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 an early development video showing a full onboard lap around Lotus Lake in Chanhassen, Minnesota, in a 300 HP 18 foot 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 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 panel in the current version no longer looks like this. Instead it’s built into the dash like you see in the first video on this page. It still does a good job of illustrating some of the complex dynamics of the boats in the simulator.
If you watched the entire Rift video earlier, 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 very early in development:
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, is the capability of designing and shaping 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 has the same user basic interface appearance and looks something like this early development video:
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:
This system is not being 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 as well as the simulator itself are using engine and water effect audio created by Greg Hill of Soundwave Concepts.