A Rift in Reception

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Sim Racing was supposed to be the perfect application for Virtual Reality headsets. In fact, only a short period of time ago, gamers were pestering developers such as Kunos Simulazioni by the hundreds to implement VR support into the modern lineup of racing simulators, convinced this new technology would be a complete game-changer, and serve as the missing piece of the puzzle when it came to people who loved sim racing, but couldn’t extract every last bit of the car’s performance from just a stationary monitor. The VR Mafia made a very cohesive push to ensure compatibility was one of the highest priorities for all major sim racing developers, but now that these products are available on store shelves, things haven’t gone according to plan. Stefano Casillo’s initial comments on the subject of virtual reality have now been completely justified – not everyone is seeing the light.

I don’t want to paint every single VR user as being let down with the product, but there’s a very peculiar thread inside the Sim Racing Subreddit which details one user’s journey into the world of Virtual Reality, and his subsequent dissatisfaction with the allegedly revolutionary technology. A forum user going by the screen name eecsasdf claims his recent acquisition of the Oculus Rift has not made auto racing in a virtual environment any more instinctive than it had previously been with a standard monitor.

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Unfortunately, we can’t see lap times or any fancy data like that, so there’s a real chance this guy might just suck at the game, but in this case, his on-track performance might not actually matter. The use of the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets within sim racing was seen primarily as a way to increase the personal immersion factor for each individual user, and help to control the car in a more instinctive manner. eecsasdf says the expensive device has done practically nothing to improve the virtual driving experience, claiming the sense of speed still isn’t there – and thus has let him down to an extent. This is a pretty big deal, considering racing simulators were the most practical application for virtual reality headsets, potentially attracting those not quite fond of hardcore driving games into maybe checking out Assetto Corsa or Project CARS – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but now it appears that the “magic” some expected simply isn’t there.

I wouldn’t chalk this up to a racing simulator’s inherent lack of danger, but rather how little of a benefit you’re earning by being granted complete control of your camera view via the use of a VR headset.

In my experience with the Oculus Rift DK2 from a session at my bro’s house sometime last year, I found it neat that I could truly look past the A-pillar towards the apex, or shoulder-check to keep an eye on a car beside me, but that’s basically where the novelty ended. I didn’t feel it was the revolutionary experience the fanboys were hyping it up to be, but rather a piece of technology that offered some optional benefits under certain circumstances. I mean, it was really cool to take turn one at Circuit of the Americas by physically looking to the turning pole as I came up the hill, but it’s not like I was bad at the circuit to begin with, and couldn’t make the corner without wearing the Oculus. And during a practice session at USA Speedway in the Sportsman Late Models, it was indeed neat that I could look out the side window at my own discretion to monitor an opponent’s position – and it was my head making the movements, but this wasn’t some groundbreaking innovation which totally changed how I approached a random iRacing practice session.

It’s a lot less exciting than the YouTube videos make it seem. In fact, I actually enjoy watching YouTube videos of the Rift in action more than using the headset myself – you don’t notice how much your head is moving when actually playing the game.

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However, what I’ve noticed about eecsasdf’s post, is that he immediately thinks the solution to his problem is to buy more random gadgets, as if this is a type of algebraic formula. The Oculus Rift didn’t generate the immersive experience he was looking for, so now he wants a Buttkicker audio system, custom brake pedal, and even entertains the idea of a motion simulator, which is a bit… Pricey to say the least. And I think this goes to show that some sim racers are barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. You’re quickly surpassing almost a few thousand dollars in hardware to play a $40 video game – some of which still appear to be straight out of 2005.

If you’re looking for an immersive sim racing experience, you’re not going to get it – ever. These games are a tool, first and foremost. Some of ’em are way off in terms of physics, and others are unfinished, but they are designed to help teach you real world car control techniques in a variety of situations, so you get it right the first time when your ass is in the seat of the real thing. isiMotor titles won’t have the visual fidelity of a Crytek product, and iRacing will never be as chaotic or intense as a Battlefield release on the Frostbyte engine. Even if you’ve got the absolute perfect setup, one where your OCD finally says “I’m satisfied with what’s in front of me”, there’s only so much a product like rFactor 2 or Assetto Corsa can do on the software side of things. This isn’t a knock towards Kunos or ISI – sim racers think the Oculus Rift will produce some sort of Michael Bay-like visual orgasm inside the headset, and in reality, they’re just playing the same racing simulator they’ve always played, only now they’re using a really fancy head tracking device.

If a sim racer can’t hit his marks in Project CARS, or he has a bit of difficulty getting the line right at Brands Hatch in Assetto Corsa, Virtual Reality isn’t going to change anything. Sure, they’ll marvel at being able to look around the environment a bit, and maybe have one or two moments where they can use the technology to monitor an opponent in an important bend, but this whole thing people have where they think the entire experience will be revolutionized in an instant? Not gonna happen. So I think in the coming weeks, and eventually months, comments like the post left by eecsasdf will become the norm. There are elements of Virtual Reality technology that provide a huge advantage for virtual drivers, but it’s just not the complete jump in immersion people were expecting.

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35 thoughts on “A Rift in Reception

  1. >So I think in the coming weeks, and eventually months, comments like the post left by eecsasdf will become the norm. There are elements of Virtual Reality technology that provide a huge advantage for virtual drivers, but it’s just not the complete jump in immersion people were expecting.

    Just beware of people sayin’ the opposite who gets labelled as “shills”…

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  2. Problem with VR headsets when it comes to racing is still the same as using a single monitor – peripheral vision.

    That’s why professional simulators that F1 and WEC teams use have life size wrap around projector screens surrounding the cockpit. VR still requires you to turn your head physically to pan the “eyes” in game.

    Triple screen (or even wider wrap around screens) advantage is it gives you some of your natural peripheral vision back, so when you’re side by side going into an apex with a car beside you, it feels similar to your real life car. You don’t have to turn and look at the side monitor, your peripheral vision can “feel” the car there.

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  3. If a VR-Display is supposed to replace a single monitor, we need the equivalent of a 3-screen-setup then. Call it Homonculus Rift or sth. .

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      1. According to the latest press release, the product is not intended for consumer purchase. They just partnered with imax for ‘proprietary experiences’.

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  4. VR is a massive fanboy circlejerk right now. 90% of what you read about it is ridiculously overexaggerated in its significance as if it’s fucking life-affirming or some shit. I’ve tried it, it’s like having a screen really close to your eyes and being able to turn your head is quite neat. That’s about it.

    Plus the guy in that thread later went on to say he’d spent 15 hours total driving in his sim, and there he was looking to spend a bazillion dollars as some kind of magic bullet to speed up instead of just investing some time in actually practicing. Fuckin retard.

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  5. Just because a guy thinks that a vr head set would improve his skill is not happy that that dint happen

    That doest Mather that vr is not fun , not immersive

    I had the opportunity to try a vive in AC , and of course you will not be faster or more competitive , skills will always be skills , if you dont have them , nor triple screen, nor fanatech v3 , nor direct drive will make you faster , only “skils” that includes practice , and understand where to improve

    Is vr cool and immersive , without any doubt , is the diference between being in a room with a monitor in front of you , or being INSIDE the car

    But yeah , useless article

    i understand that buying a 800dollar in a electronic device is not to everyone , but since you cant buy it doest mean that it is shit , just topical thinking (( humm i cant buy it never will , ok denial mode activate , naa not worth it is shit ))

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    1. Worked with Oculus DK1, HD Proto, DK2, OSVR, managed a port of an internal demo to it.

      Can confirm the article, VR headgear would’ve been worth its money if only it was in 150-200 USD price range.

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  6. It’s not going to be a complete game changer of course, but I definitely think a larger field of view such as what the starvr is proposing will help.

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  7. I’ve had experience with the oculus dk2 and the HTC vive. The dk2 was OK but it wasn’t close to the quality of the final product. The vive did an amazing job of adding to the immersion of racing games but nothing on the planet will ever allow you to feel like you are driving a real car.

    The explanation is really simple. Gforce. Without actually moving at speed all those feelings you get behind a real world vehicle don’t translate into a game.

    vr is the closest you will get without actually being in a real car. Sure adding dbox and all that other stuff will help a bit but nothing can replace actual gravity and the forces it exerts.

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  8. As long as your FOV is wide enough to see enough of the track to get the line down (and for a lot of people it probably isn’t, because of those stupid “correct FOV” calculators that give single screen users a 20 degree FOV) I don’t really see much of an advantage in head-tracking or VR for sims outside of the immersion factor. In a real race car you’re focused on what’s happening so far ahead of you that you shouldn’t be moving your head all that much anyway.

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    1. Those FOV calculators are incredibly useful, and absolutely necessary if you want your brain to process visual information onscreen as it would in real life.

      Dropping from iRacing’s default 75 (vFOV) to the correct 55 (27″ screen 20″ in front of me) immediately made me faster, but more importantly, I was suddenly able to hit apexes with greater consistency, and my sense of speed actually aligned with the reality.

      Yeah, you lose some peripheral vision with a single screen, and close racing is more difficult, but I’d rather start from a perspective that my brain intuitively recognizes, and learn to adapt in traffic, than the reverse.

      Crazy as it sounds, I think Austin’s FOV comments in Black Flag are more damaging to the sim racing community (especially beginners) than anything he’s ever posted on this blog, and he sounds like a creationist trying to debate an evolutionary biologist about the origins and diversity of life on our planet.

      Regarding the VR revolution in sim racing, I haven’t purchased either headset yet (nor tried them), but ever since OR CV1 early adopters began receiving their units, users have been unilaterally singing its praises during iRacing sessions.

      I’ve also gotten unsolicited PMs discussing its greatness from racing buddies I haven’t otherwise heard from in months.

      Although I haven’t been analyzing the sim racing response in any depth, I haven’t heard a negative comment about the most recent VR iterations yet, and given the post’s single source (nothing new from PRC), Austin’s argument is spectacularly unpersuasive.

      Although a PRC hallmark, drawing broad conclusions from a single sub-Reddit (written by a random beginning sim racer, who doesn’t seem to understand that real world consistency also necessitates the use of visual markers) is a bit rash, no?

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      1. Realistic FoV is only particularly useful for people trying to adapt real car driving to a video game.

        Actually I think people overstate how important “OMG TEH REALS” is when they go from some fucktarded giant FoV where they can barely make out anything more than 5′ away to a lower FoV where relevant objects are more than 3 pixels wide.

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  9. I think VR is being oversold. People are underestimating how disorienting it will be to have a screen a few inches from your face and tracking the movement of your head.

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    1. What, even the people who own one, use one regularly and enjoy using it?

      I’m one of those people. What is it I’m underestimating again? Oh, shut up, I don’t care, I’m having too much fun.

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  10. Tried vr and didn’t like it,the tech just isn’t there yet,yet I get told many times that I’m a relic because I use tripple screens,so close to just quitting iracing just because of the members.

    The eu thread that is still on going is a perfect example,Someone proved a broadcaster wrong with valid info,showing how hysterical she was,yet all the have jumped to her defence,and in other threads the same folk who claim people are entitled bratts when something isn’t working have complained about the the sight being slow,yet when their hypocritical ways are pointed out it turn nasty.

    I swear I wish I could have 5mins face to face with them,I’d gladly do some jail time to shut their mouths.

    All hail prc the place where it’s told how it is.

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  11. In general terms I agree with the ideas exposed in the article, the Oculus is probably not going to be up to the expectations, if you suck without it you will suck with it, the lack of real G force input (Acting in the proper direction, unlike motion cockpits) is not compensated with anything etc.

    What I think is a bit dull and substracts value from the article is starting it from the single comment of an unknown anonymous guy in a forum like reddit. That should have been just another reference, not the founding of the article itself.

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  12. The user that made that youtube video says he’s making videos of simracing with a Rift, but I only see videos of Project CARS and Assetto Corsa. Have I been bamboozled?

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  13. Well, since we are discussing the topic…

    I have a consumer release vive. AC (pcars is crap in VR, everyone thinks it looks like crap and runs really poorly) really works excellently. I think it feels great and with 2x ‘pixelsperdisplay’ (basically supersampling), it actually looks pretty damned good going from 2160p and much better than stock dk2. The absolute lack of input latency and excellent 3D is quite immersive, for some reason I get this huge adrenalin rush looking to the side as I race someone out of an exit. Puts a smile on your face and also makes you want to defend your body from injury.

    I agree, cheap pedals still feel really cheap. Since things feel considerably more natural visually, you notice when peripherals are lacking much more acutely. My brake pedal feels like crap and the variable resistor is jittering, meaning I’m lightly applying brakes pretty frequently as I accelerate. Not enough to keep me in D class for more than 4 races or from a fastest lap, but still… it’s not helping. Why would a HMD suddenly make that not matter?

    Right now, AC and iRacing are your only options for functional VR MP sim racing. PCARs just doesn’t scale and the low precision engine/artifacts stick out badly. It’s just a jagged mess of crap and too inefficient to allow enough anti-aliasing samples or over-rendering. Really doesn’t matter what you have, reports show a 1080 is only good for a few AI and minimal to no AA/SS.

    No, a HMD doesn’t change everything about simracing or magically make you better, but I have noticed improvements in consistency with open wheel particularly, mainly due to the sense of depth and speed.

    I can’t say I regret getting this thing at all. I certainly didn’t expect 100% functional MP racing for at least 6 months. Also have had a lot of fun demoing it to people, their reactions are priceless.

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  14. I love VR. There are other threads on other forums reddits,there are videos on Youtube, other video sites, that state the same thing. But tha’t something positive, so the author of this thread either took no notice of that, or just subconsciously ignored it.

    VR doesn’t make a bad game good (Project CARS).

    VR doesn’t make average hardware any better.

    But in real life, where we don’t need to wring the last drops of news out of a slow developing sim racing theme to try and prolong the existence of an average and amateurish blog, some of us just quetly get on with life.

    We buy some racing / driving simulators / games. We like some more than we like others. We play some more than we play others. We buy some hardware, some of it makes the experience more enjoyable to us, some less so.

    Some of us post our opinions on said experiences on forums, reddits, Youtube. And then this blog seems to magnify the whole thing as if it’s a matter of life and death.

    Calm down, kid. You wrote a recent piece about how other genres don’t seem to have the poisonous atmosphere that sim racing does. Maybe that’s because this blog only writes about sim racing.

    Come on, let’s see if you can become a more complete writer / journalist / amateur blogger, whatever it is you want to be. See if you can see some positives in the world.

    Because, despite what this blog seems to suggest, there is some.

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  15. Mark my words. These things will only ever have good exclusive porn content on them.
    Porn goggles are what they are and will be in the future.
    Not going to work for gaming without people vomiting from motion sickness.
    The end.

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    1. Re “Not going to work for gaming without people vomiting from motion sickness.
      The end.”

      Err … seriously? Did you write this in 1992 and have only just remembered ti click ‘post comment?

      Here’s some recent news. Some conpanies made a VR device. Some people bought it. Some people played games on them. Not many people got motion sickess.

      If I finish my post with ‘The end’ does that add some authority to it and make it more true? Will it make me feel like I made the most important, informative and utterly factual post in the world ever?

      Let’s see.

      The end.

      …no. Nothing yet.

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  16. I am currently developing a solution to all of sim racing’s problems, spherical motion rig that can spin up to 4g s and go inverted for those crashes (barrel rolls for you aviation buffs) and a fully functional vr helmet with 210 feild of view. Did I mention the sphere is fully in closed and climate controlled to simulate the sauna like atmosphere of a real race car, also has sprinkler system for rain simulation. Only problem is money and space, cost will be around half a million and space needed is only 30ft cubed. And also the head of pr would like to add this device will undoubtedly make you an allien or ace just by sitting in it, “The closer you get the closer you are”. Pretty cool moto huh.

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  17. I have been following VR for a number of years hoping someone would come out with a headset priced less than a decent triple monitor setup as an alternative to not having to sacrifice room space for the monitors. When Palmer Luckey (Oculus) was going around saying “350 ballpark price” I got even more interested. When CV1 pricing came out it was a big fat let down. I’ll be honest I haven’t tried the CV1 but it seems like you get a narrow FOV not much different than a single monitor and a slightly better experience than a single monitor with TrackIR. To me, that’s simply not worth $600-800. Now, I’m waiting for a better VR headset like Star VR with a wider FOV and more immersive view. Unfortunately, I’ll probably just go with a 27″ triple monitor setup before that ever happens.

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  18. Some people go back to xbox controller after trying the wheel. Still for me the wheel was a complete game changer. It’s hard for me to understand people with 2 healthy eyes who are not impressed with VR but there’s a lot of them. IMO the motion sickness plays the main role but very few admit it’s because of that. Being sick = not fun no matter what you do

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  19. If you dont have triple screen setup/projector/extra wide screen/etc its too hard to keep natural sight on what is going on near you. Especially on opposite side of car.
    Price of it are too much in case of Rift/Vive.

    TrackIR not so much natural and useful also.

    We need more time.

    And ability to walk on virtual track by foot.

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  20. The main criticisms of them that I’ve heard from a credible source basically break down into 2 parts
    1) since the entire scene’s at a single focal distance (intended to be effectively infinity), your parallax and focal distance senses won’t match up, creating nausea in differing amounts depending on how your brain processes these inputs. This is a bigger problem on games where you spend more time looking at things that are close to you.
    2) moving the point of view without corresponding sense of motion in your body is bad. The faster the motion, the worse. Games where you walk around using a controller joystick are the worst, but “real head motion” for sim games is also likely to cause nasea.

    Sim racing actually does pretty well in both these regards but you can’t expect it to work for everyone. #1 could theoretically be fixed with improvements in display tech; #2 is pretty much going to be a problem forever for anything other than room-scale simulators that pretend you are in a room.

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