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Design it, Drive it: Speedboats is a speedboat simulator that lets you design and drive your own speedboats.  Whether you end up with boats that are slow, fast, turn well, or tend to take off into the air and blow over or not depends on what you do with the shape and design of the hull.  There’s no racing or virtual money here, it’s just you, your designs, and the water.

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There are more than 25 adjustable parameters on the boat to play with including engine power, prop pitch, hull length, width, jackplate setback, transom height, bow and transom deadrise angles, pad and strake/step dimensions, and on and on.   The hydrodynamic/aerodynamic simulation is run directly on the boat mesh you design inside the simulator, so any changes you make affect the performance and handling of the boat.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

The simulator is primarily being designed to run on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset (DK2 at the time of this writing), but runs just as well on regular monitors on Windows PCs.  Triple monitors are supported too.

The lake scene below was created using software that takes elevation and image data recorded by NASA satellites, so the scenes can be made reasonably accurately.  The hills surrounding the shoreline are all present, and houses and trees can be positioned in pretty much the same location as the real things.

Below is a full onboard lap around Lotus Lake in Chanhassen, Minnesota, in a 300 HP 18′ speed boat using the Oculus Rift.  The gauges to the right of the tachometer and speedometer are for the engine trim and jack plate, both of which need to be carefully controlled for high speed driving.  The key is to fly the boat with as little of the hull touching the water as possible to keep friction low without blowing over.   This is a boat, not a plane, so keep at least a little bit of it in the water!   Just driving in a straight line to see what top speed you can reach while trimming the engine can be surprisingly entertaining.  Things can go wrong in a hurry if you aren’t careful, which you’ll see at the end of this video.

Here’s a similar lap of Lotus Lake on a regular monitor, again using the onboard view exclusively.

Here’s another showing some of the complex dynamic behavior exhibited by the boats.  This was made shortly after changing the instrument panel to something a bit nicer looking:

The simulator is being developed in C# using Unity3D and is designed for Windows with DirectX 11.  The physics code is a proprietary system that solves hydrostatic, hydrodynamic, skin friction, buoyancy, and aerodynamic forces separately on every triangle in the boat mesh as well as the individual propeller blades.   When the jack plate is raised or the trim is adjusted so the propeller comes partly out of the water in the search of maximum speed, there is a paddle wheel effect that turns the boat which must be compensated for in the steering.   Just keeping the boat on the water and pointing in the right direction at top speed can keep you busy.

The simulator has more than a thousand forces acting on the boat to compute its motion. Some of those forces can be seen here in this early development video:

If you watched the entire Rift video above, you’d have seen that the aerodynamics are complete enough for the boat to blow over if the speed and angle of attack get high enough.  The boat can also rise up onto the pad and virtually fly with only the stern skimming the surface of the water.   With the physics model acting on the individual propeller blades, the engine trim has a large effect on bow lift and the attitude of the boat. In case you missed the blowover in the other video, here’s another one from earlier in development:

And of course things aren’t complete without a driver in the seat.  This was done using a Unity3D package called FinalIK that’s available in the Unity Asset Store.   It’s a wonderful package, especially for the price.  The driver animation might have taken months to do otherwise.  Here’s what it looked like using the built in Final IK driver rig just after getting it working for the first time.

In addition to flying up on the pad and blowing over, the boats can also chine walk, which appears to be a first for a boat game or simulator.  Here’s what can happen when you keep the throttle fully open and try to power through a chine walk.  Don’t try this in real life.  It’s dangerous!

A big part of this simulator, perhaps the main draw, will be the capability to design and shape your own boat hull.  Changes made to the boat are immediately visible while clicking the buttons and can affect the physics in a major way.  Very subtle changes to the pad or bow design can be the difference between a steady ride at 85 mph and chine walking severely or even blowing over at only 75 mph.  You’ll get to play engineer as much as you play driver in this sim.

The Oculus Rift version will have the same user basic interface appearance and be mouse driven like this:

Onto a more technical side:   The boat mesh is split in real time at the waterline in a way that keeps two triangles above the water and one below it (or vice versa) so boat mesh triangles can be partly submerged and partly exposed to the air.  The number of forces acting on the boat adjusts itself to match.  This is a very early development video using a wooden rowboat model from the Unity Asset Store.  The boats are now procedurally generated instead which lets the players design the boats themselves.

Something else that might make its way in to a future version is a system I wrote that procedurally generates the engine audio in real time.   This is a pretty intense system that is running an engine simulation in real time at 480,000 Hz.   Each exhaust pipe is cut into around 100 to 250 sections.  The engine simulation “knows” the exact position and orientation of the crankshaft and pistons at all times, updating everything 480,000 times per second.   The forces through the in-cylinder processes exhaust gases through the exhaust system.  The resulting wave dynamics which are computed in real time are used to produce the sound of the engine directly.

Here is an early test of the system:

And here is the system running all by itself, this time doing a simulation of a V10 Formula One engine:

Currently it’s looking like this will not be used in the boat simulator in the initial stages due largely in part to the GPU load the system takes at the moment, but it’s a cool development anyway, so there it is.  Maybe some day.   The other videos on this page are using engine and water effect audio created by Greg Hill of Soundwave Concepts.  The plan is to use these in at least the first release of the boat simulator.

That’s it for now, thanks for watching!  If you’d like to be kept up to date on progress with more videos as they’re released, subscribe to  Todd Wasson’s YouTube channel.