There’s one genre that seems to be rushing to adopt the Oculus Rift – Racing Simulations. iRacing, LFS and Assetto Corsa all now support the Rift, we take a look.
Overtaking Other Genres
If there’s one group of gamers who demonstrate calm and quiet fanatacism it’s racing sim fans. The search for realism in an effort to replicate the thrill of tearing round a track at breakneck speeds can be a descent into the question for perfection. Pedals, Steering Wheels, Racing Seats and even Full Motion rigs are available for those dedicated enough but one surprisingly cost effective accessory seems to be catching the imaginations of both Racing Sim developers and Users alike.
Currently, every major racing sim title on the PC can be played in one form or another in VR with the Oculus Rift and most are actively developing native support. We summarise the current state of the Rift-Racer in this handy round up.
The most successful Sim Racer, iRacing attracts paid subscribers in their thousands from around the world who race online with one another. Famed for its realism and the dedication of its fans, iRacing is the premier title for realistic Racing gaming. It’s also supported the Oculus Rift in steady increments for months. Only relatively recently however has the alpha version moved to beta in releases ‘normal’ iRacing subscribers can access.
iRacing development team have been used by Oculus VR recently to demonstrate their HD 1080p Prototype at various games shows around the world. It’s easy to see why as the Rift support is first rate. GUI is handled well, tracking head movement and moving menu elements into view as you glance to the extremes of your view. I’m told by a friend who’s also an iRacing nut with an Oculus Rift that resolution on the DK1 is still too low to consider the Rift as a competitive edge in racing, but that the overall experience whilst wearing the HMD is second to none.
You can sign up to iRacing here. Oculus Rift support is still in beta at this time but is considered as stable and extremely good.
Live For Speed (LFS)
Another stalwart of the Sim Racer’s canon, Live for Speed is highly regarded. Whilst its visuals are perhaps not as polished as some of its brethren, its driving model and physics engine is still regarded as excellent and it still has legions of fans around the world. Another title with a monthly subscription model, the highest level giving you access to 20 cars and 7 tracks. But, you can download the free demo (limited to 3 cars and a single track) – Oculus Rift support is available for the demo version too.
As of November 2013, early Oculus Rift support began to appear as patches announced on the LFS forums (starting with version 0.6E8). As of writing, the current version (0.6E11) offers full head tracking and selectable Oculus Rift mode from within the games UI. The support is considered good although I’ve only had limited time with the game as yet. I’d certainly recommend downloading the Demo and latest patch to give it a whirl.
For those that like their racing simulations a tad more accessible and perhaps a little more glamorous, Assetto Corsa is probably for you.
Assetto Corsa, the in-development driving game from the Kunos Simulazioni team, probably sits somewhere between iRacing and PGR, think Gran Turismo with a proper physics engine. The game engine has evolved over several iterations with the guts of the apparently excellent physics engine primed from netKar and the Ferrari Racing Academy. Assetto Corsa (“Racing Setup” in Italian apparently). I tried out the Rift support recently, and found it was already shaping up well. Check the video out for my thoughts in motion above.
I was pleasantly surprised as you’ll hear in the video and in terms of offering an accessible and fun VR experience, despite the serious slant of the gameplay, Assetto Corsa gets it just right. Tearing down straights with your virtual head strapped to the bonnet of a car is a great experience and with the exception of the in-car view suffering from a scaling issue (everything is a little too small) it all works beautifully. There is however currently some issues with drift during gameplay – but given the rapid progress the team have made thus far, I suspect it won’t be too long before this ironed out.
You can get early access to the Assetto Corsa beta via Steam here.
Developers Image Space Incorporated released the original rFactor way back in 2005 featuring for the time an advanced game engine culled from the team’s F1 Challenge 99-02 engine. rFactor 2, the current platform, was released in 2013. With a base price + online subscription model – price of entry is slightly higher than the other in the list – but rFactor 2 does offer demo version too.
rFactor 2 is the only title on this list with no official and integrated support for VR. Instead, rFactor fans and 3rd party drivers offer options to get your Rift on with the game. Here are the available known methods at the time of writing:
vorpX: vorpX offers full StereoScopic Geometry 3D and head tracking for rFactor 1 and 2. You can grab a copy of vorpX here.
Rf2Rift Plugin + TriDef Ignition Beta Drivers: This method is somewhat more complicated but does offer full head tracking and stereoscopic 3D support once you’re all setup. You will need the latest version of DDD’s TriDef Ignition Beta with Oculus Rift support. Once you have this, follow the instructions in this thread to get the game configured and working correctly. The video above demonstrates the results using this method.
Project Cars (pCars) – In Development Support
Native Oculus Rift support has been announced as ‘in development’ for Project Cars but as of now no public release offer this nor do we yet know when it might arrive. The best place to keep up to date on the current state of OR support for Project Cars is this forum thread on the pCars / WMD forum. We’ll of course yet you know if we learn anything.
The Racing Simulation community have always strived for ways to edge their in-game experiences close to reality. Virtual Reality offers the chance to take that desire for realism to its logical conclusion. With top flight support from the iRacing team and official and decimated support being built in for new titles such as Assetto Corsa, it’s fairly clear that developers are as keen to see this support as the users.