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Having VR issues on Linux? You should look to disable async reprojection

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Virtual Reality is still a niche and doing it on Linux is a niche within a niche, that said when it works it's brilliant but there's a few problematic issues that have arisen recently.

After having played a great many hours, and picking up a fan to prevent myself overheating, I feel it's safe to say I'm now a huge fan of VR. Sadly though, there are times where updates roll out with SteamVR that cause problems on Linux and it doesn't really seem much of a priority for Valve to fix (compared with updating Proton).

Two problems appeared, and both have seemingly the same culprit.

The oldest problem is how the SteamVR Overlay (and some other areas) will have this weird jittering and delay that looks pretty bad and can easily make you feel a bit sick. A bug report has been open on it since at least October 2020, which affected AMD users. The problem was found to be asynchronous reprojection, which is supposed to help responsiveness in VR when the GPU can't really keep up with everything. The problem was amplified recently when NVIDIA released the 470.42.01 driver in June 2021 which added async reprojection support on Linux. So now both camps have the same problem.

On top of that another more recent issue that I reported in July 2021 sees VR games fail after a few minutes with a "-203" error code. Sometimes you can play for 5 minutes, sometimes 10 and sometimes less than a minute.

What's the fix for both issues? Turn off async reprojection, at least until Valve find out what's causing the problems across both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs. How to to turn it off? Find this file ~/.steam/steam/config/steamvr.vrsettings and make sure this is in there:

   "steamvr" : {
      "enableLinuxVulkanAsync" : false

Hopefully this will help more of you enjoy VR on Linux.

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly.
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Ehvis 18 Aug, 2021
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The overlay issue doesn't bother me so much. I only rarely see the overlay and I can keep my head still when I really need it.

The crashes are highly annoying. They primarily happen with games that have low or inconsistent framerates or from other sources of big stutters. Last week I played Groove Gunner for two hours without issues, but BL2VR crashed in minutes. Well, not actually BL2 that crashed, the game keeps running it's just he HMD display and tracking that stops working while the game keeps running.

As for async reprojection as a technology I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I can't deny the latency improvement, which is extremely pleasant. But it is not free of issues. Since the reprojection is strictly based on rotation, head movement (also the implicit movement of your eyes when you rotate your head) are not included. This results in visible perspective and parallax issues which you perceive as a slight distortion.

Another thing I noticed is that the rendering framerate sometimes takes a big hit. Async reprojection is supposed to prevent a drop in rendering framerate, but it doesn't seem to maintain that. Groove Gunner is again a nice example since I can pretty much maintain close to 120 fps. The times where it does dip below it's only a small amount and I never really noticed the dropped frames before async reprojection. But now I sometimes see the framerate of the moving objects (and hands) drop down to at most 60 fps, which is not particularly pleasant regardless of the smooth head movement.

Motion smoothing is supposed to correct for some of the above problems, but from what I've read most people on Windows don't find it worth it because it introduces artefacts. Which also makes me wonder if Windows users have the same issues with async reprojection or if "their" implementation is actually better.
Spyker 18 Aug, 2021
I had big hopes for async reprojection that could finally fix the choppy head rotation I experience in No Man Sky VR...
It seems I'll still have to wait for another fix :/
SketchStick 18 Aug, 2021
There's been patents showing that Valve is working on a standalone/wireless headset solution which involves major changes in how the compositor works, including the reprojection method. I wouldn't expect any attention to the Linux stack until that's released...

Last edited by SketchStick on 18 August 2021 at 2:12 pm UTC
bubexel 18 Aug, 2021
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What about this?

Last edited by bubexel on 18 August 2021 at 5:09 pm UTC
Hori 18 Aug, 2021
Unfortunately, VR was so buggy in so many ways on Linux for me, using Nvidia and the Index, that I completely switched all my VR gaming back to Windows.

It seems like there's always something that keeps that damned Windows partition alive...
Flatscreen gaming is pretty much a solved issue at least for me, and that partition was mostly sitting there collecting dust for a while, until I got into VR... and in VR I just can't tolerate *any* amount of crashing and instability.
It's been a year since I have VR now and the experience in my case is still very far from "smooth" on Linux (well, to me at least it's actually unusable).

Hopefully Valve will figure fix the issues with SteamVR and beyond to make the overall experience at least on par with Windows, even if only on AMD (as Nvidia is allergic to cooperation and to Linux).
Even better if they will release a standalone compute unit for the Index like all those leaks and patents seem to indicate. If they keep using SteamOS or a fork of it on that device, it will mean Linux will be a first-class citizen for VR for Valve and our problems will be solved (just like the Deck is going to benefit us all for flatscreen games on Linux and especially Arch Linux).

If they actually release a standalone VR unit then I'm getting it no matter what, and by also getting a Deck I'll be saying goodbye to my desktop PC entirely. A lightweight (Linux ofc) laptop will suffice for productivity.

Last edited by Hori on 18 August 2021 at 6:45 pm UTC
jens 18 Aug, 2021
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I hope this will be resolved anytime soon, actually quite a shame that VR on Linux broke recently that much :(
TheRiddick 18 Aug, 2021
Bit of a shame VR is having such a issue under Linux. Basically forces people to go back to windows for VR because allot of companies are only updating drivers and building software on windows and nothing else.

I'm going to be getting a decagear 1.0 end of year and they won't have software for Linux until a while so I'll be forced to boot back into windows for vr.
ronoverdrive 21 Aug, 2021
Even with disabling Async Repro, VR on Linux has been unplayable for me and is a stuttery mess. VR is the only reason I bother dual booting Windows anymore and its driving me nuts since I use VR almost daily since this whole covid mess began. If Valve has any plans on making standalone VR using SteamOS 3.x they gotta get off their butts and get these year old bugs squashed already. I've had my Index for 8 months now and bought it for Linux compatibility and haven't been able to use it once on Linux.
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