VR Workouts, Month 4: Hitting the Wall

This was the first month I really struggled with my VR workouts, and in fact the first time I failed. But during this month I went from looking forward to putting on the Quest to dreading it. For most of the month I pushed myself to keep showing up 4 days a week but it was getting harder and harder. Now part of the reason is the weather. It has been so hot and humid that it just drains you. But that was just a small part of the issue.

Last Wednesday I was dreading the workout but I did it, sortof. I went through the motions but hardly got my heartrate up and barely broke a sweat. I just could not will my body to move fast enough. Several hours later I learned why when I started shaking and shivering and running a fever; I was getting sick. In fact I was sick enough that I took Thursday off which, I believe, is the first time I’ve taken a sick day since our company was bought 3 or 4 years ago. I know this because I had to ask what the procedure was for logging a sick day. My company has a procedure for everything!

Friday I was back at work but, frankly, phoning it in and just trying to get through the day. When it was time to workout I just couldn’t do it, so I skipped. (Thursday was a rest day anyway so no worries there.) I felt pretty guilty about it, but it also felt justified. Instead of working out I went to sleep.

Saturday is another rest day but today, Sunday, was not. I generally do my Sunday workout first thing in the morning to get it out of the way (which itself should’ve been a sign to me…I used to look forward to my workouts) but I didn’t. I was trying to convince myself that I was still recovering and needed more rest, but it wasn’t true. I’m like 90% well at this point.

So let’s leave me sitting there early Sunday afternoon arguing with myself, trying to convince myself to get off the couch, and back up a bit.

The other odd thing that happened this month is that I stopped playing VR games. I finished Walking Dead Saints & Sinners very late in July or very early in August and that was the last VR game I played. Once again part of the reason for this is the weather, but there was more to it than that. I had to sit and ponder what was going on.

And what was going on is I’d basically broken VR fun for myself. I went from playing games for exercise to using a dedicated exercise app (Supernatural) which I was still treating like a game. What I mean by that is I was striving to “beat it” in some way. I went from spending about 20 minutes/working in Supernatural doing Low intensity workouts to close to 40 minutes doing a mix of Low and Medium intensity. Why? Because if it was a game I’d need to get ‘better’ and get a better score and DEFINITELY get off “Easy” difficulty.

But in pushing myself I was making myself miserable. After a workout I would be so wrung out and spent. My body was definitely getting stronger and I was losing weight, which was good. But I totally lost the mental benefits. Early on I’d feel GREAT mentally a couple hours after a workout. Almost like I was high, but in a good way. That was gone. It was just being miserable and getting past being miserable and my brain started equated VR with being uncomfortable. On workout days I was MUCH too tired to play a game for fun and on rest days I didn’t want to get within 10 feet of a VR headset. And that made me really sad because I had been having SO MUCH FUN in VR.

OK back to earlier today. I was sitting there pondering all this and I don’t know if I came up with a solution but I at least came up with a plan to try. First, I cut my weekly Supernatural goals from 4 workouts/week to 3. The idea of that is just to give me some wiggle room without the guilt that comes with not making my goal.

Today I eventually put on the Quest 2 and instead of jumping into Supernatural I played some Beat Saber. That didn’t feel great because Supernatural’s “Flow” workouts are basically like Beat Saber. So I jumped over to Audio Trip which I haven’t played in months and guess what? I’ve actually gotten better at it, I guess because my body is in better physical shape. That was pretty fun, and it was also when I noted that I was starting to sweat. Then I booted up Pistol Whip and finished one of the campaigns including fighting a boss that had me ducking and twisting and dodging like mad, grinning the whole time.  During this time Meta Move popped up to say I’d met my goal for time spent moving, though I still had calories to burn.

But only THEN did I fire up Supernatural. My heart beat was already in the low 100s before I started (my resting heart rate is normally around 80). I did a couple of 8-ish minute Low difficulty sessions which got the heart rate up into goal zone and helped me hit my calories burned goal in Meta Move. I also feel like I did better with these sessions in terms of better form and better control. And it all felt good. I even danced a little. Thank goodness no one was watching.

Here I am, a couple hours later and I had some fun in VR, did my workout and hit my Meta Move goals, and I don’t feel like an old dish rag.  And mentally I’m “up” enough to write a blog post.

So my plan is to dial back the Supernatural stuff and mix in some active games.  Stop treating Supernatural as a game and honor the fact that I’m in my 60s and I might NEVER get to where I can do 40 minutes of Medium difficulty sessions and that’s OK.

My whole goal with starting these workouts was just to move. Both my mother and my grandmother (none of the men in my family tree lived long enough to hit this point) deteriorated a LOT when they got older because they stopped doing anything. They’d sit at home and watch TV, which frankly is what I do for a living. Yes it’s a computer screen and not a day time soap opera but in terms of activity it’s about the same. Both of them went downhill fast when their lifestyles changed like this. I don’t want to be like them. I want to stay active and be able to get around and be alert. So that’s why I started the workouts. Losing weight is a nice side effect and I wasn’t really aware of how good a proper amount of exercise would be for my mental state. That was a delightful discovery.

Bottom line, I’m not going for ripped abs. I’m going for mobility and mental health and I don’t need to keep pushing myself into longer, harder workouts to achieve those goals.

So, we’ll see how it goes.

VR Workouts, Month 3

Still working out in my Quest 2 at least 4 times a week. I figure if I can make it through July and August the rest of the year will be cake. It is HARD to walk the dog in the heat and humidity, get home dripping sweat and then strap on the old Quest. Ideally I would shuffle my routine and workout in the morning but I am kind of a night owl and @PartPurple is a HUGE night owl. Going to bed earlier in order to get up earlier would be a struggle since I’d have to convince her to get onboard (if I go to bed before she does, I always wake up when she comes to bed then can’t get back to sleep).

Anyway that was probably TMI.

But for now everything is going to plan. I took another big step this month in that I started using Supernatural VR, a subscription-based fitness app. Last month I’d graduated from active games to an actual fitness app, so why the change? Les Mills Bodycombat (the app I had been using) is a solid app but it felt like a bit too much for me. Every workout left me completely wrung-out to the point where I’d basically be done for the rest of the day. It felt good but I knew I wouldn’t sustain it; it was just too intense for my astoundingly out of shape body.

Supernatural has a lot more options. It has 4 main activities: Flow (which is similar to Beat Saber only with routines designed for exercise), Boxing (similar to Les Mills), Stretching and Meditation. I haven’t done too much with the last two. Supernatural has about half a dozen ‘coaches’ that lead you through the routines, so you can pick a personality or two that resonate with you. It also has a much broader range of workouts and you can filter by duration, intensity, style of music, etc. And there’s a lot more variety in the music that they offer. There’s a ton of ‘environments’ that the workouts take place in. Like, I dunno, The Great Wall of China, Petra, or the Scottish Highlands. This is all just eye/ear candy but it keeps things fresh. There’re also a ton of accessibility options so you can tailor the experience to your abilities and fitness level.

The BIG downside of Supernatural is the cost. It’s $20/month, or if you buy a year in advance that brings it down to about $15/month. That felt too rich for my blood until someone in the Facebook group (yes, I actually joined the Facebook group) mentioned getting health insurance to pay for it. I checked my policy and they do reimburse for gym memberships and specifically mention online fitness courses. So I HOPE they wil reimburse me for Supernatural (I signed up for a year) but I can’t submit until I’ve demonstrated that I’ve actually used it for (I think) 35 workouts. So it was a bit of a gamble.

And honestly now I’m kind of hooked even if I don’t get reimbursed.  Mostly it is the variety that keeps me engaged. They release new routines every day (I think?) so it always feels like there’s something new to do.

I also bought a cheap heart monitor that syncs with Supernatural so I can see how hard I’m working. My Fitbit measures my heart rate, but it doesn’t sync with SN and of course I can’t read it while wearing the Quest. The monitor, which is in the form of an armband, was only about $30 so seemed worth the investment.

Anyway enough of sounding like a Supernatural infomercial.

So back to how I’m doing. I’m generally doing well. I’ve had a few times where I was in pain, generally my lower lats will get so tight that it hurts to move. I have learned to stretch frequently which is helping and I also think just getting stronger is helping. I also had a scare with my Achilles tendon but going easy on squats and side-lunges for a few days was enough to let that heal.

I’ve lost a little over 14 lbs without really changing my diet much. Or if I have changed it, it is not in a way that feels like any kind of a sacrifice. I don’t feel like I am “on a diet.” I still have a long way to go but it feels like I’m making progress and I still do not dread doing the workouts. In fact yesterday was a “rest day” and now I’m actually looking forward to my workout later today.

And not to sound like a broken record, but overall I feel better. Mentally I feel better. I feel stronger. I’m not huffing and puffing going up and down stairs. I feel more alert, more present. Just a ton of positive changes. So yeah, I’m gonna keep doing this for a while.


July 2023

Summer in the south is never a good time, and this July wasn’t any exception. Going to be a pretty short recap this month because I haven’t done much! Well, except for work. Lots of overtime in the second half of this month.

My days have been going something like this: Get up and start working. I’ve been working from 7:30 – 8:00 am through to 5 pm, with an hour break for lunch when I can get it. Then I walk the dog in the sweltering heat. Get back in and do my VR workout (always a struggle given I’m over-heated before I begin), then shower. By the time that is all done its dinner time, which these days has crept later and later until now we eat around 8 PM. Generally watch some TV, usually an episode of Jeopardy and an episode of whatever show we’re into. So that takes us to 9:30 or so. Then often another couple hours of work and… as you can see not much time for gaming except on the weekends.

Last Month’s Games:

I finally finished Ghostwire: Tokyo early in the month. I wound up enjoying it but it was a game that I dropped and came back to frequently. It didn’t really stand up to that obsessive “spend every free moment playing” pace. Mostly it was my weekend mornings game. I might have kept playing past main story end except I’d already hit level cap and that took away a lot of the incentive of exploring and rescuing souls. I still got something like 30 or 40 hours of fun out of it though. If there’s ever a sequel I’ll be there for it.

I’m still playing, or trying to play, Walking Dead: Saints & Sinnners. The PSVR2 has mostly been sitting idle, though very much NOT by choice. This isn’t about getting tired of VR; it’s about struggling to find spots where I have the free time & the free energy & the free living room to devote to it. (Unfortunately with the setup I have, I pretty much have to take over the living room to do PSVR so I have to wait until @partpurple is off doing something on her computer.) Lately those 3 things just haven’t been coming together.

[EDIT: This is what I get for posting my recap early. After talking about S&S in this post I REALLY had the urge to play so I did and… finished. I had no idea I was so close to the end. Great game though! Now on to the DLC!]

I’m also still noodling around in Final Fantasy XVI but struggling to get into it. I loved the demo and immediately pre-ordered as soon as the demo ended, but the full game hasn’t grabbed me. I think that is more on me than the game; I don’t think it shines when you’re playing for 30 minutes every 2 or 3 days. I might just set it aside until life settles down some.

New This Month

Early in the month I jumped back into an old Oculus Rift game, Shadow Legends VR. I played through it using the Quest 2 and Oculus Air Link. Even finished it and wrote a post.


All the usual subjects are in rotation: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (still excellent), Foundation S2, The Witcher (@partpurple needed a refresher course so we went back to rewatch the first two seasons.) Our lunch time guilty pleasure is a re-watch of Stargate SG-1. We sneak in an episode at lunchtime when my schedule permits. If we watch the whole thing that’ll keep us busy until well after Christmas! My end of the day wind-down show was Walking Dead: The World Beyond, and I would not recommend it. I more or less watched it to mock it.


I finished Tiamat’s Wrath and started Leviathan Falls, the final Expanse book. I’ve been reading this series for so long I’m not sure what I’ll do with myself when I’m finished!

And that’s been July. I have a 4-day weekend coming up; I just knew by about now I’d be in desperate need of a mental health break and boy was I right. One of the work projects that has been causing all the overtime is due this week (and should be delivered on time) so after that things should chill out a bit. Maybe next month I’ll have something worth talking about!

Shadow Legend VR

I bought Shadow Legend VR for the Rift S a long time ago and never played much because it made me kind of sick. I now understand that the gaming laptop I used back in those days was underpowered for VR and so my framerates weren’t great. It’s possible the Rift S itself also contributed to this given its age (it came out in 2019) and refresh rate of 80Hz. Whatever the reason, back when I was playing on the Rift S, Shadow Legend VR tended to make me queasy so I never got very far into it.

Fast forward to the last month or two and I’ve been experimenting with Air Linking the Quest 2 to my current (but still not state of the art: it has an Nvidia 2070 GPU) PC. If I remember right the laptop had a 1060 or something? Anyway the new PC is much more powerful and I was now able to play Shadow Legends VR fairly comfortably; enough so that I’ve completed the game and generally enjoyed the experience.

In Shadow Legend VR you play as the “Grand Master” who is tasked with entering a shadow realm to fight a big bad. Honestly the story isn’t the strong point here. The setting is fantasy-medieval so you’ve got your swords (including flaming swords and ice swords and the like), bows, and magic staves. If I remember, I bought it for the sword fighting experience though it turns out there isn’t a huge number of enemies to cross blades with. I spent more time with bow or staff than with a sword.

And that was OK because the sword combat was one of the less interesting aspects of the game, though the first time I lopped off an (undead) enemy’s arms and it started to kick me I had a good laugh. “Tis a scratch, a mere flesh wound!” Bow combat is typical VR bow combat. You hold the bow in one hand and reach over your shoulder to grab an arrow (you have unlimited arrows). Then pull back and shoot. I felt like I could aim pretty well, even to the point of shooting down crows in flight. (Sorry crows but maybe don’t try to steal my Runes.) For the staff combat, you hold a gnarled staff with a ‘claw’ at the end. There’s a ball of elemental energy in the claw and you fire that using the trigger on the controller. You can take just 2 shots, then you have to conjure a new ball of energy with a free hand, basically by making a fist until the ball coalesces. Then you place it in the claw and can fire again. This was admittedly a little cumbersome but also felt fresh. I hadn’t encountered this mechanic before.

Shadow Legends VR turned out to be roughly 1/3 combat, 1/3 exploring and 1/3 puzzle solving. The puzzles tended towards physics-based stuff. Y’know, cut that rope to make this item fall and break the cover of a well and then you find a secret passage at the bottom of the well. That kind of thing. The puzzling aspect was fun but not super difficult. Finding all the hidden items was more of a challenge but you don’t need to find everything to beat the game.

The odd thing about Shadow Legend is that it felt like half a game in a lot of ways. When you first start you’re in a courtyard with your comrades. Everything is lovely and you can spend a lot of time wandering around here, feeding carrots to horses, petting a dog, cooking food and blacksmithing. Later you’ll encounter potion brewing, fishing and even gardening. All of this is interesting but never really used in the bulk of the game. A few times you’ll find a cauldron with some empty bottles and mushrooms which you use to make health potions but the mushrooms aren’t foraged, they’re literally sitting next to the cauldron. As to the rest, it’s all just for flavor. I’m not really complaining because fiddling with this stuff was fun enough; it just seemed weird that it wasn’t incorporated into the main game loop.

So you enter an area and explore. Your main goal is finding Runes that bump up your strength. You need more strength to wield better weapons. You’ll also find coins, jewels, golden goblets and gold bars. These you can trade to an NPC for coins which in turn you can use to buy weapons. But everything is very VR-ized. So when you talk to the shopkeep, you take items out and put them on his counter. He’ll offer you a price and if you agree he’ll hold out a sack of coins and you have to reach out and take it. There is also voice support so you can literally talk to the shopkeeper but I never set that up.

Every area also has several ‘side quests’ for you to do, but doing them seems to be just for fun, or possibly for Achievements. There’re no experience points given for these. Defeating enemies results in you getting souls (I think they called them souls but they look like beating hearts) that you can use to bump up your health or combat strength, and there’re the Runes that you have to collect. However neither of these systems tie directly into solving quests.

It all just gives the feeling that the dev team (Vitruvius VR) started out with a much bigger vision but then started running low on funds and had to scale everything back. I don’t have any inside knowledge but that’s how it feels to me. It’s a shame because the game (I assume) they WANTED to make would’ve been amazing.

But what is there is quite fun and I have no regrets. The only real issue I had was that it is a real room-scale game and there were some challenges I couldn’t complete because I didn’t have enough space. In particular there was a ballista challenge where you had to shoot down flying enemies with this giant ballista, so you had to actually move around to turn it and I didn’t have that much room in my VR space. At least this was an optional challenge. (Generally you move with the analog sticks but I just felt like this challenge needed the precision that comes with physically moving.)

Combat takes some space too as enemies will circle around you. Again I guess you COULD turn using the sticks but in the heat of the moment I always turned my physical body to face the opponent and it can be easy to ‘drift’ out of your safe VR space when doing this. There were also one or two places where I had to kneel down to get under something. If there was a ‘crouch’ button I forgot what it was and never found it again, but honestly a lot of the fun of VR for me is physically doing this stuff so when I had to practically get on all fours to crawl through a tunnel, I thought that was kind of awesome.

Shadow Legend VR came out in 2019 and it is still listed at $25 on the Oculus which seems a little steep as it isn’t very long and there’s not a lot of incentive to replay it. Right now on Steam, though, it is $12.50 thanks to the Summer Sale and that feels like a very fair price. (With the Rift S discontinued I’m not sure why you’d buy anything via Oculus anyway, to be honest.)

I am not 100% certain but I think Shadow Legend may only be the 2nd VR game I’ve actually finished (the first being Farpoint on PSVR) so the fact that I stuck with this one through to the end definitely feels like a recommendation from me, but only if you get it while it is on sale.

PS I lifted these screenshots off of the Steam page because I can’t find a good way to take screenshots via the Oculus Rift S interface. I guess if I’m going to be talking about VR games I should figure that out. Though again, I’d probably buy any future PCVR games through Steam rather than the Oculus store.

VR Workout, Month 2

As of today I’ve been working out in VR for 2 months. So far it’s still going well.

I aim for 4 days/week and I’ve always done at least that many and I think a couple of weeks I hit 5 days. And sometimes I wind up doing what are essentially semi-workouts just by playing certain games for fun (on PSVR2 Beat Saber, RagnaRock, Synth Riders and even Until You Fall can all get the heart pumping pretty good).

The Quest 2 is my ‘workout headset’ still thanks to the Meta Move app that’ll track calories burned and amount of time spent moving. The lack of a cord helps too, as do all the 3rd party accessories I have for it. My Fitbit ~sometimes~ tracks this stuff. If it was a little more reliable I might use PSVR2 for working out though I find the PSVR2 in general is harder to keep clean and I do sweat a LOT doing these workouts.

While weight loss isn’t my primary goal (though lord knows I could stand to lose a LOT of weight) I am losing some. Closing in on 9 lbs which seems like an OK, but not remarkable, weight-loss pace. Friends who are into fitness keep telling me to ignore the scale since muscle weighs more than fat so I might actually gain weight at times.

Lifestyle changes, beyond the actual workouts, are mostly incidental. Old me would get off work, walk the dog, come in and open a beer and fire up a video game until dinner. I’d often have 2-3 beers before dinner (we tend to eat late, around 8 pm). New me gets off work, walks the dog, comes in and does a VR workout and the way the timing works out I’m just about done and recovered by the time dinner is ready. So I just don’t have the ‘free time’ for drinking as much beer as I used to. 🙂 So we’ll call that a healthy side-effect.

But I do catch myself thinking more about what I eat and have thoughts like “Do I really need to eat this or am I just bored?” Instead of potato chips I’ve been snacking on carrot chips, just as one example. Turns out I just like to crunch things. I was also falling into the habit of having a rather stiff nightcap before bed to prevent me from laying there wide awake stressing about work. Now I’ve been turning towards gummies laced with CBD and/or hemp-based THC. (Marijuana is not legal in my state but hemp-based THC is, at least for now…that’s a whole other post though.) Anyway this is an improvement in terms of calories, though I won’t go so far as to call it a healthy choice. I sure sleep like a baby, though.

Earlier this week I took a big step and bought my first actual fitness app, Les Mills Bodycombat. It is a BIG jump from Beat Saber and Audio Trip to Les Mills. I’m a little hesitant about it all because I think the reason I have stuck with working out for 2 months is because they’ve been fairly low impact workouts. After doing Les Mills I am like a wrung-out dish cloth. Fitbit loves it and tells me I’ve been in ‘the zone’ but I’m so tired after doing Les Mills that the rest of the evening is basically spent laying around recovering. I’m afraid that is going to burn me out, so I’m still pondering how to work that in. What I’ve been doing is a little Beat Saber to loosen up, then jump to Les Mills and do a couple of 8-10 minute sessions, then over to Audio Trip to kind of cool now and loosen up some more.

I always feel good the next day in that “sore muscles but for a good reason” way, so that’s a bonus. But I’m starting to feel like my whole life is built around these workouts and I know I won’t keep that up. I’m thinking maybe I do 2 workouts/week that are based on games, and 2 that incorporate Les Mills. Still pondering, though.

Also of all the fitness apps on Quest 2, I picked Les Mills because a) it didn’t have a subscription like a lot of the fitness apps do and b) it was something different. It’s basically all shadow-boxing whereas Beat Saber is slashing at things and Audio Trip is kind of dance/rhythm oriented. It feels pretty good punching stuff in Les Mills even though what you’re punching is virtual.

The Climb has been left behind for now, and I haven’t been fitting in much Pistol Whip but if I do this 2 & 2 idea I’ll probably work that in with Beat Saber and Audio Trip for the ‘gaming workout’ days. It’s a really fun game so if nothing else, I’ll just play it for fun.

So I guess that about sums it up. This is the kind of post that is mostly just written for my future self to look back on and think either “Look how far I’ve come” or “Why did I quit doing this? I was feeling so good about myself!” Hopefully the former.

Because I DO feel good about myself, and in general I just feel good. I feel stronger, I feel more nimble and my mood is generally much better. Both my mom and my grandmother got very sedentary in their later years and I saw what a negative impact that had on them. (All the men in my family tree died way before this became an issue.) With Lola slowing way down I was walking less and less and feeling stiffer and weaker and, y’know, the groan that escapes just from getting up from a chair or something. I was doing all that. I was feeling like an old man. I’m feeling much better now. So I hope I can keep this up.

PSVR2 Interference Solution

I don’t leave my PSVR2 setup, which means every time I play (which is pretty much every day and sometimes a few times a day) I have to plug in the headset. I have had bad luck with USB ports in the past, possibly because I am old and my eyes are dim and I tend to fumble around plugging stuff in. Whatever the case, I was concerned about constantly connecting/disconnecting the PSVR2.

I figured the safest bet was to buy a short USB extension cable and leave that plugged in to the PS5 all the time. Then for bonus points I bought one of those magnetic connectors for the cable. I made sure both expansion and adapter were rated for 40 GPS.

Specifically here’re the items I bought (Amazon US links):

CABLEDECONN USB4 8K Cable 0.8M Thunderbolt 4 Compatible USB 4 Type-c Male to Female Extension Cable Ultra HD 8K@60Hz 100W Charging 40Gbps Data Transfer Compatible with External SSD eGPU

USB C Magnetic Adapter, (2 Pack) DuHeSin Magnetic USB C Adapter 24 Pin Straight with PD 140w Charge USB4 40Gbps Data Transfer 8K 60Hz Video for Thunderbolt 3/4, MacBook Pro/Air and More Type C Devices

I was a little concerned that adding these parts to the setup would cause frame drops or tracking issues with the PSVR2 headset but I was willing to risk it.

The good news is, PSVR2 worked absolutely fine with this set up.

The bad news is, now the Pulse 3D Wireless Headphones (which connect via a dongle) started dropping audio constantly. That was unexpected.

I did some research online and the easiest solution was to move the dongle to a port on the back of the PS5 (if you haven’t seen a PS5, on the front of the system is a USB-A format port, and a USB-C format port, right next to each other. The Pulse uses the A port and the PSVR2 visor uses the C port). This mostly worked for me but now the Pulse headphones had micro-drops even when I wasn’t using PSVR2. Prior to all this they had worked flawlessly.

More researching. People said it was the magnetic connector. But more and more I saw that folks had the same issue just by using an extension cable. The best theory I read was that most cables aren’t shielded as well as the PSVR2’s ‘native’ cable so stuff was leaking out and interfering with the Pulse dongle.

See how I said “stuff” was leaking out? That’s because I know nothing. Is it EM? Magentic fields? Ectoplasm? I have no idea.

But I found a fix: Ferrite Cores. Sounds so sci-fi. But these are little gizmos that just snap onto a cable and reduce this interference. Here is the set I bought (also pictured at the top of the post):

20 Pcs Snap on Ferrite Core Cord Ring RFI EMI Noise Filter Suppressor Cable Clip for 3.5mm/5mm/7mm/9mm/13mm Diameter Cable, Black

Picture of a ferrite core on a usb extension cableFor best results, I read, you should loop your cable twice through a ferrite core. With the above set of cores, the biggest ones are big enough to accommodate that extension cable looped through twice. Actually the fit was a little loose so I stuffed a few pieces of bamboo skewer in there to make everything snug. It looks like ass but so far it works perfectly. No more drops on the headphones and the magnetic connector makes it easy to attach/detach the visor without any fumbling.

Now that I know it works I’ll see about clipping the bamboo down some. If I get really ambitious I might take it all apart and try it without doing the loop which I think would look a lot cleaner. Maybe I’ll do some experimenting over the weekend. I also worry a tiny bit about the weight of the cable hanging out of that port though I think the fact that the loop touches the ghetto unfinished bookcase that I use as a console stand might help with that. I also used some silicon tape to tape the business end of the cable to the side of the bookcase to keep it out of the way and provide some resistance. The idea is that if someone trips over the cable, it’ll detach at the magnetic connector rather than pull the PS5 off the shelf.

Anyway that’s it. It was an easy fix after a lot of googling, so I figured I’d share.

Saints & Sinners & Sea Legs… I Mean VR Legs

Sorry for the title, I just can’t resist alliteration.

Anyway, for those who aren’t aware, “VR Legs” is a term referring to how well you are adapted to being in a VR environment. For a lot of people VR can cause some simulator/motion sickness, at least at first. Once that goes away you’re said to have your “VR Legs.” (This is all a riff on Sea Legs which is a term referring to becoming acclimated to the pitching of a boat at sea, both in terms of maintaining balance and not getting sea sick.)

In my last go-round with VR I struggled a bit with motion sickness off and on. It definitely depends on the game you’re playing as well as the hardware you’re playing on. This time around it has been much less of an issue because the Quest 2 and PSVR2 both perform much better than the PSVR 1 and my Rift S which was hooked to what I now realize was an under-powered gaming laptop. It seems to me VR comfort is very FPS & refresh-rate dependent.

I think it also helps that I’ve been sliding into VR a bit more gradually. I started with rhythm games like Beat Saber. For me at least I feel very comfortable if I’m not moving around in VR and in Beat Saber you mostly stand there and swing your arms. Pistol Whip is the same; even though you are constantly & automatically moving forward (like you’re on one of those moving walkways in an airport), my brain seems to see it more as the world is moving past me, which is fine. The Climb has you moving around but you move by grabbing ledges with your hands and again my brain seems OK with that.

Where things can get dicey for me is when I start pushing on those analog sticks to move around. It’s a very strange feeling that is hard to describe but it feels like a kind of pressure inside my head as my sense of balance tries to reckon with what my eyes are seeing.

a backpack in vr that acts as the game's inventory system
This is your inventory system. As is usually the case in every game I play, mine is full.

Which finally brings me around to The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners which is the first ‘moving around’ game I’ve played extensively since jumping back into VR. And so far it is going pretty good.

In S&S you move forward with the analog stick on the left controller, and turn with the stick on the right controller. There are, as with most games, a variety of Comfort Settings available. S&S also tends to be a slower paced game most of the time as you creep past zombies and such.

I started playing with smooth forward motion (I’m honestly not sure if they offer a teleport option in this one) which seems to have a bit of a vignette effect when moving quickly. A vignette effect is when the edges of your field of view go dark when moving or turning and for some reason it really helps with comfort.

By default S&S has ‘snap’ turning set to 45 degrees. So when you tap the right stick your view instantly shifts 45 degrees left or right, again with the vignette effect. This keeps your eyes and balance in sync as you don’t see the world turning. You just kind of teleport in place, 45 degrees to the left or right.

a vr hand holding a gun
Checking out the crappy gun you get at the start of the game. In the background is the old school bus that acts as your ‘safe house’

I did try smooth turning (which just means you turn as you would in any regular game) but it made me a bit woozy. But what I’ve been doing is using smaller and smaller snap settings. I think I’m down to 30 degrees now. My theory is that I’m creeping up on smooth turning, but we’ll see if that holds true.

But the ‘super-obvious in hindsight’ option for turning is… just to turn. I do my VR gaming standing up (unless a game requires sitting) and rather than use the right stick to turn I can just turn my body. That is 100% comfortable of course because eyes and balance are both experiencing the same thing. Not only is it comfortable but it plays into the whole immersion aspect. In the same way, I can press a button to crouch down to pick something up or open a container near the ground. But I can also just physically squat down. Shifting as much as possible from button-pressing to actual movement feels better for me, both in terms of comfort and immersion.

At this point I can comfortably play Saints & Sinners for longer than I ever have free time, if that makes sense. My last session was about 2 hours and I quit because it was getting late, not because I was feeling any ill effects. I do feel pretty confident that I’ll eventually get to where I can turn off all the comfort options and just run around willy-nilly using the analog sticks; it’s just going to take time.

a skeleton in a coffin,
Some areas are really dark and your flashlight has seen better days, apparently. At least this fellow isn’t moving…

Here’s a couple of tips I’ve picked up from the pundits.

1) Try to play frequently. You’re basically training your brain so repetition is key to learning to deal with being in VR

2) But STOP IMMEDIATELY if you start to feel ill. I have never tested this myself but I have heard, over and over, that trying to ‘push through’ the motion sickness can really screw you up since you’re basically doing Pavlovian training on yourself. Your lizard brain starts to associate putting a VR visor on with feeling nauseous and it just makes things worse. Also once you get good and VR motion sick it can take HOURS to feel better. That part I do know first hand and it is NOT pleasant. So yeah, at the first sign of feeling sick, end your session. Even if it has only been 5-10 minutes. You’ll be able to play for longer with practice.

3) Point a fan at yourself. Staying cool seems to help stave off the nausea and feeling a breeze from one particular direction helps you stay oriented, so you don’t shuffle out of your play area and wind up smacking into something. All these devices have some kind of virtual barrier which should protect you from doing that anyway, but it’s nice to have a back up system. I also have a rubber VR mat and I play barefoot so I know if I’ve stepped off that.

And… I guess that is it. Not even sure why I wrote this post other than I felt like talking about my VR adventures. I’m going to sprinkle in some Saints and Sinners screenshots but one of the big issues with VR games is that all look like crap outside of VR. Trust me that S&S looks pretty sweet inside PSVR2. The slightly stylized graphics give that feel of being in a history museum or something. If you’ve ever toured an old fort and there are manikins in period outfits and maybe posed to be doing some task… if those manikins suddenly came to life and started attacking you….well that’s kind of what playing S&S is like. I’m really digging it so far. But OMG the first time I stabbed a zombie in the head with a knife and couldn’t pull the knife free…what a moment of panic! I’m dragging this thing around while its buddies come at me, and I’m trying like hell to get my knife loose so I can defend myself! Turns out you need to give it a short, sharp jerk to get it free. These zombie skulls are much harder than the ones on the TV show.

Yeah, so gross but… I love it!

Playstation VR2 Gripes

It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I bought the Playstation VR2 and I realized I haven’t talked about it much on the blog.

Generally speaking, I like it a lot. I’ve been using the Quest 2 quite a bit and the upgrade in fidelity between it and PSVR2 is anything from solid to amazing, depending on the port. The haptic feedback feels better than on the Quest 2. For example when playing Beat Saber if you really whip the saber through the air you feel a bit of quiver in the controller like you’re feeling air resistance. At least I think that is what is happening…in the heat of the moment when you’re in the ‘world’ and all that, reality and virtual reality can kind of start to blend together. Maybe it is in my imagination!

It is also really comfortable once you get everything set up right. Once I put it on I lose track of time and hours fly by.

So basically I’m glad I got it but I do have some gripes, mostly around modularity (and forgive me for comparing PSVR2 to the Quest 2 but the Q2 is what I’m most familiar with.) So here’re some things I’d like to see changed in a PSVR 2+ or whatever.

First, the included ear buds sound terrible to me. They’re very tinny sounding and the speakers in the headband of the Quest 2 sound better, IMO. Fortunately I already owned the Playstation Pulse Wireless Headset and I just use that. The ear buds have been removed and set aside.

As a bonus I feel like the Pulse headphones actually help to keep the PSVR Visor positioned correctly to some extent.

Second, as far as I can tell there is no way to replace the headband of PSVR2. The band works pretty well for me, but one of the nice things about the Quest 2 is that there’s a whole cottage industry of replacement headbands so you can shop around and find a style that really works well for you.

Ditto the “interface” (the part of the visor that presses on your face). On the Quest 2, this pops out and you can buy anything from a silicon cover to a complete replacement. Choices are nice. The PSVR2 ‘light shield’ (as they call it) does come off but it has 14 little tabs that have to be detached and Sony warns us to be careful as they could break. The Quest 2 interface just pops out and takes just a second to remove/replace.

And one more: the cushion inside the ‘halo’ of the PSVR2 strap also doesn’t appear to be detachable and I wish it was.

Why the obsession with swappable parts? First because everyone’s head is different and second, hygiene. The PSVR2 (like any VR visor) is HOT and if you’re playing a stand-up or room-scale VR game that includes a lot of activity your head and face are going to start sweating. That sweat saturates the cushion inside the halo and the parts of the visor that press against your face. I REALLY miss being able to disassemble the headset so I can wipe down each part individually (and eventually replace them as they get worn).

So far my ‘solution’ to this problem is to always wear a bandana on my head under the visor. That makes the sweat a bit more manageable, at least, but it’s one more thing to add to the balancing act that is getting the visor in the ‘sweet spot.’

In general getting the PSVR2 on and adjusted feels a lot more fiddly than putting on the Quest 2 (with a 3rd party strap that I love) though once everything is setup I think the PSVR2 is more comfortable. I should add that I did purchase a “comfort strap‘ that adds one more point of support, and as mentioned I think the cups of the Pulse headset help to keep the strap from slipping down.

The trick to wearing the PSVR2 is pulling the back of the strap way down below the curve of the back of your skull almost to where you’d say your neck begins. Old hippy that I am, I have a ponytail and the strap goes below that (and below the knot of the bandana). Then the halo presses against your forehead and in theory the visor just kind of floats in front of your face. If you feel a lot of weight on your nose then you probably have the back of the strap too high on your head.

My last gripe is that I kind of miss the ecosystem that the Quest has. PSVR2 has games and that’s about it. The Quest has games and 3D videos and VR experiences and fitness apps, plus fitness trackers. When you turn on the Quest you’re in a virtual environment that you can mess around in, and you can even bring your physical couch into your VR space so you can sit on it (desks too). PSVR2 doesn’t have any of that, and I get that it is meant as just a gaming system but I still miss the extras. At the least it’d be nice to have a virtual space to hang out in (the return of Playstation Home maybe).

So that’s about it; my list of gripes. But again, I still really like the headset and I have no regrets about buying it. And it is a young device so maybe over time we’ll see products that alleviate some of my complaints.

VR Workouts 1 Month In

As of this coming Thursday I will have been doing my VR workouts for a month. So far, so good.

I have lost a little weight (about 5 lbs) but a friend who is into fitness tells me not to worry about the scale but to worry about how I feel and how my clothes fit. I don’t know that my clothes feel any different but I definitely feel better. There’s more pep in my step, basically. And when work isn’t doing everything it can to destroy me, my mood has been better too.

The workouts themselves continue to be fun, and VR in general has been bringing me a lot of enjoyment.

I’ve also learned that VR workouts are a real thing and I don’t have to put ‘workout’ in quotes. In fact there are a bunch of fitness aps for the Meta Quest and PCVR platforms.

I started with Beat Saber and The Climb. I’ve added Pistol Whip and just recently, Audio Trip. I’ve so far avoided the actual fitness apps because I don’t really need them yet and I don’t want this to become a chore.

Beat Saber is starting to fail me as workout material because I’ve gotten too good at it. Let me explain. I can now do most of the original songs that came with the game in Hard mode. I can get S rank and sometimes not miss a single note. The problem is that Expert, the next logical step, gets so fast that you don’t really have time to swing your arms to cut the blocks and you have to start relying on a lot of wrist movement. As a game, this is still plenty of fun, but it’s less of a workout than taking big swings with your arms. That’s when I added Audio Trip and that game kicks my ass. As is so often the case with VR, it sounds very simple. You just have to touch incoming icons with a ‘ball’ you hold in each hand. Simple enough, but the game makes you stretch and bend and twist and it really gets my heart rate up.

Here’s an official trailer for Audio Trip. You can see it’s kind of a mix between aerobics and dance. I’m REALLY glad I don’t have to see myself playing this game because I’m sure it is a horrifying sight to behold, but like I said, it does get my heartrate up and the sweat flowing.

Oh and I learned the that Quest Move app will track you while playing Rift games through Air Link. I haven’t tested it with Steam VR via Air Link though. Tonight was supposed to be a ‘rest day’ but I was playing a Rift game that involved some fairly vigorous sword swinging and a decent amount of climbing and suddenly Move popped up to tell me I was half-way to my calorie goal. Accidental workout! By the time I was done I was near my goals so I ran through half a dozen Beat Saber songs just to hit them.

All in all, I’m really happy with my progress and that I’ve found a way to exercise that is fun and convenient. I’m gonna keep going. Let’s see if I can make it to 2 months!

By the way, the screenshot at the top of the post is from Drum Rock on Playstation VR2 and has very little to do with workouts, though it can get you a little sweaty. It’s like having the drum kit from Rock Band, only in VR so you don’t have the storage hassles. Drum Rock is pretty fun but you don’t get licensed music, only covers. I get why…it’s a $20 indie title and I’m sure they couldn’t afford licensed songs. But I can dream, right?

Steam VR With Meta Quest 2 via Air Link

So I finally got around to testing out playing Steam VR games using the Meta Quest 2 via Air Link. Let’s unpack that a bit.

The Meta Quest 2, of course, is Meta’s stand-alone consumer VR visor that runs on a mobile chipset and has its own app store. This is what I use to do my VR workouts and it’s a great product for that and in generally a really nice VR system.

Oculus, back before Meta bought it, made a tethered PCVR headset called the Rift S. To use it you’d install an Oculus app on your Windows machine. This app had its own store. A few years back Meta stopped making the Rift S, but they started selling a $70 “Link Cable” that let you use the Meta Quest 2 as a tethered PCVR headset so you could still play (and purchase!) Rift games. (Rift games won’t run natively on the Quest 2, and vice versa, though some games are ‘cross-buy’ and you get both versions for one cost.)

Then 3rd party modders, and eventually Meta themselves, introduced Air Link which let you ditch the cable and use the Quest 2 as a PCVR headset via WiFi. Lots of caveats about the quality of your WiFi network and all that. But it works, at least for me, and not only does it eliminate having a cable to get tangled up in, it means you don’t need to be near your PC to play, though you probably want to be pretty near a WiFi access point. (I play VR in the living room and it just so happens the Google Fiber WiFi router is about 6 feet from where I play.) I set this up a week or so ago without much effort. The only very slight annoyance is I have to manually switch my audio output (on the PC) to “Oculus Virtual Device” before I start playing, or I get no sound.

SteamVR, of course, is Steam…in VR. Steam sells VR titles including what some would argue is the best VR title available, Half-Life Alyx. (I have no opinion on that…yet.)

So with all that out of the way, here’s what the experience is like for me.

I put on the Quest 2 and I get the Quest 2 home dashboard and access to my Quest 2 games. Then I open Settings and tap a button to connect to my PC via Air Link. When I do that the Quest 2 dashboard goes poof and I switch to the Oculus PC/Rift dashboard and I can play my Rift games. So far this has been a great experience. Once I hit some lag but so far, only once.

Going further down the rabbit hole, I can also access my PC desktop via the Rift Dashboard. Once I do that I can load Steam VR just as if I was sitting at my desk. When I do that, the Oculus Rift dashboard goes poof and the Steam VR dashboard appears. For some reason when it first appears it flickers for about 5-10 seconds but so far it has always stabilized. And from there I can run Steam VR games, and at some point I apparently bought Half-Life Alyx, and that’s what I used to test tonight.

I didn’t get very far, but boy it was pretty breathtaking. You start out on a balcony overlooking a city where those big strider things are ambling around, and various drones are hovering overhead while down below in the streets people mill about. All I did, since dum-dum me decided to start this experiment after 11 PM on a work night, is kind of wander around and throw cans at pigeons and stuff, so no comments on the gameplay but it was sure pretty and ran smooth as can be.

So yeah, pretty happy about how well this all works and now I can finally see what all the fuss is about in Half Life Alyx.