Butter verses Potato: Elite Dangerous vs Microsoft Flight Simulator using a Quest 2 VR

I bought a Quest 2 specifically to play with Microsoft Flight Simulator using a Link cable. I had a GearVR previously, but this has been my first experience with PC based VR. It’s been a mixed experience. Does it work? Sort of. But you have to put in a ton of time either following settings recommendations or spend time yourself tweaking settings to find what balance works for you. It’s currently a compromise between graphics quality and framerates – unless you drop a few thousand dollars on the fastest hardware and current top of the range Nvidia 3090 (which alone will cost you around $3000) you have to make a compromise.

I’ve followed a lot of online guides for settings recommendations and came up with a combination that worked ok for me. However, I’ve come to accept that this is really two different games with completely different experiences:

  • playing with Ultra everything on desktop and enjoying the incredible graphics (which honestly is incredible)
  • playing in VR with seriously dialed back settings to get it to run smooth, but being amazed at the emersiveness and believable feeling of being in a plane cockpit and actually flying

These are not the same two things for me, at least with the hardware I have. It’s two different games with two different experiences.

Knowing that I’d probably get a much better VR experience with native Quest 2 games, I’ve tried out a few had a great experience (Star Wars Pinball, Job Simulator). so I know the Quest can give a good experience. Standalone it works great.

I’ve played a lot of hours previously with Elite Dangerous, and I remember it was one of the earlier games to get PC VR support. I’d been so focused on getting the settings just right for MS Flight Simulator that I hadn’t even tried any other PC games. So I gave it a go.

I was surprised. So very, very surprised. Compared to MS Flight Simulator it’s a night and day experience. I didn’t bother bringing up the Oculus tray and tweaking any settings, I was just initially curious to see what it would be like. I started up the game, turned on VR headset support in game (didn’t even start it from Steam, and since I’d already started Link it just went straight in. The experience was smooth, it was fluid, no lags, no stutters, it was really an incredible experience. No tweaking settings, no lowering graphics features, it just worked.

The incredible thing was the sense of massiveness of the environment that I’d never experienced playing the game sitting in front of a monitor. The insides of the ship are massive, the ships themselves are massive when viewed from your SRV outside. Flying across the vastness of space feels like you’re there. Approaching a planet you get the sense of how massive the planets are as you approach.

In summary, MS Flight Simulator has not been optimized enough to be comfortably playable yet. Elite Dangerous on the other hand is incredible in VR. The Quest 2 with Link cable can work flawlessly out of the box. I hope MS Flight Simulator will get there but it’s hit or miss whether you can get the settings tuned enough to be playable on your hardware.

Admittedly I have’t tried any other PC games at this point, but if you want a showcase experience of what’s possible, try Elite Dangerous with the Quest 2 over Link. It’s incredible.

Oculus Link USB disconnect issues: known issue with X570 motherboards

I’ve only had my Oculus Quest 2 for a few weeks now, but using it with a Link cable has been frustrating because it continually disconnects. Thinking it was just a loose cable and was loosing connection as I turned my head, I’ve velcro strapped the cable tightly to the headset headband, but I still get issues. The disconnects appear to be random as well, and not even related to when I move my head.

Turns out there is a known issue with AMX X570 chipset motherboards (and other AMD chipsets too) and random USB disconnects. It’s a known issue, apparently a cause has been identified and BIOS updates/upated drivers are coming soon. More info here.

Will Facebook bring Virtual Reality to the mainstream?

I’ve been wondering for a while whether Virtual Reality is just one of the technologies that is technically amazing but only has niche use cases, and is probably doomed to never become mainstream. The fact that Facebook bought Oculus for $2bn has puzzled me for a while though. Is Zuckerberg planning a virtual reality interface for Facebook? That’s kind of weird and puzzling (I’ll come back to this thought in a minute).

There’s been a lot of movement in this space recently. Possibly the flashiest demos have been Microsoft’s video demos of their Hololens, but according to some sources this is still at least 5 years out before it becomes a real product. Sony’s Project Morpheus was renamed Playstation VR recently, promising to be released for the PS4 ‘some time soon’. Given the ever decreasing lifetimes for current gen consoles, this probably means a lot sooner than Microsoft’s plans, probably within a couple of years at most.

Oculus Rift has been in development for a long time, before recently getting bought by Facebook. Dev kits have been available for some time, and their site says coming Q1 2016. That’s pretty soon (within months at this point).

Now back to Facebook. Yesterday they announced and released a number of ‘360 videos’ that play from your Facebook stream in your browser. As the video plays you can drag it around to look in all directions as it’s playing. It’s pretty cool. However, the ultimate coolness is when you view the video in the Facebook app on your Android phone… the video moves with the gyroscope sensors in the phone. It’s incredible.. you have to see it to believe it, it’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen for a while. So are we now seeing where we’re heading with Virtual Reality and Facebook’s plans for the Oculus Rift? Maybe so. However, I’m not sure I want to wear a headset to browse my feed or even watch casual videos, but the gyroscopic 360 vision on your phone. Wow. Very cool. Let’s see some more, Facebook.