KartKraft, a go-kart sim created by Melbourne based games studio Black Delta, revealed VR-compatibility at Gamescom 2015 for their upcoming title. I had a chance to hop into their 6-degree-of-freedom hexapod motion simulator to race along a laser-scanned, virtual version of Geelong Karting Club in Melbourne, Australia.
“Don’t let you hands off the wheel,” the support staff guy told me. So what did I do when I immediately (and very predictably) skidded out? Yeah. I let my hands off the wheel.
Besides the fact that VR simulations have again helped me avoid an untimely death due to poor listening skills, the question remains: Why would I do such a thing, especially when the rig’s force-feedback steering wheel whips around wildly just like the equivalent on a real go-kart? Letting go is bad news in almost any case. So why?
I was afraid—or at least the primeval part of my brain that judges distance and speed was sounding the appropriate alarm bells. That, and I’m almost always garbage at racing sims. Despite continuously oversteering, understeering, or whatever sort of horrible steering I managed to do, I did get a lap in, all the while feeling the bumps and rocks simulated underneath the custom-made motion platform.
I did feel there was an issue caused by the DK2’s head tracking and the motion platform’s mounted positional tracker during the demo. There was some noticeable judder, which might be due to the Rift correcting for discrepancies between the headset’s IMU and the supposed absolute position provided by the positional tracking camera, something that just doesn’t happen when the entire DK2 setup is entirely stationary. Granted, this was their first public showing of the game, so anything is possible at the pre-alpha stage.
KartKraft’s Real Speed
KartKraft is being billed as a 1:1 simulation of kart physics, all the way down to simulated chassis and tires so you could hypothetically feel every bump and vibration (providing you have a custom motion platform like the one I tried) as you go across the games many laser-scanned tracks. Four international tracks will be available at launch, with the promise of many more as deals come in with the individual track organizations.
The game, currently greenlit on Steam, is estimated to launch in Q4 of 2015 with CV1 as a future targeted platform. CEO and founder Zach Griffin told me Black Delta is also looking into HTC Vive headset.
Being a complete newcomer to the sport of karting, Griffin told me that it offers a greater sense of speed than traditional super car sims, requiring the player to corner every 3 to 5 seconds while going from 0 to 60 mph in only 2.5 seconds—essentially the equivalent of a late model Bugatti Veyron but only 18 mm (0.7 inches) off the ground. Griffin further assured me that good peripherals like force-feedback steering wheels come highly recommended when playing KartKraft, because according to him “it’s exactly what it’s like to drive a real cart, and so for us to go and create this simulation, you need all the real inputs. You need to feel to road.”
When asked what differences there will be between the traditional monitor version and the VR version of the game, Griffin had this to say:
“We’ve had to tone down some of the graphical elements, purely because to hit 75 fps, soon to be 90, is a huge undertaking. For us to get a game running at 60 fps—rendering one frame—is a huge challenge. Now let alone two, you have to strip out certain features…We’ve had to turn off some of the higher end lighting features. We’ve turned off the HUD and had to have a purpose-built Oculus HUD. You have to tailor the game specifically to VR.”
The game’s VR debut, complete with motion platform, real go-kart and steering wheel, was a blast to drive. I’ll be looking forward to a longer experience with KartKraft, preferably without the motion platform so I can get a better feel for what the game has to offer.