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State and Future of VR Esports

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VR Esports
VR Esports? Sounds like a bunch of wannabes wearing some weird headsets... Credit: vrfocus.com

When it comes to video games, everything under the Sun wants to have something to do with Esports these days. Video gaming competitions, tournaments and leagues have become so big that development studios and game publishers are literally shoving made-for-Esports games down our throats nowadays.

VR Esports Landscape

Virtual Reality certainly offers a great potential in terms of Esports development. At the moment, the playerbase is still tiny compared to mainstream Esports gaming titles, but the interest exists.

Oculus Rift is championing the grass-roots VR Esports movement with flagship titles like Echo Arena and The Unspoken. These two VR games are the backbone of VR Challenger League, the world’s first VR Esports league. Oculus Connect 4 and ESL One Hamburg have already hosted 2 Echo Arena tournaments this October.

The Unspoken will be featured at IEM Oakland later in November, and at Dreamhack Winter at the start of December. Each of these 4 VR events offer a share in the prize pool of $200,000 for the top 3 teams/players – far from millions offered in established Esports titles like League of Legends or Dota 2, but certainly high enough to warrant competitive interest.

The Unspoken actually had its own, dedicated VR Tournament back in May 2017. It was exclusive to NA and it took place in 80 Microsoft stores across US & Canada. The prize pool totalled $7,500, with the main prize being a bundle consisting of Oculus Rift, Touch Controllers and an Oculus ready PC, coupled with additional $1,250 in cash.

Sony’s PSVR is in the mix too, with Sparc being the first thing that pops to mind. There have been two official tournaments already, in September and October. The prizes were rather symbolic, but the game is basically brand new so it comes as no surprise.

A bit earlier, in April 2017, Dreamhack Austin hosted a main stage VR Esports tournament featuring Velocibeasts, a fun and fast paced battle arena involving throwing weapons, teleportation and powerups. The community driven tournaments and leagues like Rec Room Paintball Esports League are sprouting left and right as well.

2017 has definitely raised the entire VR community up to new heights.

Peeking Over the Horizon

It’s no surprise 2017 has seen its fair share of VR tournaments and will continue to do so in 2018. While the whole Esports scene still looks relatively low-key and under-the-radar, it’s alive and kicking, showing no signs of slowing down.

The technology, while still in its early stages, offers a different and exciting platform for players and spectators to enjoy. VR games like Echo Arena, The Unspoken and Sparc offer enough substance to warrant a healthy competitive ecosystem, as well as appealing and exciting content for viewers and fans around the world to watch.

VR Challenger League is surely something to look out for at the moment, as it’s on the forefront of the VR Esports movement by far. Even if you are not a VR and/or Esports aficionado yet (but you will be soon, resistance is futile), VR Esports are easy to relate to. Something about seeing someone flailing their arms, furiously throwing imaginary spells around, seems more “sportsy” than watching poker-face, motionless Esports pros with insane APM-s (actions per minute), sitting comfy in their chairs lined up on-stage.

One thing that will surely help propel VR Esports further is the next generation of VR headsets. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have laid a great foundation for VR headsets like Pimax to build upon and take over. As prices of consumer electronics required to run the current high-end VR headsets start dropping down, the barrier of entry will get lower, causing a new wave of VR users.

Obviously, with more users, the playerbase will get bigger too, increasing the overall competitiveness of PvP multiplayer games. And that means more and better VR Esports in the future!

The Best Way to Store HTC Vive

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HTC Vive offers immersive room scale virtual reality experience.While it is the most expensive of all headsets on the market, if you want to enjoy VR in its finest form currently available, the Vive is well worth your money. The Vive does however have few drawbacks. Besides having to dedicate the space for your virtual playground, deal with cable management, the most frequently known problem users encounter is – where and how to store Vive when it isn’t in use?

You can also see our suggestions on how to store Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch, and while you can use the same or similar setup, we discovered a few more ways to store Vive.

HTC Vive Stand

Fancy but pricey solution, beautifully made from different types of wood, each with it’s own distinctive hue. The only downside of the HTC Vive Stand is the price – it costs over $100. It is designed to store Vive controllers and the headset itself.

If the money is not an issue for you, make sure to visit VR merch for the additional offer of interesting and useful VR related products like this HTC Vive Controller Charging Stand.

Hyperkin Polygon VR Protector Bag

Some would say that just a regular Ikea shoebox would do the trick, but if you tend to travel places where you’d want to take your Vive with you, Hyperkin Polygon VR Protector Bag is the universal solution not just for the Vive, but PSVR and Oculus Rift as well.

This isn’t the only travel and storage solution and there are many others available on the market,  like this impact-proof and watertight looking HTC Vive Pelican Travel & Storage Case. The case is bulky and has plenty of extra room if you need to bring some extra accessories with you.

VRGE – Virtual Reality Hardware Charging Dock

Team VRGE is sterted their kickstarter campaign and are working tirelessly to create the unified VR stand/charger. It is essentially a neat charging dock, with an immaculate and simple design. The VRGE can charge and store Vive and PSVR controllers respectively.

VRGE doesn’t only look pretty, but is also very practical, since it helps you organize, protect and store Vive or PSVR simultaneously. The VRGE is both horizontally and vertically compact, and you can mount it to the wall or just place it on your desk. The launch of this product is estimated for December 2017, so if you haven’t yet found the best way to store Vive, this VRGE might be the one worth waiting for!

Simple DIY solutions

There are many posts on Reddit about organizing your VR designated playground and the hardware. You can make the simple, yet effective setup submitted on Reddit using only 5 simple to install and cheap guitar hangers.

If you don’t want to be bothered with any of these, you can just use the shipment box that the Vive came with. However, if you want to put your precious Vive on display for everyone to see, buy a mannequin head, or come up with an original solution like this guy.

Using Multiple HTC Vives in a Single Play-Space

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Two Vives in a Single Play Space

You can have (two or more) HTC Vives at the same time if you can get them to get along, and work out all the kinks in the relationship.

Oh, did I just say that?

I meant that it can be challenging for people setting up a space for VR to use two or more Vives in it at once.

It often happens that to save space, a person might want to set up two Vives, each connected to its own PC, in the same ‘active area’.

Could this cause problems?

Well, yes and no.

Let’s say you and your friend each bought Vives, and you want to use them in the same space. What would your experience be like?

The challenging test, of course, it getting the Vives to work in the same play-space.

Set up the Vives one at a time (we’ll go into this in more detail a little later), and go to it. They should work perfectly fine, except that you may have the occasional issue with tracking. I think this is due to each person in the Virtual Space momentarily blocking the other one. Very minor, really.

Each headset will reach out to the lighthouses, as well as interfacing with its own controllers. You might have one set of controllers tracking the wrong computer, but this is easy to handle – just exchange controllers with the other user.

But if you do set up the two devices in the same space, it’s loads of fun – a completely different experience from playing alone in an area.

The real problems – accidents!

Yes, accidents are the real problem with using two Vives in the same space. After all, two people, each with a VR headset on their heads – and effectively blind – are using the same play-space. In an active game, with both players moving around, it’s inevitable that their paths should cross – and they might have accidents. Not only could they hurt each other, but they could damage some of that expensive VR equipment.

This is the real reason why it’s recommended that you keep play-spaces separate. This is accentuated by the fact that lighthouses become much less effective as the distance from them increases.

The ideal method of dealing with this if you want to use the same space is to create artificial boundaries between the players so that there is no danger of them ‘making contact’. Simply place some furniture as a barrier between the play-spaces of the two players to enforce this in the ‘real world’.

Placing your lighthouses to prevent tracking issues…

The light-houses are just that – light-houses. All they do is send out light – it’s a very basic function. What this means (for our purposes) is that two headsets can easily ‘run’ off a single lighthouse. Because they are essentially such a simple device, it also means that one person could potentially ‘block’ a lighthouse, causing the tracking problems I mentioned earlier. Essentially, you – or your controllers – might ‘jump around’ in VR, or appear to be somewhere else from where they actually are.

The ideal lighthouse arrangement is to have two lighthouses where either player cannot easily occlude them – but not more!

THIS IS CRUCIAL…
Don’t use more than two lighthouses, as this has been known to ‘confuse’ multiple Vives and cause tracking problems.

Yes, if you set up more than two lighthouses, this can actually ‘confuse’ the Vives.

Reacting to Tracking issues when they occur…

Tracking issues are always based upon your respective positions, and you’ll find them repeating when you and your fellow-player are in certain positions in the play-space. If you note these positions and experiment with the positioning of the lighthouses, you should find that you can find a placement where ‘tracking problems’ are vastly reduced.

As I mentioned earlier, you need to find a placement for the lighthouses where you and your partner cannot block each other from either lighthouse – at least not for more than a few seconds.

Setting up a play-space with two Vives – Step-by-Step

You have to start with setting up one Vive. Set it up, and ensure that tracking is perfect before you go on to set up the second one. Here’s how you go about it…

  • Start with setting up the play space. Put up both the lighthouses, as well as any furniture you intend to use as a barrier between the players. We suggest you use something soft. Alternatively, set up a ‘mental boundary’ – Both players start ten feet apart, and no one moves more than two feet forward. But this isn’t as good as a physical barrier
  • Now set up the first headset, connecting it to the computer, and running SteamVR’s room-scaling setup.
  • After this is done, you need to exit SteamVR, and allow the controllers and the headset to power down.
  • Now you do the same with the second headset and PV – once again, you will need to run SteamVR’s room-scaling setup on the second computer.
  • That’s it – just go to your first computer, start SteamVR once again, and you’re good to go – the lighthouses should be detected, and both Vives should be working together.

Here’s a fairly advanced experiment in using two Vives in the same space…

This experiment uses Microsoft’s sophisticated ‘hands-free’ Kinect ‘controller’ system for additional tracking…

More than two Vives

You can have more than two Vives operating in the same space if you run them off a pair of lighthouses (but not more than two, remember?) – We’ve seen four run this way without problems, so far. It goes without saying that you’ll have to demarcate each player’s ‘territory’ – but do that and everything should work just fine. The Vives should operate with a minimum of tracking issues.

Remember, so long as you and your fellow players don’t actually batter each other in the real world by crossing into each other’s physical space, your Vives should have no problems sharing the same play-space.