The Game

The game design deserves some attention as well. We are developing our own game for the cockpit, specifically to take advantage of the strengths of the 2-DOF VR Motion Simulator.

Our game is a VR version of the old Raptor arcade game that many know and love:

Raptor arcade game.

The player essentially flies down a corridor, moving back and forth to evade and attack enemies.  Because our 2-DOF motion simulator only allows for pitch and roll motion, this game concept is actually perfect.  We just add vertical motion, in addition to side-to-side motion.

Player view in Raptor-style flight game.

Above is a screenshot of what the player sees from inside the cockpit.  Moving a joystick commands the ship to move side to side and up and down.  As the motion simulator rotates, the game view rotates to match.

The game is still in development – we don’t even have enemies or weapons yet.  But it is far enough along to connect to the VR motion simulation and move it as needed.

The terrain is procedural and generated in real-time, so you can fly down the canyon endlessly.  For the final game, we’ll probably have levels of fixed length, and various different scenarios – desert, canyon-following, inside an asteroid field, inside a giant moon base, etc., etc.

For the ship and cockpit itself, we found a model very close to what we wanted on the Unity Asset Store.  The creator of the model agreed to make some changes (added some guns and a front-mounted turret, changed the wing angle to make it more visible, etc.) and that’s what we are using.

Here are more pictures of that model:

Ship model for motion sim game.
View from the side.
Cockpit view.
Top view

The front turret should be really cool once we finish the code for it.  It can pivot and aim independently, so we may set it up to shoot wherever the player looks.  Alternatively, we could have it auto-aim at targets as an extra weapon, or as a missile defense system.

There are a few different turret models as well, which could make it fun to collect powerups.

VR Ship Turret, aiming to the side.

Can’t wait to tinker with it!  Stay tuned for more updates.

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What Are We Doing Here?!

Lots of motion simulators already exist, with varying strengths and weaknesses.

Some, like RotoVR, are relatively low-cost, consumer-oriented platforms.  But they are limited.  RotoVR only spins around one axis, and (if you ask me) it’s kind of gimmicky.

Roto VR – A yaw-only motion simulator. Gimmicky? Perhaps. But at least it’s relatively affordable…

Others, like the simulators from Talon Simulations are more capable (and more expensive!), but suffer from motion limitations.  The Talon simulator has only two degrees of motion freedom, can’t rotate very far, and it rotates around the base of the chair.  That causes “head whip” effects during rotation, which seriously limits its capabilities as a motion simulator.  If you are interested, watch the video on their main page (as of 12/27/2017).  There are segments where you can see very clearly how users’ heads will whip from side to side, a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that the user is wearing a heavy headset!

Talon Simulations – Cool, but not cheap, and actually not great for VR.

I really like the design behind the Feel Three motion simulator because it allows for rotation around three axes (yaw, pitch, and roll), it is presumably fairly affordable, and its design allows for rotation more closely to the user’s head (mitigates against “head whip” and other nausea-inducing factors).  But even Feel Three is limited, since it doesn’t allow for translation – only rotation.

Feel Three – Best option for price and performance, I think, but still fundamentally limited.

The ideal motion platform would have the following characteristics:

  • 6-DOF motion (three rotation axes, three translation axes)
  • Affordable
  • VR-friendly motion (rotation center, minimal latency, high control capability)

So that’s what we want to build.  It can be difficult, because a 6-DOF motion simulator isn’t going to be cheap – not from a mass consumer perspective.  So affordability is going to be sort of relative.  We may develop this as a kit with plans so that DIY types can build the dream platform.

And going from scratch to a full 6-DOF platform is a tall order, at least for us.  So we’ve started with a 2-DOF design, but we are developing the motion control system in a way that will facilitate 6-DOF motion control down the road.  The Feel Three approach would be great for a 3-DOF platform, but there is no easy upgrade path to a 6-DOF system.  So our system utilizes linear actuators for rotation.  Our intent is to re-use those actuators for a more capable design.

An early concept of what a 6-DOF, linear-actuator driven design might look like:

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