Interface For Your Face: Valve Releasing VR SDK Soon

By Graham Smith on January 9th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

Put it on your face. Go on.

Curse the BBC! How is a humble commercial games site like Rock, Paper, Shotgun supposed to compete when a publicly-funded socialist behemoth like the British Broadcasting Corporation is getting all the videogame scoops?

Valve’s Brian Coomer has told Auntie that they’re “days away” from releasing a VR SDK. The development kit will launch at Steam Dev Days, which happens in Seattle on the 14th and 15th, and is designed to help game creators make VR headsets like the Oculus Rift compatible with their games.

He also spoke about Valve’s work with their own VR hardware, which we’ve long known about: “There’s also technology in development at Valve based around head-tracking and headset manufacture and design. We are working with other companies right now but we have not made any specific announcements.”

It’s been mentioned in numerous interviews now that Valve are collaborating with Oculus, sharing information with one another as they both research virtual reality. Valve’s efforts are thought to be led by Michael Abrash, who formerly worked on Quake with John Carmack, who is himself now at Oculus making games for the Rift.

It’s unlikely that Valve will manufacture their own headset though, so building a toolkit to help game developers use them makes perfect sense. If it can do what Coomer hopes it will – get these controllers to the point where they can be switched in and out seamlessly by the user without having to re-jig settings – then that’ll be a useful step towards making the hardware viable. And I say this as someone who had a Rift for a while and often couldn’t be bothered hooking it up because it was a very slight faff.

The BBC story ends with a final quote from Coomer:

“Steam is in a unique position to be this intermediary between hardware and software and users,” Mr Coomer says.

“Without that its going to be hard for any device to get any serious traction.”

Which sounds like a threat, to me. I’d like hardware stories more if all parties involved talked like street punks before a knife fight.

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39 Comments »

  1. Borstis says:

    oh i want to put that thing right on my face.

    • Koshinator says:

      As do I…. My current dev kit is unfortunately going to be abandoned once i get my hands on the next version – it can’t come soon enough.

    • DrScuttles says:

      Don’t call Bruce Forsyth a ‘thing’; he’s a person, with thoughts, feelings, advanced age and a chin!

    • Engonge says:

      VR ready!

  2. Awesumo says:

    You should be happy that the BBC haven’t decided to throw £10 million to create a video game blog with no worries about making money… they’ve done similar things before and wiped out some good sites.

    • zachforrest says:

      Genuine query: such as?

      • frightlever says:

        I’d hazard a guess that eg BBCGoodFood wasn’t exactly welcomed by the cooking community,

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Run properly, such a project would end up employing a lot of talented writers who aren’t exactly drowning in money.

      Run poorly, well…who would care? It’s not like there’s a dearth of mediocre mass-market games writing out there. Sites and writers with a niche and/or personality have been doing OK despite that.

    • psuedonymous says:

      Don’t worry, they’ll probably run it like their technology section: deliberate hire someone self-professed as not familiar with technology, ostensibly so they’ll be writing articles that the general public understand. Resulting in articles that are generally incorrect due to lack of understanding, and the tech section being a bit of a laughingstock.

  3. DrManhatten says:

    No one cares after the initial hype VR games will be dead in a years time as they have been in previous incarnations

    • Gap Gen says:

      You say that, but I still have a plastic guitar under my desk. That I never use ever.

      • DrScuttles says:

        Oh I have one of those. Somewhere. That I maybe used this decade. Where is it? Probably in the same place as my ForceFX lightsabre which also seemed like a fantastic and responsible purchasing idea at the time.

    • Clavus says:

      No critic has survived first contact with a Rift. Please do reply again once you have. :)

      • Merus says:

        I have!

        The tech has a very long way to go and was mildly uncomfortable to look at. The demo was the UE4 demo, so you didn’t really move around much.

        • Malarious says:

          My experience with the Rift (which echoes many others, it would seem) was more along the lines of “Wow, this will be amazing once it’s perfected.” I bought a dev kit and it’s great to take out and amaze people with when they’re over, but it’s simply not quite ‘there’ yet for me to spend much time with it, myself. It’s a novelty, but unlike past VR incarnations, I can see where the Rift is clearly headed and it’s going to revolutionize how we play games.

    • taristo says:

      This tells me that VR games will likely be still in development well beyond a year from now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_Oculus_Rift_support
      Considering the Rift is supposed to release in about a year from now as a consumer product (+/- 4 months) and these are all being developed on the DevKit hype alone I find your prediction highly questionable.

    • ulix says:

      Apparently tracking the Rift’s movements in space with the camera (like in the new CES version) makes all the difference, and makes an already amazing experience all the more convincing. It also doesn’t induce nausea anymore, because of it. At least that’s the impression I get from reading a few CES reports.

      I personally can’t wait for the commercial version. Haven’t tried any version yet, but since 99% of the people who tried it are conviced by it, I’d wager I’ll be as well.

  4. Arkanos says:

    There was a point in time when some employees at Valve were working on a VR/AR headset. They got let go unfortunately, but they got to keep their work, either because Valve let them or because it wasn’t really Valve’s to keep since the workers may have been doing it in their off time.

    But that device is called castAR and unlike something like the Oculus Rift, it is the size of a large pair of glasses. It went on Kickstarter recently and got $1,000,000 of the $400K they were after and is expecting to deliver by September. Plus, it can do Augmented Reality-projections onto a super-reflective surface, or true-AR/true-VR all for just $290 or so. It’s not just good for PC-gaming but board gaming as well.

    And Valve let them go. What a huge loss.

    • Wedge says:

      A loss? Why would it have made sense to keep people around that were focused on working on a competing product to something the rest of Valve clearly thought was a more worthwhile investment?

    • frightlever says:

      Jeri Ellsworth did a Triangulation with Leo Laporte and more or less admitted that she had a hard time fitting in at Valve and caused waves. Gabe did a righteous thing by allowing them to keep the tech that had already been developed and she was able to keep her core team together. Smart woman and a real hands-on engineer, I’ll be interested to see what they come up with, but I don’t see it as a rival or alternative to what the OR is doing.

      The CastAR requires a screen to work off, so on the one hand you can wallpaper an empty room with the reflective plastic they use and you have yourself a holodeck, but on the other hand you can’t just throw a set of goggles and a laptop in a bag and be good to go anywhere. You mentioned boardgames and like some of the console camera games, you could project animated characters on top of a board, or just project the entire board. Starwars holo-chess, here we come. It’s just that it requires a bit more setting up than self-contained goggles.

      • Arkanos says:

        The VR clip-on allows the use of the castAR without any kind of reflective screen. It’s where that machine really shines(in theory)

  5. povu says:

    VRFACE

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      It’s really sad to see this meme die.
      SADFACE for the OCULUSFACE

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Are YOUR children secretly spending hundreds of hours in virtual realities every day? They could be suffering from VRFACE! The new video game related worried-parents-health-panic.
      Right after Space Invader Elbows, Nintendo Thumbs, Nintendinitis and Internet Troll Face.
      Buy the new Uncle Pfizer’s Choice: Preparation-Face: Anti Facial Haemorrhoid™ Cream™ to be sure.

  6. hap says:

    Is anyone else picturing a VR Steam client where you walk down endless hallways in a massive dimly lit warehouse lined with monitors, each one loaded up with your games ready to play?

    • Cyda says:

      I so want that. I’d probably spend half my time in there, in the same way I spend far too much time staring at the steam library whilst chatting in teamspeak rather than actually playing.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      I imagine the warehouse from Indiana Jones. Backlog crates of never installed games as far as the eyes can see in all directions.

  7. RProxyOnly says:

    Didn’t he do well…

  8. Merus says:

    Technically Half-Life 3 is ‘days away’ in that days is a unit of time and so it is valid to express the time until its release in days.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      Wait, that also means it’s minutes away too! OMG!

  9. zeroskill says:

    “Curse the BBC! How is a humble commercial games site like Rock, Paper, Shotgun supposed to compete when a publicly-funded socialist behemoth like the British Broadcasting Corporation is getting all the videogame scoops?”

    Not throwing dirt at Valve, Steam, Greenlight and Team Fortress 2 at every opportunity given while promoting Origin in your banners, and EA (the company that wanted to buyout Valve) products, giving League of Legends preferred treatment in your features over Dota, would maybe be a start.

    There was a time where you could count RPS into a sort of trusted site, promoting mods for Valve games, getting recommended by people like Erik Wolpaw, writer of Portal and former writer of Old Man Murray, but this time has long gone.

    Have a nice day.

  10. DrManhatten says:

    Also what starts to annoy me is this Steam bias on RPS. Every single crap about Steam/Valve gets reported here but other alternative side news get completely neglected. As for example five years of GOG that was yesterday. The significance of GOG (DRM-FREE games) is probably more profound that a stupid SDK for a VR device that is very likely going to vanish into the abyss without leaving any noticeable trace.

    • Ich Will says:

      Hahahahahahaaaaa

      I’m not laughing at you, well not just at you, but that you are so serious in your post but directly above you, there is a poster in all seriousness saying the precise opposite!

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        People only see what they want to see, even if it’s not true I guess. :D

    • The Random One says:

      Hey, look, I hate Valve and I love GoG, and even I have to admit “giant tech company speaks to BCC about their plans for mostly untapped technology” is more noteworthy than “cool game retailer has existed for the time needed for our planet to spin around its star once for each finger its dominant species has on each member”.

      • Zap Brannigan says:

        I’m pretty sure that if I had 5 fingers on my member, I’d be too busy to post about it.