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Valve this week released an update to SteamVR which finally brings Motion Smoothing to AMD graphics cards, a feature which aims to maintain comfortable visuals even during performance bumps. SteamVR Motion Smoothing launched first for NVIDIA graphics cards in November 2018.

The public branch of SteamVR was updated to version 1.4.14 this week, which incorporates all prior beta updates since the last public branch update.

Among a heap of other improvements and fixes, 1.4.14 finally brings the SteamVR Motion Smoothing feature to AMD RX and Vega graphics cards. R9 and older cards are not supported. Valve also says that while the newer Radeon VII is technically supported, there’s a bug in its graphics driver which can cause Motion Smoothing to stop working, that hasn’t offered a timeline for when this might be fixed.

Motion Smoothing hit the public branch of SteamVR back in November 2018 with support for NVIDIA GPUs. The feature is a more advanced version of prior VR rendering tech which aims to keep the view inside the headset smooth and comfortable, even if the computer occasionally drops frames due to performance issues. It’s similar to Oculus’ ASW technology.

Motion Smoothing in SteamVR synthesizes entirely new frames to use in the place of dropped frames. It does so by looking at the last two frames, estimating what the next frame should look like, then sending the synthesized frame to the display instead of an entirely new frame. Motion Smoothing is only available systems running Windows 10, and only works with the Vive, Vive Pro, and other native OpenVR headsets as other headsets (like the Rift and Windows VR) have their own approach to dealing with dropped frames.

Motion Smoothing is likely to be an important feature for those using Valve’s upcoming Index headset which has a higher resolution than the original Vive, and supports 90Hz, 120Hz, and 144Hz refresh rates. Rendering at higher resolution and higher frame rates requires greater performance, and will therefore be more sensitive to dips in performance, leading to more cases where Motion Smoothing may be needed.

Image courtesy Valve

Speaking of Index, SteamVR 1.4.14 also officially adds support for Index, which replaces the external drivers that developers needed to use up to this point. A handful of new features have also come to support Index’s upcoming launch, like support for headsets offering multiple framerates and a new controller pairing UI which now includes the Index controllers and Vive Tracker.

See the full update notes for a complete list of changes in SteamVR 1.4.14.

The post SteamVR Update Brings Motion Smoothing to Modern AMD Graphics Cards appeared first on Road to VR.

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With Rift S right around the corner, a bunch of people are about to find that the headset’s on-board audio is lacking in quality and that the face gasket will make it difficult for some to get the lenses into the ideal position for maximum clarity and field of view. Luckily there’s a path forward—the Rift S design is relatively modular, allowing both the headstrap and the face gasket to be removed, meaning that Oculus could (and should) offer accessories to improve the experience.

Rift S isn’t a bad headset by any means, but compared to the original Rift its upgrades come with a handful of downgrades. For early adopters who bought into Oculus’ ecosystem (and want to stay in it), this presents a conundrum—are the upsides of Rift S worth the downsides over the original Rift? Right now it’s not really a clear cut answer, and different people will likely come to different conclusions.

But, Oculus could (and I think should) tilt the scales toward the Rift S by addressing two three with optional accessories: audio and ergonomics. Luckily, the Rift S’ somewhat modular design should make this easy. And there’s already precedent in the VR market for this sort of thing; in 2017 HTC release the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap which upgraded the headset’s soft strap to a rigid strap with headphones. Though it cost $100, many consider it an essential accessory—on Amazon, the Deluxe Audio Strap is better rated than the Vive headset itself!

Rift S Audio Audio on Rift S comes from these small holes on the headstrap | Photo by Road to VR

The Rift S includes integrated audio, but instead of the on-ear headphones of the original Rift, it uses small speakers built into the headstrap. The idea is that the headphones won’t get in the way when putting on the headset or need adjustment, and ostensibly it’s a more simple design with fewer parts. The problem is that the audio quality on Rift S is not just worse than the original Rift, it’s pretty weak overall.

When using the Rift S I always have it set to 100% volume, and even then I’ve sometimes wished it would go louder. It’s not just volume; the small speakers just don’t have a very good frequency range, and quite lacking in bass. Oculus’ other headset, Quest, uses a similar hidden audio solution, but even it seems to have better range and more bass.

There’s also the matter of positional audio accuracy. On the Rift S, the sound is output from somewhere above your ear, which naturally biases all positional information in that direction (because that’s the direction of greatest amplitude). It’s not that you can’t get a sense of positional audio, it just isn’t as clear as the Rift’s on-ear headphones which direct sound more evenly into your ear.

Yes, Rift S has a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side which anyone could plug their own headphones into, but the VR market has clearly shown over the last three years that very few people want to put up with the annoyance of putting another thing on their head after the headset, let alone another cable dangling around their arms. Even if you were willing to, finding headphones that would comfortably fit around the Rift S headstrap won’t be easy.

So, how could Oculus fix this? There’s two options. The company could release on-ear headphones which snap onto the headband, similar to the Mantis headphones for PSVR [Amazon]. These would plug into the 3.5mm jack on the side with a short cable that doesn’t get in the way.

A more elegant solution would be to offer a Deluxe Audio Strap, which would be a complete replacement for the headstrap with on-ear headphones built right in, just like HTC did with the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap.

The Rift S headstrap is easy to remove and re-attach without tools | Photo by Road to VR

Compared to the original Rift, which had a permanently affixed headstrap, this would be trivial for the Rift S because its headstrap is completely removable from the visor by flipping a little switch and the pulling the headstrap off.

Rift S Fit and Visuals Photo by Road to VR

One simple issue with the Rift S limits the visual experience for me more than it should: the face gasket. That’s the piece of the headset that rests between the visor and your face. While I never felt like I needed to get my eyes closer to the original Rift’s lenses, it’s clear when wearing the Rift S that I can get a notably larger field of view and a larger sweet spot by moving my eyes closer to the lenses.

And while the Rift S has a lens-to-eye distance adjustment, it moves the entire visor (not just the lenses), and the rigid face gasket means I have to uncomfortably press it against my face to achieve optimal visual quality. PSVR on the other hand has a very similar lens-to-eye adjustment that moves the whole visor, but the face gasket is soft and flexible, so it doesn’t prevent you from putting the lenses in their ideal position.

Even though it means exposing my peripheral view to the outside world, I nearly prefer to use the Rift S with the face gasket removed entirely because of the benefits in comfort and clarity.

Photo by Road to VR

So the fix is pretty clear—Oculus could offer a soft face gasket that flexes to allow a wider range of adjustments while maintaining comfort, or they could release one or more face gaskets of different sizes to allow more people to get their eyes into the sweet spot.

I’m fully aware that this particular issue is dependent on the shape of each person’s face—in particular, how deep their eyes are compared to the foremost part of their cheeks and forehead. Granted, I don’t think my eyes are particularly sunken, and I don’t run into this particular issue with other headsets.

– – — – –

For general consumers, maybe these things aren’t too important, but there’s no denying that the existing PC VR market is composed very heavily of early adopter and enthusiast types. These are people who spend money on high-end gaming PCs so that they can have a high-end gaming experience, the kind of people that are more likely than general consumers to be willing to spend to improve their VR experience if upgrades are available.

It’s fortunate that Rift S happens to be designed in a modular way that could improve some of its downsides with optional accessories. If Oculus doesn’t step up to the plate, third-party accessory makers could have a nice new opportunity on their hands.

The post Oculus Could (and Should) Offer Rift S Accessories for Improved Audio, Visuals, & Fit appeared first on Road to VR.

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Tilt Five is creating a tabletop AR platform aimed at fusing traditional board games with the benefits of augmented reality. This week the company showed off a glimpse of what users can expect from the system.

Though the company is still keeping much under wraps, Tilt Five appears to be the rebirth of CastAR (which itself was initially spun out of Valve) which reportedly shut down in 2017 before it was able to get its AR system to market. In addition to sharing co-founder Jeri Ellsworth, near as we can tell Tilt Five is using the same novel approach as CastAR, though this time the company seems specifically focused on tackling tabletop gaming rather than making a broader AR system.

Tilt Five Augmented Reality Glasses - YouTube

Though glasses are involved, the system doesn’t use a traditional lens & display setup as you’d expect from other AR headsets. Instead, the headset hides a tiny projector which beams the image onto a retroreflective pad that rests on the tabletop, effectively turning the pad into the display. The dots around the pad seen up by cameras on the headset and used to determine its position, which allows the projected image to update in real time according to the movements of the user.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

The nature of the retroreflective surface means that the light from the projector bounces straight back to the user, while others nearby can’t actually see the image. That means that a single pad can be used to give perspective-correct views to multiple players (you can think of it like a 3D display which gives each user the correct view based on their position).

Tilt Five aims to use the tech as a platform for amped up board games which won’t be limited by cardboard cutouts, cards, and plastic figures.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

It isn’t clear yet exactly which device would actually render the game world, or how headsets will communicate between each other for multiplayer games, but the company’s site presently says that the glasses will support Windows 10 and “select Android devices” at launch.

So far there’s no details on when Tilt Five will launch or what at what price, though the company says they’ll have more to share this Summer. Presently Tilt Five looks to be trying to build interest with developers to start experimenting with building content for the platform.

The post Tilt Five Shows AR Tech Aimed at Revolutionizing Tabletop Gaming appeared first on Road to VR.

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Tactical Haptics, creators of the ‘Reactive Grip’ controller are due to begin taking dev kit pre-orders on May 29th. Targeting the enterprise and LBE sectors, the company expects pricing to start at $650 per controller, with a release date due in Q4. Since the initial introduction of the controllers years ago, the company has steadily improved performance and introduced a smart redesign that makes them highly modular.

Tactical Haptics has been part of the modern VR scene since day zero. We first saw the Reactive Grip tech—which uses sliding bars to provide unique ‘shear’ feedback—way back in 2013. Riding the early VR hype, the company sought to bring the controllers to early adopters through a Kickstarter campaign which fell short of its goal way back when. Since then the company has steadily improved the controller’s performance and manufacturability, and managed to impress us pretty much any time we got our hands on it thanks to its truly unique haptics.

Reactive Grip­™ Shear Feedback: What is it and how does it work? - YouTube

The company has pivoted their approach to bring the Reactive Grip controllers to VR enterprise and LBE markets, and is now set to open pre-orders for the controllers on May 29th, with shipping expected in Q4 2019. Later this month, Tactical Haptics says it will show off the controllers with an integration of the VR LBE game Sweet Escape.

The latest version of the Reactive Grip controller has a smart design which makes it modular in two distinct ways.

First, the ‘Core Controller’ is a single design which can be adapted to various existing VR tracking systems using add-on brackets. For instance, the company offers brackets to attach a Vive Tracker or Oculus Touch, allowing the Reactive Grip controller to be tracked with the same system as whichever headset is in use (which cuts out a bunch of headaches that come with using two separate tracking systems). Tactical Haptics also plans to offer brackets for WMR and Rift S controllers.

(Left to right) Core Controller, Controller with Vive Tracker bracket, Controller with Oculus Touch bracket | Image courtesy Tactical Haptics

Second, ‘Multi-Pose’ magnets can be attached to the controllers as needed; these are special magnetic sockets which allow two controllers to be connected together on the fly to form various poses which can be dynamically incorporated into gameplay (for instance, changing from dual pistols to a two-handed weapon when connecting the controllers together).

Magnets can connect the controllers in novel ways for new functionality within games. | Image courtesy Tactical Haptics

Because of the modular design, developers planning to build for the controllers can configure them as needed for each individual experience, cutting down on weight and cost compared to if each controller came equipped with all possible options.

Tactical Haptics plans to ship the dev kit controllers with tech demos, an SDK, and plugins for Unity and Unreal, so that developers can integrate the controller’s unique haptics with their content.

The post Tactical Haptics to Open Pre-orders for ‘Reactive Grip’ Dev Kits on May 29th appeared first on Road to VR.

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Funktronic Labs, the studio behind funky real-time strategy game Cosmic Trip (2017), unveiled their next VR project that aims to let you explore fantastic worlds while doing what the team calls “creative gardening.”

Called Fujii, the game aims to be a musical gardening adventure with a meditative vibe. As seen in the trailer (linked below), the player traverses a variety of vibrant biomes and follows a curious little fellow—all the while bringing the world to life with magic.

Even after the story is complete, the game is said to let players collect seeds and grow their musical gardens for as long as they like afterwards.

Here’s how Funktronic Labs describes Fujii:

A serene, mystical journey that traverses a series of otherworldly, organic landscapes, Fujii is a respite for weary travelers. The experience flows between outdoor exploration and creative gardening, merging aspects of adventure and cultivation into a refreshing, musically enveloping whole. After emerging from a mystical tree, players venture out to explore three unique and magical biomes. Watering, touching, and interacting in musical ways with plants and creatures throughout each biome restores its lifeforce, and expands the energetic rings of light that hover above. Each biome brings its own biodiversity and plant interactions, eventually leading players to the source of Fujii’s powerful energy well.

1 of 5

According to the game’s Steam page, Fujii is slated to release on June 27th, and will target HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, and Windows VR headsets.

It’s uncertain when the game will come to Quest, however Oculus’ director of content ecosystem Chris Pruett says in a blog post that it should be arriving sometime after Quest’s May 21st launch.

Check out the trailer here:

Fujii Trailer | Oculus Rift, Rift S, + Quest - YouTube

The post ‘Cosmic Trip’ Studio Unveils Musical Gardening Game ‘Fujii’ for Quest & PC VR appeared first on Road to VR.

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Racket Fury: Table Tennis VR has been a solid VR ping pong offering for existing headsets since its release in 2017. The game is confirmed to be launching alongside Oculus Quest, which brings with it some interesting advantages which make for a very compelling VR ping pong experience.

Racket Fury really shines on Quest thanks to room-scale tracking out of the box, and no need to be tethered to a computer.

As long as you have the space, it’s easy to set up room-scale (or larger) playspaces with Quest. If you have enough room, you’ll have effectively have no limit on where you can engage the ball at the front of the table, which means you can even go for those leaps and dives to try to save a difficult shot. Because Quest doesn’t require that you face in any specific direction, I was able to maximize my available space by orienting the virtual ping pong table into the corner of my mostly square playspace.

Image by Road to VR

Doing so gave me the full diagonal length of my playspace for maneuvering, opening up enough area that I never felt like I was being restricted by the boundary and could engage the ball as naturally as if I was playing actual table tennis.

The lack of any tether on Quest also means not having to worry about my arm getting caught up, or reaching the end of the tether and yanking my computer when going for a desperate save. Along with Quest’s controller tracking handling the game with no visible issues, the result feels really good, and surprisingly similar to real ping pong.

'Racket Fury: Table Tennis VR' Oculus Quest Gameplay - YouTube

I’m just a casual ping pong player, but I definitely love getting some good spin on the ball or nailing that slam shot. Racket Fury’s default physics setting is ‘Arcade’, which does an amazingly good job of reading my intentions. Adjusting the paddle rotation so that it felt right in my hand was essential, but once I dialed it in I could put spin on the ball in any direction, easily hit front hand, back hand, and drop slam shots, and all of it felt as satisfying as real ping pong.

There’s also a ‘Simulation’ physics setting which demands more paddle precision in both position and force to get the ball where you want it to go. Simulation mode offers greater challenge and is fun in its own right, though I leaned toward the Arcade setting so that I could focus less on precision and more on the overall strategy of when, where, and how to hit the ball back to the opponent.

I spent a few hours going up against the AI in Racket Fury and really quite enjoyed it—it’s ping pong after all, and I imagine anyone who enjoys some casual playing will feel the same (just don’t forget to adjust your paddle rotation!). What’s more, I could feel the game engaging my upper body muscles; it’s not exactly a workout, but a little bonus exercise while having fun is never a bad thing.

The game also features a multiplayer mode which I’m excited to try, though as Quest isn’t out yet there was no sparring partner available just yet. It’s not clear yet if Racket Fury will allow cross-play between other platforms, but I certainly hope so as it would be a great way to connect Rift, Vive, and Quest players.

The post With Room-scale Tracking & No Tether, ‘Racket Fury: Table Tennis’ Feels Great on Quest appeared first on Road to VR.

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First Contact Entertainment announced that Firewall Zero Hour (2018), the tactical team shooter for PSVR, is getting what they call their “biggest update yet” next week.

One of the main changes coming is a new system of time-limited progression taking the form of missions, tasks, and cosmetic rewards.

First Contact says that each week you’ll be assigned a new mission to complete, which in turn will grant you new rewards. There’s also set to be new optional daily tasks that can net you XP and Crypto.

Image courtesy First Contact Entertainment

As for missions, you’ll find one free mission available every week, although more can be accessed through the paid ‘Op-Pass’, which lets you unlock additional premium and bonus missions in order to earn seasonal cosmetic rewards.

The Op-Pass will cost $10, and is supposedly works like the Battle Pass in Fortnite. And there’s another microtransaction type too on the way called ‘Hack Keys’ that let you auto-complete missions.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Operation: Nightfall update: Free update for all owners of Firewall Zero Hour-featuring new in-game UI, new Maps, and more. This update is viewable as soon as players load up Firewall Zero Hour.
  • Nightfall Op-Pass ($9.99 USD): Obtain the Op-Pass, which allows access to all Operation: Nightfall Missions, Tasks, and Rewards.
  • Hack Key x5 Pack ($4.99 USD): Each Hack Key will instantly complete one Operational Mission. You will not gain any XP for Missions completed this way, but you will be instantly awarded full Crypto, in addition to the Mission Reward (cosmetics only). Hack Keys are a great option for players who don’t have as much time to play as they would like.
  • Nightfall Op-Pass + 25 Hack Keys Bundle: Includes access to Operation: Nightfall, in addition to 25 hack keys to be used on any Operational Mission. You will not gain any XP for Missions Completed this way, but you will instantly be awarded full Crypto, in addition to the Mission Reward (cosmetics only). Another great option for players who don’t have as much time to play as they would like.

If microtransactions have you bummed out, First Contact has at least sandwiched them with a number of updates including a new map called ‘Hangar’, a new contractor type called Ruby (‘Thief’ type can steal Crypto), new weapons, better AI behavior, and a refreshed UI.

Another map and contractor is planned for later release during the season. To learn more about the specifics, take a look at First Contact’s blogpost.

Firewall Zero Hour – Operation Nightfall Reveal Trailer | PS VR - YouTube

The post ‘Firewall Zero Hour’ to Get Biggest Update Yet with ‘Operation: Nightfall’ appeared first on Road to VR.

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HTC opened up orders in Europe today for their latest VR headset, Vive Pro Eye, a version of the company’s enterprise headset with integrated eye-tracking. HTC also opened up pre-orders in China too, with launch slated for May 24th; there’s no word on when to expect it in North America though.

Coming in at a eye-watering €1,708 (~$1,900) for the full system, Vive Pro Eye includes the entire kit and caboodle hardware-wise: Vive Pro Eye headset, link box, two Vive controllers, two SteamVR 2.0 base stations, adapters, cables, etc—everything you need (minus a capable computer) to get you up and running.

It seems the company isn’t selling the headset on its lonesome though, so you’ll need to go all-in if you’re looking to mess with the device’s admittedly pretty compelling eye-tracking solution, which was created by Swedish eye-tracking stalwarts Tobii.

Image courtesy HTC

To be clear, the €1,708 is an upfront cost with Europe’s included  value-added tax (VAT) that private consumers are obligated to pay. Registered businesses however (very much the target audience) might be able to reclaim the ~23% VAT on their taxes, effectively making the whole system cost €1,389 pre-VAT. HTC prominently advertises the reduced price on their enterprise-facing site.

For €230 more, businesses can spring for an additional support package that includes a two-year limited warranty for commercial use, premium service & expedited repair, and enterprise portal access.

You might be wondering why it’s only available in Europe and China for now. HTC is staying mum on the subject, and hasn’t released info on when to expect it in North America (or at what price), however one explanation could be the recently escalated trade war with China, which has seen reciprocal tariffs of 25% levied on many goods traveling to and from both countries. The company may wait to see how it plays out, as they would likely have to eat the cost of the tariff so it doesn’t dramatically impact the final price in the US. This is however just healthy conjecture, and it could be that a North America roll-out is simply being staggered to help estimate potential demand.

In respects to pricing, both Europe and China are pretty similar, with pre-orders opening in China today for ¥13,888 (~$2,018), VAT included. Considering taxes in the US vary from state-to-state, and are significantly lower overall in comparison to either Europe or China’s VAT system, it could mean US pricing may differ when it eventually comes farther westward.

First announced at CES 2019, Vive Pro Eye was presented in a press conference where we got to go hands-on with the headset, taking in a veritable buffet of use-cases from the company’s early enterprise partners.

We got a chance to see some basic foveated rendering, user-intent analysis, and gaze-based interactions—all done to a reasonably good effect. Besides eye-tracking, not much else has changed about Vive Pro Eye, so if you’re interested to see what ultimately sets it apart from the first HTC Vive, check out our in-depth review of Vive Pro here.

The post Vive Pro Eye Now Available in Europe, Starting at €1,700 appeared first on Road to VR.

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Vive Studios has released its ‘feature-length’ immersive film titled 7 Miracles. On the surface, the immersive film is a reenactment of the Gospel of John in the Bible that specifically centers around the seven miracles of Jesus Christ. Under the surface, however, it uses advanced filmmaking techniques such as photogrammetry and volumetric video capture to achieve 8K imagery.

Directed by Rodrigo Cerqueira and Marco Spagnoli, 7 Miracles was shot across Matera and Rome, both classic locales for returning viewers of The Passion of the Christ and Ben Hur. According to the official blog post, “The seven-part episodic feature runs over 70 minutes, making it the first feature-length cinematic experience from Vive Studios,” and one of the longest immersive films we’ve ever seen.

7 Miracles VR Available Now | Vive Studios - YouTube

7 Miracles is also notable for winning the ‘Spirit of Raindance: VR Film of The Festival’ award at Raindance Film Festival 2018, as stated by Vive Studios in their blog post at that time.

While the award-winning biblical reenactment is predominantly meant for consumption via Viveport, where it is sold at $20 as a complete PCVR experience, Android owners can also join in on the gospel for $10 via the Google Play store.

In the future, Vive Studios hopes to bring 7 Miracles to additional platforms such as iOS and the Vive Wave. The studio also promises to introduce post-release content over time, citing ‘new 3D room-scale scenes’ for release with upcoming updates to Viveport users.

Currently, 7 Miracles is only available in English. You can find more information about the immersive experience at its official website.

The post Vive Studios’ Feature Length Immersive Film ‘7 Miracles’ Now Available on Viveport appeared first on Road to VR.

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Beat Games today announced that their hit black-slashing rhythm game Beat Saber (2018) is finally headed out of Early Access on PC. To boot, the studio is also releasing the long-awaited official Level Editor.

Beat Saber first launched as an Early Access title on Steam and the Oculus Store back in May 2018, and has since added not only a few free songs, but also its first paid DLC song pack.

The studio says in a Steam news post that despite heading out of Early Access, that there’s much more planned for the game including more music packs full of “big name artists” across more genres, as well as regularly released free tracks.

Beat Games was adamant about releasing the Level Editor in the early days of development, although the actual path to that wasn’t so clear. However the studio now says they’ve decided on what they call a “very simple” 2D interface that most importantly allows you to create levels for your own audio tracks.

More importantly, with the entrance of a first-party level editor, modded songs probably won’t automatically break every time the studio updates the game—a little less stress hanging over your head as you spend hours getting that Expert+

Beat Games maintains that all Beat Saber version are at parity, which could possibly mean that the Level Editor would come to both the PSVR version and the upcoming Oculus Quest version too. We’ve reached out to Beat Games for clarification and we’ll update as soon as we hear back.

If you haven’t pulled the trigger on Beat Saber yet, this may be your last chance to get it at the Early Access price of $20. After May 21st, the price will change to $30 across all platforms. Beat Games hasn’t mentioned anything about cross-buy with Rift/Quest versions, so it’s very possible that you’ll have to buy the game twice if you already own it.

The post ‘Beat Saber’ to Leave PC Early Access on May 21st, Level Editor Included appeared first on Road to VR.

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