As part of the recent release of Project CARS as a launch title on Oculus Rift, I got a chance to sit down with Andy Tudor, the creative director at Slightly Mad Studios. We had an interesting discussion on the future for the game, and what it means for Project CARS to be future-proof.
An 8 Bit Mind: Project CARS was one of the hits of 2015, and while the game has been supported with Oculus Rift previously, this is still a big jump to being a Day One title for the Oculus Rift. How has the road been to optimizing the game’s potential for the Oculus Rift?
Andy Tudor: Tricky but do-able! By putting the headset on ourselves and experiencing it first-hand, we’ve learned a lot about what your brain believes, what your eyes focus on, and how you perceive sensations such as depth and speed. Ever since working with the DK1 kits, therefore, we’ve had a long time to make improvements to the core MADNESS engine to allow us to reach a silky 90fps framerate by making savings in areas that simply aren’t noticeable when immersed in the Rift.
An 8 Bit Mind: Project CARS seems to be perfect for the Rift, in that a VR setup seems to be better for immersion purposes then even a multi monitor setup could be. What goes in to building that immersion?
Andy Tudor: Simple really – making you feel like you’re sat there in the cockpit. The racing genre has always supported peripherals from seats to wheels to pedals to button boxes, so now that we have a ‘helmet’, we have the final piece of the puzzle basically. If you have all the above, then you really are good to go with the most natural interface for a driving game ever.
When we’re building for VR, therefore, we’re constantly doing a 1:1 comparison with real-life. Do you feel like you’re sitting in the real-life car? Is the distance from your seat to the wheel correct? Does it feel like it’s at the right ‘scale’? Does 200mph really feel like 200mph? Does the cockpit detail hold up to peering in at close scrutiny? How do virtual G-forces affect you? What do players do when they start racing? Do they glance left/right? Do they lean into a corner? Etc…
Lots of questions, lots of practical hands-on playing ourselves, and lots of feedback from the community who got to experience it first back when the initial Kickstarter headsets were shipped.
An 8 Bit Mind: With all the types of VR, both on consoles and PC, it seems like this is the perfect time to get into VR, but there’s many different flavors of VR with the Rift, the HTC Vive and even on the console side with Playstation VR. What are the challenges in optimizing the game for a platform that seems very fluid in capabilities? There must be some uncertainty as to what the hardware you’ll be working with, with all the story of modular upgrades from one console, a Playstation 4.5 from the other, and of course, the ever ongoing PC upgrade treadmill…
Andy Tudor: Our MADNESS Engine seems to have been built by Timelords because it was built from day one with the foresight of modular/scaling technology, multiple processors, and SLI graphics cards. Hence why we were the first game to run at 12K resolution, and hence why we are a launch title for Oculus Rift. It’s always been a scalable technology taking advantage of whatever platform and hardware you have installed, so as we look to the future of what further ‘modular’ consoles may look like, we’re pretty confident we’re ready for it already.
An 8 Bit Mind: Project CARS has been very well supported in that rather then locking people into a Season Pass model, like most games, the “buy which packs you want” factor allowing players to pick and choose their purchases to focus on the type of content they want to play. Are we going to see more of that with the Oculus Rift edition?
Andy Tudor: No need to choose! The Oculus Rift version has all the On Demand content from the last year already installed 🙂 And when the Game Of The Year Edition comes out on May 6th, we’ll upgrade it automatically for you so you get hold of that awesome exclusive Pagani content too.
An 8 Bit Mind: As someone who has loosely followed the areas of sim racing, where do we go from here? It seems like for the dedicated enthusiast, if it was any more realistic, you’d need a fan blowing air in your face and a carbon fibre car shell around your body to be any more realistic.
Andy Tudor: Believe me, that exists already 😉 For us, we’re now looking at what the VR experience is like when you’re *not* in the car. How do you take photos? How do you watch a replay from the grandstand? How do you open the hood and tune your car? Those areas are really exciting for us, along with other questions around autonomous driving technology.
An 8 Bit Mind: What does the future hold for Project CARS? We know that there’s a Project CARS 2 at some point, will Rift-type support be native in future releases?
Andy Tudor: It’s safe to say that we’ll be actively considering VR support for all our future games – starting with Red Bull Air Race The Game coming out this year 😀
I’d like to thank Andy and the folks at Slightly Mad Studios for their time. You can check out the Project CARS Oculus Rift Edition Footage below: