Racing games are starting to get some traction in virtual reality. When the Oculus Rift launched earlier this year, Project Cars was the only officially supported racing game. The developer behind Assetto Corsa has since resumed development of its VR support, and this week, Dirt Rally was updated with VR support (and subsequently added to the Oculus Home store).
Racing games have always been a popular video game genre, and fans of these games will spend hundreds of dollars on fancy racing wheel peripheral. The real die-hard racers will spend thousands of dollars to build the ultimate racing simulator. Now that VR is supported in some racing games, and likely many more in the future, an Oculus Rift seems like a natural addition to many racer’s setups.
Yesterday, I gave Dirt Rally a try on the Rift and found an issue that frankly shouldn’t exist. Even though my Logitech G920 is a hardwired USB controller, and even though it is a certified Xbox One peripheral with all of the standard controller’s buttons, Oculus Home does not consider the wheel an Xbox Controller. When I first launched the game, the buttons on my wheel weren’t providing any input to the game. I had to use my keyboard to navigate the menus and reach the controller settings, though the wheel was still not available.
I attempted to relaunch the game and reseat the cables from the wheel several times with no change. Next, I turned on my Xbox One controller and started the game. I thought there might be a problem with the game altogether, but it worked just fine with the controller. The wheel was still plugged in, and to my surprise, I found that all of the buttons on the wheel were working, this time, so I proceeded to play the game.
During the second or third race, the game suddenly stopped, and I was presented with a notice that my controller was disconnected. Sure enough, the Xbox Controller had turned itself off for being idle for too long. The wheel was still attached, but Oculus Home was overriding it because the actual controller wasn’t connected.
Once I discovered this issue, I gave Project Cars a try. I’ve only ever played the game through Steam before, so I wasn’t sure if the controller issue would affect it. Sure enough, I was met with the exact same problem. Once the Xbox controller turned off, the game was paused automatically.
Having that happen while you’re in the middle of an intense race is more than just an annoyance that breaks the presence. Racing at high speeds is an intense act that requires razor focus. It’s hard to snap back into that zone when you’ve been pulled out so abruptly.
There’s a simple solution for this problem, but there’s really no reason that you should have to resort to a workaround: Plugging your Xbox One controller into your PC will keep the controller turned on, but Oculus doesn’t provide the micro USB cable necessary to do that. Alternatively, you can use a wired Xbox 360 controller, which Oculus Home accepts as a gamepad. Either way, you’re going to have to provide yet another part after buying an expensive peripheral. A racing wheel should make virtual racing better, not add inconvenience.
To be fair, I’ve had the chance to try only the Logitech G920, so other wheels may work. The G920 should be the most likely to be compatible, though, as it is actually certified by Microsoft as an Xbox One peripheral.
Oculus said that the reason that it included an Xbox One controller with the Rift was so that gamers didn’t have to go out and buy anything else in order to play. It didn’t say anything about making things difficult for gamers who want to go the extra mile with their setup, though.