Virtually There

The past

I've had my launch Oculus Rift since day-ish one. (That initial launch/shipping thing for the Rift was a mess.) I've loved VR. I haven't played as much VR as I thought I would, but I've enjoyed it. If you asked me before I got the Rift, I thought I'd end up living in VR and only play VR games. Why not? I'd say it was mostly down to the types of games plus the resolution and fov weren't there for spending a ton of time in VR. Also getting your VR legs is a very real hurdle.

My main use for VR has been iRacing and other racing sims. For that it has been 100% worth it and and I've spent hundreds if not thousands of hours in VR racing over 3 years.

That was pretty much my recommendation for VR in the past as well. If know you're into VR and have the PC for it, go for it. If you're into sim racing, go for it. If you're kind of interested, wait for the next headsets.

The present

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Now the next headsets are here. When Oculus announced the Rift S this was not the next headset I was looking for. Sure resolution is upgraded, but at a lower hz and no IPD adjustment. Sure inside out tracking gets rid of the horrible USB requirements with the Rift, but not without some serious tracking problems. Their headphone/speaker solution is laughable.

The way the Rift S was outsourced to Lenovo seems more like a budget saving in manufacturing decision while Oculus focuses on the Quest.

The Quest seems cool for an untethered VR experience. I have a nice PC and I'm in VR to for the fidelity that the mobile processing can't hit. I have a pretty large play space so playing tethered hasn't been a problem for me. Plus the games available on quest are games that I already have on Rift.

The HP Reverb seems like it should be great for simulation games on PC. It has a huge resolution and with a wheel and pedals you don't have to deal with those Windows Mixed Reality controllers and the limited tracking shouldn't be an issue. The problem there is that I do like to do more than race. That WMR tracking and controllers won't cut it.

The future

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The Valve Index kind of snuck up on me. I was always thinking of moving over to a SteamVR headset to move away from the whole Facebook tie with Oculus. The Vive Pro didn't really have the upgrades I was looking for at the price it was released at. Then the Valve Index leaks happened and when they dropped all the details they had my attention. A great fov, a nice resolution upgrade, better optics, the right idea with head fit and some great looking headphones/speakers. Head speakers?

Then there are the Index controllers. (Not sure why they changed the name from knuckles but probably has something to do with VRChat.) These truly have some pushing things forward kind of tech that makes me excited about VR. The two main future looking features are the close to full finger tracking and the hands free-ish ergonomics.

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As an example, after already playing some of the car building game Wrench, the idea of being able to more precisely pick up bolts and parts seems like a great idea. Granted the game will have to support that first.

For me, the Index seems like an all around upgrade for all the things I care about in VR. Super looking forward to seeing the better resolution and fov.

I got lucky. I happened to be working from home the day the Valve Index pre-orders went live and got mine in at the 12 minute mark. So I'll be getting one in the first shipment. We'll see if that ends up arriving on June 28th, shipping on June 28th or something else.

I'm really excited and have actually been playing VR more lately to clear out some of my Oculus exclusive games in my library. I'll post up some impressions/reviews as I go through them when I can. Bring on the future, later this month.

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Giant Bomb in the iRacing Blancpain Endurance Series - Monza troubles

Endurance racing and Controversy

This past week was the first week of the new iRacing Blancpain Endurance Series for 2015 season 4. This season is special though because over 300 teams are competing to finish in the top 40 teams to qualify for a pro license and eligibility into the iRacing Blancpain GT World Series in 2016 which will offer up real prize money.

The iRacing series is modeled after the real life Blancpain Endurance Series that races GT3 cars. GT3 cars are quickly becoming the most popular racing cars on the planet in real life racing because they allow for traction control and ABS brakes. These aids are fantastic when you’re a rich executive that wants to spend his fortune on race cars when you’re in your 40s. For the same reasons of ease of drivability, these are really fun cars to race in iRacing too.

iRacing has 4 GT3 cars that race in this series. The McLaren MP4, BMW Z4, Ruf “Track” (Not a real GT3 car. It’s modeled after a Porsche GT3, but kinda not really) and a Ford GT GT3 spec (Well we think. The GT that was in the sim previously was GT2 spec and not real sure they got real data to bump it down to GT3 accurately.)

The races are 3 hours long and you race as part of a team of 2 to 4 drivers. iRacing added the ability to swap drivers during a pit stop a few season ago. Giant Bomb members have 3 teams in action in this series.

Giant Bomb - Ford GT - @slowbird & @mouse

Giant Bomb GBeast - BMW Z4 - @iron1c, @khann & @datarez

High Octane Motorsports - BMW Z4 - @phouchg with his non GB co-horts.

They actually run this race three times and you can enter it all three times if you want. Saturday 0900 UTC, 1900 UTC and Sunday 1700 UTC.

This first week was at Monza. This is a fast track that heavily favored the McLaren and the Ruf. They are just really fast down the straights while the Ford and the BMW struggle to keep up on pace. We should be better matched at other tracks this season with more twisty bits.

The GB teams didn’t run the first two times, just the Sunday one. High Octane ran the 2nd Saturday one and did great with a 2nd place finish in the 5th split. See their highlights below:

On Sunday all three of our teams ended up in the same split. It was just khann and myself in the GBeast car with iron1c unavailable. The two GB teams didn’t qualify well. Turns out there might have been a reason for that. More on that later. I did qualifying in the GBeast car and started the race. Since we were right near the back of the pack in a 40 car field in a 3 hour race I just fell back to the real tail of the field to let the carnage happen without me. I was able to move up a bit after things settled down during my first stint but we were going with a strategy of a lot of lifting and coasting in the raft to try to save fuel. It was a required plan to get the Z4 to last the whole hour to only do the race on two stops.

The Ford Giant Bomb team had fallen back a bit but were still trucking along. High Octane was doing well within the top 10. After the first stop I handed over to khann and he was doing some great consistent lap times. His pace and consistency was better than mine so he was going to do a double and drive the last stint as well. But a comedy of errors befuddled us I had forgotten to setup the settings for the pitstop. So when khann came to a stop it did not refuel the car nor change the tires. Remember how we were saving fuel before? That meant we had come in with less than a lap of fuel remaining. He tried leaving the pitbox and backing back into it to trigger the right stop, but driving backward down pit lane can get you disqualified. We had no choice so he went back out to try one more lap around but changed the fuel map down to the safety car setting to see if it would make the lap. He was almost back but put in the clutch in an attempt to save more fuel but it caused the car to spin. We had to take a tow and then I got back in. So what was looking like a possible finish just outside of the top 10 saw us back in the 30s.

We finished in the 21st 3 laps down eventually. GB Ford finished in 19th with some last lap fuel worries and High Octane finished in 3rd.

We knew were going to be disadvantaged coming out of this first race at Monza because our car is just too slow in a straight line compared to the Ruf and McLaren. With our blunder we are lower than expected but it’s still a lot of fun to do these team events. And then our thoughts turned to the next race in two weeks at Road Atlanta. Or did they?

Yeah all those results got wiped off the record now. So remember me talking about out bad qualifying? iRacing introduced a dynamic surface model this season. The track will take rubber from more cars running on it, marbles can develop and the track temperature can change. We’ve had dynamic weather for a little bit but it was just ambient temperature mostly in the past. Now what kind of skybox you get will determine if there is more sun shining on the track, warming it up and therefore making it slippery. Or a cloudy skybox can mean enough grip to make you feel like a hero. Turns out there was a problem where in qualifying different teams could have gotten different skyboxes. Also there may have been cases where even during the race the track surface may have been a different temperature for some teams. Not exactly equal running.

So iRacing probably made the right decision to wipe the results but that was a whole lot of collective time for naught now. Oh well. We’ll make up the Monza race later this season it looks like. It’s still a bit unclear on when. But eh, we’re starting over so.. Go Team Giant Bomb, we're still in it!

Thanks to @Trace for streaming the race. You can watch it all here:

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New sim racing pedals

New pedals!

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I finally upgraded my racing pedals. I’ve been racing with a Logitech Driving Force Pro wheel and pedals since 2005. At some point I did add a Leo Bodnar USB pedal adapter to increase the resolution of the pedals but while that was an improvement it was a spit shine on a rusty car.

The new pedals I got are the Heusinkveld Engineering Sim Pedals Pro 2 pedal set with their baseplate. I only got 2 pedals because it was cheaper and most of the race cars I race in sim racing don’t have a real clutch pedal anyway. Formula cars use a clutch paddle on the back of the steering wheel and GT cars use a clutch button on the steering wheel, just like I’m doing.

These are just the Pro pedals that have a maximum force of 55 kg (125 lb) to press the brake pedal. The Ultimates have 138kg (300 lb) maximum force. The clutch pedal on the Ultimates go up to 45 kg just on the clutch. For real world brake pedal force examples; a GT car is at about to 60-100kg and a F3 is 100kg+ to fully depress the brake pedal.

If you're wondering, the two pedal pro set with the plate ended up costing $726 USD shipped to the US.

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The new pedal box (I’m bad at woodworking)

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After I ordered these bad boys from somewhere in the Eurozone I needed to make a base. I have an Obutto Ozone racing rig but I read that just mounting the pedals to the existing pedal plate will result in a lot of flexing with these kind of forces. Also I figured I should try to adopt a proper racing position between my seat and pedals so I would build an elevated base. Heusinkveld Engineering has some suggestions for height on their site and I went with somewhere between the sportscar and GT position at just under 100 millimeters between the bottom of butt and pedal base height.

After a lot of forum browsing for inspiration and more trips to Lowes than I thought I could do in a weekend I thought I was done. When the pedals arrived, I mounted them up and low and behold, the pedal box I made was too wide. I had forgotten to take into account the front angled vertical bracket of the rig. A couple more trips to Lowes, a nip here and a tuck there and the pedal box and pedals were mounted and secured to the rig. Now to finally try them out.

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So how are they? (I need to workout)

I can honestly say the gas pedal on the new pedals is similar to the pressure required for the brake pedal on the Logitech pedals. After using the new pedals for a few minutes I quickly realized I was mostly using my toes to adjust the gas and brake pressure with the old pedals. With the new pedals it takes the muscles from my lower back, hips and my whole left leg to press the pedal at 75% full calibration or 41kg / 93 lb of force required.

I’d equate the motion of pressing the brake pedal in the new pedal height to using one of those leg press sleds at the gym. Something I haven’t done in years. But now I understand the seat to pedal positioning in real race cars more. It lets you use your core more than just your ankle to press the pedals.

I used to race in socks. It let me feet slide over the pedals comfortably with the old pedals. That sliding wasn’t helping and I needed traction. I tried in just my running shoes but it felt dead to me, I was used to being able to feel the pedal more. I ended on barefoot but wonder if thin soled racing shoes might be the best answer.

After about 3 straight hours of practice yesterday I got to where I felt pretty good at that 75% pressure. Still a bit slow but I was close to where I was before, I think. I wasn’t quite getting all the brake pressure I should but I thought I was almost there. So I had dinner, etc and then hopped in a race late last night. That was a disaster. After 10 incident points by lap 3 I retired. I wasn’t getting near the brake pressure I had after my previous session. It was just too difficult to press the brake pedal hard enough to get slowed down enough and I kept spinning out. I seriously think I need to workout now just to work the pedals in my racing rig.

I did another practice session and backed the calibration back to 50%. It’s a lot easier to use most of the brake now but I’m not sure if I should go with this lower calibration or get used to 75%. More practice is required, that’s for sure. The old pedals were junk but I had thousands of hours with them. Now I have to take the time to re-learn with proper pedals. Practice, practice, practice, right?


In-between games

I finished Portal 2 single player. I even went back and got all the single player achievements. Now I'm just waiting on my co-op partner so I can finish that story. I didn't go back and pick up any of the other games I'm halfway through. I just kind of grazed across my game pile of games that you can't really finish. Torchlight endless dungeon, Fifa 11 and a lot of Rock Band 3. 

I did have people over on Saturday and one of my friends brought over Truth or Lies. It's a lie detector game and it's bad. We all got a big laugh out of it, mostly for the horrible nature of the game. I soon found out it's an achievement goldmine though. That night we played one short game with 6 people and a few rounds of hot seat and I had over 600 points. With just playing a little bit the next day I was able to farm out all 1000 points pretty quickly. If you need some points for a contest and you see this one in a bargin bin be sure to pick it up.

So long gamefly

I canceled gamefly again today. On this latest stint I've had it for 11 months. I still really want to get through my backlog of games and gamefly was just preventing me from doing that. It wasn't exactly giving me all these great games I saved money by not buying and I would keep them for usually 2 months at a time. The way amazon has been pricing games I'm pretty sure I could have bought every game I really liked that I played from gamefly and paid less than the subscription costed me over the same time period.  Besides it's pretty steep cost per month for just one game per month even, plus the super long shipping times and the fact that it's a crapshoot what they send you.  So long and good riddance.


DAII Prep course complete

Dragon Age spoilers in this blog post, FYI. 
This week it was all Ferelden all the time. With Dragon Age II coming tomorrow I went back and played through the Dragon Age Awakening expansion, plus the Leliana's Song,  Golems of Amgarrak and Witch Hunt DLC. Awakening was a lot of fun. It was almost 16 hours of playtime for me to do all the quests except the special weapon item quests. The world changing decisions didn't come until the last hour of the game and I was wondering if there were going to be any at all. They paid off when they came though. I don't see how they're going to be able to continue the series of games if the world continues to have so many branching paths.  My guess is there will at some point be a "canon" decision that they will run with. They've already done it for Dragon Age II with the Anders character. It's possible for him to die in the epilogue of Awakening but he is very much in Dragon Age II. Now possibly he won't be in your DA2 game if he died in Awakening. That will be cool if they go with that route.  
Witch Hunt also has the same issue. After watching the endings of the different choices on youtube, it seems like what they're trying to lead up to could be completely different based on your choices. It makes me feel awesome to play the series because I feel I'm really changing the world but it makes my brain hurt trying to understand all the possible outcomes at this point.


Fitness unlocked

So Your Shape: Fitness Evolved came in from gamefly this week. I'm always needing to workout more and get in better shape and I figured we've got this kinect, so why not. Dance Central and Kinect Adventures have only been played when we have people over so far. After a few days with Your Shape I totally get it. As someone who is really enticed by achievements this game makes working out that much more enjoyable. Getting an achievement after working out is a dumb carrot but it totally works on me. It's got a decent mix of workouts to keep it mixed up. One bad thing I've noticed is it throws you into the workouts really quick. Hopefully the next one incorporates some warmup/cooldown/stretching sets around the workouts. We'll see how it goes and if I can stick with it. As long as the achievements keep flowing at a steady pace, I'm sure I will.


Spectre Justice

Operation Backlog soldiers on. I've been doing the daily dose with Mass Effect 2 over the last week. I also wrapped up Halo: Reach 3 player co-op style.  It's interesting how much time and personal investment it takes be a gamer and more specifically one where I want to experience these games that people are talking about.  I don't envy review sites or magazines that have to crank out the reviews at all. 
I tried out the Space Invaders Infinity Gene trial yesterday. As an all things cyberpunk and Rez fan I can appreciate what it’s trying to do. In this game's case I think the game got lost when they designed the style. The gameplay and the visual feedback of what is happening is a confusing mess. The control is light and without any weight. It just doesn't feel right. It tells you to fly around the screen by making it an unlockable in the game but presents scenarios in which being anywhere except the very bottom of the screen results in instant death. The visual style has an entertaining digital motif but the all white of the enemies causes so much confusion on the screen of what is actually happening making the design just get in the way. The first time I died it was a direct Y to dashboard and delete.


Operation cobwebs

So Operation Backlog floundered. I couldn't even tell you why or what I was doing in September that made me stop. I think it was getting back into WoW to get ready for Cataclysm. Anyway, after a night of co-op Halo Reach last night I think this is going to be a thing again. We shall see...


Operation Blacklog: Update 5 Back to Pandora

It's been slow going this week.  Monday I went back to Borderlands.  I'm now level 30 and finished with Krom.  I think that means I'm 3/4 of the way through.  Tuesday I wanted to play Assassin's creed next but for some reason ended up with Oblivion instead.  I finished off the Arena and started on the Fighter's guild.  I played Oblivion on PC when it orginally came out but never finished it.  Orginally I never used quick travel and I was talking to everyone.  This time it's the opposite.  I'm always using quick travel and unless their quest is guild related or the main story I'm not doing it.  I understand Bethesda made a game with great depth but I've got to keep moving with more games in the hopper that need to be beaten.  

Last night I got lazy and ended up reading comics.  Northlanders is awesome.  That is all.
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