When it comes to peripheral devices, especially for VR, I’m generally pretty skeptical. In an industry that already asks me to strap a hunk of plastic on my face, plug in a variety of cameras and sensors, tether myself (for now) to a bulky PC, and use motion controllers and headphones to immerse myself in a virtual world, there isn’t a whole lot of tolerance left for extra doohickeys and doodads.
I’ve tried things like the Virtuix Omni and came away relatively unimpressed with the lackluster comfort and accuracy. People usually don’t even use actual treadmills after they buy them so something specifically designed for VR is no different. But the 3dRudder is something quite different. I can sit down in my comfy chair and get the benefits of roomscale movement, plus more, with half the effort. Learning to use my feet to interact with a game was a bit of a hurdle at first, but it eventually started to click.
The 3dRudder is a clever device. Essentially, it works by plugging into your PC and acting like a giant, glorified, foot-controlled analog stick. I lean my feet forward, my character moves forward. Lean back, they move backwards. While it doesn’t require the additional use of a VR headset — I could just use it to supplement my mouse and keyboard or gamepad outside of VR — that outside of VR use case wasn’t very attractive to me personally. Donning an HMD to use the 3dRudder is where the real secret sauce was located.
I tried it out using both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and it seemed to work well in all of the test scenarios. Specifically, I spent most of my time trying it with Arizona Sunshine (available on Steam and Oculus Home for Vive or Rift with Touch) and Robo Recall (available on Oculus Home for Rift with Touch).
In the case of Arizona Sunshine there are two movement options: teleportation, which the game launched with late last year, and a full track pad or control stick locomotion system that was added in an update. While using the 3dRudder it was like playing the game with full locomotion but instead of standing and controlling my character with my thumb, I was sitting and controlling him with my feet.
Intuitively it makes sense because in real life I would walk around using my feet so relegating movement to those parts of my body feels right. Tilting my feet isn’t the same as actually walking, but it fools my brain a bit more than just tilting my thumb. I don’t suffer from VR sickness personally, but for someone that does, this is an elegant way to potentially side step many of those issues. Being seated increases your tolerance, as does the tactile feedback of moving your feet as your character travels.
For Robo Recall things are a little more interesting. Since the game only officially supports teleportation movement someone had to mod in a full locomotion mode. You can take and pair it with the 3dRudder to get a movement system very similar to how Arizona Sunshine works.
Whereas Arizona Sunshine was a relatively slow paced survival horror experience, Robo Recall is all about speed and precision. Moving around the environment freely was liberating in and of itself, but adding in the 3dRudder felt a little hamfisted for this particular game on higher difficulty levels. It was tough to move around the environments quickly and the learning curve was much higher than the walking pace of other games. I still didn’t have any sickness but found myself preferring to just stand while using the Oculus Touch joystick.
Final Recommendation: Worth It in Some Cases
The 3dRudder is surprisingly accurate for what it is, but it’s far from perfect. As someone that doesn’t suffer from motion sickness and has the space for a roomscale setup, I have no personal interest in using the device regularly. But for someone that doesn’t have that space, has a disability that limits their hand or arm usage, or is looking for ways to move in VR besides teleportation, this is a good solution. You’ll be surprised by how well it actually works.
You can purchase the 3dRudder from the official website for $179.99.
Tagged with: locomotion