Flieger, grüß' mir die Sonne, grüß' mir die Sterne und grüß' mir den Mond. Dein Leben, das ist ein Schweben, durch die Ferne, die keiner bewohnt! - Hans Albers, F.P.1 antwortet nicht (Adaptation in the 80s: Extrabreit)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

EDtracker review

My next game session was cut short, very much so. My EDtracker had arrived, quite early, and already pre-assembled/configured. This input device will be mounted on top of my headset and translate my head movements into a joystick-equivalent input, best used for free head-turning in the cockpit. The game conveniently allows for seperate control settings to this ends; one of the many wonderful and well thought-through features of Elite: Dangerous. 

I went through calibration and drift-setting exercises because the device worked a bit strange after I just installed the drivers and I tried it first in the game without this. This took me the better part of the evening, I am not very much aquainted with flashing, firmware and embedding circuitry into software. My main problem was that I first had to understand that you have to "load"/"flash" two different programms; first the calibration firmware and then later the drift-control firmware, which also allows you to do final settings, like for example setting the sensitivity (which I really recommend to do in conjunction with the game settings in order to make the input feel really natural and comfortable). Also, the flashing always caused the EDtracker to loose connection, which I could only solve by restarting the computer. But I worked it out in the end, and I exitedly started my game session.

Just having to get used to a new control input distracted me a lot and almost overtasked me. I felt and steered like a true newb again. Also, to be honest, the added level of immersion underwhelmed me. This might be because it still takes some getting used to, to make it feel a more natural experienced. A colleague gamer told me, it does not feel very "wow!"-ish, but after a while you would miss the feature to turn your head in every game environment.

What I still cannot get used to is that the tracking seems to have a certain "resistance" when you want to look away from the center-frontal looking position. It feels like having to overcome a kinf of a switch-barrier by moving your head a bit more then you should, i.e. the view drags behind your movement, before the view turns in sync with your head movement again; a kind of irritating "head-snapping" effect. I wish I could find a setting which makes the input translate into a truly linear movement (it is not the dead zone, I have set it to zero). Also, I have to find a way to position the standard position a bit higher, therby omitting the instrument panel, so that I will have to look down a bit in order to actually look at the instruments; like I do in my car. It feels a bit irritating to always have the instrument panel obstructing your view and I found that I instincively played with my nose raised a bit upwards, which felt kind of awkward.

Also, who the hell had the idea to put LEDs on that thing? You should have seen my wife´s look when she saw me sitting there, in the convenient half-darkness of my computer room, "with a lightbulp on top of my head", as she expressed it. Yes, it is hard to be cool as a geek!

Can it get any nerd´ier? Sure! Wait till the Oculus Rift consumer version is out next year! Anyways, I am sure it will take a few more game session to really get comfortable with this new type of input control.

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