For viral Internet streamer ragesaq, it was hardly satisfying enough to attack the prolific musical box-slapping sim Beat Saber with dual laser swords. Now boasting millions upon millions of views on his mixed reality ‘Darth Maul’ videos across YouTube and Twitch, ragesaq is synonymous with feats of Beat Saber-dom that would make actual Sith Lords think twice about getting on his dark side. We’ve taken his dual-blade technique apart from a third-person perspective, but haven’t gotten a chance to speak with him—until now.
That said, if you’ve yet to see ragesaq perform, watch some of his play of Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ at 140% speed before continuing:
“I had a bunch of parts from a great company called ProTube,” ragesaq told me as we chatted across a Discord VOIP channel. “They’re a French company that makes VR rifle stocks, and I’d had one for a long time. I’d rearranged one before, to make two-handed weapons for sword fighting games and things like that.”
Ragesaq has been in the VR community ever since the launch of the Oculus Touch controllers in late 2016. He’d been dreaming of VR ever since he was a child, much like myself and many others in this space, but was snapped out of his dream by the uncaring pulls of reality. Luckily, one of his workplace vendors gifted him a customized Google Cardboard and, craving a deeper experience, he found himself purchasing an Oculus Rift by the end of the following week.
During his first days in VR as a social Twitch streamer, ragesaq spent most of his playtime in first-person shooters such as Onward. It wasn’t until closer to the release of Beat Saber, just over one year ago, that he found himself particularly fixated on the idea of wielding lightsabers in VR.
“I’ve just been involved with VR for a long time,” he continued. “I remember thinking ‘Oh Beat Saber is going to be really cool and it’s too bad they don’t have a Darth Maul saber! That’d be a really fun way to play it.’ And I thought ‘Wait a second, I can make one!’ I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I had this idea, and I had the parts to do it. I figured that, if I went ahead and rearranged them and made a Darth Maul saber, it’d be good for a gag.”
In fact, he’d never even played a single Beat Saber track before recording his first video with the Darth Maul saber. But that ‘gag’ turned into a rolling success for ragesaq, who was only previously accustomed to the conventions of streaming Onward and other, less physically involved games on Twitch. “I had the mount created before the game came out,” ragesaq exclaimed as I asked him about his first session. “I rushed home from work, I had the game installed overnight, I launched it and held the saber up to see if it’d work. When it did I was like ‘Holy cow!’”
He streamed his initial recording to Twitch, but then he also recorded a clip and uploaded it to YouTube to the tune of over 77,000 hits. He credits UploadVR for making the clip blow up as much as it did after they reported on it the very next day. “I started uploading videos to YouTube and back then, if you had a decent mixed reality video of Beat Saber, you’d clear like half a million views pretty easily,” ragesaq told me. “It was really weird [to go viral on YouTube]. I was streaming on Twitch for probably over a year at that point. But most of that time was just streaming on Twitch to make recordings of myself, so that I could make clips to show my friends who don’t have VR.”
Because of ragesaq’s niche popularity across the Internet, the official ProSaber implement was created and pushed to market; meaning that anyone can now purchase a ProSaber hilt online and manifest their own inner Darth Maul without any additional prototyping. But how does somebody create content that properly shows off their double-bladed saber skills as ragesaq does in his videos?
“I use regular OBS, just regular OBS. And then one unique thing that I do is mixed reality streaming with a Microsoft Kinect. It’s the one piece of hardware out there that can, at full framerate, produce a pretty good quality depth-based background removal,” ragesaq explained. “I found some [green screen] software a long time ago, like a year and a half ago that I’d messed around with here and there, but never had a game that really fit mixed reality so well. It was made for the Kinect by this guy named David Goodman, who was a high school student at the time.”
Ragesaq was already involved with the LIV community, which naturally fosters an air of excitement towards VR fitness gaming and mixed reality streaming. But back then, ragesaq says, their mixed reality compositor didn’t seem to play nicely with the Microsoft Kinect. “The problem with this green screen software I’d found was that it was incompatible with LIV. But I found a way to make it work. I came up with this whole stack that needed a second OBS, a virtual cam, it was kind of a major pain.
“What happened [with David Goodman] was, he graduated high school and got an internship with LIV after I introduced him to the LIV guys. He’s been working there a while and just on May 1st, the anniversary of Beat Saber, they released some software they’ve been working on for quite some time that fully integrates the Kinect with mixed reality compositing, completely eliminating all those redundant buggy pieces of software. It’s convenient and completely cool, so that’s what I’m using now.”
Nowadays, behind each of ragesaq’s mixed reality videos is a Kinect that projects out a depth-based virtual green screen. He then pushes that green screen into LIV with the help of giantsox’s (David Goodman’s) LIV mod, and connects it with the Kinect video feed. After that, he takes the image spat out by LIV and layers it into OBS Studio, where he streams and records live footage of himself as if he were inside of Beat Saber or any other VR game in his library.
“It’s a pretty advanced topic still. It requires a bit of technical knowledge, but it is getting easier. The LIV team is doing a lot to simplify the mixed reality streaming part, and their software’s come a long way since the early days.” he continued. “Just regular VR is more difficult to stream than a regular desktop game. You have a more mobile viewpoint, and a different aspect ratio. And you take that and combine it with mixed reality, which is a totally new paradigm for streaming.”
With such a specialized composition of layers and a totally unique saber style, I figured that he naturally uses at least a few Beat Saber plugins to make gameplay smoother and more manageable. “There’s a plugin, originally created by xyonico and then updated by PureDark, that helps make the Darth Maul system work better,” ragesaq wrote to me after I clarified via text. “It makes the sabers connected together at the hilt, [and makes the beams perfectly straight].”
As 2019 moves forward, following the Oculus Quest launch, ragesaq is hopeful that VR games will finally gain the exposure that he believes (and we believe) they deserve. “2019 really has been a big year for VR. My mom is getting an Oculus Quest so she can play Beat Saber,” he said towards the closing moments of our chat. “Now with the Quest in potentially millions of new users’ hands, this is gonna be big. I’m thinking about next year’s TwitchCon or something like that—everyone’s gonna have an Oculus Quest. It’s gonna be crazy. What else is this going to bring that other people haven’t even thought of yet?”
You can follow ragesaq at his official Twitch channel or on YouTube. Feel free to reach out and leave a nice comment or two during his livestreams; while he’s liable to accidentally slash your hand off if you get too close, he certainly doesn’t bite.
Think you can do a better Darth Maul impression at home? Leave us a link to your video(s) in the comments!