That's a lot of questions in one :-)
Let me start by addressing the device level tuning and effect level tuning:
The Intensity Slider
Let's start by understanding the terminology of the slider itself. We call it the "Intensity Slider" instead of something more specific. This is because we need a term to standardize the tuning of an AccuForce wheel, G-Belt, G-Seat, Motion System and SimVibe Tactile Feedback. This allows consistency of the UI for all types of devices and especially makes sense when you want to issue a voice command like 'Increase AccuForce Intensity' or 'Decrease G-Belt Intensity', etc..
If it's the G-Belt, G-Seat or motion actuator, you can somewhat think of intensity as the amount of travel. For a device like SimVibe, you can think about this as the maximum volume level in decibels, For an AccuForce wheel you can think of it as the force level, etc.. The general premise is that it adjusts the intensity of the device or effect.
Intensity sliders are presented at different levels of tuning depth for different skillsets of user.
Users tend to break down into the following groups:
Level 1 - The Click-N-Drive Guy
This user only ever uses the Sim Commander main screen. He'll click a cloud-designated profile and "just drive". For him, Sim Commander is no more complex than using NetFlix. He just selects an item from a menu and he's done. Cloud tuning handles giving him a pretty dialed-in experience under the hood with no effort on his behalf.
Level 2 - The Click-N-Drive + Minor Tweak Guy
This user will go beyond the main screen but is only making minor changes at the device intensity level. For example, he might feel that SimVibe is overwhelming the detail of his G-Seat, so he may turn the intensity of the SimVibe down. Drilling into the effect level hurts his brain and he has no desire to go there. This is the furthest level of depth he will see.
Level 3 - The Effect Tuner
This customer has driven the default cloud tuned profile and for one reason or another believes that has a better idea for the mix of effects. One modifies the mix of effects by altering their intensity levels as they all sum up to a final output at the device level. Therefore this user might drill in at this level, determined to feel more bumps. To do so, he will increase the bump slider:
Level 4 - Advanced Manual Tuning
This concept is all but obsolete and dates back to the beginning of SimXperience. Before we offered cloud tuning and before we offered the ability to tune from a recorded lap, there was only manual tuning. This is the approach used by most competing software to this very day. It's a painfully repetitive tuning approach.
The way this works is to have a default profile with default effect settings that cover a wide range of vehicles. It is mostly a tune-by-feel approach rather than a tune-by-data approach and then make minor tweaks for personal taste.
With manual tuning, G-Force effects for example, might be defaulted to a peak of 6G to accommodate extreme vehicles without clipping. The same is true for roll values, velocity values and acceleration values. Deep in the effect settings, all of these things can be defined, but typically only a vehicle engineer knows what degrees per second of roll a vehicle has, etc.. As a result, manual tuning is "tune-by feel". All but the engineers tend to leave the detailed effect settings as-is and tune only by the device or effect intensity sliders.
Now lets suppose that someone is driving a vehicle that only does 3G of braking but the effect is defaulted to 6G. In this tune by feel approach, if the intensity slider were limited to only 100%, he could only get 50% of the braking applied to his G-Seat panel. Fortunately we allow a wide range of intensity slider values, so he can easily tune by feel to a setting of 200%. That would give him 100% G-Seat panel travel when he reaches 3G even though the effect detailed settings are set to 6G.
Little of the manual tuning is covered in our updated manuals because it is now an irrelevant concept. The suggested approach now is to use one of the three mechanisms that we provide which will fill in the detailed effect settings automatically for any game. This allows you to simply click, drive and then make minor effect intensity tweaks to suit personal preference.
Even though AMS2 isn't as popular as iRacing, the cloud database currently has data for 142 AMS2 vehicles. If you happen to be driving the rare vehicle that we don't have enough data for and therefore didn't make the list YET, we still offer mechanisms for you to quickly and easily automate the detailed settings of your profile. These were covered in the Tuning Quick Start guide I linked to earlier at a 20,000ft. overview and are covered in detail in our documentation. Here is a step-by-step. You simply drive a few laps in your chosen car and then follow these steps to have all the detailed effect settings filled in from that data: https://www.simxperience.com/slides/slide/how-to-auto-tune-from-lap-55
This is almost as convenient as cloud tuning and puts you right back into the scenario of not needing to get down into the mud with effect settings.
Each effect is summed up into an output for the device. For the G-Belt or G-Seat, there is a finite amount of travel. You have have to mix your effects intelligently so as to not clip. In general, the default profiles have an intelligent distribution of the effect intensity values. I think we have other documentation for this so I won't go deeper here. Also, I hope that my 3G/6G example above addresses your question.
This is again, a term that will apply to all of our devices. It gets applied differently under the hood for different devices. For some devices it will alter a motor control firmware parameter, for some effects it puts a smoothing filter on the data the effect is based on., etc.. That said, it always does what it says. It makes the device feel smoother with the least possible added lag. This is used when people feel like the wheel or transducer or motor is too jagged or digitized. It smooths the device. There is no dampening per say. There is also no valid unit for smoothing like there is for G-Force, etc.. Like the intensity slider, it is simply something that you apply by feel to suit your personal taste.
For some devices, we offer a variety of "modes". These are sort of like the presets on a stereo system (Rock, Hall, Stadium, Quiet/Night, etc..) In our case, it's usually something like Quiet, Soft, Default, Xtreme, etc.. It's a one setting change that notably alters the output of the device. I don't know how many things change under the hood of a stereo when you alter a mode, but with our devices, it could be as many as 20 settings altered in the motor control firmware to achieve a particular objective. You won't find any details of all these changes in our manuals anymore than you would find them in the manual for your stereo. It's too much to document and it's far too complex to explain clearly. You can see what difficulty we have explaining the Sim Commander. Those settings are on another level of complexity.
What you can expect is that these modes feel as described. The Xtreme mode should feel more Xtreme that the normal mode and the soft mode should feel more soft than the normal mode. In most cases, the normal mode is best, but it's a personal preference thing. In the same way that some people like a lot of bass, some people might like more Xtreme force feedback. I'm not sure how to explain that any better.
These are for solving very specific issues in very specific circumstances. Some of them are obvious. For example, if you want to add smoothing to the braking effect but not to anything else on the device, you can add a smoothing filter to just that effect.
Some filters are more complex and less obvious. These are well beyond the scope of documentation and frankly, they aren't for everyone. If you are an engineer you might find them useful and your education may have prepared you for them. They also exist as a tool for our support team to assist customers in which case they will guide a customer through setting up a specific filter to solve a specific problem. There is no harm in toying with them but it would sort of be like getting out your toolbox without a project to work on. If you don't have a specific problem with a specific effect, there is no need for a filter. If you do have a specific problem with a specific effect, feel free to reach out to our support team. We may be able to help. Part of what you pay for when you buy a SimXperience product is world-class support and a set of tools that enables us to address most any concern or preference.
Tuning While In Game
Sim Commander offers the ability to tune in realtime. You can do this one of 3 ways:
-Alt-Tab out of the game to the Sim Commander control center and tune the effects, then Alt-Tab back into the game.
-Add another small monitor to the PC and put the Sim Commander on that. Then you can tune while in the game. You can even use a touchscreen if you like.
-Use our In Game On Screen Display Feature which will overlay the game and allow you to tune right there on the game screen.
The only time it should be inconvenient to tune is if you are in VR, which is a big downside of current VR tech. Hopefully one day soon they will allow us to make VR overlays or they will make easy, flip-up headsets or some tech to press a button and easily see the real world.
Please take advantage of all the work we've done for you and use either cloud tuning or auto-tune from recorded lap telemetry. This gets you 95%-100% there. If you identify an effect that you want to feel more or less of, then adjust that effects slider in small increments to suit.
In this way, you don't need to read or understand the book I wrote above. You can just drive and enjoy the experience.