Oculus Rift Guide: Everything You Need To Know Before You Consider Buying One

The Oculus Rift is here. Not on a showfloor for a brief demonstration, but in our homes, where I’ve been able to play with it for the past week. I’ve tried official games, apps and movies, and I’ve experimented with some of the unofficial software available, and I’m ready to answer questions. Want to know how easy it to use, whether it’ll make you vom, and what the games are like? Read on.

Note: I’m going to offer plenty of opinions as this article goes along to help you with your purchasing decision, but the long-term future of the Rift is yet to be determined. I’ve been able to use it a lot over the past week, but not over the months necessary to judge its long-term potential.

If you’re looking for the short version of this article, here it is: I think virtual reality will find a place alongside traditional screen-based experiences, but this strong first-step is nevertheless a first-step and there’s not yet any single game or experience that I think justifies owning the hardware. It has downsides and motion controllers are, in my opinion, essential, and their lack of inclusion alone means that you should wait at the very least until later in the year, when Oculus Touch and more software is available, before you consider buying one.

Looking for an answer to a specific question? Try these links to hop to a particular part of the article.

What comes in the box with an Oculus Rift?
What’s the setup process like?

How much space do you need for the Rift?
How does the Oculus software work?

How is the image quality?
Is it comfortable? Will it make me sick?

What are the Oculus Rift games like?
Conclusions

We’ve written a lot about virtual reality elsewhere on the site, too. If the above sounds like it won’t answer your question, try these:

Is your PC VR-ready?
Will my gaming laptop work with virtual reality headsets?

Or read our equivalent HTC Vive guide.

On page two, what comes in the box and what the setup is like.

From this site

66 Comments

  1. Clavus says:

    [..]the feeling that my eyes are physically tired after hours of focusing and strain.

    Hm, the whole point of the lenses and IPD adjustment is so that your eyes shouldn’t have to strain at all to get the environment in focus. Are you sure you set that up correctly?

    • emertonom says:

      You do, actually, because your eyes naturally tend to focus closer when you look at nearby things–things that make your pupils get closer together. But in VR, you still have to focus at infinity, because it’s all on the same screen with the same lens in front of it. It’s a problem called “vergence-accommodation conflict,” and it definitely can cause eyestrain. How troublesome it is varies from user to user, but it’s still a shortcoming of VR in this generation.

      Lightfield reconstruction technology, should it ever finally arrive, should fix this, but it’s still at least a generation or two out.

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  2. Captain Joyless says:

    “there’s not yet any single game or experience that I think justifies owning the hardware.”

    Whelp, that answers my question.

    • DD says:

      Completely subjective. Elite does it by itself for me. You will understand some day.

      • citrusninja says:

        fuck yes i can not wait to play Elite Dangerous on my CV1 (my only VR experience to date has been a brief 5 minutes in a GearVR)

      • Cinek says:

        Or FSX. Or Project Cars. Etc. etc. etc.

      • Cerzi says:

        Other games I’ve sunk countless hours into over the last 1-2 years of owning a DK2:
        – Alien:Isoluation
        – Subnautica
        – Radial-G
        – Distance
        – Euro Truck Sim
        – BlazeRush
        – Legend of Dungeon

        The above are not gimmicky tech demos (which a lot of people are mistakingly basing their judgement of VR gaming on). These are legit, full games that have as much worth as any other game you’d play, but with the added extra of making you laugh with joy at how ridiculously overwhelming (in a good way) the experience is.

        • jonahcutter says:

          Since you’ve put so much time in with this gear, after long play sessions do you find yourself experiencing the eye strain/headache issues Graham encountered?

          • Cerzi says:

            Not me, but it seems like I’m lucky. I don’t really get any motion sickness at all (the only thing that makes me remotely queezy is moving my head while headtracking is disabled – which only happens if something’s bugged out).

            In fact I was so completely, utterly engrossed in Alien: Isolation that I played over half the game in one sitting, overnight (probably about 9 hours total). I still stand by those 9 hours being the most intense I’ve ever had in gaming. After it was over, I felt a bit out of touch with reality – and I’m not going to lie, I was seeing the screen door effect in real life and when I closed my eyes for a good few hours after.

            But taking off the headset after these long sessions, for me, is an incredible experience, not an unpleasent one. After being in VR for so long your entire body becomes convinced of your setting, such that when you take it off to find yourself in a darkened room, it’s an incredibly profound experience for me. Perhaps some others would just find it disorienting and unpleasant. But at the risk of sounding extremely pretentious, for me it was almost holy.

  3. Plank says:

    “…and there’s not yet any single game or experience that I think justifies owning the hardware.”

    Been thinking that for a while.

  4. Thats no moon says:

    So can we access our Steam library through a more traditional desktop or is the experience limited to the Oculus front end?

    Thinking about games we already have installed (like Project Cars) and whether we will need to re-buy through the Rift store to access the VR-enabled client.

    • Cinek says:

      There’s absolutely no need to re-buy anything. You can run any game you own that has a support for Oculus. Oculus is not locked to it’s own store.

  5. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I prefer to side with Eurogamer’s, far more upbeat, take on it.

    link to eurogamer.net

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      Thanks for the link. I don’t plan on getting VR, like, ever, but I enjoy reading the various reactions people are having to the tech.

  6. fralitrutu says:

    8″Once I saw the draft of 6258 bucks,,, I admit that my friend’s brother was like really generating cash in his free time with his PC. His uncle’s neighbor has done this for only 8 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car …NS95

    ==== http://www.alpha-careers.com

  7. schurem says:

    Why am i not reading how either the Rift nor the Vive work with Elite and DCS? Those simulations are for me the apps that justify VR. I cant be the only one who cares for flying in VR, can I?

    • Reapy says:

      Debating which plane and in which game i’m taking for a spin the first day I get my oculus. I don’t even have one installed on my PC but jesus I couldn’t think of anything better for VR than flying over great scenery.

      Maybe driving… but we mostly only have racetracks for driving around, not as much to look at there and less freedom. Am considering euro/american truck simulator, though I don’t have a wheel.

    • Sam says:

      I’d be interested to hear about that too. I think these down to earth articles from Graham and Alec have been very valuable. Applying that approach to existing “VR ready” or even “VR possible” games would be good.

      For instance DCS runs around 50FPS at 1080p for me. Which is totally fine on a monitor, but is a long way off the framerate and resolution that VR headsets require. That’s on a system which Valve’s little test thing says is fully ready for VR.

      How about unofficial VR support? Is it ever anything other than a ticket to headaches and nausea? Back in the days of the first Rift developer’s kit I remember someone hacked in basic support into GTA V. I recall it was utterly horrible, with the engine set up in such a way that there’s always a delay between your real life head movement and the camera’s motion.

      Anyway, I sincerely appreciate the work put into these articles. It feels like useful and honest advice rather than the hype of playing a few 10 minute demos that has surrounded VR for a while now.

    • Cinek says:

      I haven’t heard anything about DCS other than it does support VR. I’m more on a Microsoft Flight Simulator side, and there… it’s truly epic. Experience unlike anything else. If only one could feel the G-forces… hehehehe. My HOTAS works brilliantly, amazing level of immersion. Same with Elite – jaw-dropping. The only thing I hope for is the higher resolution of the consumer version comparing to the dev kits, cause smaller texts were unreadable (IFR in FSX is not something you want to do with the dev kit…). Obviously one day I’d love to see 8k versions (someone calculated it’d be an equivalent to 1080p screen at some reasonable distance (2m or so? I don’t remember the details)), but for now – FSX alone is more than enough to justify getting Oculus.

      • zarniwoop says:

        Yeah. I’m probably waiting a couple of generations (or picking up something cheap from ebay in year or so), but the killer app for me has to be flight/space sims.

        I cannot wait to play something like Rise of Flight in VR.

        Some of the vive room based stuff seems interesting, and I think there’s a lot of scope for art/mechanics creation games and walking around/telltale style things too, but really it feels like it will be worth it just for the flying.

      • zrg says:

        I used the DK2 with DCS a couple of times and I can only second what Cinek said. The feeling of flight is incredible, the first time you pull into a loop everything spins. VFR patterns around and airfield are fantastic. Because you _only_ see the virtual world the experience is actually better than TrackIR.

        However, the low resolution is really an issue. Instruments are close to unreadable but you can still lean in to read them. There were some issues with the HUD on some planes and interfering with depth perception, it felt like I was cross-eyed.

        A HOTAS is also required but even then you will need to use the keyboard (eg for the gear or mouse-cockpit interaction) and that is a problem.

        • Cinek says:

          Nah, I mapped all the keys necessary for VFR flight to my X55 and it was just fine. Same with Elite – all the keys mapped to HOTAS and you’re done. The only real problem is when you want to use text chat in multiplayer… better stick with TS3.

  8. fralitrutu says:

    8″Once I saw the draft of 6258 bucks,,, I admit that my friend’s brother was like really generating cash in his free time with his PC. His uncle’s neighbor has done this for only 8 months and by now repaid the loan on their home and bought a new Car …NS15

    ==== http://www.alpha-careers.com

  9. kosch says:

    Did you try it with ED as I see they have already added support according to their patch notes.

  10. Reapy says:

    I think this sounds about right for what I’m expecting from the rift. I’ll be trying more simulators and looking for some more ‘sitting in a room’ kind of things though which should keep me busy.

    I’m really look forward to the cryengine cliff climbing game. But I also want to dive into making 3d environments for once too.

    As it is now I usually don’t get to my computer until the end of the day after everyone is in bed, so the idea of resculpting my computer room into something different, like being in space or on a mountain top, is really appealing.

    Just some relaxing music, play a game of heartstone via virtual desktop or surfing the web and chilling out in VR for a bit before heading to bed on those days when you need it.

    I hope that’ll feel as promised, I’ve used a dk2 in elite for about 20 minutes and after taking the headset off the real world really just felt small and bland for a few moments before I reset myself, so am hoping to recreate that escape with the device.

    I realize that isn’t a big thing for a lot of people and it’ll be a long ass time before the VR way to play a game is the best way to play it imho.

  11. Zenicetus says:

    “EVE: Valkyrie gets away with a lot by putting you in dark spaces”

    Yeah, that’s the part that worries me about using it for flight sims like X-Plane (if and when it’s supported, which it isn’t yet). Flying at low level with high ground detail, you need good anti-aliasing or the jaggies are very annoying. And there’s a LOT of ground texture now with these modern flight sims.

    Space games with simple backgrounds may be a better fit for a while yet, until the resolution and computer horsepower catches up to the point where it matches what we can do on a flat monitor.

    • Cinek says:

      I haven’t had any issues with ground textures and alike. The only real problem is with reading the instruments. Thankfully consumer version of Oculus offers higher pixel density than either dev kits or Vive, so I should be fine.

  12. ElementalAlchemist says:

    “This is before you get into things like, for example, that my desk is placed by a window, so anyone outside can see me even though I can’t see them.”

    Perhaps you could consider curtains?

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Yeah, seems like a very petty thing to knock VR for. Having read the whole article, I think he’s one of these people that would never be happy with it.

      Grumblin’ Graham.

  13. OctoStepdad says:

    Have you tried any of the “VR Support” games, link to store.steampowered.com, on steam?

    I am curious if you have a problem switching between steam & the oculus hub.

  14. Xzi says:

    How big is your head? I’ve heard complaints that the rigid plastic bars coming off the sides of the Rift hurt if your head is above “average” size. Some people can’t fit the Rift on themselves at all. The non-rigid strap system of the Vive seems a much smarter design choice.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I guess that’s another reason I won’t be getting the Rift, at least the first generation. I can’t wear “one size fits all” baseball/trucker hats, my head’s too big. I have to order hats from places like bigheadcapss.com. My interocular distance should be okay because I can use binoculars within their adjustment range, but the head size is something else.

      Maybe the Vive would work better. I’ll need to do more research before getting serious about trying it. If the earphone location isn’t adjustable, that could be a problem even if the strap fits.

      • Xzi says:

        The headphones on the Rift are adjustable vertically and horizontally. The Vive has 3.5mm and USB on the HMD, so you can use whatever headphones/headset/earphones you want. It comes with HTC earbuds, but chances are you’d have something else you prefer anyway.

    • Chaz says:

      Well I’ve got a reasonably large head. The hats you get in Christmas crackers never fit me. So I’m hoping the more rigid strapping of the Rift doesn’t present too many problems for me if any at all.

      As for the headphones, they can be removed and your own headphones used instead. I’m guessing Graham hadn’t realised this. I’m willing to give them a go though, but generally I prefer over ear headphones and the other thing is that these of course don’t have a mic as far as I’m aware.

  15. int says:

    I wasn’t planning on getting it but after reading “A weird little plastic tube with a squashed end?” I must have it!

  16. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I’d be interested to see you guys compare VR headsets with existing head-tracking tech, such as TrackIR or the free alternative FaceTrackNoIR. I’m reading all of these articles, and I get the distinct feeling that beyond the fully enclosed viewport, these VR headsets don’t offer that much more.

    Plus, head tracking tech is substantially cheaper and much less likely to involve updating your CPU and graphics card.

    • Cederic says:

      Head tracking is non-intuitive though. I turn my head, I can’t see my monitor any more. I’m looking over here, why are you showing me that viewpoint over there?

      Whereas VR makes a lot of sense. I move my head to look over there, I see what’s over there.

      • Xzi says:

        Yeah, head tracking is somewhat pointless in flatland. The Wii somehow made motion controllers usable, although that’s no doubt something that will work much better in VR where there’s actual depth, too.

      • Premium User Badge

        Mungrul says:

        Have you tried it?

        First time I got my TrackIR up and running with Elite Dangerous, I had a grin from ear to ear for hours.
        Most head tracking tech exaggerates head movements, so small movements become large ones on screen, meaning you don’t have to turn away from the monitor. It quickly becomes intuitive, in the truest sense of the word: you don’t realise you’re using it until the tech’s taken away from you, at which point it becomes frustratingly obvious just how limited you are without it.

        And if, like me, you’re one of those gamers who occasionally catches yourself trying to look around the sides of the monitor for a better angle, it works perfectly. The game reacts to you craning to see.

        I was asking the question because I’m experienced with TrackIR and am genuinely curious as to how much benefit VR adds over the top of it. Coarser, lower res visuals, a reliance on 90FPS otherwise the experience goes to shit, and complete isolation from the real world are massive trade-offs, and that’s before factoring in the cost of upgrading my PC.
        From what I’ve read, head tracking seems a viable, low-cost alternative.

        I had a go on a mate’s second phase Oculus dev kit a while back, for a very limited time, and I’ll admit, that sense of being there takes some beating. But I also found that TrackIR offered me a lot of the VR experience when I came to try it a few months after using the Rift.

        • Xzi says:

          In certain titles (those that have you in a stationary cockpit/driver’s seat) it could be a somewhat passable alternative, but what head tracking alone cannot give you is 360 degrees of viewing angles on every axis. It can’t give you that true sense of depth. Of course, Elite was simultaneously developed for standard monitors and VR. Games like that should have a good experience either way, but I’m not sure how common cross-over titles like that will be.

  17. racccoon says:

    VR is not for normal sighted humans!
    Its created for brainless idiots who really do not care about their eyesight, mind state, finances, or even anything normal.
    VR is perfect for blind people and will make you go blind faster than staring at the computer screen your staring at now, at least here at computer screen you can look away and use that vision you were born with in the way you are supposed too! & that’s to use your sight so it can adjust to sights seen miles away and in the fornt of face in milliseconds, not be tied to one distance! VR = Right in front of your eyes no pupil reaction until its off your face!
    This so called VR is just a computer screen strapped to your idiot face. What way to waste money & your eye sight.

  18. JaguarWong says:

    For all the talk of motion controllers I’m 100% that any long term success for VR is reliant on quality seated experiences.
    Videogames are not an active persuit, the negative reaction to Nintendo’s extraordinary Zelda: Skyward Sword are evidence of that.

    The full VR experience is great for demonstrating the platform, but when it comes to games people will want to be sat on their arse with a traditional controller in their hands.

    • Henke says:

      I haven’t played it, but didn’t Skyward Sword’s motion controls get flak for being repetetive and boring? Good motion control games that people will want to spend time with are certainly doable. I played _a lot_ of frisbeegolf in the PS Move game Sports Champions.

      • JaguarWong says:

        Videogames are repetitive by nature. Do motion controls highlight that? Very possibly, but that doesn’t bode well for their implementation in VR either.

        But anyway, I’m pretty sure that LoZ:SS got flak because, after whining about ‘waggle’ and demanding 1:1 controls, when people got them and realised how much effort that required it all seemed a bit much.
        Same went for the brillant Red Steel 2, too.

        I played a lot of multiplayer disc golf in Tiger Woods 13 on the Wii – I guess that particular quasi-sport and motion controls (of that era) are an unlikely match!

  19. Don Reba says:

    Oculus now have their own Steam-style digital store client, from which you can buy and download games and manage your game library and friends.

    Stopped reading there. Not interested.

    • Don Reba says:

      It’s like finding in the middle of a keyboard review that it comes with its own digital store selling compatible software.

    • Chaz says:

      Yes but you don’t have to use it, in the same way that you don’t need to use Steam to play all your games.

      You can still use it with any VR game that supports it whether it’s on the Oculus store or not.

      Apparently there will be some VR titles only found on the Oculus store, at the moment those exclusives are limited to those funded, ie paid for by Oculus themselves. Hopefully we won’t see too much of that sort of thing.

      I have to use Origin to play the more recent EA titles and UPlay for the more recent Ubi ones. So this sort of thing is hardly new to the world of PC gaming. It’s just another launcher, big deal.

      • Don Reba says:

        I don’t play EA or Ubi games for that reason, though. It is a big deal. Hopefully Valve and Oculus won’t make it difficult for players to use the Rift with Steam VR and we won’t be forced into silly peripheral-based social networks.

        • Cinek says:

          Gotta love that “social” FUD under every Oculus-related article.

        • Chaz says:

          Well Steam VR already supports both the Vive and the Rift. I already own quite a few VR ready titles in Steam and I’ll be able to use my Rift and play them via Steam. What’s the problem? A friend of mine is getting a Vive. Can’t wait to try it out. We’re still going to be able to play online together on Steam through our respective HDM’s.

          The only divide at the moment is whether a Vive user will eventually be able to access the Oculus store, which is still unknown at this point. However I think they’d be silly not to eventually make the app open to any VR device. At the moment though it’s only open to Rift users because it keeps things simple for Oculus, as in they know what will work and provide the best experience for users of their HDM.

          Early days yet; non of this is set in stone. Things will change as the VR scene develops.

          • Don Reba says:

            Well Steam VR already supports both the Vive and the Rift. I already own quite a few VR ready titles in Steam and I’ll be able to use my Rift and play them via Steam. What’s the problem?

            No problem, then. Thanks!

      • Cinek says:

        Yes but you don’t have to use it, in the same way that you don’t need to use Steam to play all your games.

        It’s actually better than Steam. Steam is relatively heavy DRM, you can’t even install the game offline if you have all the files on a DVD.
        It’s more like GOG Galaxy – if you have the game, you install it and run VR.

        • Don Reba says:

          I don’t need a better Steam that is not Steam, though, same as I don’t need a better Facebook that is not Facebook. As for DRM in Steam, it is optional and does not bother me in any case.

  20. Assirra says:

    After watching the 11hour Giantbomb stream about a lot of games that are out now, i can wait for a while longer. None looked remotely worth the price point of the hardware.

  21. helen16 says:

    3″my roommate’s aunt scored 4224 dollars a week on the internet . She has been unemployed for 7 months but previous month her revenue was 14462 bucks just at work on the MacBook for some hours…

    ——-> http://www.PayAbility.Tk

  22. Ovno says:

    Loving all the VR coverage, wish you guys would take a look at (or even mention) Trinus VR though.

    It allows you to use your phone and a Google cardboard like device as a VR headset complete with head tracking etc, streaming from your PC.

    I’ve had great fun with it playing Elite, Skyrim and others and total setup cost are around £50 for an admittedly budget VR experience…

    • Cinek says:

      Phone-based VR sets are garbage though. Phones were never made for VR, if anything they can be a great tool to get discouraged.

      • Ovno says:

        Personally I’ve found it works, surprising well and allows those of us who don’t have a grand lying around to sate some of their VR excitement…

  23. CloneWarrior85 says:

    I believe reviewers, RPS included, should take in consideration and bring it foward to us, the users, is:

    – price worth it? Are there any chanses of it actually becoming affordable (as it was announced on kickstarter)?

    – how high is the possibility of the VR “die out” like kinect and such other systems? (we’ve seen alot of new technologies die out very quickly or be replaced very fast)

    • Premium User Badge

      aleander says:

      I really doubt this generation will “die out” — it seems good enough to have some appeal, and there are niches that really, really want VR, and aren’t particularly concerned with how expensive it is. I mean, they just merged their display with their chair using a bunch PVC pipes, they’re no strangers to sacrifice.

      I do kinda expect it to flatline, though.

  24. Premium User Badge

    aleander says:

    2x AA batteries

    Sold!