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    Contributed by: Jonathan Fox | Published: October 2015 | Views: 10525 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
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    BY FOXY on July 15th, 2015

    This article brought to you by your friends at:



    Using VRC yet?
    Why not? After all, it's totally free.


    VRC Pro in action at Mike?s Hobby Shop, an excellent little track for free

    You may remember we ran an article not that long ago asking about the value of simulators; you can read that here. Well, as it happens I already had a USB dongle from a promotion for moderators at RC Universe when VRC became a sponsor years ago, and the article reminded me that I?d still never actually tried it. So I finally got around to it, and I must say I?m totally addicted. It?s great, I?m having fun and I?m getting better too! Feels almost like doing something constructive! lol.

    Living in a capital city and having young kids, I don't get out as often as I used to and have definitely lost some of my more technical driving skills. Now I don't need to leave the city to practice? So here are my thoughts so far?

    VRC Pro is the only 'serious' surface RC simulator available. I don't even remember when it first started, but it was quite a few years ago, and like all successful software enterprises, it's been getting steadily better and better since then through updates and additions. Today it's a beast of a game, with a huge number of available cars, tracks and options, on-road and off road, nitro and electric, and the best part of all?it's TOTALLY FREE to play.

    Yep, that's right, totally free. You go to www.vrcworld.com, register an account, and start downloading?initially you get a basic installation package, then a significant additional download for installation of the updates that have been released since the main installer was published. Once it's installed however, all you have to do is select a car and a track, hit 'Practice' (a completely free practice mode, do as many laps as you wish, change as many batteries as you want) and you?re away!

    To be fair and honest, you don't get a lot for free, but you do get enough to keep you entertained for a good long time, and certainly enough for anyone to dramatically improve their skills without spending any real money. A few on road and a few off road tracks are available in the basic package, as well as a couple of short course truck choices, a couple of sedan choices and nitro 1/8th buggy. I?ve been playing stock 13.5t short course with an Associated SC10 at Mike's Hobbies short track, and 13.5t sedan with an Associated TC6 at the VRC World circuit (an imaginary, simple but engaging track), both very challenging and fully featured racing modes available for free.

    As you practice, the laps you do are properly timed, and you can get achievements immediately that you achieve them, for example, if you manage to do a time within 80% of the lap record, that achievement pops up straight away. I?ve managed to get within 90% of the lap record on each of the tracks I've played already in the stock classes, earning achievements for 80%, 85% and 90% along the way, as well as another achie for 'Great precision driving!', but without looking it up, I don't actually know what I did to achieve that?maybe hitting apexes consistently?

    But as anyone who has actually done any racing knows, it's not just fast laps that win races, its consistency. You?ll know when you ready for a practice race (which you can choose to do immediately against AI opponents at any time while practicing), when you can do 20 or so laps without needing to be marshaled (just press space bar if needed) and all the laps within 1 second of each other. The AI racers are pretty consistent (but not so consistent that you?d say a robot was driving, they do make frequent mistakes or go off the racing line) and will give you a decent challenge without the embarrassment of coming last in an online race. In fact, the AI is so 'human-like', I had initially wondered if I was practicing online with real people (I quickly realised I wasn?t, but kudos to the AI anyway).

    If you want to play online against real people you need to pay for a subscription, but I'm still perfectly happy practicing away and getting better and better until I feel like I need to do that. You can choose a difficulty setting and a number of computer controlled (AI) opponents, which are represented on the track, going around at the same time as you, both in free practice and in the practice races. You can also choose whether the computer registers collisions or not, but since avoiding collisions and clean overtaking are very important skills, I think it's best to keep them on for realistic practice. Unfortunately, the computer is godlike at recovering from hits and will invariably throw you off the track if you touch them, but hey, just makes it all the more important to avoid contact.

    If you choose pc setup a number of opponents, two or three or more, you can understand that their skill levels are varied, one driver often being noticeably better than the others. I can easily win a practice race on the Easy setting, but the good driver on Medium always beats me so far, I always come second. Still, another testament to the realistic AI.

    I've already spent hours on this game/sim over the last couple of weeks, but no money! I?m really kicking myself I didn't do this sooner; it's excellent fun and I am definitely getting better. More so in a few weeks than in the last few years of real wheel time, the only thing I (would have) spent money on if I didn?t have one already is the USB adapter for RC receivers.

    While you can control the cars with a keyboard alone, or even a Windows compatible game controller, the game comes into its own when you get the USB adapter. The great thing about this is that it's completely compatible with all current versions of Windows, without any kind of driver or software download, and allows you to use your own radio as a controller. I am using my Futaba 4PLS and the micro R204GF antenna-less receiver which lives in my latest drifter project. I don?t even have to take the receiver out of the car, I just unplug the servo and ESC, plug in the adapter cables and go (the car sits proudly on top of my tower, see above left, lol)! The USB adapter powers the receiver, there?s no need for any batteries (except in the transmitter of course).

    While using a good radio can give you the ability to use various effects that the radio firmware has (settings, etc), the game itself also allows you to set the really important stuff in control options (exponential and steering/throttle limits), so really, you can use any old RTR radio. To get the best out of it, I'd say you really should use the same radio that you bash or race with, as this is the one that makes you feel comfortable, and any improvement in your muscle memory (and let's face it, RC is all about muscle memory), would be somewhat negated if you then switched to a different controller.

    Of course immersion is the only problem?we don?t really race RC looking through a 27" (or however big your screen is) window, which is essentially what I'm doing when I'm playing VRC, what would really complete the experience would be the use of a VR headset which has a wide FOV, such as the much lauded Oculus Rift (second edition, the first one has a bit of a low resolution), which literally fills your field of view.

    Closing out, my only gripe if you will?what this sim really needs is the ability to create content. Not just for the obvious benefit of creating tracks, both real and imagined, but also as a money maker and a creative outlet. Graphic designers and 3d modelers can make awesome bodies and designs, other customers can buy them, VRC gets a cut. There is a disappointing thread on this in VRC's forum, where the management state the project has been shelved. Great shame, it would be the perfect way to take this software to the next level.

    I think I'll be playing this a lot going forward, so expect updates! Here?s a little vid of my current ability so we've something to compare in a few months. ;) Such a shame about that last lap? :(

    So there you go, a solid recommendation from me for VRC Pro; go download it now and order a USB adapter. You don't need a monster PC to run it either. What are you doing still here? GO! NOW!


    ABOUT AUTHOR

    FOXY
    I am a Brit living in Greece, bringing 30 years of playing with toy cars to the arena. I was never a serious racer though I do have some club level experience. I'm in the hobby for the engineering and the modeling as much as the actual driving. Having been moderating and doing the occasional review for RCU for nearly 10 years I hope to share an interesting insight or two as well as give you my opinions on any models that come my way. I also dabble in photography, modifying real cars and used to be a very serious gamer, BK (Before Kids lol). But that's enough about me... Keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up! ;)


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