Photo via Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
An update issued by Oculus for its virtual reality platform was designed to prevent exclusive titles from being played on competitor's headsets may have inadvertently opened the company's games up to being even easier to pirate.
On Friday, Oculus released an update to its software that included a new DRM that was designed to perform "platform integrity checks" to ensure that titles designed for Oculus were played specifically on its platform. The patch killed—likely not by accident—a community tool called Revive that enabled users to run Oculus titles on any VR headset, including alternatives like the HTC Vive.
The attempt to squash the popular hack came back to bite the company in record time: the developer responsible for Revive has already circumvented Oculus' new security measures, and has done so in a way that would enable VR headset owners to pirate titles rather than simply run them on unsupported platforms.
The prior version of Revive copied functions from Oculus Runtime and translated them to OpenVR, the API that works with with Vive and other headsets, according to a report from Motherboard. The latest version of Revive bypasses Oculus' ownership check entirely, meaning the platform can no longer confirm that a user actually owns the title they are attempting to play.
Revive's developer, who goes by LibreVR on Github and CrossVR on Reddit, told the Daily Dot that it took "no more than a few hours" to bypass the DRM. "I really didn't want to go down that path," the developer wrote on Reddit. "I still do not support piracy, do not use this library for pirated copies."
The developer does note that even though Revive is capable of bypassing the ownership check, it's still not a foolproof solution. "It's still not working for a lot of games, so this is still a big blow to Revive compatibility," CrossVR said on Reddit. "And it's the start of an arms race with Oculus that I'm not sure I will win or even want to participate in."
For the time being, Revive supports Unreal Engine games but not titles built on the Unity Engine, a shortcoming that will continue until full compatibility can be implemented over time.
Revive first appeared in April 2016 and instantly presented a challenge to Oculus by allowing users to easily run Oculus-exclusive titles on other platforms. For Oculus, which was already experiencing a rough launch with shipping delays and a dubious and overreaching user agreement, having content that couldn't be found elsewhere remained a primary selling point for the product.
The company has attempted to protect that, operating more like a gaming console than a PC peripheral. But being a product powered by PC and appealing to a community familiar with modding and hacking, it was unlikely that something like Revive wouldn't crop up eventually; Oculus founder Palmer Luckey has even expressed an understanding of that in the past, stating "If customers buy a game from us, I don't care if they mod it to run on whatever they want... our goal is not to profit by locking people to only our hardware."
Oculus has been considerably less carefree in its response to Revive. "This is a hack, and we don’t condone it, a spokesperson for Oculus told the Daily Dot. "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."
Future updates to Oculus will surely continue to break Revive and similar hacks—whether done so intentionally or in a targeted manner or not. For CrossVR and other developers who may want to hack Oculus, the relationship with the company will likely be like a game of whack-a-mole, with the hammer dropping every time a new workaround pops up.
When asked if Oculus and Revive could coexist, CrossVR expressed his hope that they won't have to. "It is much better for consumers if they can choose any VR headset without having to use workarounds," he said.