VR-only flight simulator VTOL VR, recently received a substantial update that includes a mission editor and a pilotable fighter jet. The sim is designed specifically around the use of VR motion controls, and is available in Early Access on Steam.
Since our early hands-on in August, VTOL VR has enjoyed several rounds of improvements and fixes, including a move to a newer version of the Unity engine, GPS targeting and guided weapons, rudder pedal support, and compatibility optimisations for Windows VR headsets and controllers. Update v0.0.7 is probably the most substantial yet, with the early makings of a mission editor, an all-new plane to fly, and further performance improvements.
The work-in-progress editor enables the creation and sharing of scenarios similar to the game’s Island campaign, with placement of units, waypoint setting, objective configurations, and more. Following an open discussion with players on the VTOL VR Discord channel, developer Paolo Encarnacion chose to design the editor with a desktop interface, for comfort and ease of use.
“Generally, people wanted to have a lot of control and options when creating a mission, and this would be cumbersome in VR especially during long editing sessions,” he explains to Road to VR. “We also considered having an in-VR editor for quickly creating a very simple mission, but so far I don’t think it will be necessary.”
Much like the game’s first plane, the AV-42C (AKA the VTOL), the new F/A-26B fighter jet is a fictional aircraft with specific considerations for VR operation, such as a slightly larger-than-life cockpit and instruments for more clarity and ease of use with motion controls. Encarnacion used feedback and experience from developing the VTOL in designing the new aircraft, bringing the main instrument cluster closer and avoiding placing buttons too low where tracking can sometimes lose accuracy. The VTOL might see these kind of improvements in a future update.
Vertical take-off and landing presents a unique set of control and simulation challenges, and the AV-42C continues to be the primary aircraft in the game, but Encarnacion wanted to offer more variety, and the fighter seemed the logical choice having worked so well in his early testing.
“The VTOL is focused on ground attack, so I wanted to add something that could take on air targets,” he says. “The fighter has a radar system which I think that will add some interesting mechanics that aren’t present in the VTOL. I actually had a prototype a fighter jet back before the early access release and it was a blast to fly.”
Overall performance has improved significantly over the past few months, and the latest optimisation is another important step. Distant objects are now less demanding, thanks to mesh LODs on all AI vehicles and improved weapon scripts, ensuring that high-count objects like missiles and rockets aren’t taxing the CPU unnecessarily. Encarnacion says it is now possible to run scenarios with more than 40 units smoothly, where previously the game struggled with 8 planes taking off from the carrier in one of the missions.
Further improvements and additions are planned for the months ahead. The mission editor will see more friendly and enemy units, and new features that will allow more variability in missions. Encarnacion also plans to convert the existing campaign missions to use the new system, allowing him to finish the rest of the campaign with the editor tools. This is also laying the groundwork for a random scenario generator. After that, Encarnacion says map upgrades are in the cards. “As soon as that’s squared away, I’d like to look into ways to improve the island map, creating new maps, and possibly allowing players to generate their own maps.”