Digital Combat Simulator World

October 23, 2022

I recently found a new hobby in setting up a flight simulator in the home. I wanted to go all out so I wouldn’t regret doing something half-way and then have to upgrade later. I decided to go with Virpil controls after reading/watching a couple of reviews. They seem pretty high quality and the software seems straight to the point. I got their rudder pedals, a grip and base, and a throttle. So far I’m pretty pleased with the purchase, but I only have an hour or so of experience using it. I did not expect that I would need to manually set up the bindings everywhere. It’s complicated by the fact that I don’t know how to fly any planes so I’m not sure which buttons should do what, and what I should bind the buttons to. That will be a learning curve. I’ve been watching videos like this on YouTube, which seem to be pretty good and supplement the tutorials in DCS.

I mounted all the Virpil controls to a Next Level Racing GTTrack Simulator Cockpit with the combat flight pack extension. This was a fairly pricy gaming chair attached to steel supports, but it is well made and the instructions were good. However, this was probably a slight misstep as the rudder pedals I got did not fit well within the frame. I’m not able to do the full left and right swing with the rudder pedals comfortably close to me, so I have to put them further out so they don’t hit the frame of the seat cockpit. With them far out, I’m not able to push the rudder pedals down for braking easily. The throttle and stick mount to comfortable positions on the side, but I probably could have achieved that without spending as much on the setup. I guess I could always repurpose this for a racing simulator. I didn’t opt for the movement piece which you probably should opt for if you are getting this particular item. Lessons learned I guess.

Next for the display. I made the mistake thinking I could use a tobii eye tracker 5 for purely head movement. I tried attaching this to the steering wheel mount in the cockpit because the 86" TV was a couple of feet away and I knew the sensor only worked at close ranges. This was a big fail and I couldn’t get the thing calibrated–the calibration process wants to calibrate eye tracking first. So that was a complete loss. Instead I tried my old Samsung Odyssey HMD headset I bought when Windows Mixed Reality came out. It seems WMR has not got much love these days but maybe it’s just because I haven’t touched the VR scene since Half-Life: Alyx came out. Anyways, it was a pain to get working–VR software usability seems to be a complete disaster, but I finally was able to open the windows desktop from inside WMR and launch DCS, after setting DCS in the settings to launch in VR mode. Steam VR, which seems like an important component that gets launch all the time, frustratingly does not work well with just a headset/keyboard/mouse. I didn’t want to attach my hand controllers because things were already getting unwieldy. The DCS VR settings page only seemed to show up on the home page settings crank.

DCS in VR was a cool experience, but the texture resolutions were not high enough even after setting the game to high mode. I will try playing with the settings in WMR to make sure it’s on high quality, because I had trouble reading the buttons even with the VR Zoom button bound. I did experience some motion sickness due to the lack of physical motion in real life, but it wasn’t severe. I will have to spend some more time on it to see how playable it is. It took like 30 minutes for me to get through the cold start tutorial for the F16. Worse case, I suppose I’ll need to bind a button to change the camera and go back to playing on the TV.