer SteamVR’s platform however, keep these enabled.
Try The Lab
The Lab is Valve’s collection of room scale VR experiences, demos, and experiments. It’s available for free on Steam.
There are 8 sections in total: Slingshot, Longbow, Xortex, Postcards, Human Medical Scan, Solar System, Robot Repair, and Secret Shop.
Robot Repair is set in the Portal universe and Secret Shop is set in the DOTA universe. Even today, Longbow is considered one of the most fun VR games.
If you experience performance issues or bugs with SteamVR, you can use an alternative open source runtime called OpenComposite.
OpenComposite works the same way as SteamVR does, but is more lightweight and optimized since it only supports Rift headsets.
You can download OpenComposite from GitLab. Extract it to a permanent folder where you want it installed.