Descent Freespace in 8kX. Better than physical monitor. Also, TrackIR is painful

One of the things I have been working towards for a long time now, is getting some kind of VR experience from the classic game Descent Freespace, now that the 8kX has the resolution and aspect ratio (side effect of the wide FOV) to make it more or less practical.

The settings I used to do this are divided into Dynamic and Legacy, documented here.

Dynamic uses TrackIR, a virtual cockpit, and a Virtual Desktop screen so large, it is nearly a full hemisphere. Setting Head Lock (allowing the screen to follow the headset) is not even necessary. This is surprisingly about as immersive as most seated VR experiences like Elite Dangerous or Flight Sim, despite not being stereoscopic. Formation flight, and looking around, feels about as natural as it should.

This added bit of immersion makes it a whole different game. The added sense of situational awareness and accuracy feels like a simulator. Snapshot opportunities at the merge become the priority rather than lengthy tracking in a turning contest.

However, the downside is TrackIR. There is some lag in the response, so it is better to add a small deadzone and look ahead when possible. Weird distortion from all the 2D projections is a major problem as well. The whole setup was weird enough even I took on some at least temporary nausea, headache, dizziness, and strong sensation of being cross-eyed.

Most interestingly, I found the Virtual Desktop 4k screen to be the limiting factor in visual quality. The graphics were a bit pixelated, more so when stretched across larger virtual screens. Having an 8k monitor would have been ideal, though that might exceed the maximum display output resolution of available graphics cards (an arbitrary limit, nothing to do with GPU performance).

Legacy settings are intended for when TrackIR or virtual cockpits are not compatible. Or when the eyestrain of TrackIR is just too much. It is much more comfortable, rendering a static image across a huge display, without lag or as much changing distortion, but strangely much less immersive.

Hopefully before I have time to spend more than a few hours actually playing Descent Freespace again, someone will create a native VR port for it. Really, the graphics are pretty good even by today’s standards, this used to work well on 200MHz computers, and AFAIK the game engine basically interprets BASIC scripts, so it should be feasible to reimplement today…

By the way, I captured a bit of awesome footage to include in my upcoming video…

In the meantime, this is a pretty good example of the worst VR experience possible, nonetheless at high visual quality, from one of the best games ever made, further demonstrating the capabilities of a high resolution headset.


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