Hey all. You might have seen my stuff. I maintain an “acab” Great Games/Software list that I recommend checking out, as well as a guide to getting into VR from scratch with what headset to get and PC components. And an explainer about how the Index is an AR headset and how you can test it out; either the community or Valve, ideally both, will turn that into a real use case.
I made this guide to help people feel more comfortable and reduce friction in VR. It’s also supposed to make you fully acquainted with SteamVR settings, how to use things like Desktop view so you don't have to take off your headset, how to get into VR quickly, and some addons you should use. Always look for ways to do the things you want to do in VR or can't do right now.
There’s a tool called Aardvark that some community people and a valve person or two are trying to get going, that could make being inside VR a lot less clunky by creating a really great way to make apps and gadgets that run over VAR and can communicate between users and each other.. Answer your phone, take out a virtual HOTAS, hang out with a friend without being in the same game, play couch co op in AR, a lot of things are possible. If you know how to code in React or you like making VR overlays and hacks you should look into it.
You have to redo your room set up if you take down your base stations or move them around. Sometimes tracking will still work the same if you move your base stations, but the guardians will be messed up. There is no way to do the room set up in-headset in passthrough yet, but when you have to make your boundaries click "advanced mode" and you just have to mark the four corners of your play space.
Make sure you have powercycling on so the base stations turn on and off with the headset. You can set up base stations either at waist level just sitting on tables (2.0 only), on tall camera stands, or on the wall. If they are ever moved they do need to do room set up again. If you set them up on the wall you probably can just unplug the cord on both ends and take it out again when you need it.
Your PC's startup is quick and easy if boot off an SSD and turn off password login in windows. You can add a headless monitor if you want to move your computer around without a monitor or TV so that you still have desktop view.
The way I use VR is that I walk into the room, I press the power button on my PC (monitor left off), I walk over to my Index and click the button on the bottom (this turns on steamVR as long as Steam is running), put it on, and I’m in VR. I turn on 3D passthrough (double-click the button on the headset) to pick up my controllers, then turn passthrough off after I pick a game.
SteamVR starts when you press the system button on your headset, as long as steam is open. For opening games, I either use the dashboard, which isn't idea because it only shows your recently played games, or I use icons on my PC desktop.
Steam Big Picture mode is always accessible in VR. Click your library button on the dashboard and then “browse all” to see your whole Steam library, and click back to the Big Picture home to use things like Steam Chat and invite people/join their games. https://preview.redd.it/u0fg0d1jdyr51.png?width=270&format=png&auto=webp&s=2b3fcd11fd19e8ab5e539b1c95ceb47cd34665f2
he Tutorial is a little portal themed easter egg Valve made for the Vive. Resetting Seated Position is for when you want to sit somewhere other than the room center and the game doesn't have a setting for that. Display VR view brings up the VR mirror of steamVR, which includes things like overlays running on top of the game and your paththrough (if you’re a streamer you can use it to show your room to your audience easily), and if you select the “both eyes” mode it works better than any generic in game one but there is a slight performance cost. Devices is where you can pair controllers and power-manage your base stations so they turn on and off with your headset. Workshop is mostly for SteamVR home environments. Settings is what we're focused on here.
SteamVR Settings Do this on the desktop to make it easier for you. On the little steamVR box click the three lines and then “settings” to open the settings UI. Do it right now while you read the guide if you want, your headset should be idle and not rendering if you're not wearing it. https://preview.redd.it/wktik73ldyr51.png?width=798&format=png&auto=webp&s=2b0d56830ac7943b51ba9145c486aa148c576653
Turn on advanced settings in the left corner. Then take a look at what’s in the general settings. Refresh rate, brightness, render resolution, etc are obvious. Click from “auto” to “custom” on the resolution if you don’t want it to change the resolution when you change frame rate. Notifications means you can turn steam notifications on and off. At the bottom there is an option for SteamVR Home. If you don’t use it I would definitely turn it off s
ince I don’t like running a graphically intensive outdated program when I’m not doing anything. https://preview.redd.it/f83ngr2mdyr51.png?width=797&format=png&auto=webp&s=234678395e36fcca9dd86ae352126800a06a14ff
Next click on play area. I use a medium grid chaperone, and I set the color to white. I also have a low activation distance but set yours at the right distance for what you need. I remove the play area floor by making it invisible since it isn’t necessary and doesn't cover the whole floor anyway. Choose the white background if you hate glare. Toggle on the floor bounds if you always want to be able to see where you're boundaries end while you're playing. https://preview.redd.it/034fnb8odyr51.png?width=805&format=png&auto=webp&s=17aaaf15bef73c3918f0236ed5c9811ef4115cda
Next click on dashboard in the menu list. I would set “show desktop tab” to “off” if you’re going to use an app like desktop+ to replace your desktop view. You can turn all of the tabs off or make the system button do nothing if you’re putting someone else in VR and they accidentally press it a lot. You’ll still be able to go into your SteamVR settings on the desktop and change it back. Dashboard position does what it says, so bring it closer if you can't see clearly or further away if you don't have enough room.
I address the controller bindings topic at the end. https://preview.redd.it/ax87xxrodyr51.png?width=795&format=png&auto=webp&s=c2592eee3227a2bf790d2ce713e2c285df613708
In the video menu there are a lot of the same options as the general tab. Make sure “fade to grid on app hang” us on, and at the button where it says pause VR while headset is idle you may want to make sure that is on. Overlay render quality shouldn't really matter. Changing resolution doesn't work without a restart in every game based on its engine, but changing refresh rate works in every game except Alyx.
Render resolution basically works by either being set to "auto," where SteamVR picks a resolution based on your refresh rate and GPU, and "custom" where you choose the value. If you want to keep your resolution when you change your refresh rate, keep it on custom. I play Pistol Whip at 144hz with full super sampling. Having something like fpsVR makes it really easy to tell what settings work for you.
The bar that says “per application video settings'' is very useful. What this does is allow you to add a resolution modifier for a specific game that is always applied to that game (whatever your default resolution is times the modifier), and you can change the “motion smoothing” setting. Here’s an example of that in action: In Pavlov matches with 40-50 people, both the CPU and GPU frametimes tank and fluctuate a lot. So what I do is that I set my index to 120hz, and then I turn motion smoothing to “force always on.” That means the game only tries to render 60 frames and fills in the rest. There’s artifacting but it’s smooth. In games that are CPU bound this is also important since you can't just lower the resolution and fix it. You can also do this in the main panel of fpsVR.
Turning off motion smoothing just changes how reprojection works. Motion smoothing is when it switches to running at half framerate and fills in the other half, where the old reprojection method was only replacing the frames you were missing, which could look choppier. https://preview.redd.it/17kkvx1qdyr51.png?width=796&format=png&auto=webp&s=f7c86204641fc25575c7f7e4e28ac712796e2939
In the audio menu you can change you input and output devices. This could be useful if you want to use RTX voice (uses GPU power to eliminate any background noise), since it appears as a separate microphone. You can mirror audio if you’re showing a game off to people, and you can turn out output from both the speakers and something plugged into the 3.5mm audio hack. https://preview.redd.it/ul5w0nlqdyr51.png?width=796&format=png&auto=webp&s=912caa714eb76670dc610148640ddeff56e6a3ea
For cameras, turn on 3D room view. Then room view has a few options from clear ghosts to opaque passthrough, I use opaque passthrough to just see the world but you can make it less obvious. The reason you would do that is that “show camera at room edge” makes the passthrough come on when you step close to the boundaries.This is good for showing it off to new people but is a little slow, so you might want to go back to dashboard and adjust how close you need to be to trigger the walls.
If you have Natural Locomotion installed, it breaks your camera, just so you know. https://preview.redd.it/g5gs277rdyr51.png?width=792&format=png&auto=webp&s=58333c2860212d80824303679c445752862f3b39
Startup is important. You can change which apps steamVR starts up with. You don’t have to have revive enabled to actually use revive, it just turns off the library button. You can also stop other apps like Desktop+, metachromium, and fpsVR from starting with steamVR everytime if you want. https://preview.redd.it/n7j8dgordyr51.png?width=792&format=png&auto=webp&s=795c84dc8dba255d86f23beb4dbf7b9534257e3c
The only “developer” tab setting you might want is to enable “show GPU performance” for a few minutes because it shows a graph on your face of your GPU frametimes, making it easy to see how your setting decisions affect performance. But fpsVR works better for this.
SteamVR Add-Ons https://preview.redd.it/9kj303wtdyr51.jpg?width=1189&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=4decda4bcea61e89a47b3e5573bdae2dd5647d76
This is a leaner, better version of the SteamVR desktop mirror. It also adds a keyboard that lets you do things like click “control” or “shift” and then another key so you can copy and paste even when you can’t right click.
One particularly useful feature is that it adds a task switcher which you can just click to tab out of the game you’re in. Lots of games load fullscreen and basically block you from doing anything else at the same time. This makes it easy to use discord, look something up, go on twitter during downtime, etc. It’s useful to not feel as limited in VR.
You should also be able to pin a window to stay when you leave the system menu as well and be there in the game. There are a lot of settings you can change but you can ignore those completely and have a simple experience.
Here is how to pin a window
so can see a window or your monitor while in VR software.
Then there is fpsVR, sold on steam for $4. This has a lot of settings (and likely inspired some of Valve’s improvements to SteamVR after the index came out). Of note are a few things. https://preview.redd.it/xsx3tnjudyr51.jpg?width=399&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fb5944c6de8a9df0b4e1dae3fac655c978741864 https://preview.redd.it/5j8inaoudyr51.jpg?width=743&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=76aee5ab110068f0abf911daab33bacb9a789d23
OVR Advanced Settings
- This is the biggest one, you can add an overlay next to your hand that shows your GPU and CPU frametimes, temps, a clock, etc. It’s essential to choosing settings in games and always makes it easy to see if you’re dropping frames and why. I always use this and have it attached to my left wrist.
- You can change the motion smoothing setting to always on more easily, right there where it says “motion smoothing,” click and then you should see the options. This applies to all apps until you change it back.
- It adds “desktop utilities” to the normal steam desktop view, which is useful if you don’t want to use Desktop+, because you can press the alt tab macro and see the desktop.
- You can set a center marker. You can also have the center marker track the tangling of your headset so you can untangle it without taking it off. You can also have the marker follow you so it doesn’t show the center but also lets you see which way is forward or how tangled you are by just looking at your feet.
- You can tweak your play space if needed, tweak the floor, add a beeping warning when people get close to the edges, have the edges get really obvious if you get really close, or hide all chaperones.
- Can be useful if you sometimes sit on a couch on the edge of your playspace and want all chaperones gone. In utilities you can show or hide the steamVR mirror from within the headset. And six, you can restart SteamVR if something is borked without taking off the headset, the headset will turn off and then back on.
This enables a lot of niche functions and tweaks. It's free on github and Steam. If you have accessibility/mobility concerns I recommend looking into it. They have a discord, so head there if you need it for those reason and they'll probably help you out.
Using your desktop in VR
You can always access the desktop through your system menu button, the one that brings up the steam dashboard. Trigger is left click and thumbpad is right click. Don't be afraid to use this function. I use it to go online, download something, unzip it, and then launch it in VR without taking off the headset. The replacement keyboard from Desktop+ helps a lot.
When you use an overlay like Desktop+ or fpsVR to add the ability to tab out of the VR game’s desktop window, you can do most of the things you need to do. Opening discord, a browser, even watch youtube videos, whatever, probably isn’t going to affect your performance unless the game is really CPU bound.
If you want a second or third monitor in VR, you need to buy a headless monitor, because of how Windows works. It's just a cheap dummy monitor plug that tells windows it's a 4K 60hz monitor or whatever. Desktop+ and a few other programs like Virtual Desktop let you use them at the same time.
For what it's worth, I always turn on the passthrough when I use the desktop view, it feels more comfortable and always runs underneath the dashboard or overlays.
Controller Bindings https://preview.redd.it/yekcntfxdyr51.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=317ccce0783025a92553566e4a9ba5b2063220b7
In the controllers menu, you can manage controller bindings even when not in an app, although that doesn’t always work. I recommend starting up a game or piece of software with the headset off, then making your custom bindings on your monitor. Again, just click into your steamVR settings on the desktop with mouse and keyboard.
This whole system is glitchy and sometimes just doesn't work, and some games don't support it at all so you have to literally map one button to another rather than a specific function. But it also allows you a lot of control. Like you can make something actuate faster by changing how much the trigger or grab needs to be held down before it actuates. But I also cannot make a full guide to how this system works because I actually don't understand every function it has.
Two uses I found for example, were changing mag release in some games to pressing down on the thumbpad, or in H3 I run whenever my off hand is squeezing down. It's a useful system. TTS is one game that benefited from completely redoing the controls myself in this system. If a game doesn't use the thumbpad, I recommend taking a look at what you can rebind it to do; the thumbpad can work as one button, two buttons, or four buttons.
The Frunk From u/dylovell
Just realized that this might need a mention. The Index Frunk has had a few interesting mods for it but largely has gone unused. But I have a few uses for it.
- You can use a gamepad or anything else USB by plugging it into the headset. I would assume this also lowers latency, so for seated VR it can be nice, or when playing a VR game standing with a gamepad in VorpX/GTA 5 in VR.
- Sometimes I play TTS with only one controller, so it works really well if I have my controller plugged into the headset and charging. You might be able to get an adapter to charge both.
- Attachments like a leap motion with a little USB-C to A adapter fits inside easily. Some people have used it to hold fans or dedicated fan attachments, or to store candy.
The Vive has a free USB slot on top as well, where the strap connects to the headset and all the cables attach. I used to plug my leap motion in there. I really hope I can remake this guide in six months or a year and also talk about new features Valve adds, or Aardvark gadgets that remove clunk and friction/add functions to SteamVR.