I recently picked up a PP Gun. This is something I’ve wanted for a long time but couldn’t stomach the $899 price tag. I was able to get one for much cheaper and have spent a few days using it. Below are my initial impressions.
It’s a well built device and is designed to work with the HTC Vive tracker puck, which doesn’t have many accessories to integrate with. The PP Gun was showcased by HTC as a tracker puck accessory several years ago. It was supposed to be a great example of how the Vive tracker puck could enable a new line of VR devices. Yet, several years later we still have very few. I now understand why.
The PP Gun is well built, like I mentioned. By this I mean it’s a molded device with nice surface finish, its weighted nicely, buttons feel good, and I actually like the way they did recoil. It feels like a video game accessory that any major platform would release.
There are two mounts provided for the Vive tracker puck. I’ve only used one at this point and it comes with very light spring mounts which are supposed to isolate the puck from the gun recoil. It works somewhat. I like the cabling from the tracker puck to the gun which is a custom USB to audio jack cable. The cable is very stiff though and hurts their efforts of isolation.
The PP Gun includes a analog thumbstick on the side that is intended to replace or emulate the trackpad on a Vive controller. It works pretty well in the games that I’ve tried it in. This input is what is really needed in VR accessories like this and not many have them with the Vive tracker puck. The Hyperblaster doesn’t have a true trackpad and is only a large button.
The recoil is light but provides immersion in games that use it. The recoil can be turned ON and OFF, which is a good thing as I’ll discuss below. When the PP Gun is correctly setup and tracking in a game, it is quite a bit more immersive than just a rifle stock or only controllers. There are however many issues with PP Gun in order to get to that stage.
The battery life on the gun is really good as well. They claim 8 hours. I haven’t had to charge it yet since originally getting it charged. It takes a while to charge but even using the recoil, the battery life seems solid.
The setup on the PP Gun can be infuriating. And I choose the word infuriating very specifically. I integrate VR gear professionally for a living and sometimes it can take me an hour to get the PP Gun setup correctly for a game. This includes pairing it correctly, making sure it shows up in the Steam VR Home environment, that it correctly controls functions in the game, and the in game model is aligned with the real gun. These steps alone make it very very clear why this VR rifle didn’t sell well. People in general are going to give up in the first few steps of making this device work. The game support needs to be seamless and its far far from that.
Some games require the tracker puck to be put in a controller role which requires downloading a role changer from the PP Gun website. This used to be supplied by HTC directly but has since been removed because it can brick other devices like your HMD. Make sure when you use the role changer that no other VR gear is plugged into your USB ports. It’s also detected by Windows as a virus which will scare most people off right off the bat.
The upside to this controller mode, and role changer, is that you get the thumbstick/trackpad functionality. Currently this is the only way I know of to get this to work because Valve/Steam is blocking analog inputs on the native Vive tracker puck. This blocks the trackpad analog input and trigger analog input when used natively as a tracker puck. Valve claims it was a bug, which is unfortunate. With the tracker puck in a controller role, Steam thinks the puck is a controller and enables these analog inputs. The role changer was officially removed by HTC from its support forms because it was claimed the new 2.0 input system in SteamVR would remove the need for it. The possibility of bricking HMDs is the more likely the real reason. The 2.0 SteamVR input system also doesn’t fix the Vive tracker analog input issue, even when the tracker is used in “Tracker in hand” mode.
Along with the role changer you’ll need the OpenVR Input Emulator from matzman666. The last update for this was January 2018. Development was stopped also because of the new SteamVR 2.0 input system, however it is still very much needed for VR rifles. The Input Emulator has easy to use positional and orientation offsets that you’ll use to align the PP Gun with the gun model in the game. It’s an absolute must have. It’s accessible by pressing the System button when in games and real time in game adjustments can be made.
Until very recently the Vive Tracker 2.0 puck with blue logo didn’t support the USB input so people had to buy old 1.0 gray logo pucks. The 2.0 tracker has recently been updated but there have been issues getting it working. Currently I’ve only seen the 2.0 tracker USB input work with an Android test program supplied by HTC. No one has gotten it to work on PC that I’ve seen or heard about yet. HTC support is helping me with this issue but its taking quite a bit of time. I’ve been working it as part of my own VR rifle work.
To confuse things even further not all ‘games’ for the PP Gun use controller mode. Some expect the Vive tracker to actually be a tracker. Games was in single quotes because the PP Gun company is far too liberal in their list of supported games. There are very very few games that have native support the PP Gun. They however list a lot of games that use guns and that after lots of tweaking could be made to look like they support the gun. Really the PP Gun is just using the controller mode and isn’t supported at all. This can make use very awkward at times when you’re required to do things with your PP Gun controller which aren’t easy to do when its actually a large rifle. At the very least you’ll need the OpenVR Input Emulator to make it all work.
The only game I’ve really gotten the PP Gun to work well with is Overkill VR, which has native support. Arizona Sunshine also claims native support but I have yet to get it to work. It may be that the latest version of Arizona Sunshine has broken the PP Gun support because I do remember about a year ago seeing a PP Gun mode within the game when I first got my Hyperblasters. Haven’t been able to get it working however since getting my PP Gun. The company behind the PP Gun also released its own couple games like Contra VR and Battle for The Last Chicken. I wouldn’t buy a PP Gun just for those games.
The recoil on the PP Gun is a nice addition but its fairly weak. It appears it has to be because even with the Vive tracker isolation mounts, the gun tracking can go nuts if the recoil is used too often. This was very evident in Overkill VR. It’s just barely hanging on. The recoil is also a rapid fire which is fine when you’re in games with a machine gun. It’s not so good when you’re holding a pistol. The good thing is that they provide a button on the gun to enable/disable it while playing. I turn it off for any weapon in the game that isn’t rapid fire.
I’m very much a FPS fan and have been for nearly 20 years. On paper the PP Gun looks like a perfect controller for the HTC Vive system and getting that next level of immersion for FPS games. If you have lots of time to fiddle and fiddle and fiddle, for each game, then its possible to setup things to achieve more immersion. However many times the effort isn’t worth the setup. Overkill VR is an easy setup but personally I find the game quite boring after a few minutes. I use it more as a test program for the PP Gun. Hoping that I can get Arizona Sunshine working because maybe it will change my mind about the PP Gun. But until then, I’d recommend that most people stay away from the PP Gun. It’s expensive and the support just isn’t there.
The sad thing is that the hardware is all capable and nicely done but the software just isn’t there yet. For it to be fixed Valve has to fix their SteamVR tracker puck support for analog inputs. Then supposedly with the SteamVR 2.0 input system, game support should come along with it for free. I still think the OpenVR Input Emulator will be needed to adjust positional and orientation offset errors. SteamVR doesn’t allow the end user to do that.