Currently, only two virtual reality platforms exist on Windows PCs: the Oculus Rift and the SteamVR powered HTC Vive. Each set has its strengths and weaknesses, but at least until recently both offered limited compatibility with their rivals’ software stores. Oculus headset users can choose compatible games from the SteamVR store and interface, while HTC Vive wearers can install a fan-made patch to play Oculus software.
SteamVR is still playing well, but the other side changed its tune Friday with a major Oculus app update for Windows PCs, complete with advertised “platform integrity check updates.” It wasn’t long before the team behind that aforementioned HTC Vive patch, dubbed “Revive,” announced that those “integrity checks” appeared to be blocking users’ access to Oculus games on unauthorized hardware.
“Oculus has added a check mark [to look for] whether the Oculus Rift headset is connected to their Oculus Platform DRM,” Revive developer “CrossVR” posted to the Vive Reddit community on Friday. While Revive fools the application [into] thinking the Rift is connected does nothing to trick the actual Oculus platform into thinking the headset is connected.”
When asked about the update, Oculus spokesperson Jim Redner told Ars that the app’s new permissions check was added “to deter piracy and protect games and apps that developers have worked so hard on. This update was not targeted on a specific hack.” He also claimed that the entitlement checker functionality is “common on trading platforms that validate that a user has purchased a piece of software”. However, the Revive team representative claimed that the issue is not checking for legitimate software purchases, but whether Oculus hardware is connected – even suggesting a workaround to connect an Oculus development kit model so that a game patched by Revive can run normally on an HTC Vive headset. We’ve asked Oculus to clarify these conflicting claims and will update this report with any response.
However Oculus chooses to describe this update, users have wasted no time citing the company’s founder, Palmer Luckey’s own statement on such issues. Luckey took to Reddit last December to respond to claims that Oculus might one day lock down its software platform in any way, particularly regarding inviting other headset owners to play Oculus games.
“When customers buy a game from us, I don’t care if they modify it to run whatever they want,” Luckey wrote in December. “Our goal isn’t to make a profit just by tying people to our hardware – if that were the case, why on earth would we support GearVR and talk to other headset manufacturers? The software we create through Oculus Studios (using a mix of internal and external developers) are exclusive to the Oculus platform, not the Rift itself.”
Oculus representatives did not respond to questions about Luckey’s December statement. Revive’s development team has committed to bypassing the latest block on the Oculus app, but said that “it will be challenging to bypass this check while keeping the DRM intact.”
Revive was originally built to translate positional calls from a user’s x, y, and z axes from one VR software platform to another, as opposed to interacting with a DRM or payment-resistant system. As originally launched, Revive required the Oculus app to run in the background to check for DRM calls. Friday’s block came after a recent update from Revive to make it easier to load Oculus software from the HTC Vive’s virtual “chaperone” environment.