GroundFall: Head Tracking Appreciation
A brief appreciation of the freedom of vision The freedom of head movement during simulated flight is something that is hard to forget once you have tried it yourself. It is why, in my opinion, the addition of head tracking support to any flight title is a major plus. When I think of head tracking and flight simulation, I think of combat and sightseeing. I think of keeping my eyes on a bandit as we enter a rolling scissors. I think of looking across the wing of a Daher TBM 930 as the sun rises across the landscape. A few recent sessions on GroundFall made me appreciate head tracking differently. Not for combat, not for cinematic views, but for survival. GroundFall is a bush flight simulation title that can be defined as a non-combat game. Though rifles and sharp tools may need to be used for hunting or defense again wildlife, that is different from an armed conflict against other human beings. Survival here is staying out of the elements, remaining fed, hydrated, rested and avoiding physical harm while still completing any tasks at hand. The aircraft is the most effective tool for exploration and survival. To protect this tool, good pilotage is key. All it takes is one or two rough landings to damage the aircraft long-term. There are only so many tool boxes / repair kits players can find and store on their person or in the aircraft. A warped wing or missing flight surfaces can result in GroundFall becoming a hiking simulator very quickly. Before the addition of support for Natural Point TrackIR head tracking, I must say that view controls were somewhat clunky in this game. Especially on a game pad controller. While in flight, it was rather inconvenient to hold a button while using a joystick to slew the view. Most of the time I found myself not bothering too much with this method. Instead, I opted for making multiple passes over a potential landing strip with the view locked in the 12 o'clock position. Head tracking in GroundFall simplifies the process. TrackIR is enabled from when the game is launched and only controls the cockpit camera. Players just need to run the TrackIR software on their end and recenter the cockpit camera in game by using the TrackIR re-center keybind. Being able to use both hands to maintain control over the aircraft while turning my head does wonders. I would even go as far as saying it changes the experience of flight in game. In a way, it was almost like I was reminded about the importance of this ability after being without it for a time. I can remember the moment this appreciation came back to me. I found myself circling above the treetops, visually reconnoitering a flat strip of dirt. My aircraft had a damaged flap, meaning I would have to land a bit faster than I would like to, to avoid fighting asymmetric lift at very low speeds. As I evaluated if the rocks dotting this potential landing site were small enough to handle on landing, I was able to spot a number of deer occupying the middle portion of the landing strip. With fuel getting low, I opted to fly back to the main airfield to land safely on a longer prepared runway. Now my strategy relies on overflying potential dirt airstrips looking for obstructions and orbiting random cabins in the woods, planning out a way to reach them. All while being safely above danger. I have not had any near-miss encounters with a family of bears toddling down the runway, so things are really looking up! About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers.