Last month we reported on Revive, a proof-of-concept compatibility layer that allowed games exclusive to the Oculus Rift to be played using the HTC Vive headset. This week's Oculus app update took steps to ensure that trick doesn't work anymore.
Revive basically bypassed code checks that tethered games like the delightful Lucky's Tale to the Oculus Rift hardware. Games still had to be acquired legally through the Oculus Home storefront. Revive just allowed those purchased games to run on something other than the Rift.
Released on Thursday, Oculus app update 1.4 adds an additional security step to launching games purchased through Oculus Home. If an actual Rift is not attached to the system, the game or application will not launch.
The move to quash workarounds like Revive was not unexpected. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz last month, Oculus condemned the workaround as a "hack" and warned that future updates were likely to break it.
"This is a hack, and we don't condone it. Users should expect that hacked games won't work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software"
Despite warnings, folks are still upset about the Oculus update. Those who purchased software via the Oculus store who now own software they can no longer use are frustrated. Many comments in the Reddit thread on the subject point out how taking steps to ensure Oculus games don't run on non-Oculus software flies in the face of a statement Oculus founder Palmer Luckey made back in December: "If customers buy a game from us, I don't care if they mod it to run on whatever they want."
Responding to the hubbub surrounding the update, Oculus released the following statement (via Gamasutra):
"Our latest software update included several new features, bug fixes and security upgrades, including an update to our entitlement check that we added to curb piracy and protect games and apps that developers have worked so hard to make.
This update wasn't targeted at a specific hack.
When we first learned about hacks that modify our software to interfere with the security, functionality and integrity of the Oculus ecosystem, and allow games to run outside the scope of our QA, testing and support, we immediately notified the community that we will not be supporting or maintaining the long term usability or quality of hacked software.
We take the security, functionality and integrity of our system software very seriously and people should expect that hacked games won't work indefinitely as regular updates to content, apps and our platform may break the hacks."
While there certainly is some legitimacy to piracy concerns — bypassing code checks could be used to allow unsigned software to run — the hardware check doesn't seem to address that aspect of the workaround, as Revive developer Libre VR told Motherboard earlier this week.
"While this helps prevent piracy from people who didn't buy an Oculus Rift, it doesn't do anything to prevent piracy from those who did buy an Oculus Rift," Libre VR told Motherboard. "And this clearly excludes anyone who bought the game, but didn't buy an Oculus Rift. Even if Revive wasn't targeted, they were probably more than aware of the collateral damage."
Over in Reddit the general consensus seems to be that this move will push more hopeful virtual reality adopters away from the Oculus offerings to HTC's Vive and Steam, where the only barriers to playing games on either headset is hardware and controller limitations.
As a Vive owner I'm a little bummed that I won't be able to play Lucky's Tale any time soon, but I'm feeling much better about the virtual horse I've backed.