Impressions: Oculus Rift support for Euro Truck Simulator 2

By Graham Smith on October 24th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Finally I am Challenge Anneka.

I’ve used the Oculus Rift to fight Half-Life 2′s Combine, to blast through space in EVR, and to stomp around in Hawken’s powerful mechs, but this was the thing I’d really been waiting for. SCS Software just released the Oculus Rift-enabled beta for Euro Truck Simulator 2, and I celebrated by driving from Cardiff to Southampton.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a game about simulating trucks in Europe. It’s a game about sitting in a cockpit, and about having strangely evocative experiences. That makes it perfect fodder for strapping two tiny computer monitors to your eyeballs while hoping no one is taking photos of you.

Getting the Rift to work with the game is easy: download the beta via Steam, and add ‘-oculus’ to the launch command line. Beyond that point, it should just work, albeit a bit shonkily.

Here’s a video of me playing, in which you can see why I don’t drive in real life.

Also featured: the noise of me turning my head, because I didn’t realise the microphone in my headset was recording. I’m a pro, by the way.

If you’re the owner of a Rift, but not a developer, you’ll currently spend most of your time trying out tech demos and the few retrofitted games available for it. Most of those retrofitted games, you’ll discover, are poorly adapted to the Rift. That’s either because their menus weren’t designed for its strange aspect ratio, or because their movement depends on taking control of your character’s view (think forward rolls in Mirror’s Edge), and often because modders were only able to change so much of the source game to suit.

Although made by the official developers, in this early beta Euro Truck Simulator 2 suffers from a few of those same problems. The menus, for example, are mostly in 2D and therefore require you to remove the Rift to use. For those menus normally viewed from the cockpit of your big rig, the blurriness of the Rift makes them a little too hard to read or use comfortably.

Worse, the particular nature of ETS means you notice the low resolution of the Rift development kit far more than in some other games. In Half-Life 2, for example, where you’re moving around constantly and your focus is changing, I don’t notice the resolution so keenly. I notice the blurriness when I turn my head. I notice the feelings of nausea. But in Euro Truck Simulator, when I’m focused intently on the vanishing point of the road in front of me, I become distracted by the gaps between the pixels of the screen. Cars appear on the horizon as dots, and it’s hard at first to tell whether they’re heading towards or away from you. At one point I thought there were lots of hot air balloons in the sky, but it could have been anything. Birds? Planes?

These are problems that may be solved when the consumer Rift is released, with its higher resolution display. Or they might be partially fixed after a few updates to the beta, to adapt the menus and generally improve its Rift support. There are still plenty of promising things to consider.

Because, here’s the thing: it was still amazing. I front-weighted the criticism there, because while my complaints are specific, my joy lies in the general experience. For the 30 minute I spent on my first journey with the Rift, a drive across English countryside, I was enthralled by the cockpit of a truck. I finally got to live out my childhood dream of being Anneka Rice.

Reversing is no easier this way.

ETS has always let you turn your character’s head with the mouse, but the concept of “behind you” is completely different when it means moving your head. Checking your wing mirrors means looking over at your wing mirrors. Reversing means sticking your head out the window to check behind you, with actual real-world leaning.

“Actual Real-World Leaning” is a back-of-the-box feature.

In simulation games, any small advancement towards a 1:1 relationship between your physical actions and your in-game actions makes a significant difference. The Rift isn’t the kind of thing I’m going to want to use all the time. Even with better screens, and better support, I don’t always want to entirely shut off the real world and cover my face with a hot, glowing box. Yet using the Rift in Euro Truck Simulator 2 makes me want to go out and buy an expensive steering wheel, to make the experience when I do use it even better still.

If you’re one of the few with a Rift development kit at home, Euro Truck Simulator 2 should be one of the games you try, and one of the first you show your friends. You can read more about what it currently does and doesn’t do at the ETS developer forums.

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44 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    Next Car Game + OR support = Madness!

    • Dazmaniac says:

      What do you mean next car game?

      iRacing already has Oculus Rift support.

      I believe Assetto Corsa and PCARS are also looking t make use of the headset.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Cinek says:

    Oculus Rift in it’s native environment :)
    Yep, native, because IMHO simulation games where your character “sits” and controls something (be it car, train, space fighter or tractor) are these where O.R. really can show it’s potential without much of a feeling that you’re completely detached from your character, like it’s in a shooters – your character runs, but… you sit in an armchair. o_O.

    • Pecisk says:

      And both “Star Citizen” and “Elite: Dangerous” will support this OR. It’s sure not playing all the time with it (need connection with real life sometimes), but something to be experienced time after time. So I guess it will be must buy for me in future.

  3. ViktorBerg says:

    I’ve heard that the HD version of the Rift is much better, but exactly how good it is compared to just looking at your 1080p monitor, is known only to the people who tried it. The big problem is that the monitor covers about 30-50 degrees of your FOV (depending on the size of the thing and how close you sit to it), and thus the pixels are not apparent. The OR has to stretch the same resolution across about 120 degrees of FOV, thus making the pixels that much more apparent. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Give it a couple of years and I dare say there’ll be an even higher resolution version, where you can’t see the pixel bounderies at all.
      Of course hopefully the graphics power you’ll need to render that will be affordable at that point.

    • hjd_uk says:

      Aren’t they looking at making a 4k Occulus Rift?

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Sort of… The quote created “omg 4k in your face” headlines everywhere, but it sounded to me more like pointing out an inevitable waypoint:

        There are a lot of challenges, like resolution, it’s a big one on the current dev kit. You can’t imagine what it’s going to look like when it’s 4K, and it’s not far away. It’s not now, but it’s coming.

        (via PC Gamer)

        Still, I can’t deny that I’m excited by the prospect of playing with a Rift where things in the distance don’t look all chunky.

  4. fish99 says:

    You didn’t hit everything, but bonus points for trying :p

  5. frightlever says:

    Bloody hell, I missed Adam’s article when it originally appeared (probably because trucks) but that was a great piece of writing.

  6. Mad123 says:

    Imagine a driving school simulator with Oculus Rift, steering wheel, pedals and gear stick. I’m pretty sure it would help students getting into the whole multitasking thing and basic routines (shoulder check) and it will save one or two sessions with the expensive driving instructor.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Imagine Carmageddon with that rig. At some point, the blurring of fantasy and reality does start to get a bit worrisome, since you lose all the usual defences of “I don’t drive my car with WASD while sat in an armchair looking at a screen”. That simulators have training value means that actions and responses learned in virtual worlds do bleed into reality.

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        melnificent says:

        After playing ETS2 every evening for a week I noticed the bleed effect of not turning my head as I never did in the simulator. This is looking good and terrifying at the same time

  7. Skiv says:

    Goddamn now im so Jelly… I won’t buy it because reasons, but maaaaaan it looks so freaking awesome..
    @Graham, Maybe you played OmnibusSimulator. Imagine devs adding OR support to their simulator @_@

  8. Premium User Badge

    DrScuttles says:

    This is the high water mark of video games right here and I’m so glad to be alive to witness it. I may currently be £185 short to actually experience this myself, but I can at least go cross-eyed and shed the combined tears of joy and eye strain.

    • Koshinator says:

      I don’t recommend the cross-eyed approach, as it gives an inverted 3d image (near is far and vice versa) – plus it makes you look rather odd

    • LionsPhil says:

      And it’s people sitting wired into goggles paying to work a virtual version of a mundane day-job.

      At least various semi-dystopian cyberpunk-y futures assumed we’d all have force-feedback crotch attachments while our bodies atrophy, our mind absorbed within the unreality of the machine.

      • Premium User Badge

        DrScuttles says:

        Crotch attachments, you say? Hmm, I wouldn’t want to be too… uh.. premature in my declaration of the pinnacle of how we video games. Already I’m imagining ways of integrating that technology into ETS2 to simulate those desperate too-much-coffee moments between service stations. Along with OR, that would be glorious.

    • fish99 says:

      The thing is – it’s only a visual/immersion improvement, it doesn’t change the games themselves. For me the high point in games will be when the characters in games behave more like real people. Imagine for instance in Skyrim where you could talk to the NPCs via your mic and they’d understand you and react accordingly. So for that you’d need great speech recognition, great speech synthesis so they aren’t just saying pre-recorded lines, and some amazing AI so they can appear to understand you. You could even have something like Kinect reading your facial expressions and conveying that info to game characters.

      We’re still probably multiple decades from all that. Will it even be worth the financial investment to put all that in games one day?

  9. Nallen says:

    It’s not Euro Truck Racing Simulator 2 you know.

  10. LionsPhil says:

    Does watching OR footage on YouTube through an OR actually work, or does it need metadata/fine positioning which gets lost?

    • TheMightyEthan says:

      It should work, but this specific video is only 360p, so it might just be the most pixellated thing you’ve ever seen if you actually try it.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      It does work, but the mismatch between my head’s heading and the video’s makes it miserable compared to relaxing (usually not diverging) my eyes at the computer screen. Some may not mind it, though.

  11. Keyrock says:

    This looks fantastic. I love Euro Truck Simulator 2, and all I have to play it is a 360 controller, m&kb (the controller doesn’t have enough buttons to map everything), and my 15″ laptop monitor. I wish I had enough disposable income to blow on a wheel & pedal setup plus Occulus Rift.

    As an aside, slow the fuck down Graham, it’s not a racing game. It’s a turn on the radio, obey the speed limit, use your blinkers, and chill while you’re cruising around and making deliveries type game. :p

  12. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Do your eyes start hurting after having glowy boxes that close to them for a while?

    (It won’t stop me, but…)

    • Faxanadu says:

      This is actually one of my biggest worries, stamina.

      “I don’t always want to entirely shut off the real world and cover my face with a hot, glowing box.”

      I want this thing in my face for HOURS. Like a FACEHUGGER. But I’m worried that, while it might not break my sternum, it’d be heavy, too hot, press my face in an uncomfortable way…

      I mean that thing’s gotta weigh some?

    • sophof says:

      I don’t have an OR, but this shouldn’t be a problem. Do you get tired eyes when walking around in the real world? If not, you shouldn’t have problems with this. I can’t really think of a reason why this suddenly would create problems, since there’s no real difference for your eyes, they don’t really care where the light comes from.

  13. bstard says:

    Why dont ppl who play this game get a job as truck driver?

    • Keyrock says:

      Why don’t people that play GTA go out and become murderers? Why don’t people that play play NBA2k play in the NBA? Why don’t people that play Ace Combat become fighter pilots?

      • Leb says:

        and don’t get Keyrock started about Japanese rape games

      • LionsPhil says:

        The huge, huge difference you’re carefully ignoring is that becoming a truck driver is a completely achievable thing for you to actually do, legally, with a rather low barrier to entry. (You will have to develop skills, but it’s not like you have to be in some upper percentile of human ability to do so.)

        Most games are escapism to something you can’t or wouldn’t do because it’s beyond your abilities or means or has consequences you don’t want to face. Being a truck driver…not so much.

        • Sheps says:

          Trucking is not worth your time unless you can afford £100,00+ to buy your own truck

          • AdamDenton says:

            Sheps how so? I am genuinely intrigued as often have I romanticised the notion of a life on the open highway, feeding myself a steady diet of audiobooks and cream bagels whilst verdant fields roll by, all the while maintaining a definite sense of purpose in delivering a urgent shipment on time. Surely yet another daydream of mine isn’t a load of codswallop?

        • Keyrock says:

          I agree that becoming a trucker doesn’t have the same barrier than becoming a fighter pilot or professional athlete (murderer is easy enough to become but carries with it significant consequences), but it’s not trivial either. You have to take the time and pay the money to get CDL training. Then you have to find a company that will hire you. Add to that that the life of a trucker is not for everybody, particularly long haul truckers who may be away from home for days or weeks at a time. Plus, there’s the responsibility of driving a gigantic, extremely heavy, extremely powerful, less than graceful piece of machinery with the very real potential of killing somebody or doing massive amounts of damage.

        • LionsPhil says:

          (The worst bit? I played the demo until it told me to stop, I’d played it too much. And now Steam has just e-mailed me to tell me it’s on sale for a fiver.)

          I have so many other games to play! So many other things to do! BE COMPELLING, ARGUMENT!

      • Dazmaniac says:

        Kids who played Gran Tursimo 4 and 5 went on to earn seats racing for Nissan (Lucas Ordonez, Jann Mardenborough, Jordan Tresson, Bryan Heitkotter etc.), through the GT Academy so maybe we might see Euro Truck Academy one day, lol.

    • Trespasser in the Stereo Field says:

      I guess that means I can’t play car racing games, truck sims, plane sims, train sims, or even Sim sims, because I could potentially do all those things in real life. I suppose I could dress up like Batman and break into an asylum and start punching people too. Man. My whole Steam library is such a waste.

    • fish99 says:

      …because playing the game is somewhat fun and driving a truck isn’t. In case you don’t know, the world in ETS2 is much smaller, like 1/20th the real size, so the longest trip is about an hour, plus you make money real quick and can buy loads of trucks and garages in a reasonable amount of time, all completely unlike real trucking. Plus you don’t go to prison for crashing in the sim, or have to sleep in the truck.

  14. De_willy says:

    Finally!

  15. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I heard there will be a limited edition “Occultulus Rift”, which will refuse to simulate anything except the first person experience of demonic possession

  16. fung0 says:

    ETS has always let you turn your character’s head with the mouse, but the concept of “behind you” is completely different when it means moving your head. Checking your wing mirrors means looking over at your wing mirrors. Reversing means sticking your head out the window to check behind you, with actual real-world leaning.

    Real-world leaning is available now, with the TrackIR. It works extremely well in ETS, and costs probably 1/4 of what the Rift will ultimately go for. The benefit of 3D in ETS will always be limited mainly to the cab of the truck, since human stereoscopic vision isn’t really good for more than about 20 feet. So head tracking will always be the more important part of the experience… and TrackIR does it superbly. It’s the most amazing gaming peripheral out there right now, sad that more people don’t know about it. (Not that I’m not eager to grab a Rift when it ships.)

    By the way, watching your driving makes me suddenly feel like a real pro…!

  17. racccoon says:

    OUCH! my EYEs i have no idea what your trying to achieve by this youtube video, all it seems to prove is the device is a waste of money, the better choice is to plug your PC into your giant Plasma screen like me, or any large screen you got lying around in the lounge and be real about this. I think your eyes may seek out short sightedness faster than you think with this new device oculus thingmebob it looks far too painful.