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He doesn't like to tell friends what he does for a living. He can't believe it himself He says that he is a kid with a fake steering wheel in the backseat. He released a mod for Grand Theft Auto V in 2020 that allows you to play the entire game in virtual reality. Thousands of people pay him every month to stick their heads into their favorite video games.

He makes over $20,000 a month by making PC games that run in virtual reality headsets instead of traditional monitors and TVs. He says two-thirds of the people who sign up for his service stick around.

They aren't just there to buy his mod, he thinks. He wants to show the video game industry that virtual reality isn't right.

On the condition that we wouldn't reveal personally identifying information, he spoke to The Verge. I don't want to be judged on how I look or sound, I want to be judged on my work.

Poisioning the well. The phrase was used behind closed doors when games were brought to virtual reality without being designed to prevent players from throwing up. The fear was that a bad first impression would cause people to abandon the project before it reached its potential.

From Wii graphics to PC graphics

The video game industry played ball for the majority of the time. One tip to prevent simulator sickness is to let you turn naturally, instead of using a controller to jerk your head around. Most companies reduced the graphical fidelity of their games so they wouldn't need a PC. High-resolution images for each of your eyes means a trade-off in fidelity for virtual reality games. Most virtual reality titles look like they would work on a Nintendo Wii. Instead of blindly bringing their big-name games to virtual reality, they stuck to bite-size "experiences" or made small original titles that didn't bring them the returns they hoped.

Those efforts were not in the best interest of the country. The common wisdom of how to build virtual reality games is causing game studios to leave the field.

There is an easier way, according to him. Does that mean that the companies are leaving money on the table? He says that it is enough to make a lot of people realize that this should be the future of gaming.

I play Elden Ring with the mod. Drop a compressed folder of files into my game director, run the script, and then launch it from steam. Even though I am streaming from my PC, it still handles most of the rest.

The underground kingdom of the game is filled with a sky of stars. I am where I left off in the game. It's all around me when I turn. I can see why I find dead lords in thrones across the game's cliffs and shores. The world is pretty. I find myself with a renewed interest in it.

About 30 seconds is how long my passion is. I moved my character as soon as possible. When I try to turn my knight around with my game controller, I start to feel unwell. Even on my moderately capable gaming PC with a 3060 Ti, the game simply doesn't run fast enough to maintain smooth frame rate in virtual reality. I break out in a sweat and say it's time to stop. I'm not feeling well the rest of the night.

The spirit is willing but the VR legs are weak

I don't get sick often in virtual reality. Half-Life: Alyx is one of the games I have played for hours on end. There have been a lot of bad experiences in titles without the extensive guardrails. I used to try new demos late at night so I wouldn't have to worry if things went wrong. I can get sick when I read in a car because I am sensitive to games that point me in a different direction.

I am afraid to say that even his original mod for 2002's No One Lives forever 2 is so old it runs like butter on a modern PC. It took me almost an hour to finish there. I don't think my experience makes me angry or worried for virtual reality. I am jealous that the backers can experience these games from the inside, curious if I can finally get my own virtual reality legs under me, and utterly fascinated by the idea that a person can make a living playing games in virtual reality.

He didn't have to quit his job to become the 41st most popular Patreon in the games category and get a substantial income. He just had to stop. He was already used to sporadic income, and he already worked from home when he was a software engineer. He stopped taking on new projects in order to see if the virtual reality community would support him.

He was well-known by the time he started the Patreon. He saw 200,000 downloads after the free release of his Grand Theft Auto V mod was covered by major gaming websites. After he added Cyberpunk 2077 and Elden Ring, the number of people who signed up for his service nearly doubled. He went from making less as a software engineer to earning more, at least for now.

Back-of-the-napkin math suggests Luke has earned over $150,000 so far, even after Patreon’s 8 percent cut.
Charts: Graphtreon

He makes it sound like he is hard at work. I used to have a lot of free time during my day. It is similar to two of my day jobs.

The majority of that time is spent figuring out how to hack your head into your games. He fixes things that the original game developers neglected, such as making sure a character's health bar actually appears over their head.

In one day or two, the mod would be out if I limited myself to making the camera 3D and attaching it to the headset. Then comes a month of work tweaking all the little things to make the experience enjoyable, fully playable, not just something you look at for a while and then forget.

There is an effort to get his mod working again after a patch is made. He thinks that's 5 percent of his time. He says it is a huge amount of work to update a game. I was researching this story when Elden Ring broke compatibility.

The gray Google Daydream View headset, opened to show a Pixel phone with images for each eye.
Even the simplest VR headsets today operate on the same basic principle: give each of your eyes a distinct picture that changes as you move around.

From a technical perspective, it is important to note that Luke is not doing anything that is really revolutionary. It isn't rocket science to turn a 3D game into a virtual reality game. When you play any modern 3D game on a flat-screen, you are a cameraperson inside a giant film set created by the 3D engine. You can use that engine to point a single camera in any direction you want to look at it.

You would have stereo 3D if you had two cameras. If you want to use virtual reality, simply turn the cameras to point where you want them to be.

The stereo 3D community has known the basic tenets for a long time, and even though he wasn't part of that scene, he was an early adopter of 3D Vision glasses. His first mod was a simple crosshair that placed the sequel at the correct depth. He frequented the MTBS3D forums, where a young Palmer Luckey first crowdfunded the Oculus headset, and it was his dissatisfaction with existing 3D to VR conversion software that pushed him to create his own mod.

The Nvidia 3D Vision glasses were “shutter glasses” designed to work with 3D monitors; the monitors would rapidly alternate between left-eye and right-eye images while the glasses block the eye whose image isn’t being displayed.

"From there, I've been standing on the shoulders of giants." The mod was based on 3Dmigoto, a tool developed by the Nvidia 3D Vision community, and he says he is thankful for everything he has learned. He credits the developer of the ReShade tool for later mod's.

I think it is because of the additional techniques and features that he has laid atop that framework that there is a renewed sense of excitement in 3D to Virtual Reality conversions. His mod allows you to slow down or even freeze time so you have time to think and react and adjust settings if things are too overwhelming now that a game that is designed to be in front of you is all around you. After I beat Elden Ring on my flat-screen, I plan to try a mode that allows you to explore the worlds without fighting anyone.

How to get your legs in a virtual reality headset.

I told him that his mod made me sick, and he suggested that I get my virtual reality legs wrong. He says I should stop sooner and do more bite-size sessions until it clicks. He says that if you get sick, you should stop using virtual reality.

As soon as you get the first signs of illness, quit and allow yourself to get well. Do you come back at that time? You will last 40 minutes instead of 30 if you quit back in half an hour. It becomes normal in a few days.

He says that he is immune to simulator sickness, but he has heard from other people that it works. I'm going to try it.

There is a feature called "alternate eye rendering" where his mod double the game's effective frame rate by not using two cameras to produce virtual reality. The Elden Ring experience seemed shaky when I started moving, even though I was just looking around.

"AER is not my choice because I love it but because it's a necessity." He says he would be selling snake oil if he said he could make new games deliver more frames per second.

He admits he is a little troubled by the paradoxes he has seen. The audience doesn't seem to care when he brings games to virtual reality that run smoothly Modern hardware makes the Mafia trilogy run well. He says that it is the least talked about game in his account. Everybody is interested in Cyberpunk 2077.

He says that Elden Ring can bring new people to virtual reality.

By the time you read this, he will have a mod for Elden Ring that can run at 180 frames per second on a modern graphics card, enough for 90 frames per second on headsets like the ones you use. He wants it to be well-received, but he wants to continue with a mix of low- and high- performance games to show what virtual reality can do. He is considering God of War's impressive PC port as well as doing Spider-Man on the PC.

He hasn't heard from video game developers, not with praise, not with cease-and-desist, not at all. The people seem to not care. He says he doesn't worry because he's serving a niche and he'd be happy to take down a mod if they asked.

When choosing which games to mod, he keeps in mind legal issues. He decided not to do the trilogy because he was worried that he would be asked to remove his mod if he did it. He says that a game with a virtual reality mode on the PC would be low on his priority list. The PC version of the game didn't include a virtual reality mode, but he wouldn't necessarily shy away from making it better.

He is trying not to take his support for granted, as he is unsure how long his support can last. He wants the games industry to notice him sooner than later.

Even with some technical problems, some artifacts, lacking full physics, and lack of motion controls, you can still get most of the way there with a really small effort, a really small investment.