How to enable Windows Mixed Reality joysticks for more SteamVR games

Most of the games on Windows Mixed Reality via SteamVR function via some form of emulation, mimicking the peripherals of other platforms. For example, in DOOM VFR, recently released (and totally awesome), you can see HTC Vive motion controllers in the in-game menus, rather than Microsoft's own WMR controllers.

Update, January 5 2018: This method is no longer relevant, as SteamVR for WMR has been updated to use this code natively. Awesome! The original article is below.

Sadly, this also means many games don't support WMR's joysticks natively either, meaning that in games like DOOM VFR, you have to physically turn, to well, turn. Physical movement in VR is not only disorienting for some, but for others, there simply isn't room to move around, unless you want to end up tangled in a HDMI and USB cable from your headset.

Thankfully, Microsoft's joystick solution enables VR experiences in a more accessible seated format, allowing you to turn using your joysticks rather than spinning around like a crazy person. While few games support this functionality by default, Microsoft recently updated the WMR engine on Steam to enable joystick support in more games, according to the company, supporting both smooth motion and staggered turning. Here's how to turn it on early before Microsoft pushes it out via an update. Obviously, you need SteamVR to try this.

  1. First, navigate to this file on your computer:C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\MixedRealityVRDriver\resources\settings\default.vrsettingsNote: The file path may vary depending on where you have installed Steam. Before proceeding, be sure to make a copy of the default.vrsettings file incase you experience any issues. This method is direct from Microsoft, and we have tested that it works, but it's always a good idea to keep a backup before tampering with code.
  2. Once you have found default.vrsettings, right click and select Open With.
  3. Open the file using Notepad.
  4. Next, check to see if the code inside the file has the text beginning with "driver_Holographic_Experimental" inside, if not, replace the text with the code below. If you restart Steam, it might show up automatically.
{"driver_Holographic" : {"renderTargetScale" : 1.0},"driver_Holographic_Experimental" : {"thumbstickTurnLeftEnabled" : false,"thumbstickTurnRightEnabled" : true,// Some people may experience increased discomfort such as nausea, motion sickness, dizziness,// disorientation, headache, fatigue, or eye strain when using "smooth turns" in Windows Mixed Reality."thumbstickTurnSmooth" : false}}
  1. You can customize your experience by altering the true and false statements above. For example, if you want joystick turning on your left WMR controller, flip "thumbstickTurnLeftEnabled" : false, to "thumbstickTurnLeftEnabled" : true,.
  2. You can also change between staggered turning (less disorienting for some) or smooth turning (can be motion sickness inducing) by switching "thumbstickTurnSmooth" : false to "thumbstickTurnSmooth" : true.
  3. When you're done, hit File > Save, then go and kill some demons in DOOM VFR!Note: Be sure to observe the syntax in the code above for it to execute properly. Removing or adding any commas or braces will break the code.

Now, you should be able to use joystick turning even in games that don't support WMR natively, like DOOM VFR and Fallout VR. We tested this code with DOOM VFR, GORN, Surgeon Simulator and Job Simulator, and found that it worked a treat. Microsoft is rolling out the code via an update soon regardless, but this is how you can get in early. Pretty cool, no?

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!