DCS Gaming Website & News

[Beach Thoughts II] VR vs 2D & Head Tracking

Another post written while killing time and bored to death whilst on holiday. This time, some thoughts about VR and 2D.

At some point last year, I wrote a few points debating the old faida about VR users and 2D users. This is pretty much a copy of the same list, with a few mode details.


The thing is, most players say that VR is the absolute best, and I agree. But, in my opinion, is not ready yet – and DCS isn’t either.
I have a Track IR 4 still working somewhere. I bought it in 2005 or 2006, perhaps earlier. Before the end of the last decade I moved to the TIR 5 for its higher definition. Definitely worth it.

The most significant difference between VR vs TrackIR is, of course, the visual immersion: not even a surround setup gives you the same feel of depth and “to be there”. The visual fidelity, however, can be an immersion killer if you don’t have a close to 1:1 setup, a decent HOTAS, or a VR pointer, as you’d be fiddling around with the mouse every time you need to interact with the aircraft. Imo, this really kills the sense of immersion much more than have a set of complex panels or controls and a nice, wide screen. Of course, it is subjective.

However, the comparison between the two is more complex than that. The VR has other drawbacks IRL: you have kids around? Then probably you want to keep an eye on them, something that the VR does not allow you to do. If you have a set of control panels, it may be hard to use them with VR. As a dedicated RIO, I definitely prefer my boxes over looking at in-game 2D screens (DDD and TID) in 3D with VR but having to use the mouse or the HOTAS (besides LANTIRN stuff). As I pilot instead, it’d be the opposite, I guess. On the other hand, a VR setup is very compact, and you can play almost anywhere, as you don’t have to be in front of a monitor or monitors; but TIR allows you to have a secondary monitor with kneeboard, mission details and so on.

In case you make content on youtube / similar, then TIR and a monitor generally give better results. Recordings from VR (especially older or non-optimized headsets) tend to be a bit “shaky”. Your brain, whilst playing, tend to compensate for that, but as a spectator, it can make it hard to enjoy.

Another aspect not always considered is the motion sickness. The TIR (especially with default curves, which can be too “jumpy”) can give you a bit of motion sickness. The VR for some players is just unbearable, no matter how long or hard they try to get used to it. Luckily, in the vast majority of the cases, this is not a big deal.

VR also requires a bit of tweaking, something non-tech-savvy may not want to do, whereas the TIR is just a matter of offsetting the curves to get a better feeling right away. This, hopefully, will get better as the game matures. Funny saying that a game around for 14 years should mature (it’s actually older than that).
However, at the moment, VR has a cost: it requires a headset and a fairly modern PC, considering the current situation and the hilarious price of the GPUs (which are finally improving at returning to pre-mess MSRP prices), make the jump quite painful if you are starting from scratch. The Track IR is expensive, and I totally recommend the original product, but there are much cheaper solutions, and even DIY projects. A good plan may be going step by step, starting from a cheap head-tracker (unless you plan to stay), then update your setup (if necessary) and eventually move to VR.

At the end of the day, both solutions are a compromise between immersion, performance, devices and so on. There is no better at the moment, just what you like the most. I thoroughly enjoy the recent adjustments I made to my setup, and I’m not switching to VR any time soon.

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