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VIRTUAL RC RACING – THE INSIDE STORY Episode 19

27.05.2022   Category: Site news

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Episode 19: Going commercial with VRC Pro

I was encouraged by the close collaborations I had developed with several major r/c car manufacturers like Kyosho, Associated, Serpent, Xray, LRP. It made me think if it was a good idea to put their products in as ultra-realistic 3D models. In all my optimism and enthusiasm, I thought yes, at hindsight it wasn’t such a great idea probably, it was simply not sustainable. More about that later.

So the idea was to create super realistic models of chassis and components for a number of manufacturers. I discussed this with Tony who had to model them. With the very first model he created for VRC, the Serpent 950R with the clear Lexan body on it, he had already proven to me that it was really possible to model it in true 3D and make it look ultra-realistic. But it raised a few more questions. Where and how are we going to present these ‘high resolution’ models of the chassis and can we actually use them in VRC Pro to race with.

2 Models needed, hi-res and lo-res
To start with the last question, the answer was no, the high-res model would eat up way too much resources on CPU and GPU (graphics) level, the framerate would probably drop to an unacceptable level, especially in multi-player and replay mode with 10 cars on the track. The solution was to create 2 3D models, a high resolution (hi-res) model which was going to be used on the 3D pit table interface and a low resolution (lo-res) model to be used on the track.

Working with two 3D models required a whole new structure to store the different models in the database! Oh well, remember I spoke about feature creep? This is a perfect example of it. But I was so thrilled with the idea to have an ultra-realistic 3D model in front of you on the pit table and the work bench, including all the components and the commercial opportunities made me decide to go ahead with this concept despite of all the extra work for the programmers and for Tony.

The picture shows the lo-res version as used on the track, notice that several components and details are missing and highly simplified, and of course on track we use LOD optimalisation, several components are then simply not rendered and displayed at all. The lo-res model also has a lower ‘poly-count’ meaning less polygons (triangles) used to create the 3D model and uses smaller textures. All this to enable the graphics engine to achieve optimum graphical quality at the highest possible frame rate!

Creating a 3D chassis
To create the 3D model Tony needed the real chassis, take it apart to measure all the individual parts, then model it in hi-res and lo-res, and ‘assemble’ the parts in the 3D model. For the on-road chassis this was not so critical as the suspension was not animated but for the off-road chassis which were planned for the future, it was. I already explained this in the previous episode. Tony had to work very closely together with Todd to provide him the exact dimensions and pivot points for the 3DS suspension model to work in the game. Todd needed this for the lo-res model which was going to be used on the track! And at the same time Tony had to make sure that the hi-res model as used on the pit table and work bench looked the works too! You can probably imagine how much work went into achieving all this. And with much work also comes much time and much $$$...

New component structure needed
Doing a 3D chassis turned out to be very expensive and although I had convinced several manufacturers to collaborate with us and to share the cost. But after 2-3 years it became obvious to me that it was not sustainable in the long run. Manufacturers release new models every 2-3 years and were not willing or able to collaborate with us creating a new chassis for VRC every time they came out with a new chassis and share the cost with us. And we could certainly not afford to pay these development costs ourselves! The same applied to all the components, bodies, engines, motors, ESC’s, wheels and tires, everything you need to complete your r/c chassis. We ended up with the following brands for our chassis and components:

Chassis: SERPENT – XRAY – ASSOCIATED – KYOSHO – TAMIYA - HB
Motors and Esc’s: TEKIN – LRP – REEDY – NOSRAM - THUNDERPOWER
Batteries: REEDY – LRP – SPEEDPASSION – GENS ACE – THUNDERPOWER - GM - KYPOM
Engines: NOVA ROSSI – PICCO – OS MAX - RB – MAX – REEDY – XCEED – STAR SIRIO
Bodies: PARMA - BITTY DESIGN - BLITZ - ASSOCIATED - HPI - PROLINE - JCONCEPTS - PROTOFORM - XCEED
Wheels and tires: PROLINE - GRP - MATRIX - KYOSHO - CONTACT - AVID - RB
Fuel: BYRON – TORNADO – RUNNER TIME - RB – LRP – TEAM LOSI

We had to make sure to treat all different branded components equally, we couldn’t make one brand perform better than other brands, for obvious reasons. With one exception: off-road chassis!
The off-road chassis use brand and chassis specific 3DS suspension geometry, including shock and anti-roll bar positions, which makes them handle differently! Important parameters like center of gravity, and rotation axes are brand specific as these manufacturers had to provide this data to us. So there is really a distinct difference between the various off-road chassis, and setups will therefore be quite different too!

Associated RC8 buggy, quite a story…
We knew that Associated was working on a new 1:8 buggy chassis, the RC8. We had come up with a plan to model that buggy and have it ready by the time that new chassis would be launched on the market. ‘Test drive the new Associated RC8 nitro buggy in VRC’, that was the idea of this collaboration. Associated sent us the prototype chassis well ahead of the market release date and we started modelling and configuring the RC8. By the time we had the hi-res and lo-res model ready for implementation in VRC Pro they had started testing the prototype and even tested it in a few races. The results were apparently very disappointing, there were a few serious and structural flaws in the suspension design, and they decided not to release the RC8 at all and start all over again... That put us in a very difficult position, obviously they didn’t want us to go ahead and release the RC8 anyway. It’s illustrative for what you are getting yourself in to with such commercial projects.

So however great the idea was, this commercial concept was simply not sustainable. We had to find a solution for this problem…

Generic chassis and components
Besides the branded chassis and components, we therefore needed to develop a line of generic chassis and components. This would make us less dependent of the collaboration of the r/c industry, but it would also serve another purpose. With a limited offering of branded products and components, we would not be able to satisfy all VRC members and especially those members who used different brand products. Knowing the market and r/c racers from my years in Serpent it could even lead to some racers refusing to use a certain brand! An Infinity user would probably hate having to race a Serpent or Mugen chassis… That’s where our generic brands would come in handy. We created the following generic VRC brands:

Chassis: INTERCEPT
Motors and ESC’s: ETEC
Batteries: CELLTEC
Engines: XTEC
Fuel: NITROX
Bodies: AEROSPEED
Wheels and tires: STIX

For these VRC brands we used exactly the same specs as for the branded chassis and components, only the graphics on the component 3D model are different. Every branded chassis and component category has a VRC branded equivalent!

The next question was how to integrate all these commercial products into VRC Pro, we had to come up with a way to present this to our VRC members in a natural and intuitive way. This triggered the development of the interactive 3D pit table and workbench concept.

That’s next…

Comments

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(Total posts: 2)
17.06.2022 [05:30]
Following!!!
08.06.2022 [08:56]
Looking good, extremely good

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