Up until now, the nascent VR market has been something of a walled garden. Oculus Rift owners can play games on Steam VR, but the reverse isn’t true — HTC Vive owners can’t play games on the Oculus Rift. A new software utility on GitHub, dubbed Revive, aims to change that by offering a proof-of-concept compatibility layer between the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.
Currently just two applications are supported — Lucky’s Tale and Oculus Dreamdeck — and it requires executable patches for the requisite titles. Revive’s readme states:
It [Revive] works by reimplementing functions from the Oculus Runtime and translating them to OpenVR calls. Unfortunately Oculus has implemented a Code Signing check on the Runtime DLLs, therefore the Revive DLLs cannot be used unless the application is patched.
The Revive DLLs already contain the necessary hooking code to work around the Code Signing check in any application. However you will still need to patch the application to actually load the Revive DLLs.
Controller support, according to Ars Technica, is a bit hit-or-miss. Some games worked with any XInput device, some required the Xbox One controller specifically, and at least one application refused to recognize controller input at all. There are also some distribution issues to consider, since the Oculus titles are currently free to any Oculus Home installer — probably in part because those games are meant to be reserved for Rift owners rather than Vive buyers.
Oculus CEO, Palmer Luckey, has stated “we can only extend our SDK to work with other headsets if the manufacturer allows us to do so.” Other vendors have indicated this isn’t the case — Valve told Digital Trends “Anything Oculus or other stores need to work with the Vive are documented in the freely available OpenVR APIs.” HTC has made similar statements promoting openness and argued that VR content shouldn’t be locked down. Developers working on games for the Vive were willing to say on-record that they weren’t being held to exclusivity clauses; no Oculus developers responded to DT’s requests for comment.
Closed ecosystems can work, but they’re difficult to maintain. Sony and Microsoft operate closed ecosystems for their game consoles, but the number of Xbox or PS4 exclusive titles has been lower this generation than in any generation previous. The fact that the PS4 is currently outselling the Xbox One by roughly 2:1 suggests there are plenty of Xbox 360 owners who opted for Sony this time around because they wanted more powerful hardware, as opposed to the “all-things-for-everyone” gated community Microsoft initially proposed. Redmond attempted to use Kinect to create meaningful differentiation, and when that failed it was stuck with the lower-performing of the two hardware platforms.
How Oculus responds to patches like this will tell us a great deal about the company’s long-term plans for monetizing the Rift and its game store. If Oculus crushes the compatibility effort, it’ll be seen as evidence that the company wants Rift games to be reserved for Rift owners. If it allows or encourages cross-compatibility, it’ll likely boost VR adoption, but possibly at the expense of its own exclusivity. Facebook may be free to use, but it’s not exactly built on interoperability. It’s generally easier to move towards an open model than to close a formerly open ecosystem; Oculus may be testing the closed garden waters before it leaps in and dedicates itself to an interoperable VR platform.