Monday, August 29, 2016

ELI5: How to play Metroid Prime 3 and other Nintendo games in VR on the HTC Vive

It is possible to play some Nintendo Gamecube and Wii games in VR using an emulator called Dolphin VR.  Strangely, some of the games work very well for VR, almost as if they were designed for VR.

Although Dolphin VR also works for the Oculus Rift, it works especially well with the HTC Vive (reviewed here) because the Vive's motion controllers can simulate the Wii's motion controllers. When the Rift gets Oculus Touch, it will probably be just as capable for emulating Wii games.

To see what Dolphin VR is capable of, check out this video of some of the best games in VR, from JoshDub:

I've tried Metroid Prime 3 with the HTC Vive and it is indeed impressive.  You can use the Vive's positional tracking capability to look around and see everything.  Moreover, Samus' helmet provides an effective anchor to ameliorate nausea (VR developers may want to take note).  When I move forward or sideways, I don't feel any discomfort.  I agree with JoshDub - it's as if Metroid Prime 3 was designed for VR.

One issue is that Metroid Prime 3 is still a seated/standing experience.  While you can look around with your headset, or even look behind you, you're effectively only controlling the camera.  Instead, to move, you have to use your controller's thumbad as the Nunchuck joystick.  Your primary controller also acts like the Wii remote, so moving it around changes your point of view and where Samus is aiming her gun.  Whereas moving with the Nunchuck was comfortable, waving Samus' gun around was nauseating for me.  Nonetheless, Metroid Prime 3 shows the tremendous potential for using Nintendo games for VR.  I really hope Nintendo NX does bring classic Nintendo franchises into VR.

The process of using Dolphin VR is somewhat technical.  Here is an overview:

1. Download and install Dolphin VR.
2. Rip the Wii or Gamecube game to your hard drive.
3. Adjust the Dolphin VR settings based on the game.

It seems simple enough but it can get quite involved.  Downloading and installing Dolphin VR is easy enough.  It is just an executable file.  Ripping your Wii or Gamecube games to your hard drive is a little harder.  There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere for doing that.  (Generally, you need to use a Wii with homebrew installed.)

After you've installed Dolphin and gotten your ISO in your hard drive, it's time for step 3.  Here are the instructions, step by step.
1.  When you launch Dolphin, it will ask you to specify the directory where your ISO(s) are stored.  Alternatively, click on the menu Options... Configure... Paths tab and add the path of your ISO.  Your game should now appear in your Dolphin library.
2.  Click on the Config button.  In the General tab, check the following:
a. enable dual core. Deterministic dual core: auto
b. enable idle skipping
c. enable cheats. Speed: 100%
d. Advanced Settings: use JIT Recompiler.
3.  Still in the Config dialog box, go to Wii tab.  If you're in the US, disable use PAL60 Mode.
4. From the Dolphin main screen, click on the Graphics button.
a.  General tab
Backend: Direct3D 11
Adapter: your graphics card
Display: Fullscreen and aspect ratio set to Auto
b.  Enhancements tab
Internal resolution: change to 3x Native
optional - change anti-aliasing.  This is GPU-intensive.
Stereoscopy: off
c. Hacks tab
Embedded frame buffer: I unchecked skip EFB Access. I checked Ignore format changes.  EFB Copies: Texture
Texture Cache: Fast
Disable external frame buffer
Checked Fast Depth Calculation and Disable Bounding Box
d. Advanced tab: all unchecked
5. From the Dolphin main screen, click on the Controller button.
Under Wiimotes, for Wiimote 1, select Emulated Wiimote then click Configure.
6. In the Dolphin Emulated Wiimote Configuration dialog box:
Under Device select VR/0/Vive and click refresh.
Under Profile on the right, select Vive Wiimote 1A2MP. Click Load.  This will change the variables below it.  Several lines below Profile, look for Extension.  Select Nunchuck.
On the right side, under Options, check Background Input.
On the bottom of the dialog box, change the Left texture to Vive Nunchuck.  change the right texture to Vive Wiimote 1A2MP
Click OK to go back to the main Dolphin screen.
7. From the Dolphin main screen, click on the VR button.
a. VR tab:
Stabilize pitch, roll, yaw.
b. Avatar tab:
Optional: check Show Controllers if you want your reskinned Vive controllers to show up.
Click OK to go back to the main Dolphin screen.
8.  From the Dolphin main screen, click on the menu Options... Hotkey settings.
a. In the middle, under Reset, click Clear.
b. On the left, under Device, choose DInput/0/Keyboard Mouse
b. On the right, under Profile, choose Vive RGrip if you are right handed, Vive LGrip if you are left handed.  Click Load.
Click OK to go back to the main Dolphin screen.
9.  From the Dolphin main screen, right click your game, select Properties.
In the AR Codes tab, check Disable Culling Outside Camera View.
Click OK to go back to the main Dolphin screen.
10. Launch SteamVR.
11. When SteamVR is ready (headset, both controllers, and base stations are all ok), go to Dolphin, select your game and click on the Play button.

These are just the settings I used.  Feel free to experiment with the settings.  If you find better settings, please share them in the comments!

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