The top VR rhythm and dance games

One of the best things about VR gaming is its ability to make you get up and move. Whether you are interested in improving your fitness or just looking for a fun challenge, rhythm games are an excellent way to get stimulated. I’ve only played a few of these, but they all have appeal to their own audiences.

my favorite

By far, the most popular rhythm game among VR players is Beat Saber. Dance to awesome music and slice blocks with glowing sabers. It’s a crowd favorite with a huge community because of the ability to add Mods and Custom Songs. I love this game. My girlfriend loves this game. I recommend it.

The developers, Beat Games, were acquired by Facebook’s Oculus Studios on November 26th, so we might expect some changes and a lot more content from them to come in the future.

contenders

Dance Central from Harmonix, the developer behind music gaming mega-hits Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The Dance Central game series has already had success with rhythm games on consoles using PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinnect motion tracking. I’ve tried this one and it’s actually pretty fun. 

Audioshield is probably a good one for fans of Beat Saber, and looks like its defensive counterpart. What makes this game awesome is that it “uses an advanced version of Audiosurf 2’s music analysis system to sync with any song from your collection.” You shield against projectiles in time with the beat, and you can supply your own songs. The game used to tout YouTube integration, but that feature had to be removed due to copyright issues. 

Honorable Mentions

Beats Fever lets you catch notes as they float toward you, but from the sound of the reviews doesn’t really offer the same replayability or fun factor that Beat Saber captures.

Synth Riders is another catch-the-passing-notes type game. This one has you whizzing through impressive worlds on a virtual rail system. 

not dancy, but still cool

Thumper is a different kind of rhythm game. In this highly-rated title, you’re a giant space beetle hurtling through psychedelic scenes at blazing speeds. There are boss battles, and it’s pretty intense looking. This one is made for mouse and keyboard or gamepad play, as opposed to touch controller tracking like most other VR rhythm games. I’m going to have to get this one. 

Starship Disco is an arcade style VR shooter, that lets users import their own music. 

Facebook acquired Beat Games

On Tuesday November 26th, Facebook announced that they have purchased Beat Games—the indie game company behind VR mega-hit Beat Saber—for an undisclosed sum. Beat Games will become a part of Oculus Studios, but still work on development independently from their location in Prague. 

Today we’re announcing that Beat Games is joining us in our quest to bring VR to more people around the world. They will join Oculus Studios as an independently operated studio in Prague, continuing to create new ways for people to experience music and VR gaming. Most importantly, what the community has come to love about Beat Saber will remain intact. Beat Games will continue to ship content and updates for Beat Saber across all currently supported platforms, now with even more support from Facebook.

Oculus Blog

Read the full announcement on the Oculus Blog.

The Concern amongst fans 

The biggest concern for most fans of Beat saber is that Facebook will break support for mods and custom songs. and I believe that’s a pretty justifiable fear. Facebook makes a big easy target for DRM lawsuits, which they might have the money to quell with settlements, but then they would be bleeding money on their latest acquisition. Also, the ability to add and map custom songs may threaten the company’s potential  sales of song packs and sequels in the future. 

Facebook have already said that they want to keep the mods and support the community—in ways that are legal. Most likely, they will eventually remove the ability to add custom songs, or put tight restrictions on approving and sharing.

We understand and appreciate the value that modding brings to Beat Saber when done so legally and within our policies. We’re going to do our best to preserve the value that mods bring to the Beat Saber player base. As a reminder, our most recent policy updates give more clarity to how developer mode is intended to be used, such as helping developers build their apps or for enthusiasts to explore new concepts. It is not intended for engaging in piracy or illicit modding, including mods that infringe on third-party IP rights or contain malicious code.

Oculus Blog

Hopefully the hands-off approach of letting Beat Games continue development on their own in Prague means that losing custom songs or mod support shouldn’t happen anytime soon; If I’m not mistaken, they did just work out an implementation that makes custom songs not disappear after every software update.

An alternative method to dealing with DRM is that Beat Games could try an approach similar to the popular streaming player and home theater software, Kodi, which develops a platform for playing and streaming videos and library management, but takes no responsibility for how end-users modify and access content. It’s hard to imagine Facebook taking this kind of stance though, as they chastise the use of developer mode for ” …engaging in piracy or illicit modding,” in their announcement.

It will probably still be a good thing.

More Money, More Music

With Facebook behind them, Oculus Studios has much more potential for song packs and series expansion. They have the finances and backing potential to buy song rights and negotiate DRM licensing contracts with top artists and labels, Beat Games may not have been able to pull off alone.

Beat Games were already on track, adding updates and additional song packs, similar to, but with fewer and less popular songs than gaming giants were doing with series like Rock Bandor Guitar Hero (distributed by Activision) —Both hugely successful series from Harmonix.

 With the resources and know-how that we can offer, Beat Games will be able to accelerate, adding more music and more exciting features to Beat Saber as well as bringing the game to more people

More exciting Features?

It would be really cool if Facebook’s potential weight in licensing deals could make way for bonus extras based on features that mods add, like custom avatars in the likeness of the song artists, or how about true “Star Wars” custom sabers (come on, the assets are already there from ILMxLAB’s Vader Immortal series which Oculus Studios collaborated on). Those would be some “exciting features.”

It seems like the acquisition is a good sign that Beat Games is on track to be the next mega-hit music game company. With extra support, development can increase who knows what surprises we may see to come. 

Community built Clones, knockoffs, and other Rhythm Games

In the past there have been clones and opensource knockoffs of games like Guitar Hero. There have even been some that allowed you to map and add custom songs, and allowed play with keyboard as a replacement for the proprietary guitar. I had a lot of fun playing Frets On Fire back in the day. Similarly, you can find a few generic versions of Beat Saber style rhythm games. 

Open Saber stopped development and made their github private just 22 hours before I tried to research them for this post. But like it says intheir closing announcement, the software was open source, forks could be out there for others who are interested in picking up development.

Moon Rider is a WebVR implementation that you can play by visiting their site using Supermedium or a browser like Firefox that supports WebVR.

Hologate‘s HoloBeat was, what seemed to be, a blatantly obvious beat saber knockoff that included multiplayer according to thisUploadVR post. The 6 second video in that post is all I was able to find of the game, but it appears that the wannabe Beat Saber got cannibalized and became Groove Guardians, where you punch blocks to rhythm instead of slicing them. Again a short video is all the material I can find on the game, which only seems to be available if you purchase their VR arcade setup.

Other Rhythm Games

I’ve made a separate post compiling a list of some of the most popular VR Rhythm Games.

 

Oculus Link

Oculus Link is Available in Beta

Oculus Link allows you to use the Oculus Quest—an otherwise wireless, stand-alone headset—to play Oculus Rift PC games via tethering using a USB cable. 

This allows you to expand your library and play many high quality PC VR games from the Oculus Store, and even Steam, on the mobile headset whiled plugged into your computer—great news if you want to play some massive games like Fallout 4 VR, Skyrim VR, and No Man’s Land. Two recent AAA game titles that Oculus is happy to announce working with Link are Asgard’s Wrath and Stormland. 

Basically, your PC streams to the headset using H.264 video compression, VR compositor functions are split between the headset and the computer to reduce latency, and bingo-bango you are playing PC VR on the mobile VR headset.

On November 18th Oculus released the beta version of its Link software to the public. Read the press release from the Oculus Blog.

If you want to know more of the nitty-gritty detail on how it works check out this post on the Oculus Developer Blog.

For many, trying out Oculus link right now is not an option

At the time of this beta release, only NVIDIA graphics cards are supported. Most modern NVIDIA cars are supported, excluding the Titan Z and  GeForce GTX 1060M (laptop). This means that, like myself, anyone with an AMD GPU are currently unable to take advantage of the software.

The currently supported GPUs are

  • NVIDIA Titan X
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
  • Desktop NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070(all)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080(all)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 16-series(all)
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 20-series (all)

Future support for high-end AMD cards is expected, but it is yet to be revealed exactly which AMD cards Oculus will eventually support.

The list of unsupported AMD GPUs include AMD 300, 400, 500, 5000, and Vega Series cards, suggesting that support may come to most if not all of these series eventually. 

Note: We’re working directly with AMD to support as many of their cards as possible by the time the beta period ends.

Oculus Link Compatibility

Update: Users on Reddit have reported some success with Oculus Link on AMD GPUs. Many report a lot of graphical stuttering especially with the AMD VEGA RX 56 (that’s what I currently have). So, it seems that “unsupported” just means not guaranteed to work currently.

To take advantage of the software you will also need a new USB-C 3.0 or better cable

Oculus Link requires a high-quality USB 3 cable. We’ll be releasing our Oculus Link cable later this year, but for the beta period we recommend looking for a high-quality USB C to C or USB A to C cable with proven performance.

Points to keep in mind:

  • The USB 3 cable should be approximately 3 meters (10 feet) for an optimal and comfortable experience.
  • The charging cable that came with your Quest won’t work with the Oculus link software. The Quest charging cable is USB 2 while Oculus Link requires a USB 3 cable that can support both power and data.


Oculus Link Compatibility

The cable that Oculus Quest comes with is only USB 2.0, so they suggest purchasing this 10ft Anker cable.

Link Cable

Oculus is making their own 5 meter long fiber optic cable specifically for Oculus Link which should be available early 2020, see the specs sign up to be notified when its available at https://www.oculus.com/quest/accessories/.

Other Considerations: minimum PC hardware specifications and performance.

You will need at least an Intel i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1500X or greater processor, 8+ GB of RAM, one of the supported GPUs, Windows 10, and an a USB 3.0 port.

Games played through Oculus link will be at lower resolution and frame/refresh rate than compared with the Oculus Rift/Rift-S. This means the image would be a slightly blurrier than with the PC headsets.

Oculus Quest uses two diamond Pentile OLED displays, each with an individual resolution of 1440 × 1600 and a refresh rate of 72 Hz

Rift S uses a single fast-switch LCD panel with a resolution of 2560×1440 with refresh rate 80 Hz

WikiPedia

The Quest also has fewer tracking cameras than Rift S, meaning potentially less accurate tracking or more trouble with blindspots. Both headsets use the same tech for inside-out tracking, with optimal camera placement for each, but the Quest’s mobile processor can’t handle as many cameras. The Quest has 4 tracking cameras on the corners of the HMD, whereas Rift S has 5 cameras with optimal placement. This may not be noticeable in casual play, but tracking accuracy could potentially lose an edge in competitive performance. 

There is slightly higher latency on Quest when using Link, so if a game is natively supported on Quest the Quest will perform better than a Rift Link-ed version.

No man’s sky Beginning to beyond

A rocky release

I remember when I first heard about the game No Man’s Sky. In the summer of 2014 I was reading news of an indie gaming company called Hello Games creating a space exploration game with an endless universe that was full of procedurally-generated star systems, planets, and moons—each with unique life and materials to harvest. You’d be able to explore indefinitely, and even if you visited a planet per second, it would take multiple lifetimes to see everything. It promised to be the biggest sandbox game ever.

Unfortunately for me, it was a PlayStation exclusive and I was an Xbox console gamer. I wasn’t able to switch consoles or run out and buy a new PC over one game, it just wasn’t in my budget. I was so envious of my friends with PS4s, while we discussed all the announcements of what sounded like was going to be basically the perfect space exploration video game. 

When No Man’s Sky came out on August 9, 2016, after dealing with delays to the initial release, it was not as well received as expected. It sounded like multi-player was a possibility, but do to the sheer size of the galaxy, the odds of ending up in the vicinity of another player (or even on the same planet) were astronomical. Players found being alone in the universe a disappointment, and the game still had a lot of bugs to iron out. For some, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. Others felt like the game wasn’t even close to what was advertised. Someone went as far as sending death threats to one of the developers over a lack of butterflies that had been seen in the trailers. Things got a little nasty.

Hello Games Saves the Universe

The developers at Hello Games didn’t take the criticism lying down. They didn’t just give up and call the game a failure. They went back to work on the universe adding new mechanics and features over the course of several updates and patches. Things just kept improving. Hello Games made No Man’s Sky into an awesome space adventure, where people have now logged hundreds of hours of exploration.  

And now, five years later, the most recent update No Man’s Sky: Beyond, brings support for virtual reality, new multi-player mechanics, overhauled base-crafting, and a space anomaly with missions that lead you to useful resources like ships & freighters right from the get-go. 

Check out the complete Release log from Hello Games.

No Man’s Sky Goes Beyond Reality

It’s been 3 weeks since Hello Games released the latest major update: Beyond, on August 14, which brought virtual reality support and quite a few new and interesting mechanics to the game. 

I bought the game, put on my Oculus Rift, and got lost in the Galaxy. Checking the stats on Steam revealed that I was going at this game like it was a part time job, clocking in over 20 hours in the first week. (To be fair I spent a lot of time the first day just figuring out controls, reading everything in the guide, taking, breaks and trying to get around Steam VR crashing).

Great Touch Support

With planetary EVA’s and full VR touch controller support, this game is what I wished Elite Dangerous would have been when it got VR support.  E.D. is a flight sim that players recommend using extra hardware like HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) to play, where all the action is confined to the cockpit of a craft. E.D.’s docking procedure is kind of complicated and landing in space-stations requires manual manipulation that can be pretty finicky when trying to play using touch controls or even an Xbox controller. No Man’s Sky, on the other hand, lets you hop in the cockpit whenever you want and grab the virtual throttle and flight stick and away you go.  

Base Crafting

This is one of my favorite things to do in the game. It’s basically like super space-minecraft. After you learn a bunch of blueprints, and gather the required materials, you can make some amazing stuff.  Most of my architecture so far features glass cuboid rooms and walkways and glass paneled cylinders with amazing views. You can tunnel into mountains and build, and I’ve seen tree houses built by other users that are just incredible.

Bugs in No Man’s Sky VR, and Pancake mode

Build a portable save point and remember to use it often, because there are a few bugs in the game that will make you wish you had. Most of the bugs I’ve encountered I was able to work around with restoring manual saves and a few minutes of pancake playing.  

Pancake gaming refers to playing games on a monitor or screen. After VR, desktop games are flat. To play a game in pancake mode is just to play it in the old way, with mice and keyboards and a 2 dimensional view. If you want to switch to pancake mode in Steam, just close Steam VR before you launch the game on your desktop.  

Spacedeath— Sometimes when you attempt to remove a room from the freighter it’ll take you out with it. When the ground disappears from under you, and your life-support system fails, right before you die in the cold vacuum of space, you’re hit with one thought. You realize that you’re never going to get back to your grave to collect your gear. 

One second I was working on a pretty sweet freighter base. The next, my lifeless corpse was drifting through space. 

Seriously, I made a hearty attempt to gather my gear. I felt like a complete idiot piloting my little explorer ship in circles and bumping into the freighter while trying to figure out a way to collect all my stuff. Couldn’t grab it, couldn’t shoot it, couldn’t get out of my ship. I gave up and loaded my last manual save. 

One key thing missing from No Man’s Sky VR right now is Photo Mode. Photo Mode is awesome, and it’s how I captured most of the images in this post—I’ll definitely be using some screenshots for desktop wallpaper. Lack of a Photo Mode in VR actually makes a few missions impossible to complete without switching to pancake (monitor/non-VR) mode and snapping a few shots of the beautiful planetary surface features. You can still use Steam VR’s built-in screenshot feature to capture the majesty of the game along the way, but that don’t seem to count toward missions.

There’s an issue with completing delivery missions in VR. Mission agents ask you to deposit an item at a secure depot. You fly to a depot, perhaps even stop along the way to gather materials to make warp cells to get there, and make the drop. Once you’ve done so, you’re told that you’ve misplaced the item. (You made the deposit, it just didn’t register correctly because of a skipped animation or other issue in the conversion to VR.) The workaround, again, is to complete the mission in pancake mode.

I’ve reported these bugs, and if you come across other bugs they have a form where you can submit them.

Improving the No Man’s Sky VR experience

A few tips to help you through the universe


No Man’s Sky VR is still buggy in a few aspects, but even through the dropped frame rates and Steam VR crashes, you can see the potential this game has.

Here are a few tips to help make the game perform better and crash less.

VR Performance Tips

  • Over the past weeks, Several patches have already been released in both the official and beta branches on Steam, aimed at optimization for VR. Make sure you’re getting these updates.
  • Register for experimental builds in Steam using beta code 3xperimental. Please be advised that you should make a backup of your save before switching to experimental builds, just to be on the safe side in the unlikely event that anything goes awry.
  • Steam community member GosuDR has a great and extensive guide for improving virtual reality performance. No Man’s Sky: Optimization 2019 + VR.
  • Use the open source Opencomposite to make steam games play like native Oculus games (completely bypass Steam VR). This basically stopped all the crashes on my PC. (Could potentially impact fps on some machines.)

Links to other interesting stuff

The game is so screenshot worthy

Everything is just so beautiful. Take a look at some space-selfies. These Steam screenshots  from other users give a glimpse of the wonders you might find on your adventures.

a Place for people who like to get spaced before exploring space

It would seem that hours and hours of endless space exploration might appeal to a certain demographic, so naturally r/nomanshigh  exists. It’s a subreddit devoted to interplanetary stoners.