In today’s logbook entry, I’d first like to share a little background about how I got started with this effort , and then lay out my roadmap for future projects and products here at VRSimpits. I have several projects in the pipeline that I am extremely excited about, and I think you will be as well! (If you want to get straight to these future projects, just scroll to "Product Roadmap")
How it all Began
I've always been a total nut for WW1 aircraft. Over the years, I've spent countless hours building models and flying virtually in sims such as Over Flanders Fields and Rise of Flight. In late 2018/early 2019, two events transpired that would later be the inspiration for founding VRSimpits. First, the team behind the IL2 Great Battles series announced early access to Flying Circus Vol. 1, the spiritual successor of my all-time favorite sim, Rise of Flight. Second, I donned a VR headset for the first time, and the moment I stepped into the cockpit of a virtual aircraft in VR, it was immediately apparent to me that the possible immersion level of flight simulators had just increased exponentially!
One of my favorite aspects of flying virtual WW1 aircraft is their shear simplicity. The rudimentary systems and controls of these early flying machines also eliminates one of the main pitfalls of flying in VR -- the inability to see your keyboard or switch panel for managing engines and other complex aircraft systems. With these wood and fabric machines, all you need are the basic flying controls, a few axes for controlling throttle, mixture, etc., and some assorted buttons and switches for weapons and other aircraft systems. This reduced complexity largely does away with the need for keyboards and other input devices that are not conducive to VR use. Additionally, the slow speed and close-up nature of WW1 combat lends itself very well to the reduced resolution and spotting capabilities of current VR headset displays.
These realizations sparked an idea in my mind: what if I were to create a simpit (Simulator Cockpit) designed around WW1 aircraft, and optimized for use with VR? If such a cockpit could be built -- with controls whose look and feel matches those of the real aircraft, placed in roughly the same locations as their real life counterparts -- the potential immersion level would be beyond anything previously possible. And as wonderful as it would be to simply build a one-off simpit for myself, it would be far better if I could design each component in such a way that I could readily produce copies -- giving others the chance to experience the same immersion while also helping me recoup the costs of development. Thus, VRSimpits.com was born!
VRSimpits is truly a labor of love -- the amount of time and effort that goes into developing and producing each of my products means that in the end, the actual profits are very small, and really just help to offset the cost of developing this hardware and sustaining my flight-simming hobby. But that’s fine by me! I’m not in this to make money; my only real goal in starting this business was to create incredibly realistic and immersive flight simulator accessories, and to share them with the flight sim community while recouping some of the costs of development.
My vision is to eventually offer a complete line of simpit hardware, with interchangeable joystick grips, throttles, rudder-bars/pedals, seats, and all the various cockpit gadgets and gizmos that one might desire! I may even produce entire simpits made to replicate the look and dimensions of a WW1 cockpit (or at least offer plans to build your own).
And now, without further ado, let’s talk details about some planned projects!
Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee that all of these projects will come to fruition, as some ideas just don’t work as well in the real world as they do in my head, and I CAN guarantee that new ideas will inevitably be added as time goes on. However, this is my initial plan to start out. I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes! Also, if you have any ideas for products you’d like see in the future, feel free to let me know through my contact page!
1. Current Projects: These are products that are either complete or in development.
SopGrip MK1 (Completed, available to order): A replica of the control stick grip used in Sopwith aircraft such as the Pup, Camel, Dolphin, and Strutter.
Tampier Quadrant (In development, planned release mid 2020): A throttle quadrant designed after the Tampier throttle units found in many Entente aircraft of all manufacturers. Unit may also include magneto switches, radiator control, and some assorted buttons/switches, or these may be included in separate standalone units. Quadrant can be desk mounted using an integrated clamp, or bolted to a dedicated simpit.
SopRudder (In development, planned release mid 2020): A rudder bar designed after those used in the Camel and Pup, featuring a cam/bearing system for smooth and precise movement (similar mechanism to those used by the MFG Crosswind, Slaw Device pedals, and others)
2. Upcoming Projects: These are products that will definitely be done and are currently in the development pipeline, but that I just haven’t had a chance to work on much yet, and thus do not have a release date for.
Machine gun cocking levers (for reloading/un-jamming): Appearance will be based on the levers found on the Vickers guns in the Sopwith Camel, although I may also make a version based on the Spandau for German aircraft. I plan to have these levers mounted to the butt of mock guns, which can either be secured to a desktop via included clamps, or mounted more permanently to a dedicated simpit. I may also offer a windscreen that can be mounted atop the guns just for looks.
Slipstream VR: The slipstream device will provide a realistic wind-in-your-hair open cockpit experience! I won’t go into details quite yet, but in essence it will consist of a fan (or fans) linked to your flight controls to provide realistic wind feedback. As I am currently designing it, it will be significantly more powerful than any of the wind simulators currently on the market. Its full-power capabilities are strong enough that I may also offer a wind-deflector that can be mounted behind your seat, sparing household items behind you from being blown about!
Pilot’s Seat: I’ve worked on a couple iterations of seat design, and the one I’ve settled on moving forward is based on the seats used in the SE5a, with some visual design elements taken from the Sopwiths. I had considered replicating the wicker seats found in Sopwiths and other aircraft (which look amazing), but as I plan to mount a bass-transducer (Buttkicker) under the seat, wicker just wasn’t a feasible material. Due to the costs of shipping large items like furniture, I am not sure if I will be able to offer full seats (though I hope to do so), but I will at the very least offer plans for people to make their own. This design offers a perfect model for pit building purposes -- it can be made from readily available wood materials, but still has an awesome WW1-appearance to it.
3. Possible Projects: These are ideas that I very much want and plan to do, but that may or may not come to fruition either due to high costs, lack of community desire, or technical feasibility.
Albatros D.III/D.Va joystick grip (requested by several in the community)
Rudder bar for German planes (probably based on Fokker design)
Bomb-release lever (generic)
Fokker D.VII/Dr.1 joystick grip (because they’re cool!)
Elevator trim control: for aircraft such as the SE5a and Bristol F2b
Flare gun/holster & sidearm: linked to flare gun and "personal weapon" functions in IL2. The sim doesn't yet have support for motion controllers when using flare guns or sidearms,
Admin armband: this would be a wrist-mounted controller with inputs for non-aircraft game functions such as “pause”, “escape”, etc, which obviously don’t have a real-world counterpart in the actual aircraft
Dedicated standalone Simpit: A full simpit is my dream -- the integration of all above products into one package, with the pit itself made to replicate the interior dimensions of a real WW1 cockpit. However, I’ll probably need more living space to make that feasible! Although, I could always make it a fold-away design... Hmm, I'll have to get back to you guys on that...
Thank you for taking the time to read through this; I hope some of these upcoming projects excite you as much as they do me! As always, feel free to contact me at VRSimpits.com, or ask questions on one of my threads in the IL2 forums.
Blue skies, and good hunting!
Will (vonrickenbecker) Becker