Thursday, June 30, 2016

Dev update #17

VRidge launch

Last week we started selling VRidge as premium product. We had to create some quick client and server side hotfixes to keep everything running smoothly. We added some checks for exotic PayPal error codes too. Everything is currently operating normally and we started getting back to regular development schedule.

If you can't use PayPal remember that you can send us an e-mail (support@riftcat.com) to process payment manually through TransferWise. More payment options will come after we fix bugs we promised to fix a while ago (Intel-, MediaTek- and Kirin-chipset phones, etc.).

What's next?

We want to continue with frequent updates but every change, even the slightest one, can break something. For example, we can add a lot of optimization in an update that will improve experience for 99% of our users but break stuff for the remaining 1%. It sounds good statistically but this would mean that a lot of users (the last 1%) would have problems they didn't have earlier. We of course would fix those new bugs but this takes time.

Forced updates are not the greatest user experence - that's why we decided to split updates in several branches.

  • Beta update branch will be updated few times a month (probably once a week like we used to do in beta phase). Use it if you want to be first to access new features and bug fixes.
  • Stable update branch will be updated less often, every few weeks. We don't want untested changes going live for everyone as forced update.
  • Previous stable updates will contain stable versions from the past. If somehow beta bugs make it into stable branch you will be able to switch back to previous versions and ignore updates.

This will not always work. For example, VR SDKs, graphics drivers or some other condtions can change in a way preventing backwards compatibility. We're not always in control but we will try our best to give you the most options.

Client update with branch selection should be available next week.

But what about features?

If you are signed up for Android beta releases (you can join & leave beta channel here) you will see an update 1.0.1b in few hours. We updated our app to use Google's latest VR SDK instead of Cardboard SDK. This shouldn't break anything and it brings improved tracking and native drift-correction for default tracking algorithm. Also, this is first step in Daydream's direction. We are really excited about Google's plans for VR. Check out the beta update and tell us if you notice any improvements in default tracking algorithm.

If it causes additional crashes let us know so we can fix it before pushing this update into stable channel. :)

We also started working on GearVR version. We are in early stages and we're still assessing the amount of work required to create native GearVR Vridge app. We'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dev update #16 - Open Beta ending

Updates:

  • Version 1.0.1 deployed to fix license being read incorrectly with some 64-bit games and SteamVR beta.
  • Version 1.0.2 deployed with more 64 bit startup fixes.


---

This post is a quick announcment that VRidge enters paid/early-access stage. You can read much more in our previous blogpost.

Price

EUR*USD*% off
9.99€$9.99(-50%)Beta testers, all users registered before 16/06/2016**
14.99€$14.99(-25%)Early access - everyone else***

Payment

After signing in into your RiftCat client and pairing phone with VRidge you will see "Unlock" button that will open payment page for you. We are not giving direct link because we want to make sure that someone tries VRidge before buying. On the payment page you will be able to pay with PayPal express checkout.

We are trying to add Paysafecards too.

UPDATED: Removed paysafecards as accepted payment method - country restrictions.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dev update #15


This week we are not pushing app updates because we are trying to wrap up the 1.0 launch as fast as we can so we can go back to things we love doing the most - features and bugfixes. The launch is scheduled to happen early next week.

Pricing details

We were often asked about the final price of VRidge. People were wondering if it's going to be subscription based or maybe some kind of freemium model with unlockable qualities. Some people suggested ads but ads can support product only if it has millions of installs. Also, they would break immersion and they are often annoying. We are sure that flashing warning with "Your phone has a 32 viruses! Fix! Now!" in the middle of your immersive VR session would be terribly bad.

So we decided that the best choice would be something very simple - one-time payment. No quality tiers. No "insert coin to continue playing" every now and then.

We think that beta testers deserve a better deal because they were with us from the first days, they gave us a lot of feedback and tips to fix bugs. Some of you suggested cool features that we implemented (FreeTrack for example). So beta testers pay only 50% of the final price.

We also want to continue development in the future. We have a lot of ideas and some more bugfixing to do. We want to reduce bandwidth, reduce artifacts, fix incompatible phones, create GearVR native version and iOS app. We want to add more tracking options, better integrations with hand tracking controllers, we want to provide you the best Rift/Vive-like experience for a fraction of a price.

But this takes time and we don't think it would be fair for someone to buy it half a year from now with most (or all) of those features implemented for the same price people have to pay now. So we're starting with early access discount of 25% for all non-beta users registered after today. We will give at least one week notice (probably more) when this discount is going to expire. It's not going to happen too soon because we still have a lot of polishing to do.

Okay, enough words, you want to hear numbers. Regular price would be $19.99/19.99 EUR but this will be in effect once we declare that we are happy with all the features and no major bugs remain. This is not going to happen anytime soon so the actual amounts will be:

EUR*USD*% off
9.99€$9.99(-50%)Beta testers, all users registered before 16/06/2016**
14.99€$14.99(-25%)Early access - everyone else***

*All applicable taxes included.
**Beta discounts will expire 1 month after release.
***Early access will expire at some undefined point in the future. We will give at least 1 week notice.

Accepted payment method will be PayPal only but we will try to add something else if many of you ask us to. You will be able to buy it early next week. We won't have any downtimes (hopefully, unless something goes wrong) so you will be able to continue using VRidge without interruptions.

Free version

Free version will be time-limited. We believe everyone has to try the product before deciding if it's worth spending money on. There are a lot of 3rd party components so we want to give a way for everyone to test their hardware and system before buying. Free version will be limited to 10 minutes per session. It's enough to run some short experience fully and it should be enough to test out bigger games.

Will I have to buy it again for GearVR / iOS?

No. We are not asking you to pay again for the same thing on multiple devices. Please keep in mind that we will try our best to deliver those versions but it's not a promise because those versions can be blocked by things outside our control (Samsung/Oculus closing down GearVR SDK for example). We don't see any major obstacles now but we cannot predict the future.

What's next?

We want to keep updating VRidge further. This takes time and money and this is exactly the reason we ask a price equivalent to 1-2 cinema tickets. This will allow us to buy more phones to test, more devices, motion controllers. We want to keep up with PC VR and continue providing the best PC VR to mobile VR solution. GearVR and iOS versions will be our summer priority. We also want to get rid of bugs with some incompatible devices (Zenfone 2, few Huawei models, old Galaxy models, among others). Oh, and the heat is still an issue - we want to reduce it. 

We will also continue to listen to your suggestion. After all, we're making this software for your needs and we are really greatful for all the feedback and suggestions. Some of you went above and beyond with error reporting. All the recordings, logs, dump files, thousands of e-mails. We couldn't wish for better testers than all of you.

Thank you!

RiftCat Team

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dev update #14 - New user interface

RiftCat graphical update

As part of our vision to make virtual reality appeal to everyone we made improvements to our GUI design to make it more consistent across RiftCat apps & website. We applied Material Design guidelines and optimized what we could to improve the RiftCat experience. One picture is worth a thousand words so we decided to show what VRidge actually does in a simple and understandable way.


Simplified library

We decided to get rid of the "Store" tab. Instead, we made every game visible in the users Library. The process of adding the games to library first was overly complex. Access to games available on RiftCat platform is much faster now.


Unified PC settings window

We combined RiftCat settings and VRidge streaming/tracking settings into one window.



Mobile app UI improvements

Built-in FAQ/help center, USB tethering shortcut, slick sidebar, new icon and more!

Easier game starting

Starting SteamVR should be easier now. The leftmost button will now automatically install our driver and then start SteamVR. If no SteamVR is present it will open SteamVR install dialog. We also clarified what Oculus SDK versions are working. 


Some QOL and minor changes

  • You can add custom Oculus SDK games to RiftCat client if you want to have everything in one place.
  • You can reconfigure keybinding to reset head orientation (keyboard only for now, we'll try to add something for controllers too).
  • You can contact support through support.riftcat.com and our official help e-mail address is going to be support@riftcat.com
  • We are updating our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. No major/evil changes but we had to update some lines to be valid for new product launch. We will display site wide notification about it.
  • We updated requirements and mentioned incompatible phones (haven't fixed those yet, sorry!) and new GeForce requirement (Windows 7 instead of 10)
  • No more beta claiming/keys. Everyone registered will have beta access until the beta ends.

Rotation calibration/offset for SteamVR

One user asked us to provide a way to offset rotational data because some gyroscopes have calibration problems so we added this option. Go to C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\config\ and open steamvr.vrsettings in notepad. Go to vridge section - it will look like this:

"driver_vridge": {
   "windowWidth": 1664,
   "windowHeight": 936,
   "renderScale": 130,
 }

For example, if you want to offset X by 20 degrees and Z by 5 degrees, change it into:

"driver_vridge": {
   "windowWidth": 1664,
   "windowHeight": 936,
   "renderScale": 130,
   "RotationOffsetXDeg": 20,
   "RotationOffsetYDeg": 0,
   "RotationOffsetZDeg": 5
 }

Virtual reality mode got removed

Almost no one used it so we had to part ways with it. There is plenty of better software of that kind in the market that VRidge can handle. Thanks to that, RiftCat client got thinner.

Beta ending soon

On June 20th open beta will end and VRidge will transition into paid/early-access stage. More info & pricing details will be available closer to release. Don't worry, we're keeping our promise about staying in indie-tier price range.

What's next?

We'll be busy with 1.0 launch during next week and the one after. We still need to finish some descriptions / instructions and promo graphics. After we're done with launch stuff we'll start working on the fun parts again - device compatibility, image quality and performance/heat optimizations. We've got a lot of ideas for new features too so keep following us here and on social media.

Thank you for all the support, feedback, bug reports. We launched our public beta exactly three months ago and it has been wild and amazing ride. We have no plans to stop development any time soon and we are motivated to keep working on VRidge as long as people keep using it. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dev update #13

---
UPDATED - Known issues:
  • Increasing render scale decreases image quality instead of increasing it. Oops.
  • New SteamVR installation may fail with Compositor error (400).
    • Workaround: Try changing quality settings to anything else than defaults. Automatic hotfix will be available in 1-2 hours
Working on it. 

Client update 0.5.4.5a deployed with fixes to both above problems.

---

This week we've been mostly working on new layout in preparation for 1.0 release. In this update we include several fixes, tweaks and new option for even better image quality.


New options in update #13

Mixed tracking mode (FreeTrack position + phone orientation)

You can now select new tracking mode that will take FreeTrack positional data but will keep using phone rotational data. This is useful when you have low-framerate tracking setup (30FPS camera for example). This way you can have 30 Hz positional tracking with smooth 60 Hz rotational tracking.

Render resolution no longer hardcoded to 1440p (SteamVR)

Until today everything was always rendered at 2560x1440 and then downscaled to streaming resolution. Sometimes it was a huge waste of resources because if you have 720p phone it was rendering 4 times as many pixels as could be displayed. After this update it should render at stream resolution (with optional supersampling, see next paragraph).

This way 720p phone users should see huge performance increase (75% less pixels to render). 1080p phones will see lesser but still visible performance increase (~45% less pixels to render).

Render Scale (SteamVR)

Thanks to the previous change we can now provider further tweaking options to image quality.

You can now increase render scale up to 200% of stream resolution. This is sometimes called supersampling/SSAA. Please note that increasing this can drastically reduce your performance (framerate).

If your PC can barely handle VR game in its native resolution leave it alone. But on the other hand if you have GTX 980 Ti SLI you should be able to use it to the fullest, right?

Small changes

  • Removed gyroscope requirement from Play Store and added pop-up warning user that external tracking (FreeTrack) will be required.
  • Fixed custom (high) bitrates crashing Android streaming from time to time. The higher the bitrate the more likely it was too crash and lead to restoring connection loop.
  • Simplified SteamVR driver installation. Everything should be done automatically in 1-click now. If no SteamVR is found it will open SteamVR installation window from Steam
  • Fixed FreeTrack axes being mixed (yaw and pitch).

Preview of layout changes

It will be probably pushed live next week. We unified settings window. We're going to update Android looks too with nice sidebar and integrated FAQ. Website will see some changes too. We'll remove store as a part of website and all games will be simply downloadable from library. We're going to bring back custom games too if you want to add your favourite games to quick launch list.

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