Half-Life VR: episode one on the way

We’re currently in the process of wrapping up the latest release of Half-Life VR, which will include HL2: episode 1 VR support.  Over the last month a lot of work has gone into the mod, in both new features and fixing bugs (many of which are just elements of the source engine that just didn’t translate to VR very well). While the razer hydra is perfectly fine for our current work, we’re really looking forward to adding sixense STEM support when the developer kits come out next year and have plenty of ideas for ways to utilize the additional trackers.

In addition to working out the issues in Episode 1, here’s a list of some of the features that’ll be included in the next release:

  • Hud integrated in-game – You’ll notice in the video the HUD is not integrated in-game and shows the weapon ammo information directly on the side of the gun.  On the back of gordon’s right hand you’ll see an HEV overlay showing health and suit stats (like looking at a watch).
  • Fixed aim vectors – the dirty little secret (or maybe obvious part if you played much ) of the last release was that the weapons were still shooting from eye center the same way they normally do in source games. This is corrected now (as it was in the older 2007 versions of the mod).
  • Reworked gravity gun and physical interactions to allow more control with hydras
  • Added dynamic lighting effects to muzzle flashes and tracers
  • New barrel smoke (Left4Dead style) added to pistols and submachinegun
  • Shell ejections fixed on all weapons and added to the pistol
  • A lot of rework on weapons and animations
  • FOV fixes for all cutscenes
  • A bunch of hydra initialization / calibration bug fixes
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Half-life VR with Valve’s native rift support released: no more gun-face

I’m happy to finally say a new version of Half-life VR built on top of Valve’s native rift support is now available for download here.  The mod is still focused on integrating the razer hydra for 1-to-1 accurate weapon (and now body) tracking.    In addition to that we’ve been gathering feedback  both from the earlier release of the mod and Valve’s latest HL2 release and working against the most common complaints we heard that prevented it from being a proper VR experience.

Simplified Setup

Eliminating the difficult installation/setup was one of the major focus areas for this release.   Previous versions required both vireio to handle processing the output for the rift and sixense motion creator to handle mapping the hydra inputs into the game.  With this latest release you can now simply download and run the installer and start the game.  All of the controls should have a functional binding by default, and you can now customize your control settings using the in-game menus.  You can also now control the mouse in the in-game menus using the right hydra joystick and the trigger for clicking.

Calibration

Calibrating the weapon position in the default mode ( a hydra in each hand ) is pretty simple, make sure you’re facing forward relative to the hydra base, hold your left hydra up to the base of your neck  ( right above the collar bone ) and press the calibrate button ( right hydra start button ).  When holding it up to your neck, you’ll get the best results if you align the part of the hydra where the wire comes out with the center of your neck since that’s roughly where the tracker is.   If you’re using one of the other control modes (mt_control_mode option in the console), this position is where your left hydra should be permanently attached.

More than just a rift integration

Valve’s excellent rift integration was an excellent foundation to begin with for a VR setup.  Now with 1-to-1 razer hydra integration for both your aim and body tracking allow you to extend the immersion to your movements within the world.  The optional body positional tracking is a huge immersion boost, allowing you to lean down and examine a destroyed scanner drone, peak over a ledge is,  duck behind a desk, etc.   I’ll outline how to use body positional tracking settings in more detail in a follow-up post, including some ways to attach your hydra for positional tracking.  Although using a hydra as a positional tracker is fairly limiting given that you give up on half the inputs available, you can work around this by using an xbox 360 controller in your left hand.  I’ve opted in on the Kickstarter for a sixense S.T.E.M tracker setup and will integrate it once the dev-kits ship next summer.

Aside from the hydra integration, a lot of the work has gone into small tweaks to the game to fix things that just weren’t very compatible with the rift.  Movement speeds have been adjusted, as was the player height.  The game now fades out and back in during level loads to reduce the nausea that many people experienced.  Wormslayer and I are working toward a cool new approach for bringing the HUD in-game (not in this version unfortunately).