Fly Dangerous 5.0 was released and it is packed with new features like reflections on the ship, Steam leaderboards and ghosts! So you can basically race against yourself or others from the leaderboards!
As usual I gave it a spin and had a blast.
First things first though. The Linux version defaults to OpenGL and this resulted in like 25 FPS for me and the input of my X52 Pro (mapped as XBOX controller) was so laggy that I could sip coffee during each course correction. This was when I remembered the magic parameter -force-vulkan from other Unity games and from here it was smooth sailing. Eventually I ended up with the game start options obs-gamecapture for recording, mangohud for some FPS info and -force-vulkan for… well, FPS.
I sure am playing a lot of space pew pew over the last months. Took a lot of screenshots too and it’s kinda hard not to drown my timeline with screenshots every day. Today I sifted through the pile and found a bunch I’d like to share (some again) so here is a little gallery of (mostly) space simulation games I play on my Linux PC. And I’ll keep making that point until I can browse the web without getting daily reminders by random strangers claiming that gaming on Linux PC is not possible. Cuz it is.
Added on 5th January 2022 and played with whatever Lutris thinks best. I really was going to hold out on Star Citizen a little longer but I got it as a gift to my birthday. My GPU is definitely at it’s limit here. Will probably have to give it some more time. I mean it’s Alpha and all but hey, it _does_ work.
This I play mostly under Proton with the Primary Buffer Panel whenever possible. It’s just the most fun this way (kids love it too).
The more recent X series have native Linux builds but work also perfectly fine with Wine.
Both run via Lutris and with Proton-GE and usually with my DIY Headtracker.
FlightGear runs native on Linux and Fly Dangerous does have a native Linux build but due to an issue with terrain generation being single threaded I use Proton for this one too until this is solved. No Man’s Sky runs perfectly with Proton.
I play all of the above with my X52 Pro H.O.T.A.S. and some with my DIY headtracker stretched over three displays in a so called multihead setup. Let me know if you’ve any questions how this can be set up.
I somehow never finished this little gem and since I feel somewhat nostalgic today decided to give it another spin. Interestingly this game was ported to various systems including Mac and Linux in 2013 premiering as part of the Humble Double Fine Bundle. This is probably also where I picked it up.
Anyway, uploading this will take some time but you can watch the partially muted recording elsewhere. Won’t upload it here thanks to ridiculous copyright claims.
Seems to work nice with my DIY headtracker on Linux PC too. Sadly I got quite some frame-drops due to recording (and probably multi-head too). It works way better without all the cameras and a life-stream going on but I think it’s enough to get a good impression. Botched emergency landing included xD
Warning: This may fuel a desire to re-watch the BSG series again 😀
I like space and science fiction. Diving into epic stories set in some distant future amazes me since elementary school.
I’m also a gamer. And a tinkerer. It’s in the family.
I keep wondering: How can I improve the immersion of my games without going full VR?
I used a triple screen set-up before. It consisted of different models in height and size. When one screen finally broke down I purchased 3 refurbished screens of the same brand and model. What a difference!
The kids love it too. Of course. Means less stick time for me. Anyway.
The thing is: “The” reference product for a headtracker is the TrackIR system. Price as of today: 220 EUR. Ouch! That’s like a cheap VR, right? And it’s Windows only. No thanks.
So I checked what’s in this thing. Apparently a cheap camera, some infra-red LED, and a filter allowing only infra-red waves. And software, of course.
Since this is for Linux I get to pick my poison for the software part, and I settled with Opentrack fast. Onwards to the hardware part. I abused my mobile phone for the testing, sending it’s Gyroscope data via wifi to my PC, and while it worked it also _sucked_. Both, phone and wifi I mean.
Head tracking is awesome. And I knew I want it. So I started prototyping. For this I went with a simple design that I eventually implemented on cardboard. It looks hilarious but it gets the job done.
The focus was on a long life cycle so I wouldn’t have to replace the rechargables in the middle of a session. To get this right I checked with the camera that I was going to use. See (video above), this is way to bright and by trying various resistors I could get this down to 33mA per LED and still get a decent detection rate with Opentrack.
Speaking about the camera. That’s nothing special. It’s a dead cheap 480p Logitech QuickCam Communicate STX that I got from a discounter a decade ago. It was so cheap it doesn’t even _have_ an infra-red filter that I’d have to remove first.
I used tape to attach the salvaged camera cover of a dead G20 controller. That’s a Wii Remote knock-off that does basically the same thing like a headtracker. Various other foils can be used for this as well, as long as they permit infra-red. The idea is to reduce or remove all other light waves but infra-red.
The trick is to also turn off auto exposure and fiddle with the contrast and sharpness until a decent frame rate and a clear infra-red wave source by the LED can be seen.
When I was satisfied with my meter readouts, and my highly professional scribbles, I started working on the prototype while streaming the whole process on the Discord channel of the awesome Fly Dangerous project. If you like racing with a space ship give it a shot.
The prototype is made of cardboard that doubles as isolation for the polarity. The rest is tape and hook-and-loop fastener to attach the headtracker to my headphones. No magic here. The whole contraption is powered by two 1.2V rechargeables. I opted for a micro switch and an additional LED as power indicator, that I dimmed down even more. I can after all not see infra-red so this seemed like a good idea to me. Spoiler: It is.
So how does it play? Over the next weeks I tried basically any game supporting head tracking that I could get my hands on. Please keep in mind that I usually play with lights off but started the studio lights for demo purposes. The tracker does still work just fine.
I quickly found out that each game needs it’s own profile for fine tuned settings. Good thing that Opentrack has me covered on this. First, my beloved X4 using Wine and the TrackIR protocol.
Sadly I came to the conclusion that my GPU is no longer up for the task and Wine would cost me too many frames. I switched Opentrack to emulate a joystick instead and mapped it to camera movements in the native X4 version. It’s not exactly the same but it’s okay-ish. I have an idea how to hack this properly into X4 using an extension and a UDP server but that’s a topic for another day.
Anyway, the same principle works with X Rebirth too, making me even happier. While dated it still has it’s charm and the verse still feels a lot more alive compared to X4. It’s also not taxing my GPU that much.
Now for something different. When Opentrack would list a “protocol” named FlightGear I became very curious. I installed this free and open source flight simulator and crashed my first Cessna into the ground minutes later. By now I’m confident that I can crash a Cessna just about anywhere. I’m not fond of flying in real-life but avionics sure are a fascinating topic.
This was the moment a Steam sale happened and I bagged various flight sims, Space Kerbal and House Of The Dying Sun. All with TrackIR support.
Little did I know what gem I bagged with House Of The Dying Sun by the way. Sadly it’s also very short but I enjoyed every minute of it and will probably play it again. The art, sound and music reminds me a lot of Battlestar Galactica. Easy win 😀
So yeah, this is my current gaming set-up. I built myself a head tracker for 5 EUR. On Linux PC.
I also may have fallen into the rabbit hole called “simpit”.
Racing in space sims is a thing and usually done by a small and sometimes hidden community within games like Elite Dangerous or Star Citizen. What happens when this is not enough for players, or when they simply don’t want to waste time grinding the required resources in-game, is demonstrated by @jayleefaulkner at https://github.com/jukibom/FlyDangerous
I was delighted to find Linux PC binaries over at https://jukibom.itch.io/fly-dangerous as well – and this is a very early alpha even. Guess someone pestered the dev about Linux already and I so had to give this a spin, of course.
Unpacking the FlyDangerous-0.2.2b-linux.zip was a no brainer and the game itself started just fine. I do have however a very specific triple head display setup and the game started on the wrong display in fullscreen mode and could not be persuaded to go into windowed mode so I could reach the buttons to change the display resolution via hotkey or tweak the config at ~/.config/unity3d/StarGoat/FlyDangerous/prefs. It insisted of staying on defaults so once more wmctrl to my aid:
After this was sorted out I noticed that Unity detected “some” joystick with only an X and an Y axes. This doesn’t do my X52 Professional H.O.T.A.S justice. Usually I’d use the controller mapping in Steam now but this isn’t a Steam game and while it can be added as a foreign game to Steam I can not set any controller configs for it there so I started looking around.
Apparently (modern) Unity uses SDL2 and the modern evdev input system to detect joysticks on Linux PC and this can be indirectly configured / overridden using the environment variable SDL_GAMECONTROLLERCONFIG to provide additional input configurations like the ones listed in https://github.com/libsdl-org/SDL/blob/main/src/joystick/SDL_gamecontrollerdb.h (that somehow does not know of the X52 H.O.T.A.S?). Luckily there are various tools to create a mapping for this – for example Gamepad Tool at https://generalarcade.com/gamepadtool/ – which sure looks familiar enough from the re-mapping I’m used to by… Steam! AntiMicroX should also work for this but I didn’t try.
And since I’m on Linux and totally lazy I threw all this in the script file flydangerous.sh to start the game: