Oculus, Beat Saber and the Future of Custom Songs

Things are about to change regarding Oculus, Facebook and potentially Beat Saber. Let’s talk about what we know — and what we don’t know — about what’s coming down the pike in less than a week. Updated: 2020–10–18 with some new information.

We are just a few days away from an important change for the Oculus VR platform. Not only is Oculus doing a big change to the Terms of Service it expects users to abide by on October 11th, but on the 13th the Oculus 2 headset is released — which also signifies the death of all new Oculus accounts in favor of requiring all new hardware and users to use real, verifiable Facebook accounts.

The short version; everything Facebook requires of you as a member? Oculus now requires of you as a member.

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Here we go … changes you need to know about …

Let’s start off by looking at the changes in the Terms of Service to see if there is anything interesting here.

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Someone has to do the heavy lifting … Here are the changes (well, some of them)

So I poured through the whole thing, looking for anything particularly interesting as it may pertain to this topic. By the way, if you want to see the changes for yourself, click this link.

Most of it is minor changes in verbiage to make it more align with Facebook.

First and foremost; if you’re using a Facebook account for your Quest, you are fully expected to comply with all Facebook Terms of Service. Since no one is going to click through and read it, I’ll give you some interesting bullet points.

  • You must be over 13 to use Facebook and hence Oculus VR. It has always been part of the Oculus TOS, but now it is a hard, fast rule because Facebook requires it. This is something every parent that owns a Quest and has family members under 13 needs to know.
  • You cannot use Oculus VR if you’ve ever had your account previously disabled for violations of Terms and Policies.
  • Facebook requires your true identity to be attached to your account — this means no more burner accounts, “Fakebook” accounts or “token” accounts.
  • Your behavior in VR is now held to the same standards (aka Facebook Community Standards) as any other use of Facebook products and your account can be suspended or terminated for failure to comply.

Even if you have gotten away with fake accounts in the past (or still are), your ability to ever use Oculus (Facebook) products again is in jeopardy if you account is terminated.

Naturally, if you cannot use Facebook (and cannot use Oculus) — Beat Saber will be dead to you as well; forget about custom songs.

What if you are not using Facebook as part of your Oculus account? It seems to say here that you do not have to comply with Facebook Community Standards — just the changes to the Oculus Terms of Services.

These Terms of Service apply to you if you use an Oculus account to access Oculus Products. If you use your Facebook account to access Oculus Products, visit the Supplemental Oculus Terms of Service and Facebook Terms of Service, which govern your use of Oculus Products. You agree that the Oculus Store Terms will apply to your purchases and downloads from the Oculus Store as of the effective date of those terms.

Wait, so if I do not have Facebook tied to my Oculus account, I’m off the hook?

I wish that were true — as that would include me as being exempt from Facebook’s Community Standards.

Reading changes to the Oculus Terms shows you are on the hook for Community Standards either way.

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You’re on the hook for Facebook Community Standards — even without using Facebook at all!

If you are grandfathered in until 1/1/2023, it doesn’t really matter whether you use Facebook or not.

You’re bound by Facebook rules and your Oculus account can be held accountable — even without Facebook tied to it.

After December 2019, all Oculus accounts were “gimped” from social interaction with friends if you didn’t connect a Facebook account; so a lot of people did it — many used a fake account which puts their entire Oculus existence in peril as those fake accounts can never be verified if challenged.

How does this affect Beat Saber and custom songs?

On October 13th, Facebook will be releasing a new, multiplayer version of Beat Saber. If you did not attach a Facebook account to your Oculus account, you will unlikely be able to use this multiplayer capability.

Here is something rather interesting I found while going through the changes to the ToS.

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Interesting addition …

If you can’t read the screenshot clearly, the original ToS says:

However, we do reserve the right, and have absolute discretion, to remove, screen or edit User Content at any time and for any reason.

The revised ToS?

However, we do reserve the right, and have absolute discretion, to remove, screen or edit User Content at any time and for any reason, including content that infringes intellectual property rights or otherwise violates these Terms.

Custom songs contain both music and synchronization data which in most countries infringe on copyright laws. By downloading them and installing them on your Quest (this is covered by “User Data” by the way — look at the paragraph above) you are violating the ToS as written.

TL;DR: Oculus can remove this content (and likely the ability to use it) at their discretion.

While Quest 2 isn’t officially out yet, there are plenty of reviewer units out in the wild and my affiliation with the “unicorns” behind the BMBF project (the tool used to modify and allow custom song access to Beat Saber) has pointed many of them my way — asking how to get BMBF working with the new headset.

The individuals that have reached out to me report that BMBF’s patching functions do not work and custom songs are not currently possible on this device.

What we do not know is — why? Was it intentional? Is it a “feature” of an update to the operating system that Quest 2 has — and Quest doesn’t have yet? Can it be circumvented by the unicorns? Will Quest get this change too and break BMBF on the OG edition of the headset?

All great questions — and we have no answers.

But, at the time of writing — Quest 2 does not have custom song support.

Only time will tell.

Updated: The unicorns of BMBF are working on the Quest 2 solution with a release expected somewhere in the 10/18–10/19/2020 time frame. This will not allow for multiplayer or OST scoreboard leaderboards to work.

While nothing new, the modding and patching of Oculus Quest games can easily be attributed to a Terms and Conditions violation by Oculus.

You will not use, copy, adapt, modify, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, decrypt, attempt to derive the source code of, prepare derivative works based upon, distribute, license, sell, rent, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast or otherwise exploit the Software and Content, except as expressly permitted by Oculus or as permitted under applicable law.

That’s as straight forward as it needs to be. That is in the original Terms of Service and it is in the new Terms of Service on October 11th.

BMBF does pretty much exactly that; decompiles, modifies and copies. Then we as users actually use it.

In order to use BMBF, we’re also abusing the Developer Policy of Oculus.

So let’s be honest — Facebook and Oculus can close this door at any time and all we can do is complain about it.

There is a difference between “not being authorized” to do something and “having a blind eye turned” when people to it anyway.

Little by little, Facebook has been warning us about this while still turning that blind eye.

It started with a warning above Unknown Sources, letting us know we are probably engaged in Something Bad(tm).

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Illicit Modding … ? Regardless, it is unauthorized usage.

Soon after, a small group of people modifying Beat Saber with BMBF started getting a warning during the install of the modded APK process — warning them that they should be using the store version — but offered a button to let you do it anyway.

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Pretty clear, isn’t it?

Along with that, another small group of people started getting warnings periodically when they ran Beat Saber — once again declaring it modified and urging you to install the store version.

But they let you continue anyway.

Over time, these messages have traversed to all users and are popping up almost constantly for a majority of people.

Another way we know Facebook is taking an interest in what’s going on? Improperly modded Beat Saber APKs (versions that crash during the testing of the patch development) were sending notices back to Facebook. The unicorns involved with the patching process expressed they had never seen that before.

While this could be a simple matter of Facebook collecting usage statistics for “crashed apps”, it could also be something specific to Beat Saber.

At the end of the day, the only reason we’re still able to run a modded Beat Saber on Quest is because Oculus is allowing it by providing us the means to hit CLOSE and run it anyway. At some point? RESTORE could be the one and only option. The unicorns cannot do anything about that.

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How long will Facebook continue to allow this?

Pure speculation of course, but bear with me.

Currently, we have something called SideQuest; an amazing tool that gives us the ability to install non-Oculus Store apps such as in progress games and other neat tools (like BMBF).

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One of the greatest gifts to Oculus owners …

The developer of SideQuest has worked carefully with Oculus to ensure some sort of harmonious existence. SideQuest actively blocks the installation of pirated apps, for example.

It was recently announced that Facebook/Oculus would be creating a “non Store store” for indies and other unapproved/unvetted “gold star” apps for being able to be installed and run on Quest without the need of Sidequest (and presumably a developer account) or a PC.

What this means for SideQuest itself (since it is used for BMBF installation — although clever people can use Android’s ADB tool to install without Sidequest) is unclear.

This makes sense from the Oculus point of view, though. SideQuest allows pretty much anything through (other than those aforementioned blacklisted pirated apps) which takes control of any kind away from Oculus and Facebook.

By (essentially) offering a still-curated-but-with-less-standards version of SideQuest that takes away almost all “legal” reasons for Sidequest to exist, they could then decide to close the “turned blind eye” away from tens of thousands of people having “developer” access and using SideQuest for other purposes — such as BMBF. Close the developer door, and you close SideQuest — and you close BMBF (via ADB or otherwise). Custom songs go with it.

I don’t see Facebook allowing BMBF to exist on their official unofficial store that isn’t a store front end.

We don’t have enough information at this time to make anything but conjecture, but it all makes sense to me logically and from a business point of view.

Probably nothing but coincidence, but it seems suspect that we get new hardware (that requires Facebook), a new multiplayer Beat Saber that people have been craving for a year (which will require Facebook) and fresh new Terms of Service that place additional restrictions on the user as well as require them to agree to all the Facebook Community Standards … all within the same 48 hours.

… and I’m sure a nice OS update will be deployed during that 48 hours as well. Stability and bug fixes, of course.

If Oculus/Facebook were going to make some other big changes — like cracking down on piracy or “modded” APKs like Beat Saber — this would be the best possible time.

After all, even modded Beat Saber users are going to uninstall the modded version to try the multiplayer edition — which requires Facebook — which could be a tricky ploy to convert people like me that have not linked Facebook with Oculus to do so.

Once linked, and all our purchases are tied to a “once in a lifetime” Facebook account? Where all our Oculus goodies could disappear should our Facebook accounts be fake or we disobey the rules?

Facebook has exactly what they want; control and compliance.

Are you going to risk your “one and only real identity” Facebook account getting terminated to mod Beat Saber so you can play Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl? Some people may decline to do so — even if the unicorns do get it figured out.

Update: Aside from additional security imposed by Android 10, there appears (at this time) not to be any additional attempts on Facebook’s part to stifle the modding of Beat Saber. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a violation of TOS and they can act on it with a simple account ban.

Go offline for a few days; starting on the 10th of October.

Take your Quest off the wifi so no OS or game updates can happen.

Use SideQuest to backup your copy of Beat Saber. Use my guides to backup songs, playlists and other data.

Wait it out; ensure BMBF gets updated by the unicorns and what sort of fallout there is surrounding multiplayer on Beat Saber. See what happens with the OS update (should it happen).

The dust will settle in a few days — and with any luck? Everything will be the way it always was — and you’ll be Gangdam Styling your way to another great song score.

If it doesn’t settle? You’ll still have access tomorrow for what you’re able to play today.

Update: I still recommend staying vigilant.

Some people speculate that Facebook requirements are about data collection, advertising, VR market domination … and that is all probably true.

But I believe a larger part of the equation is about gaining our compliance through a social network login which ties our “VR existence” to an easy kill switch; one that isn’t just about stopping us from playing RoboRecall, but for many constitutes their near-entire online existence.

The more you have to lose with piracy, modding, et al … the less likely you are to do it and maybe this isn’t just a side-effect of their global VR domination plans or extrapolating potential products to tell advertisers you want to buy … but to keep the leash short and make sure we do as we’re told.

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I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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