One of the first things anyone wants to do when they buy a VR headset is to try to play their favorite, old games with it. After all, who wouldn’t want to play Halo, Oblivion or other old classic titles in virtual reality?
However, it´s not that simple. Games have to be designed for VR to be compatible with the headsets. Old games aren't even able to run properly.
While you can try to brute force it by wearing your headset anyway and trying to use it as the camera, the results will be glitchy and will leave you dizzy at best, nauseated at worst.
Some apps let you play non-compatible games on “cinema mode”, in which you are sitting in a theater where your game is displayed on the big screen in front of you. It is certainly a step up from a 13 inches monitor, but not what you picture when you think of VR gameplay.
What you really want is a game that lets you step inside it, that tracks your motions, movements, and doesn´t look like a wallpaper covering your eyes. In that case…
Is there a way to play any game on VR?
Sadly no. You can´t play every game on the market in VR. As previously stated, if it´s not made to be compatible with your headset, it will not work.
However, there are third-party programs out there that allow you to play with previously incompatible games. With these software, you are not shackled to the games made for your headset, and you can play hundreds of old titles, but with a few caveats.
As of right now, there are two programs out there that let you experience non-VR games on VR. The open-sourced, but seemingly abandoned, Vierio; and the paid, but still-supported, Vorpx.
These two programs are mainly 3D drivers for games. The main hurdle for playing a game in VR is that it has to be 3D, as watching 2D graphics with a VR headset, even with motion tracking, can cause severe motion sickness, as we discussed previously.
These programs work mainly by making the games tridimensional and adding support for motion tracking and controllers.
Which of these programs should I use?
Sadly, Vierio Perception was seemingly abandoned by its team. However, because it is open-source, you can try to tweak with it if you are technically experienced, otherwise, it is better to stick to Vorpx, which we´ll do for the rest of the article.
VorpX is a Direct X driver. It can make any game with Direct X 10 or 11 work with the Oculus or the Vive. It has more than a hundred supported games (https://www.vorpx.com/supported-games/), among which some highlights are Arma 3, Crysis 2, Bioshock Infinite, Oblivion, the Fallouts starting from 3, and many more.
Also, thanks to an option they call Direct VR, Vorpx will automatically configure the game’s settings to play with your headset. This is done so you don´t have to spend hours tweaking the settings to able to play the game without getting a headache.
The main drawback of VorpX is that it is not free. You have to pay forty dollars to get it, and there is no trial period or demo to see if it works properly with your setup. But, you can rest assured that if the software survived so many years and has an active following, is because it works.
Something to keep in mind is that while VorpX makes Direct X games compatible with your headset, you might still need to tweak the settings a bit more to play smoothly. This is especially true if you are trying to play a game outside of the “supported” list.
When it comes to VR, even the slightest stutter and graphical mishap can cause motion sickness. So, you must configure the game to run exactly as you want it, going even beyond what the Direct VR option allows you to in some cases.
Is it possible to play any game on VR? No. Most games that aren´t optimized for VR don’t have a hope of playing in your headset.
The main hurdle to be able to play them is that VR games need to be 3D. Luckily, there is a program called Vorpx that turns Direct X games to 3D so that you can play them with your VR headset.
With this program, you can play with more than a hundred 2D games with your VR platform of choice. The main drawback is that the software costs forty dollars to purchase.