July 6, 2017

Oh Luckey Man!

Newsfeed - July 06, 2017

When Palmer Freeman Luckey (what a name!) was ousted from Oculus by Facebook (who had bought the company), they might have thought that he would go quietly. The reason they ousted him was because he admitted funding an anti Hillary Clinton advertisement that showed a picture of the Democratic candidate and the caption “Too big to jail.” He later denied funding the ad, but by then the chain of events was set in motion and - in the face of threats from major developers to boycott the Oculus (threats that were themselves later withdrawn), Luckey was ousted from the company.

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Oculus-Rift

However, whilst Luckey appeared to go quietly - so quietly that his departure is still not mentioned on his Wikipedia page at the time of this writing - that did not mean that was indifferent to the way he was treated by the company that he effectively founded in his parents’ garage. And now it appears that he is putting money into a program that by-passes the Oculus Rift monopoly on certain games.

Specifically, Luckey has pledged $2000 per month to the Patreon campaign of Revive - a software tool that enables users of the HTC Vive headset to play games that were designed exclusively for the Rift. Even in the days when he was CEO of Oculus, Luckey was against hardware/software lock-ins. “If customers buy a game from us, I don’t care if they mod it to run on whatever they want.”

That was clearly the libertarian in him speaking. Not surprising, considering his middle name. Could it be that he was ousted for this belief in openness?

Revive was created by Jules Blok shortly after Oculus started making games that could only be played on the Oculus. A project rather than a company, Revive was basically a proof-of-concept workaround for the Oculus wall. It worked by bypassing code checks on the games so as to let them be run on other platforms, but did not permit pirate copies of the games to run. The games still had to be legally purchased from the Oculus Home Storefront.

However, a month later, Oculus released app update 1.4 that added an additional layer of security, requiring that an actual Oculus Rift be present before the app or game launched. Oculus justified the measure by condemning the the workaround.

“This is a hack, and we don’t condone it. Users should expect that hacked games won’t work indefinitely, as regular software updates to games, apps, and our platform are likely to break hacked software”

The public reaction to the Oculus counter-measure was uniformly hostile, especially as this was after Luckey had already made his statement about not objecting to people running Rift software on other platforms.

But Oculus responded defensively saying that the countermeasures were a “security upgrade,” and an “entitlement check” to “curb piracy and protect games and apps that developers have worked so hard to make.”

However, a developer at Revive who goes by the handle Libre VR told Motherboard that: “While this helps prevent piracy from people who didn’t buy an Oculus Rift, it doesn’t do anything to prevent piracy from those who did buy an Oculus Rift.

He went on to say that “this clearly excludes anyone who bought the game, but didn’t buy an Oculus Rift. Even if Revive wasn’t targeted, they were probably more than aware of the collateral damage.”

In response to public discontent, however, Oculus has since reversed its decision, essentially allowing Revive to continue and proving that some rifts can be healed.

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Oculus-Rift

Whether this will have an impact on sales of the Rift, is another matter. It is unlikely that people are buying the Rift because of the software and therefore unlikely that the ability to run the software on other platforms would hurt sales. And if people can run the software on other platforms, then that gives Oculus a route to both additional sales and added profits.

And if Palmer Luckey still holds shares in Facebook, then it’s money in his pocket too. So everyone’s a winner baby!

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