we're happy to announce that update 2.009 is ready. The most important addition in it is the VR support. In addition to VR itself, graphics as a whole were heavily updated during the VR development, so everyone will benefit from this update. In addition, it contains many improvements and corrections in other subsystems of the sim.
1. VR support added via Open VR (HTC Vive and Oculus Rift cv1);
2. Optional post-processing Sharpen filter added;
3. Hiding the in-game HUD (H key) now stops most GUI routines, which can double your FPS in some situations. You can use this to get a performance boost while playing on a slower PC. After hiding the HUD, you can still turn object markers on by pressing I key (they won't lower performance since they were recreated for VR in a separate module that doesn't use ScaleForm like the rest of the GUI);
4. New option 'Show HUD by default' added which can be turned off so HUD won't turn on at the beginning of a mission;
5. New graphics option 'Dynamic resolution factor' added. It adjusts the render resolution and the number of particles in certain effects on the fly to maintain the FPS level chosen in 'Target FPS' field (or screen refresh rate if the V-Sync option is checked). In VR, the target FPS is always 90;
6. Clouds detail increased for Ultra graphics preset;
7. The number of smoke particles decreased for all graphics presets except Ultra. This improves FPS while you're chasing a damaged and smoking enemy aircraft;
8. Trees rendering technology improved, almost eliminating a tree rotation effect when you fly near them;
9. Trees LOD levels were reworked to minimize their 'pop-up' effect;
10. A rare crash has been found and fixed. The sim could crash in missions with more than 120 ground objects (random issue). This issue was fixed, but when there are too many ground vehicles some of them may lack effects of lights. A tip for mission designers: if you don't need a certain group of vehicles anymore, use Delete trigger instead of Deactivate to free their effects and properties cache;
3D models changes:
11. He 111 H-16 bump texture corrected, reflections improved;
12. Yak-1 series 127 rear canopy transparency corrected;
13. Three new skins made by community member Stab/JG52_DiO for Bf 109 F-2, Bf 109 F-4 and Bf 109 G-2 added to the game;
14. Missing glass that covers instruments in Bf 110 G-2 engine nacelles added;
15. Fw 190 A-5 is now correctly visible at large distances;
16. Flight stick shaking at high speeds will correctly stop after rudder and elevator loss;
17. Ju-87 D-3 flutter can still happen after rudder loss;
18. Aircraft weapons damage from HE shell hits became rarer;
19. Ammo explosion simulation improved - now it happens at ammo box location instead of aircraft center and the explosion power varies depending on ammo type and its amount left;
20. Sh-37 gun ammo weight corrected for IL-2 mod.1942 and LaGG-3 series 29;
AI and other changes:
21. Single ground target attack from high altitude maneuver corrected (an AI will reduce its altitude first and then begin the attack);
22. AI controlled Ju-87 won't crash during dive recovery if they failed to drop the bomb;
23. A rare issue in campaign when player flight could disassemble and wingmen could crash into each other was fixed;
24. Vehicle columns that were attacked on a bridge act more reasonably;
25. 61K train or ship mounted AA gun kill will be counted correctly;
26. Trees on the Ryabinki airfield runway removed.
VR Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips & tricks you may already know that will help set up your VR for IL-2 (but it may be useful for other games).
IL-2 Sturmovik uses Open VR interface, meaning you need to have Steam VR application installed on your PC. If you have HTC Vive, it is already installed (or you won't be able to use it in other games). However, if you have Oculus Rift, you may or may not have it installed. So, the first step would be installing Steam, logging into your Steam account and installing Steam VR from Steam store.
Run Steam VR to set up your Oculus Rift there: run Room Setup. Make sure it works fine for you in Steam VR tutorial. HTC Vive users have this set up already.
Run IL-2 Sturmovik. If Oculus Home and Steam VR applications are not active, it should launch them by itself. When the game loads, your HMD should be working already and you should see the VR image from one of the eye screens on your regular monitor. Oculus Home and Steam VR windows may obscure the IL-2 window on your regular monitor so minimize them and click on IL-2 Sturmovik window to return focus to it (that's how Windows works)
If you launch IL-2 and VR mode doesn't kick in, make sure that Steam VR (and Oculus Home if you have Oculus Rift) are installed and configured properly, and/or launch them manually before starting the game. If VR still won't kick in, go to graphics settings of the game and check that 'Use VR HMD' option is on. While you're at it, note the new graphics options there: Sharpen and Dynamic resolution factor.
Sharpen is a post process visual filter that makes everything, well, sharper. This is especially useful to increase clarity in VR so you could read your 'real' cockpit instruments better, but it gives good results if you want a crisper picture while playing on a regular monitor as well. It has little impact on the performance, so try it and see if you like the new look.
Dynamic resolution factor is a new method for keeping your frames per second (FPS) steady. Its value can be set from 0.5 (half the original resolution) to 1.0 (full resolution). If you set it to 1.0, you'll be turning it off and everything will work as before. If you set it to a lower value, you're telling the game it's Ok to degrade the rendering quality to this value to keep the FPS close to the value you set in Target FPS drop-down list here. So if you set Target FPS to 144 and Dynamic resolution factor to 0.5, the game will lower the rendering quality up to 0.5 of the original resolution trying to keep that high frame rate you specified. You can experiment with these values to find out what FPS you can achieve on your PC without degrading the visual quality too much. On a regular monitor, quality degradation is more apparent than in VR HMD, so this feature is especially useful for VR.
Please note, that Target FPS value is ignored in VR - it is set to HMD refresh rate (90 FPS or 45 FPS when it is lower than 90 and HMD driver automatically engages ASW if you're using Oculus and Reprojection for Vive). You can Google what these technologies do - basically, they generate new frames depending on previous ones to show you if PC performance level is insufficient to output 90 FPS. Target FPS parameter is also ignored if you use a regular monitor and check V-Sync option here - in this case it ties to your monitor refresh rate.
Another settings screen, Camera settings, include another new option - Limit VR view. When it is on, your virtual head won't be able outside cockpit or inside the instruments panel. While it makes perfect sense, it may be uncomfortable in VR - when your real head continues to move (there is nothing to stop it at your home unless you go too far and hit a wall or your PC), but your virtual head in the cockpit stops because it just hit a canopy, you may have a dizzy feeling. It should be noted that other sims don't have the limited VR view at all, but in IL-2 you can turn this on or off. This option will be ignored (the view will be limited) if Allow spectators option is turned off in difficulty settings (for example, on Expert difficulty multiplayer servers) to prevent cheating.
Now, there are special commands in Camera controls that you'll be using a lot in VR. First one is Default VR view - you can use it to set up a default view. If you're off to the side in the cockpit, look straight in front of view and press this button (Numpad 5 by default) - you'll be positioned in the center behind the gunsight.
Another command is VR camera zoom (hold). This is a special zoom button for VR, press and hold this button and you'll get 2X magnification to spot distant objects. It may cause nausea if you keep the button pressed and turn your head, beware.
Another tip we can give you to improve the performance is turning the in-game HUD off (H key). VR provides unique ability to read 'real' cockpit instruments at a glance, so try to use it! It can give you a huge performance boost, especially in complex missions with many objects. With HUD turned off, you can still see object markers (press I key to turn them on).
When you look down in the cockpit, you'll see a blue ring. This is Steam VR safety feature called chaperone boundaries so we can't turn it off in the game. You can turn it by editing a certain file on your PC (maybe it will be made easier in the future), Google 'turn off chaperone boundaries'.
Some of our beta testers complained that they see some objects (for example, gunsight reticle) in double vision. There can be several reasons for it, so here are what you can do if you experience this:
1) First of all, make sure your inter-pupil distance is set up correctly. Its control is located on the right of your HMD. Adjust it so the on-screen tip shows your inter-pupil distance correctly (you know its value if you use glasses).
2) Second, understand that playing in VR is completely different to playing on a regular flat screen, even if you're accustomed to Track IR or Freetrack. Objects have different depths, you can focus either on close objects or on distant ones, like in real life. If you focus on the cockpit elements or gunsight body, its reticle will be in double vision as well as a target you're trying to hit (collimator reticle is a virtual distant object). When you're aiming at an enemy aircraft or ground vehicle, focus your eyes on it, then the reticle should be in focus as well (but your canopy and gunsight body will be in a double vision like they will be in such situation in the real life).
3) Third, position your head correctly - your dominant eye should be behind the reticle. You can do this naturally just by moving your head in VR.
3) Fourth, this is a highly subjective issue. Some of the users (and us developers) don't have any problems while using an aiming sight, some resolved them when they accustomed to playing a sim in VR and for some nothing we could adjust helped. This is a highly specialized problem for VR genre - in a usual VR game the developers keep the user from this issue by avoiding situations when you have very close and distant objects at once, but this is impossible in a combat flight sim where a pilot constantly needs to switch focus from close instruments to distant targets. If you have this problem no matter what, it may be best to close one eye and aim with your dominant eye only. You'll lose stereo perception so it isn't ideal, but many people aim their guns this way and do fine.
We spent much time to implement the VR support. We hope you'll like the result and the new immersion level it gives to virtual pilots! See you in the sky!