PSVR Set

Although we love the PSVR and the PS4 Pro, Sony really dropped the ball when it came to creating the PSVR’s Processing Unit.

For those of you not in the know, the PSVR comes with a breakout box, which has to connect to your PS4 and your TV with a few extra HDMI cables. This is so that a person not wearing the headset can see what’s happening on the TV or see an alternate screen if the PSVR supports multiplayer. It’s a great idea and reduces some of the isolationism that can be felt when using the headset but the breakout box comes with a rather large flaw; it lacks  HDCP 2.2 support.

PSVR processing box
The PSVR processing box

HDCP 2.2 is required for the implementation of High Dynamic Range (HDR) in certain titles. Assuming your TV supports HDR then you’ll be treated to more accurate colour reproduction and more striking lighting effects.

It’s not a deal breaker for most players, some say they can’t even tell the difference, but for AV enthusiasts like myself it’s heartbreaking to have the feature stripped out of my PS4 Pro (HDR is also available on PS4) when I have my PSVR set up too.

The free but highly impractical solution is to get down on your knees and unplug some cables every time you switch between regular games and PSVR, however, not only is this cumbersome and annoying but it could also cause premature wear of the HDMI socket on the PS4/PS4 Pro.

The next solution is to buy a male to female HDMI lead/adapter. Leaving this permanently plugged into the back of your PS4 means that it’s only the connector exposed to wear when you choose to switch.

Neither of these solutions are good enough to me. With a wife who likes tidy, my entertainment setup doesn’t allow for cables to be pulled in and out all of the time, not only are they hard to access, the PS4 Pro and PSVR breakout box skid around our wooden floor every time they’re moved.

Something had to be done.

So myself and the OOC team decided to do some research on switches. There are hundreds out there to choose from. From low-cost 3-port switches to expensive multi-port powered devices, price however does not really come into it, it’s the supported specs that matter.

Looking for a low cost solution we bought five different 3-port switches from Amazon. All of them claimed to support HDCP 2.2, some of them claimed to support 60hz and only one of them claimed to support HDR.

In addition to the switches we bought three Amazon Basics HDMI 2.0+ High Speed HDMI cables.

We won’t run through the different devices or what the results as because there’s no point, in the end only one worked:

A small £15 device made by a company called CSL. The box is around two thirds the size of a deck of playing cards, made of metal with a good weight to it. It allows one input and two outputs however being bi-directional this is rather inconsequential. On the top of the device is a push button which switches between the two outputs, you know which one you’ve selected thanks to a blue LED which becomes active when a signal is detected. It’s a little bright for our liking but a bit of black tape and remembering wether depressed means one device or another soon sorted that.

CSL HDMI Switch
The CSL HDMI Switch we used

It wasn’t plain sailing at first, this device almost got returned with all of the others, no matter what we tried we couldn’t get the device to display anything at all from the PS4 Pro. After talking with the supplier they suggested we use shorter cables, but our brand new Amazon cables were 0.9m and anything smaller would have been impractical. We nearly gave up until we looked at the box of random HDMI cables we had lying around. Instead of going shorter, why not go longer?

Success! In the end it took two 1.5m cables from an old Sky+ box to get it working. As far as we were aware, the cables were only rated for HDCP 1.4 but apparently not, with a bit more testing and switching to make sure it wasn’t a fluke we’d finally found a device that would switch between our PSVR and PS4 Pro while maintaining HDCP  2.2, 60Hz, RGB and the all important HDR on the latter device, all without restarting the system.

So if you’re looking to get a seamless PS4/PSVR HDR setup here is what you need. Firstly the switch. Next you’ll need a lot of HDMI cables. We can’t recommend where to buy the Sky+ cables because we can’t guarantee they’ll be the same as ours but we do know that the supplied PS4/PS4 Pro cable doesn’t work nor do Amazon cables. So what we can suggest is that you try as many different ones as possible, it will work eventually. In some cases you will get a flickering or snowy image, don’t persevere, ditch the cables and move on. You’re also going to need an additional HDMI socket on the TV.

The cables you are focusing on are the two between the PS4, the switch and the TV (highlighted in red in the image below).  The cables for the PSVR are inconsequential and you can use any cables you like.

The whole setup should look like this:

PSVR PS4 Switch Diagram
PSVR to PS4 with HDR switch

 

What is happening is that the PS4 is feeding all of its signal into the switch. If left on standard the original HDR HDCP 2.2 signal will pass straight through to the TV. When you press the button on the switch, the same signal gets sent through to the PSVR box, which, due to it’s limitations, strips out HDMI and converts the signal to HDCP 1.4 and then sends it to the TV. The great thing about this switch we discovered is that it can do this on the fly, some other success stories have resulted in switches that need the PS4 to be rebooted before working on a different setting.

So there we have it, an almost perfect PSVR/PS4 setup. We wish  we could promise you that it’s going to work out of the box but the truth is you’ll be tearing your hair out as you try tens of HDMI cables to get a result, however if you want to swap between glorious 60Hz, RGB, HDR and PSVR with the touch of a button, it’s worth the effort.

 

Tethered

This week we attended EGX in Birmingham UK. Whilst we were treated to appearances from the likes of Titanfall 2, Horizon: New Dawn and Destiny: Rise Of Iron, VR was very much the showpiece of the conference. With the PS4’s PSVR launch only a few weeks away it was understandable that as many developers as possible wanted to get their VR game in front of consumers.

On show were a wealth of VR titles, from AAA titles to small indie offerings but each game made one thing alarmingly apparent, VR seemed to be nothing more than a tech demo, a one level example, a potential cash grab fad.

Until we saw Tethered.

tethered EGX
It was a long wait to play Tethered at EGX but it was well worth it!

I felt for the developers of Tethered who spent a lot of time chatting to us about the game while we waited for our turn, as it was hard for them to put into words exactly what Tethered is, and now we are facing the same issue, but here goes nothing.

Tethered is in essence a god sim. You as the player are omnipotent and you look down upon carefully crafted and initially barren islands which float in beautiful sky boxes. The objective of the game is to amass spirit energy to restore life and harmony to these islands. You do so with the help of Peeps, small cute creatures which can be assigned tasks. A few of these tasks include mining, farming, building and fighting. To aid your Peeps you can “tether” them to various objects including Totem poles which allow you to alter their class, clouds which offer bonuses such as wind power or the sun which offers fire power. You can also tether clouds or other environmental phenomena to the island, sun and water will help crops grow for example. Occasionally Peeps will grow despondent if they don’t have much to do, tethering a rain cloud with the sun will produce a rainbow which will cheer up your suicidal Peep so you can get him back to work.

It all is quite beautiful as you set up your island environment and the barren land soon becomes a beautiful play area full of resource management and fun things to do. When darkness falls however the game takes on a new twist. Evil creatures will slowly begin to crawl from beneath the island and wreak havoc on your utopia, sabotaging resources and attacking your Peeps. With some well timed strategy you can minimise the damage with some well placed hero Peeps who will do their best to keep your island alive until morning.

So how does it lend itself to a VR title? Watching people play as we waited our turn we weren’t exactly blown away by what we saw on the screen, but when putting on the PSVR headset we were captivated. The game is just stunning and within seconds we were lost in the fantasy world that Tethered offers. Your vision acts like a mouse cursor and only one button on the PS4 controller is needed. Simply look at what you want to do and hit X and you’re golden. The tethering is done by looking at an object, holding X and then looking at another object. It doesn’t sound very enthralling but it has to be tried to be believed. It has a very visceral feel to it. The standing point of your character is fixed and talking to the developers they said that they wanted to restrict movement in order to offer the best possible experience, but don’t let that put you off, Tethered works wonderfully. From where you’re looking you can see everything you need to and it feels just right, need to switch angle? Simply look at another cloud and you’re teleported to it, whereby you can see your island from a whole new perspective which can reveal hidden items and resources. The headset also picked up leaning, we didn’t realise that there was a stack of gold to be mined until we leant forward to peak over a wall in our way.

The game also makes great use of the 3D audio option. With some clever audio design, the music and sound effects are dynamic and each piece of sound has been recorded multiple times in different keys so it can adapt to what you’re doing on the fly. It’s subtle and although it doesn’t add a huge amount to the gameplay it just goes to show how much care and attention has been put into this game.

The great thing about Tethered is that it takes the tech demo feel of so many VR titles we’ve seen and throws it out of the window. We only got 10 minutes to try out the tutorial level but we could have sat there for hours. There was so much to do and experience and even when we weren’t actively engaging with our island, we were happy just being in the world that had been created.

We were told that Tethered may be a launch title for PSVR but it was still undecided. Either way we’ll be picking it up as soon as it hits the store. Batman, Battlefront and Driveclub VR may come out as a show off piece for friends now and again but Tethered is definitely a VR game you’ll stick around with.