Eastward is the director of a university XR research and development lab, a PhD candidate, and a Unity Certified Instructor
First Things First
The Oculus Quest, by Facebook-owned Oculus, is an "all-in-one" VR system that operates as a standalone device. That means you don't need to connect it to a PC to run it (you do have that option, but more on that later). All the computing power is contained within the headset, called a head mounted device (HMD) in VR-speak.
Being a self-contained unit means no messy wires to get tangled up in and makes it easy to use the Quest just about anywhere. It's also pretty inexpensive to get started, with the price of the device being less than a high-end smartphone. There are two models to choose from, the 64 GB model and the 128 GB model.
Personally, I'd recommend paying the premium for the 128 GB model unless you plan to be a light user. I've never regretted having more storage space--or more time to spend playing games as opposed to dealing with file management.
Oculus Quest on Amazon
Once you've received your Oculus Quest and finished jumping for joy, it's time to get it set up. You'll need to download the Oculus App on your mobile device and connect your headset and phone wirelessly. Oculus will now also require users to have a Facebook account, so if you don't have one of those, you'll need to set that up as well.
Once you're connected and logged in, you'll be ready to configure your Quest and get into the virtual world. There a selection of free games and experiences available from the Oculus Store that you can download. A quick search in the Oculus store (you can use the Oculus App or access the store from within VR) will turn up recommended beginner titles like Oculus First Contact and First Steps. These titles are great for helping you get your VR legs and for learning the controls.
Oculus Touch Controllers
Navigating the Virtual World
The Oculus Touch controllers are easy to get familiar with. My 70 year old father, who has very little experience with video games, was up and running with them in a few moments. The intuitive controllers are well-designed--for the most part--and utilize thumb-sticks, triggers, and buttons.
The two controllers, one for each hand, are lightweight and require 1 AA battery each. The battery compartments utilize magnets and in my experience, it's easy to open these by accident during normal game-play. Thus, I'd also recommend getting some third party grip handle covers. You can buy these in sets with other recommended accessories, such as a convenient carrying case and silicone protector (for comfort and cleanliness) for where the Quest contacts your face.
While in VR, your user experience will use a lot of raycasting, which will act like a laser pointer. You'll point the controller, as you would a laser pointer, at menu items you want to select (then click a button or trigger to select that item, depending on the app or game).
Deeper Into Virtual Reality
After you've gone through the initial stages of getting comfortable with your Quest, the basic controls, and some introductory apps, you'll be reader to dive deeper into what the virtual world has to offer. I have a few recommendations that I find simple and easy to enjoy for beginners.
As far as games go, I'd recommend starting with a rhythm game like Beat Saber. The concept is simple. You have a light saber, like those seen in Star Wars, in each hand. One is blue, one is red, and you want to use them to slice blocks of corresponding colors coming at you along with the beat of a song.
Job Simulator is another great choice, where you perform the menial labor jobs of today as crudely re-imagined by AI of the future. You can have fun tossing things around the office, convenience store, or restaurant. Want to experience ripping off customers in a simulated auto shop? You can do that too. It's award-winning, chaotic fun.
Getting back to light sabers, the Vader Immortal Trilogy is another excellent place to start. The series immerses you in the Star Wars universe, placing you in the difficult position of being a coveted Darth Vader recruit. It's about as close as most of us will ever get to being in a Star Wars movie ourselves--at least for the time being.
Weight and Balance
Wait, we can't forget to talk about weight (and balance)! We've talked about the benefits of the Oculus Quest's self-contained computing power, but that also comes with a downside. Out of the box, the Quest can be a bit front-heavy. For users that want to play longer sessions, this can mean discomfort.
However, there are solutions to this problem. There are battery packs available that attach to the back of the Quest and help give it a more comfortable balance. Of course, this also gives you the benefit of extended play time. If you are feeling a cash squeeze after getting a Quest and the accessories mentioned earlier, you could take the cheaper path and tie a bag of coins (or something similar) to the back strap of the Quest to serve the same purpose.
I'm hoping to see the balance issue better addressed in future iterations of the Quest, but I imagine the design lines had to be drawn somewhere in order to get this first model out at a reasonable price. All-in-all, it's an easy downside to mitigate and a small price to pay for untethered freedom.
If you do have a PC capable of running VR games usually reserved for Oculus Rift or Steam, have no fear. The Oculus Link cable allows you to connect your Quest to the PC so you can play bigger games with more complex graphics. My Link cable was a lifesaver when I wanted to play Half-Life Alyx while my HTC Vive Pro was in for repairs. The resolution of the Quest is still limited, but other than that, it works great for playing PC VR titles.
The cable itself simply inserts into the USB-C charging port on the Quest and with a male USB 3.0 into the computer. Inside VR, you just need to click "Enable Oculus Link" on the toolbar. Make sure you check your PC specs before connecting, otherwise you may lock up your Quest and need to give it a factory reset.
Getting Some on the Side
If you want to side-load games, I would recommend installing the SideQuest app. This will allow you to side-load games that aren't approved or available in the official Oculus Store and add mods to existing Quest games. SideQuest offers an expansive collection of free games, independent games, demos, experimental apps, and more.
The app has a nice user interface and allows for easy installations, backups, and file management. SideQuest works for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can find the instructions and downloads at sidequestvr.com.
As you can see, the Oculus Quest has a lot to offer. Checking out the tutorials, game, experiences, and apps I've recommended is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also great web browser experiences offered in the Quest, YouTube 360 videos, and so much more. Also, the Quest 2 is hitting stores now with some improvements on the previous model.
I hope you find these tips, tricks, and suggestions useful for saving time and getting you off on the right foot. Have other suggestions you'd like to share for Oculus Quest beginners? I'd love for you to share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy gaming!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Eastward
Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 06, 2020:
Thanks for reading and commenting, Liz. I'm glad I could answer some of your questions. I'm not thrilled with the decision to require a Facebook account for the Quest, but other than that, it is impressive how simple it is to use.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 06, 2020:
I have often wondered how these VR sets work and how easy they are to set up and use. Your article answers my questions.