Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

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Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:28 pm

As some of you have probably guessed from my recent car liveries, I'm a big advocate of Oculus VR and Virtual Reality in general. I've followed the Oculus Rift since it appeared on Kickstarter almost 3 years ago and wanted one ever since.

I'm now getting impatient waiting for the consumer version of the Oculus Rift to be released (currently Development Kit 2 is available). So much so I almost ordered a DK2 this week but decided to wait until the Games Developer Conference is finished next week, where rumours are that both Valve and Nvidia will be announcing their own VR headsets. This is significant, as Oculus (the only viable VR option so far) was bought out by Facebook (Facebook sees VR as the next big social platform), but with Valve and Nvidia possibly releasing VR headsets which will most likely be aimed at one single demographic. Gamers. Not only that but Oculus will finally have some competition. Competition drives innovation.

I had the chance to try out VR last September at a conference in Gateshead, it was the first time I'd ever tried VR despite following it for a long time and it was absolutely mind blowing. The first demo I tried was one from Jaguar with their "virtual showroom". I was transported into a Jaguar F Type, the modelling was incredible and did enough to convince my mind that I was actually sat in a Jaguar (this is what is called "Presence" in the VR world). It's a very strange feeling which can't be described. It needs to be experienced to be believed. I then drove a Tuk-Tuk around the Newcastle Quayside in a demo made by a local university (I think it was Northumbria but can't remember for certain!). Even though the graphic quality was not great, I still felt like I was driving around the Quayside. I also wondered around a large passenger plane. Again, my brain told me I wasn't in a conference hall at all.

So, what does it do for sim racing? A huge amount. VR in its current form is best as a seated experience (they have to say that for health and safety reasons!). As sim racing is a seated experience it fits in perfectly. Imagine being sat in your living room/computer room/bedroom/spare room like you do now. But your brain thinks you're actually sat in a touring car, or a single seater, or a space ship. As far as your conscience is concerned, you're not in your house at all.

Think about when you're racing and you need to look left and right, you press buttons on your wheel to make your drivers head turn. VR changes that, you turn your head to look around and on the screen you get a 1:1 reaction. Glancing at rear view mirrors becomes possible, a lot of cockpit views in racers the rear view mirror is either half off or fully off the screen.

Then there's 3D. People wrongly throw up comparisons of 3D TV to VR. VR is nothing like 3D TV at all I'd like to make that 100% clear. It's almost identical to looking at the world through your eyes. But instead of real physical objects you're looking at 3D objects in-game. This gives you a huge advantage in wheel to wheel battles as you have full depth perception you know exactly how close you are to the car you're battling. Those amazing online battles you have currently feel like you're actually the one sat in the car fighting for position.

This video from Gamermuscle on YouTube sums it up nicely - also have a look at some of his other VR videos.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtVXdVFUzFU

When you see YouTube videos of people reacting to using the Oculus Rift for the first time, don't think they're exaggerating, they certainly aren't! I can tell you from my own experience, it's an incredible piece of technology which everybody will own within 5-10 years. Those of you who run triple screens, this takes that to the next level.

And I'll make a bold statement here today. You'll all either own one or consider owning one within 3 years.

Sims which currently support VR (or will be supporting it in the near future) are:

  • Project CARS
  • Assetto Corsa
  • Live for Speed
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience
  • iRacing
  • Richard Burns Rally (through a mod)
  • rFactor 2 (planned - although nothing mentioned by ISI for a while)
  • BeamNG Drive (planned)
  • Next Car Game (planned) - the next FlatOut game
  • Codemasters games (planned apparently)

Here's a full list of supported games (or planned) so far. Remember this is before the consumer version is even out!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_Oculus_Rift_support

VR has a far reaching audience outside of gaming. I work in Medical Imaging, more particularly development and integration of products. I can see loads of uses for VR in a clinical environment. Facebook see it as a social platform, film makers see it as a new way of delivering their content (think 360 degree filming), the possibilities for it to be used are endless. I'm so convinced I'm considering learning how to code properly and making content for VR.

It's here to stay, don't discount it just because you've never tried it. Trying the first generation of VR in the 1990s doesn't count as trying it either.

The planned price for the Oculus Rift is "about as much as a decent monitor" - So I'd assume no more than £300 if that's the case. DK2 is selling at £300 right now. Other manufacturer prices are yet to be confirmed, but no doubt GDC next week will have answers. Smile

Now.... Where's that DK2 order page and my wallet....

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Max Spooner on Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:48 pm

Matt I think we have an ad spaming bot. Can you remove this please?

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:49 pm

Max Spooner wrote:Matt I think we have an ad spaming bot. Can you remove this please?

Cheeky sod! Trying to have an intelligent conversation... Bloody youngsters!

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Matt Lewis on Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:15 pm

lol.. maybe he is on commission Wink

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:32 pm

I wish! Just somebody who firmly believes it's the way forward!

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Matt Lewis on Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:23 pm

i agree and could be sorely tempted also.... just need to convince the Mrs that its worth sitting in the study immersed in a virtual world and that i wont look like a knob

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Alan Mead on Wed Mar 04, 2015 11:01 am

I also have been following the Oculus Rift, as with chris getting inpatient and been tempted a few times to purchase an SDK version, but still looking forward and hoping the wait is worth it.

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Matt Lewis on Wed Mar 04, 2015 11:42 am


I'll perhaps wait for a year or so, content to upgrade my ageing 17inch monitor for now

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:57 pm

It's arrived! Very Happy

So far only done a short stage on Richard Burns Rally to test and already crapped myself by spinning off towards a tree. Still needs some playing with to suit my eyes (distance between pupils is a configurable thing on the Rift driver and needs to be fairly accurate). Also swapping between the 2 lenses that are supplied and finding which combination of those, glasses, contact lenses or naked eyes are the best.

Will post more thoughts tomorrow.

Much fun to be had I think!


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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Matt Lewis on Wed Mar 04, 2015 5:35 pm

Whats with the Blue Peter cardboard version on the right?

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:34 am

I'm still doing a huge amount of tweaking, it's quite difficult to find the right settings, but I think I'm getting there. Some experiences so far.

Overall the resolution is pretty bad (1920x1080, but remember it's magnified), the FOV could be better too. But this is a Dev Kit, it's not meant to be for consumers. But it's still a great toy to have! Viewing anything further than about 200m away is very difficult (although I've found a few tricks which can help, just need to test them). There's jagged edges everywhere due to me turning AA off to make sure I hit 75fps. Again, something to play with.

If your frame rate drops below 75fps then you start getting judder and it feels wrong. To a point where it can trigger headaches after just a few seconds. So reducing graphics from your normal settings is a must. Although the low resolution of the screen does mask most of the graphic quality you lose. I figured out on PCARS running everything on medium settings instead of high kept me at the 75fps mark.

Overall after using the DK2 the consumer version is a must have. Although keep an eye on the HTC/Valve Vive headset, by all accounts it's better than anything the Oculus prototypes can do. For me personally, it looks likely I'll have a collection of VR headsets once the consumer versions hit the market!  Very Happy

Richard Burns Rally
This was the first game I tried, hurtling through the trees in VR is a strange experience. Due to RBR's lack of widescreen support everything looked a bit narrow which didn't help, but I'll tweak with it more tonight. I did have an "oh shit!" moment at 200kph on Ouninpohja (modded stage in Finland, incredibly fast!) when I lost control over a jump and spun and saw the tree coming towards me. I flinched!

Probably the strangest thing about RBR is when a jump is bigger than you expect you can feel your stomach jump which was interesting!

Even though it's only modded support it's actually really good and the easiest to get working!

PCARS
As expected I had to turn the graphics down a fair bit. I've got a small issue with something popping in at random intervals which is distracting. But sat looking around the cars is amazing. I drove the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and the details in the cockpit are astonishing!

Assetto Corsa
I sat in a Ferrari 458 - the 3D effect on this was by far the best of all the games I tried. Unfortunately I had an issue where the camera view was looking over the virtual left shoulder, even though I was looking straight ahead, so couldn't drive anywhere. But I could still look around the cockpit which was nice.

I've found a solution to the camera issue which I'll try tonight. Which I'm looking forward to, because by comparing just sitting still in the cockpit AC was the best.

Live for Speed
I was told the implementation of this was really good, and it is. Head moving, tracking is spot on. I did have a problem with blurred vision though. I think this was down to Rift driver settings as I tried this fairly early in the evening I'd played with the settings since. So will give it another go tonight.

Euro Truck Simulator 2
First of all the sense of being in a truck cab on this is amazing, that is when your head is still. The menus are very well done for VR too. However I had an extreme amount of judder and blur when moving my head which caused me to feel a little dizzy when I took the rift off. There's known issues with the Rift implementation on this, so hopefully it'll improve.

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:53 am

Matt Lewis wrote:Whats with the Blue Peter cardboard version on the right?

That's a Google Cardboard. Use your smart phone for VR. Although it's not very good, but it did only cost me £3 from here (was special offer a few weeks back):
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00TF9CBUO?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s00

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:16 am

Some much better results after night 2, far happier with it.

I experienced a lot of aliasing and shimmering on objects whenever I turned a corner this made it quite uncomfortable after a while, and turns out was also part of my problem with seeing into the distance. So I spent the best part of 3 hours playing with anti aliasing and various other settings and I've finally got somewhere that doesn't give me a headache, stays above 75fps, I can see a reasonable distance ahead and once I ignore seeing the "screen door effect" (gap between pixels), it's truly mind blowing.

Assetto Corsa
Got this working, I could finally look forward (and not over the shoulder) and got the camera view lined up with the drivers view point. Found medium graphics settings were about right with anti-aliasing on high, a few other tweaks on Nvidia control panel too and within some AC config files to turn off the auto exposure.

First run was in the Ferrari 458 at Spa. I just sat looking around the cockpit for about 10 minutes before moving off, the details are just astonishing, with added AA the cockpit looked even nicer than first time around. Distance viewing was tricky above about 300m now which is a nice jump up, but the far horizon didn't look too bad really.

Second run I used the Ferrari theFerrari at Silverstone. Now Silverstone being flat wasn't quite as good for immersion, lots of long distance viewing. However around the old pit straight everything looked reasonably crisp (where you can't see too far ahead).

Third run was on the hillclimb track that I can never remember the name of, it begins with T. I did this in the KTM Xbow and for the first time I got the sense of presence (the feeling of actually being there), for about 10 seconds I'd managed to ignore the screen door effect and get the full feeling of actually being in a KTM on this hillclimb track. It's difficult to describe the feeling, it's one of those you need to experience to appreciate.

Richard Burns Rally

So with my Nvidia control panel tweaks I thought I'd have a go on RBR again. Had a bash on the Bizanne stage in France. This is by far my favourite default RBR stage and I keep track of my best times. So I lined up in my 2008 Focus WRC and went for it. I beat my PB stage time set about a year ago by just under 1 second. I thought I'd nailed that stage last year. Turns out I hadn't.

So it turns out driving in RBR with the Rift is an advantage. Being able to look around the corners, judging gaps and distance to the edge of the road (probably the biggest plus in RBR), look where you're sliding and actually "feel" through what you can see the car is doing.

It then made me think back to AC when I was in the Ferraris. In the 458 I didn't spin. I had some moments which I corrected. My lack of talent in RWD is very well known, but suddenly I could see what was going on with the back end before I could feel it through the force feedback on the wheel. Another difficult to describe feeling, but it does seem to work!


As yet I've not raced against any opponents AI or online, trying to get used to the different way of playing first.

So to sum up... It's an amazing experience. Once you've spent the best part of 6 hours fiddling with various settings to get it to run properly.

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Alan Mead on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:21 pm

Been having a read around different forums, seems to be a few headsets in the pipe line, have also be reading about the google cardboard plastic version. ordered one this morning, downloaded a program on PC which is free (the server} and bought the client part for android for £4 lol. installed both, put the phone on a usb tethering setting on the phone and BOOM connected straight away. A bit juddery on my laptop but not supprised cos pretty low spec anyway. will try it on rFactor tomorrow and x-plane and see what its like then.


Last edited by Alan Mead on Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:24 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : kant spel)

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Mon Mar 23, 2015 2:14 pm

A few weeks further down the line and I'm still massively enjoying being in VR. I've now got to a point where I can't use Assetto Corsa without it. Did a few laps with a friend around the Nurburgring yesterday it's a weird sensation being in a sim looking over to your left/right to see another car there instead of having to press the button to look about. I've also been constantly hotlapping the Nordschleife, it's very addictive. The new cars in the "dream pack" are also great fun to drive. BMW M235i being the highlight so far, closely followed by the Mercedes 190E. The most recent patch for AC has massively improved frame rates too. It's now at a point where I can run most things at medium settings while still keeping the magic 75fps.

I've also been playing a lot of Richard Burns Rally still and that is still astonishing. Now I'm used to it I feel like I'm so much faster in every stage I tried. I even beat the "Richard Burns Challenge" for the first time. Very Happy

I've also added Elite Dangerous to my artillery of VR gaming titles which is nothing short of astonishing. I'm sat in a space ship navigating the Milky Way. What's not to like?! Text is very hard to read though (and there's a fair bit of it in the HUD/UI displays, menus etc). I need to buy a new joystick I think.... More money to spend. Shocked

Project CARS has recently broken the Rift support, I could hit 75fps with most settings on medium, now I can barely hit 60fps with everything on low, which is a shame. I hope they fix that soon.


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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  D. Hahn on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:06 pm

just found this
http://www.reddit.com/r/oculus/comments/2cnas5/supersampling_the_dk2_2560x1440_in_elite_dangerous/

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Chris English on Mon Mar 23, 2015 6:36 pm

Thanks Dan, I'll give it a go. Although not sure my i5 2500k and GTX770 will cope!

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  Kris Vickers on Mon Mar 23, 2015 8:36 pm

Does Arma 3 have VR support?

I`d imagine that game to be awesome with VR!

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  D. Hahn on Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:07 pm

yes it does as far as i know
not have it so i cant try it

but it is the perfect game since your view is not bound to your gun

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Re: Virtual Reality - how it will effect you as sim racers and why should you care?

Post  D. Hahn on Mon Mar 23, 2015 9:08 pm

Chris English wrote:Thanks Dan, I'll give it a go. Although not sure my i5 2500k and GTX770 will cope!

i tried hl2 with the "gedosato" tool add a little crispness also for ac

search "sweet fx assetto corsa" in google and try that

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