VR has really taken off this year. But even with all the hype, VR devices are really expensive and thus many people are still using their Google Cardboard or opting for the Gear VR.
But one group of people decided to do us all a big favor by developing a program that lets you play high-end virtual reality games on lower-end devices. There have been other, very entrepreneurial, ways in which people have been trying to give the broader public access to high-end devices (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive). Like the VR Arcades and Theme Parks that keep popping up everywhere around the globe. But that’s still a relatively costly option for us average joes and doesn’t take the experience to where we want it to be – the comfort of our living rooms.
So a couple of gamers from Poland got together and formed RiftCat. The startup developed an operating system called VRidge that lets you play Steam games normally intended for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on your cheaper device. The VRidge desktop program also has a few free games of its own for you to try. While you can use the program for free, it will limit you to a certain amount of play time (10 minutes) on each game session. So yes, VRidge isn’t free, technically. It costs about $15 once off – but it won’t break the bank. And then you have a way to play some of the great new titles out there without having to save up for an expensive device. However, do note that most VR games work with this program. ‘Most’ being the operative word here.
How Does It Work?
- Firstly, you have to download and install the program on your PC. (Note: You still need to have a PC with at least the minimum required specs needed for Rift and Vive games.) You also have to register on the website when you buy the program.
- VRidge connects to the windows server, called RiftCat (that’s also why you have to register) and then tricks your PC into thinking that you are using an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
- Then you have to install the Google Play App on your phone. After that you have to connect it to your PC – either through Wifi or USB, but the USB option is obviously the better one.
- The program can track your head movement by sending the video stream of your game to the phone and then by returning rotation data from the phone to simulate head movement.
- Next, you can choose to play whatever games are available on either VRidge or SteamVR. But, like I said, most games work with this platform – so some won’t. Therefore, feel free to try as many free titles as you want. There are a lot of great ones out there. But be careful of buying a fully fledged title as it may not work. Unless you’re planning on investing in a Rift or Vive in the future – in which case go right ahead.
You can also watch this video tutorial from RiftCat on how to set VRidge up correctly:
Also, feel free to check out their channel – they have quite a few “How To’ videos on getting certain games, like Minecraft, to work on the platform.
The Minimum Requirements
- OS = Windows 8.1 (AMD) or Windows 7 (NVidia)
- CPU = i5-2500 equivalent or greater
- System Memory = 4GB RAM or more
- Video card = NVidia GeForce GTX 650 or greater with NVENC support or AMD Radeon 7750 or greater with VCE 1.0+ support
- Android 5.0+ smartphone*
- A phone with Gyroscope enabled for head movement tracking. (If you don’t have Gyroscope on your phone, you will need to download a 3rd party tracking app like FreeTrack.)
- Any cardboard-compatible mobile viewer
- A connection – 2.4GHz WiFi router or USB 2.0 cable
*The app has been tested and definitely works on the following devices: LG G3/G4, Samsung Galaxy S5/S6/S7 (+Edge), Samsung Galaxy Note 3/4/5, Google Nexus 5/6/5X/6P, Sony Xperia Z2/Z3 (+Compact), OnePlus One, HTC M8/M9.
But if you’re unsure if it’s compatible with your phone then try the trial version first, that way you can test it out without having to pay.
So, How Good Is VRidge Really?
Look, you’re shelling out 15 bucks here. You just can’t expect $800 quality. Also, it’s being developed by a startup and is still in Early Access, so there will be glitches, bugs, and problems. Sometimes things go really smoothly and you’re in, playing a game within seconds. At other times it takes a while to get a game to work or a glitched smoothed out. Most of the time you’re going to have to play around with the graphics to get things just right. But keep in mind that this program is still very new. Also, it’s almost impossible to gear everything perfectly towards every type of phone model out there. And your phone is going to get really hot while doing this, so do take frequent breaks.
Is It Worth The 15 Bucks?
I would definitely say so. The developers of this program are great and continually improving on it. They have a blog where they keep people in the loop on every update. They’re also quite helpful should you have a problem and have logged and fixed a lot of user problems already. There’s also quite a few reddit threads on this available and the devs even answer back on some of the threads, so feel free to discuss any questions or problems you have on there.
What’s more, you get access to the higher-end SteamVR games out there, as well as, the titles they have on their own platform. That’s a lot of games you didn’t previously have access to. Add to that the fact that they have a lot of support from a large developer community, who is actively trying to get room scale (with multiple cameras) and motion controllers (like the PS Move or Leap Motion controllers) to work with this platform. You really don’t have anything to lose.