In the Wild West of VR game development, content creators are eager to get their projects into the hands of consumers as quickly as possible. The best way to get feedback on a piece of software is to put it into the hands of the people that will actually be using it, so the advent of Early Access on Steam and alpha or beta preview periods is one of the most efficient and effective ways to get early feedback on projects.
Using these new formats, developers are able to release games before they are finished and ask players to give feedback and input on the development process while completing the game. In many cases, developers will charge a fraction of what the game will cost, letting players essentially buy the game early for a promise of something bigger and better — that they get to help shape — later on.
The problem is that, despite the changes Steam has made over the years, it’s still difficult to manage that pipeline. If you buy a game when it first debuts in Early Access, play it for a while, then stop playing it, chances are you don’t know about that game’s updates. Unless you decide to actively check on the game or scour the internet for news articles, some of the best content updates might go completely under your radar.
Since there are so many VR games releasing each and every week — especially on Steam — we thought it’d be useful to collect a list of some of the best VR games that have received massive updates recently to wholly upgrade themselves. A blog post by Valve’s own Chet Faliszek kicked off this idea for us, and we’ve included the games he recommends in our article. Let’s get to it!
Space Pirate Trainer
Out of all the titles that were available at the launch window for the HTC Vive, Space Pirate Trainer remains one of the absolute best. It’s extremely easy to pick up and play, works great in mixed reality videos, and is purely simple fun. Everyone has dreamed about becoming an epic laser-shooting space pirate at some point in their lives.
A recent beta update for the game added brand new weapons, such as a grenade launcher and shotgun, as well as new enemies and power-ups too. Topping off the update are a slew of gameplay enhancements and game mode alterations. It’s one of the most robust and detailed free updates for a VR game we’ve seen yet.
Out of Ammo
As the “Very Positive” consensus of over 400 Steam reviews will show, Out of Ammo is one of the HTC Vive’s most well-respected darlings. While most VR games are slight variations on tried and true game genres, RocketWerkz’ strategy/FPS hybrid is a very unique experience. You’ll take on the role of a military commander as you build defenses and issue orders to troops, or even zoom down to a unit and take direct control of them.
Since it first released in Early Access several months ago, the game has received numerous large updates and is now finally fully released. Recently, the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer, tons of new missions and content, and a long list of bug fixes all add up to this being one of the great Vive games that keeps getting better.
Cloudlands: VR Minigolf
Whenever I am demoing VR to someone for the first time, I always like to pick games that are centered on activities or concepts the person has likely experienced before in real life. I find that this makes it easier to try in VR because they can rely on what they know from actually doing the thing rather than learning new buttons and controls. Cloudlands: VR Minigolf is a great example.
Recently, a major update for the game was issued that added a fully featured level editor. You can create your own courses and then publish them online to share or play with others. This also supports full Steam workshop integration, meaning you can search and find content made and uploaded by others easily.
Personally, this is one of my favorite Vive games so far. The fantasy setting is right up my alley and the intricate combat system is one of the most immersive things I’ve experienced to date. Naturally, this was also one of the Vive’s launch window titles, and it recently expanded quite a bit.
An update earlier this month added Hard Mode, as well as new areas to the existing open world, and a ton of new enemy animations making combat even more intense. The whole game feels more complete and robust as a result. Then just last week, the launch roadmap was published, which includes a massive third chapter for the game, potentially as DLC.
Pool Nation VR
If you haven’t played Pool Nation VR yet, you’re definitely missing out. It may seem simple at first, but what the team at Cherry Pop have created is actually one of VR’s most immersive and engaging titles with a tremendous sense of presence in a social atmosphere.
Recent updates have added entire new minigames to the virtual bar, such as skee ball, darts, air hockey, and more. Performance enhancements, graphical improvements, and new customization options are all on the list of recent additions that solidify the game as one of the best multiplayer titles.
This sci-fi wave action game from Survios is, without a doubt, one of the most intense and highly-polished VR games on the market right now. With over $1 million in sales in its opening month, it’s also one of the most commercially successful as well — which is a great sign for the vitality of the VR gaming industry.
Rather than mentioning a specific update, since the game launched it’s been rolling out large enhancements and additions ever since it released. New classes, new weapons, new abilities, new missions, and more keep this game on a steady course of improvement on an almost weekly basis.
When we reviewed Hover Junkers back at launch for the Vive, we really enjoyed what it had to offer, but there wasn’t a lot of content and it required you to play with other people to have any matches at all. Luckily, since then, the game has maintained its core of being a ton of fun, but has added a lot over the last few months.
For starters, they added a cooperative BuzzBots mode, which also included new weapons. Since then, they’ve been rolling out more new weapons over time and will eventually add a campaign mode with more weapons, characters, and maps as well. This is the type of game worth playing at least once every few weeks just to see what’s been added since last time. More info on their plans is found on the roadmap.
When the Vive was hungry for new games, Battle Dome emerged as the answer with a unique painting mechanic (heavily inspired by Splatoon) that required careful aiming and positioning as you face off against either the Red or Blue team opponents. It was simple and lots of people were playing, so it worked.
Since then, Battle Dome has actually grown quite significantly. A capture-the-flag mode was added to the game, locomotion has been tweaked, guns were updated, and recently a new round-based mode, similar to Counter-Strike, was added into the mix as well. Tons of content to see in this one.
The virtual desktop interface scene is incredibly competitive, with options such as Virtual Desktop, Envelop, and more all making a claim for the proverbial crown. Bigscreen, a program that turns your desktop into a social, screen-sharing experience for VR headsets, is making a strong case for its place near the top of the pile.
Recent updates like the detailed avatars and desktop streaming all make this something worth checking out if you haven’t been paying attention. It’s quickly realizing the VR LAN Party dream that it promised back when it was first conceived.
The updates seem to never stop for Rec Room. The game is, at its core, just a gym class simulator. It lets you adorn your virtual avatar with an assortment of customization options like hair, headbands, t-shirts, and more, then play a variety of gym-style games with strangers and friends.
And the great thing about Rec Room is that its updates are often big, new additions to the game — such as new activities like Paintball — rather than minor gameplay improvements. Definitely keep this one in your rotation of VR games you stay current on.
This is a little VR game for the Vive that a lot of people tend to forget, but it has a ton of options and features for intrepid content creators to play around with. While it first started out as a bit of a toybox simulator, it’s slowly evolved into some thing much more.
This update isn’t super recent, but back in July, XLR made a huge pivot by switching the game from being a tower defense style experience, to being a competitive arena shooter. Along with that came a price decrease and a handful of other updates over time.
This is a great example of a game really undergoing major changes while still in Early Access and underscores how fluid game development is for the VR industry.