Essentials for sim racing immersion in order of cost effectiveness

ValseTriste

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When I was a kid I remember being completely immersed in Indy 500 on the Commodore Amiga which proves the point that like most things in life immersion is perfect until you know its not !

With an unlimited budget the sky is the limit and you're probably not reading this anyway and on the other hand for the DIYer there is a lot of satisfaction to be had for putting in the time and effort. Its possible to have loads of fun and or an extremely elaborate setup without any immersion but this thread is for those who give it priority and then have fun with it :)

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So assuming you’ve got “good” software for starters (Assetto Corsa is arguably still a reference point) then there are basically three display options that each have their pros and cons and, like for like, even cost about the same. The visual experience is key so do your research, take your pick and buy the best you can afford.


1 - VR for optimal spatial awareness (maybe best for online multiplayer) at the expense of resolution and clarity (for now at least)
2 - Large triple screens for optimal FOV and resolution (maybe the best compromise) at the expense of distortion
3 - Even larger single screen or projection for optimal resolution with less distortion (maybe best for hot lapping) at the expense of FOV


Then at no real expense at all you can try:


1 - Finding an optimal viewing distance and FOV for your screen/s (costs nothing)
2 - Finding an optimal cockpit camera setup for both screen/s and VR (costs nothing)
3 - Sticking to just one sim or as few as possible since switching between them forces your brain to readjust constantly as they are all different (costs nothing)
4 - Using a dark room for screen/s, obviously this is why the cinema is so immersive (costs nothing)
5 - Using headphones for minimal distraction (very inexpensive unless you're an audiophile)


Then you can try:

1 - A collection of wheels and shifters to match each real world car of interest
2 - A rig/chassis that matches the seating, wheel and pedal position of each real world car of interest

Depending on the variety of vehicles this could be relatively inexpensive for the DYIer to very expensive for the consumer.

(note: you can try sticking to one seating position per session, just as in real life it takes time for the brain to adjust from driving a lawn mower to a truck so swapping and changing every five minutes might cause you to question the whole setup again when theres nothing wrong with it... hands up, been there ! )


Then in order of cost effectiveness you can try:


1 - Using tactile transducers/exciters (relatively inexpensive)
2 - Upgrading to a wheel base and pedals capable of replicating real world forces (generally expensive)
3 - Further upgrading to a motion simulator/platform (generally expensive to very expensive)


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So naturally whether or not each of these stages works for you is ultimately subjective and the variables of each are limitless but cost effectiveness is relatively linear. Immersion is an illusion which like a magic trick is easier to get away with once or twice than repetitively. If you're continuously immersed with very little effort, hardware or investment then the best advice is to just enjoy it and try to resist the temptation for more. For the rest of us it is a journey of discovery and if its kept objective, hopefully in its simplicity this simple list can help to prioritise your budget and maybe even decide to stop somewhere along the way contented !
 
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Daniel oliver

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Fyi you need a monitor to set up vr anyway + some sims dont let you use vr to access menus.
So probably best to get a single screen then get vr later. I have a 34 inch ultrawide but i only race in vr, its vr or nothing for me.
 

RCHeliguy

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Another option depending on your situation is to use a TV as a monitor. I'm setup in my media room and roll my rig over in front of a large wall hanging TV. I use VR only. The TV is useful for watching VRS coaching video each week for the tracks being raced in iRacing.

Optical camera setup seems limited to the Oculus Rift unless I misunderstand.
I'm using a Valve Index which uses Base stations setup in the corners of my room. WMR has no cameras or base stations. When I go into VR I simply hit the VR center button and everything works great which is how most should work.

I would also say in terms of money and immersion that having tactile transducers can be cheaper than motion and you would typically keep your tactile system if you add motion later. Tactile adds quite a bit.
 

ValseTriste

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Another option depending on your situation is to use a TV as a monitor. I'm setup in my media room and roll my rig over in front of a large wall hanging TV. I use VR only. The TV is useful for watching VRS coaching video each week for the tracks being raced in iRacing.

Optical camera setup seems limited to the Oculus Rift unless I misunderstand.
I'm using a Valve Index which uses Base stations setup in the corners of my room. WMR has no cameras or base stations. When I go into VR I simply hit the VR center button and everything works great which is how most should work.

I would also say in terms of money and immersion that having tactile transducers can be cheaper than motion and you would typically keep your tactile system if you add motion later. Tactile adds quite a bit.

Is "tactile transducers" the technical term so I can add them ? I assume you mean like rumble/vibration devices, I've never tried them.
 

RCHeliguy

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I've heard people use the terms tactile transducers and tactile exciters ( typically smaller ). Usually when people are using exciters they are typically using a lot of them and are getting pretty advanced, so I think for the purposes of this discussion tactile transducers works.

There is a Tactile thread in this forum has been going for almost 3 years if you want half a day's reading. It's usually active and on the first page like it is now.

As far as helping out people who are just starting, there is a lot to absorb. I'm not sure a simple list really cuts it. People have lots of different ideas about what they want and different paths to take to get there. With different priorities and budgets what works well for one person may be a horrible match for another.

As far as sim racing goes there are people with Logitech G29's who are extremely fast in iRacing and put many of us with more elaborate rigs to shame.

The issue comes down to how much a person is willing to pay for immersion and that is where people have very different ideas of what is necessary and affordable and how much time they are willing to spend building, configuring etc.. For some of us these are hobbies onto themselves.

The bottom line is that there are many many buckets and two lists won't cut it. Not only that but things continue to evolve so it is very much a moving target.
 
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ValseTriste

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I've heard people use the terms tactile transducers and tactile exciters ( typically smaller ). Usually when people are using exciters they are typically using a lot of them and are getting pretty advanced, so I think for the purposes of this discussion tactile transducers works.

There is a Tactile thread in this forum has been going for almost 3 years if you want half a day's reading. It's usually active and on the first page like it is now.

As far as helping out people who are just starting, there is a lot to absorb. I'm not sure a simple list really cuts it. People have lots of different ideas about what they want and different paths to take to get there. With different priorities and budgets what works well for one person may be a horrible match for another.

As far as sim racing goes there are people with Logitech G29's who are extremely fast in iRacing and put many of us with more elaborate rigs to shame.

The issue comes down to how much a person is willing to pay for immersion and that is where people have very different ideas of what is necessary and affordable and how much time they are willing to spend building, configuring etc.. For some of us these are hobbies onto themselves.

The bottom line is that there are many many buckets and two lists won't cut it. Not only that but things continue to evolve so it is very much a moving target.
The point of the list is just to help with cost effectiveness in terms of immersion. Being quicker is a different subject altogether and as you say, spending more definitely doesn't necessarily make you faster. Another example, there are music lovers and there are audiophiles and a few who are both !

I'm an immersion guy and so hopefully these lists might help reassure some people that for example just turning out the lights in the room for free and putting on some inexpensive headphones could give you a better upgrade in terms of immersion than a direct drive wheel costing thousands or a low cost DIY rig that is fully adjustable for everything from F1 to truck racing may be far more immersive than a restrictive motion simulator that costs many thousands, you get the point ;)

The best bang for the buck in my opinion is a DIY rig for realistic seating position and selection of wheels, at least matching the diameter of the real car.
 
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RCHeliguy

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See we already have very different priorities :)

I only use two wheels for everything, a bare 330mm round Rally wheel and a 310mm GT3 wheel for everything non-Rally. I don't find narrower wheels comfortable, so I doubt I'll ever get an F1 rim and I don't care about matching the wheel for each car.

I started with a Sim-Lab P1 chassis, but it was just a starting point and I consider my rig extremely DIY. I consider that Sim-Lab chassis the foundation for everything else and I would even go so far as to say one of the most important purchases I've made.
 

rlslmshdy

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Aug 7, 2019
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See we already have very different priorities :)

I only use two wheels for everything, a bare 330mm round Rally wheel and a 310mm GT3 wheel for everything non-Rally. I don't find narrower wheels comfortable, so I doubt I'll ever get an F1 rim and I don't care about matching the wheel for each car.

I started with a Sim-Lab P1 chassis, but it was just a starting point and I consider my rig extremely DIY. I consider that Sim-Lab chassis the foundation for everything else and I would even go so far as to say one of the most important purchases I've made.
Does VR trick your brain to the point that using the correct wheel size isnt necessary for immersion? When I say correct wheel size I'm meaning using a wheel that is close to the size of wheel that would used in real life in that particular car. I'm just finishing up my first sim racing rig. From the start I wanted to focus on immersion. All along I have planned to race asphalt oval late model stock cars on Iracing. One of the key factors to me for adding immersion was using components from that real race car. So when it came time to buy a steering wheel. I bought a MPI that is specifically built for real life late model racing. I want to be fast. Who doesnt but not at the expense of Immersion. I race oval karts in real life. I'd also like sim racing to help me get ready for karting season. So Immersion helps there with DD giving higher FFB.
I think this list would have helped me a lot. Heck I'd never really heard of tactile transducers before getting into this hobby. I actually bought 4 Dayton BST-1s here recently.
My brother has been sim racing for a long time hes the exact opposite of me. Hes all about just going faster. He could care less about immersion. He thinks I'm crazy for $spending$/buying the components I have. I'm on forums every day reading about sim racing hardware/components. Like I said he has no interest other than the Actual racing. So I think for the Immersion guy getting started, a list could help them develop a plan. They can get a budget in place and avoid wasting money.
 

RCHeliguy

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Different people have different opinions. I'm perfectly happy using the same wheel 90% of the time. Other people have a huge assortment of wheels.

Since I don't see that as a priority I've spent my money elsewhere.
 

rlslmshdy

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Different people have different opinions. I'm perfectly happy using the same wheel 90% of the time. Other people have a huge assortment of wheels.

Since I don't see that as a priority I've spent my money elsewhere.
IMO everyone has their priorities of what gives them joy in simracing. That is personal preference. To me there is no wrong or right. I think one of the unique aspects of sim racing is the vastly different backgrounds that are coming together to do this, from gamers to real motorsport drivers.
 

ValseTriste

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Feb 7, 2020
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Does VR trick your brain to the point that using the correct wheel size isnt necessary for immersion? When I say correct wheel size I'm meaning using a wheel that is close to the size of wheel that would used in real life in that particular car. I'm just finishing up my first sim racing rig. From the start I wanted to focus on immersion. All along I have planned to race asphalt oval late model stock cars on Iracing. One of the key factors to me for adding immersion was using components from that real race car. So when it came time to buy a steering wheel. I bought a MPI that is specifically built for real life late model racing. I want to be fast. Who doesnt but not at the expense of Immersion. I race oval karts in real life. I'd also like sim racing to help me get ready for karting season. So Immersion helps there with DD giving higher FFB.
I think this list would have helped me a lot. Heck I'd never really heard of tactile transducers before getting into this hobby. I actually bought 4 Dayton BST-1s here recently.
My brother has been sim racing for a long time hes the exact opposite of me. Hes all about just going faster. He could care less about immersion. He thinks I'm crazy for $spending$/buying the components I have. I'm on forums every day reading about sim racing hardware/components. Like I said he has no interest other than the Actual racing. So I think for the Immersion guy getting started, a list could help them develop a plan. They can get a budget in place and avoid wasting money.
Hey, glad you get it !

Also wheel diameter matching isn't just a perception thing, it just as importantly affects the cars handling and FFB strength.
 
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Dec 30, 2019
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As a guy researching and putting together my own rig/set up I am finding this discussion very interesting especially as I am interested in immersion more than anything. So keep the discussion going.
 

Beef36

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As a guy researching and putting together my own rig/set up I am finding this discussion very interesting especially as I am interested in immersion more than anything. So keep the discussion going.
My immersion priority order would be what I see, hear and touch, with what I feel a distant 4th, primarily because in my view the "feel" element of sim racing is still in its infancy and doesn't seem real to me.

I haven't seen any real immersive hardware for smell and taste and I'm not sure if I want to either :)

I would not recommend buying hardware in this order if starting from scratch, but for cost effective immersion my list would be:

1) PC
2) Visuals (i.e. monitors, VR)
3) Sound
4) Tactile Feedback
5) Wheel / Force Feedback Systems
6) Pedals
7) Key Peripherals (e.g. shifters and handbrakes)
8) Other Peripherals (e.g. button boxes, telemetry monitors, seat belts etc.)
9) Motion (Chassis preferable over seat)
10) Motion (G-Force)
11) Chassis

If the cost effective constraint was removed, my immersion list would change to:

1) PC
2) Visuals (i.e. monitors, VR)
3) Sound
4) Tactile Feedback
5) Motion (Chassis preferable over seat)
6) Motion (G-Force)
7) Wheel / Force Feedback Systems
8) Pedals
9) Key Peripherals (e.g. shifters and handbrakes)
10) Other Peripherals (e.g. button boxes, telemetry monitors, seat belts etc.)
11) Chassis

I rated chassis last because it doesn't provide immersion per se, but is the base upon which immersive hardware is installed on. If this was a purchase order list, then chassis would be much higher.

I'm a huge advocate for motion platforms if you are seeking immersion and fun. Like VR, motion is a game-changer. However if you are seeking realism then it's not worth the spend.

The article below is a good read, where if Ford's Performance Technical Centre’s factory simulator is not realistic, then no consumer motion platform is going to be either...


Below are some quotes:

"......Topography and surface grip don't really come through to the driver, so it feels like I'm driving a race car with problems. I can drive around those "problems," but I don't feel the car reacting anywhere close to the way a real race car would on the real track....

...As I climbed out of the virtual car for the final time, I relayed my thoughts to an engineer. He nodded and told me there's a technique for driving the simulator, and no, it isn't the same as in a real car. However, once really good sim pilots get used to the programs, they can repeat their driving behaviour and "feel" the sim car just like a pro racer can feel an actual race car...

...But if you rank high on your favourite racing sim's or game's global online leaderboard and have never actually driven on a real racetrack, you're likely in for a big surprise when you actually do..."

Ford-Technical-Racing-Center-34.jpg
 
Dec 30, 2019
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Thank you for the interesting link to the Ford article. It does surprise me that a company with the resources of Ford cant get such as the brake feel to match the real car.

Unfortunately my rig will be in the loft so it is going have to be quiet.