High and Mighty

An Immersively Seated Experience

January 19, 2015

Welcome to what is the first of many weekly posts where we dive into the elements that make Vox Machinae tick. Today I'll be talking in greater detail about the cockpit of a grinder. More specifically I'd like to show how the pilot seat surroundings work to create what we believe to be a more believable and functional space.

In the early design phase of the cockpit seat we knew we needed something that would allow for independent movement of the cockpit relative to the Grinder being piloted. In part, this to create a greater sense of immersion by showing secondary motion so that robot's movements could be exaggerated. The other part of the equation was rooted more in practicality. We needed the player's chair to be stabilized for a more comfortable VR experience, since simulator sickness is not a pleasant feature to have in any game.

One of the more significant sources of nausea in any VR experience is when there is a perceived disconnect between what your body is being told its doing in the game vs. what it's actually doing in real life. Most of us play games in the relatively calm environment of our computer chairs or couches, so having a VR game tell you you're shaking violently can trigger this type of nausea.

The solution to the above design goals and challenges was to construct a shock-absorbing mechanism, mounting the pilot's seat to the cockpit frame around it. This not only looks cool in action, but also stabilizes the more prominent of the robot's physical motions such as collision impacts and reactions from gunning it full-throttle. It also ended up aiding us in establishing a greater sense of believability since it would make practical sense for such a system to exist in that environment if it were real. While it is not the only element in alleviating simulator sickness, we believe it's a significant contributor to why Vox Machinae is already being considered by many as one of the more comfortable VR experiences out there (especially considering the high-intensity nature of the gameplay).

The Underpinnings

Hydraulics Closeup