When Oculus debuted its first PCVR headset with inside-out tracking, it was an innovation that paved the way for the next step in virtual reality evolution.
The Rift S burst onto the VR scene in May 2019, and I had been anxiously anticipating its release.
When I took a trip down to the local Best Buy and purchased a Rift S headset within weeks of its launch, I was ecstatic that I would finally own an actual VR headset.
Previous VR Experiences
My previous experience with VR was mostly limited to the Virtual Boy that I purchased from Toys R’ Us at a heavy discount after the console failed to meet Nintendo’s sales expectations.
My only other VR experience had been at an arcade on the Canadian side of Niagra Falls in the mid-nineties.
If I correctly recall, the arcade was using a Virtuality system.
I didn’t do great, but I had fun.
With limited VR exposure, purchasing a Rift S in 2019 would be a significant step for me into gaming involving motion controllers and a head-mounted display (HMD).
Especially since, at $399, the Rift S was a more capable device than the 1990s-era arcade system I played that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Jumping into the Rift
When I first donned my new HMD, I was instantly fascinated by how immersive the experience was.
After making my way through the beginner tutorials, defining virtual room boundaries, and viewing safety messages, I began playing my first PCVR titles.
To prevent nausea, I used teleportation as my default locomotion when I first started playing in VR.
Even with comfort settings at maximum, smooth locomotion was not an option at first because my VR legs were still very wobbly.
But I was determined.
I had beaten every Serious Sam VR title, mostly BFE, multiple times and was looking for something different.
Since then, I’ve put nearly 600 hours inside my Rift S playing the two games, mostly in Fallout 4 VR.
I started with Skyrim, having never played any game from The Elder Scrolls series.
Once I had the visuals working to my liking, I started the game.
To my surprise, the opening scene where you ride in that cart on the way to your execution failed to induce nausea in me as it does some.
I decided to try transitioning to smooth locomotion.
It was slightly uncomfortable at first, but I persisted, forcing myself to experience visually-uncomfortable sensations from jumping and turning to build my resistance.
I also kept a fan pointed at me to help reduce nausea potential.
I like to think that my cannabis use helped too.
Before long, my VR legs became stable to the point where I stopped having nausea incidents, even in the event of a program or headset malfunction.
The Flaws Begin to Show
But my excitement for VR was eclipsed by disappointment and even anger at times when the Rift S began showing its flaws.
The earliest problem I experienced involved random split-second flashes of multicolored static on the screen.
The glitch didn’t affect gameplay for me much, but it was a problem that needed attention.
Before long, Oculus developers had figured out the static problem and provided a patch for users in an update.
But the static was only one of the multiple problems I would begin having with the Rift S.
Other issues included controller and headset tracking loss, failure to start the headset, and random Guardian resets.
Guardian is the name that Oculus uses for its virtual play area barrier that helps prevent players from colliding with objects in the real world.
While Oculus worked on patching issues with the Rift S, they would soon shift their focus to the Quest line.
Thankfully, there have been patches for most of the issues with the Rift S headset, though it still occasionally loses controller tracking, and the Guardian will reset itself sometimes.
Oculus Closes the Rift
My biggest disappointment was when the announcement came that Rift S support would cease.
While Oculus, now Meta, continues to support the Rift S through software and firmware updates, a person must purchase used replacement controllers, cables, and other components through websites like eBay.
Still, I’ve managed to get a lot of use out of my VR headset.
In the three years after I purchased my Rift S from Best Buy, I’ve managed to log more than 5,000 hours in it.
Many ravenous undead foes, sinister aliens, and other nefarious types have met their end at the end of my virtual barrels.
I’ve retired my first Rift S until I get replacement parts for the pads that peeled off from sweat and the head strap supports that broke.
Recently, I bought a second headset off eBay for $49 and have been using it as a replacement.
But some of the fabric and foam components are already beginning to fail.
But while I have a lot of hours inside the Rift S, not all of it is spent gaming.
I’ve used it for watching movies on a virtual big screen, exploring the planet on Google Earth, composing in virtual music programs, and many other non-gaming activities.
Google Earth in VR is spectacular; I highly recommend trying it.
More to Explore
Most recently, I’ve started delving into the virtual universe of Horizon Worlds.
In the app, socializing is easy, and building custom worlds is straightforward.
There’s even potential to make real money.
But Horizon Worlds is not my first foray into the virtual space-building territory; I was an avid SmallWorlds player while it existed.
I also have a character in Second Life that I’ve largely neglected for the past decade.
Occasionally, I will rake in a few Lindens when another player purchases one of the items I constructed and put on the market years ago.
In 2022, I think my profit from those items has reached as high as $3, but I won’t be cashing it out soon.
I’ll eagerly await further word on the Second Life VR front.
While I’ve had my share of issues with the Rift S, I have spent thousands of enjoyable hours inside mine.
I’ve explored places in real and fantasy worlds that I would never have seen otherwise.
And while my relationship with the Rift S is one of love and hate, I’d have to say that I’ve had more good times with it than bad.
My first VR headset has been one of the best tech purchases of my life; I’m looking forward to what the next generation brings.