When we set out to build the AccuForce force feedback steering system we knew we would have our work cut out for us trying to satisfy different groups of sim racers with different needs. We initially thought that we would just make the 'perfect firmware' and that this one mystical firmware would meet the needs of all.
Many sim racers are familiar with the concept of receiving firmware updates but what you may not know is that the firmware sets many motor performance and motor control characteristics. I'm not referring to the basic settings like dampening, spring, etc. I'm referring to settings that the sim racer never gets to see. These parameters determine things like how responsive your wheel is, how smooth it is and so on. Our mission was clear, we would figure out how to best balance and optimize these many firmware variables and create the perfect 'one size fits all' firmware.
It seemed like a great idea at the time and followed the path of all force feedback steering systems that came before us. Testing however proved that a single firmware 'one size fits all' approach is in actuality a 'one size fits few' solution. Different groups of sim racers have competing wheel optimization criteria making it possible to create a well balanced firmware but not a firmware that was optimal for all.
At this point I finally understood why other wheel manufacturers were releasing many firmware versions per year, each of which solved one problem and introduced another. They seem to be stuck in a constant cycle of taking one step forward and another step back.
The problem was clear. It's possible to have a very well balanced single firmware, but it's was not possible to 100% meet the needs of all categories of sim racer with a single firmware. We were going to need to think outside the box and come up with a creative solution that would best serve all groups of sim racers.
Our solution is the introduction of a dynamic firmware and what we are calling "Wheel Modes". The AccuForce will ship with four different wheel modes. Others may be added post-release via automatic updates. This makes the need for firmware updates rare yet gives us the ability to deploy new modes as needed.
We of course deliver a balanced mode that is the equivalent of the old single firmware approach but we also added Oval specific modes, a mode for people who prefer smoothness over response and so on. It truly is like having multiple wheels in one. This approach turned out to be so flexible that we are able to emulate the feel of lesser wheels. For example, I made a mode just for fun that provided significantly reduced detail, added some additional lag and reduced the overall torque output to a mere 6.9Nm in order to get an idea of what other wheels on the market would feel like.
Changing modes is much simpler than installing a new firmware. It's a simple push of a button in the Sim Commander software. You can even change modes while on track or driving using our in game heads up display.
As simple as our innovation is, I believe that this concept of wheel modes is a great stride toward taking simulation force feedback to a new level and better meeting the needs of sim racers. It's Burger Kings 'Have it Your Way' brought to sim racing force feedback.
We're excited to get the AccuForce released, find out what your favorite mode is and hear your ideas for new modes..