Valve has announced SteamVR Desktop Theatre Mode, a new feature of its virtual reality platform that will allow games not made with VR headsets in mind to operate with the HTC Vive and other SteamVR hardware.
With the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift just around the corner, and Sony expected to follow with the PlayStation VR in short order, it's no surprise that companies heading to the Game Developer Conference (GDC) are gung-ho about virtual reality. Valve, naturally, is particularly enthusiastic about the technology: it has invested heavily in its SteamVR platform, and has even partnered with smartphone maker HTC to produce a flagship hardware bundle with motion control, positional tracking, and a high-quality stereoscopic head-mounted display dubbed Vive.
A big for early adopters of VR, however, is availability of software. Like those who first picked up a 3dfx accelerator board, VR owners are likely to find themselves limited to a small number of titles until the technology proves itself to have a large enough market to become a mainstream target platform for developers. Where developer-centric bundles like Oculus VR's early Rift Developers Kit (Rift DK) hardware allowed users to hack support into existing titles, a smoother experience will be demanded of the retail hardware - and that's something Valve is claiming to offer.
In an email sent out to press ahead of GDC, Valve explained that it is soon to launch a SteamVR compatibility feature that will allow existing games on SteamVR hardware without waiting for the original developers to produce a patch. 'SteamVR Desktop Theatre Mode is in early beta,' the company's email read, 'and will be showcased at next week's Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. Desktop Theatre Mode enables users to play non-VR games with VR systems such as the upcoming HTC Vive and others.'
Full details of which headsets and games will be supported are not yet available, with Valve expected to maker a broader announcement - and possibly even launch an open beta - at GDC.