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[VR] Pimax Crystal: Automobilista 2 Guide

Discussion in 'Automobilista 2 - General Discussion' started by Amioran, Oct 22, 2023.

  1. Amioran

    Amioran New Member

    Oct 22, 2023
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    The Crystal is a very high end headset, requiring the most out of even the beefiest of systems, but luckily Automobilista 2 is one of the best optimized titles in VR, allowing users to experience the Crystal at its best. Still, there are some important factors to take in consideration to have the best performance/quality ratio while using AMS2 and this guide plans on giving users some hints on what are the best options available.

    Open Composite or Steam VR

    The first thing to take in consideration is if to use OC or not. Back in the day and especially with a Reverb G2 the difference between using OC over SteamVR was much more accentuated as the latter had many issues with VRAM leakages and frequent stuttering in certain scenarios, but nowadays Valve has almost completely resolved those issues. Contrary to popular opinion even using OC still adds a "layer" as the OpenVR instructions must be translated to OpenXR, so the impact on using one or the other - performance wise - is on average the same (with some titles preferring OC and some others SteamVR). For what it concerns AMS2 I could find no difference in FPS between the two but SteamVR is more stable overall and it has less bugs with the HUD.

    However there's one benefit on still using OC and that's OpenXR Toolkit, as the latter opens up configurations that are seldomly present in games (or they are present just in part). For AMS2 specifically the importance of OpenXR Toolkit is a little lower as many of the handiest options present in the Toolkit can also be accessed either through the graphic settings or by altering some lines in the xml files, still there are some options - especially in the case of those users really struggling with performance - that are only available in OpenXR Toolkit. This guide will use SteamVR as a basis, since it's the most popular and stable platform for AMS and OpenXR toolkit is often not necessary, but in the end I will also give some feedback on some useful settings to use there in case you need some more performance.

    The first version of OpenComposite was made appositely for WMR where the overhead was accentuated. For the Crystal the benefits are marginal (if any) and sometimes performance is worse with OC.

    Crystal Client Settings

    To have the best visual quality possible it's advisable to always keep the resolution on the Crystal's client to 1 (i.e. Maximum) and then adjust instead the resolution appropriately in SteamVR. If your system permits it try to not go below 70% resolution there but try first to lower some graphical settings if you struggle with FPS. If you really need to go below 60% then that's the only instance in which you should instead lower the client resolution to 0.75 (Balanced) before then lowering the resolution on SteamVR.

    About Dynamic Foveated Rendering: in AMS2 the option doesn't seem to have a noticeable impact in performance (at least from my personal tests), so you are free to use whichever you prefer here. If you prefer to use OC, however, you will have only the option for Fixed Foveated Rendering where the lowered resolution in the outer ring area is very noticeable inside the headset.

    Smart Smoothing ON/OFF: As a rule of thumb it's always best to not use Smart Smoothing because the latter can cause latency and artifacts. However a good trick is to use 120 hz on the Crystal and then enable Smart Smoothing, so you have to keep just 60 fps, giving much ampler margins to increase visual quality.

    Hidden Area Mask: slightly less field of view for a little gain in performance. Given that the impact on the field of view is usually minimal in my case I always keep it on. Depending on the users' face shape and IPD the decrease in viewable area can be noticeable and in such instances it's best to keep it off.

    Most of the times finding the perfect settings to use is a matter of testing the different combinations. I can give you some pointers on which options can be investigated but the lower your system is and the most individual work you will have to do to find out the combination that works best for what you prefer more. For example you can be an user that isn't bothered at all by shimmering and in which case going with AA off will give an huge margin to increase resolution. Likewise if you can stand Smart Smoothing and you have a lower end system then it can be a good option to go for 60 fps so you can have ampler margins to work with. Everything in VR is a compromise, so to find what works best for your individual case takes a little of patience in trying different combinations until you find what's best. When the 72hz mode for the Crystal will be introduced we will have even another good option to use.
    Try to never go below 1 on the Resolution Scale in the Pimax Client if you can. Lower SteamVR resolution instead.
    For lower end systems using Smart Smoothing with 120hz refresh rate could be a good option if image quality is more important to you than latency.

    Automobilista 2 Graphical Settings

    The settings that impact performance the most when using a Crystal are MSAA (Antialiasing), Shadows, Reflections, Environment Map detail. One rule of thumb is to never go above MSAA x2 on the Crystal as the resolution of the headset is so high that anything higher is simply wasted and the performance impact becomes exponentially worse. If you can stand some shimmering - and especially if you have a RTX 4090 - you can also not use AA at all and gain a lot of wiggle room in the resolution.

    About shadows: while they are very impactful for perfomance I suggest to never go below Medium there as elsewhere, for the way they are actually rendered in AMS2, they will be unwatchable in a VR context. On a pancake screen the blockiness of shadows it's much less noticeable than in an headset, where they become very distracting and off-putting (especially in circuits like the Nordschleife, or at certain times as the Sunset or Dawn).

    Reflections carry almost no impact visual wise so I suggest to keep them low, and the same for the Environment Map Detail. All the other settings are much less impactful than these so you can use whichever you prefer, but usually going medium is the best compromise.

    About VR Rendered Frames Ahead: this is one setting that requires some special attention as it gives the option to choose between less latency or slightly more fluidity. Latency is very important for racing games so the best bet is usually to go as low as possible but using 2 or 3 frames can smooth up the experience in VR, sometimes without noticeable loss in latency. This is not a setting I can give you a hard number advice as it can vary greatly depending on other settings used, but I suggest to never go above 3.

    Impact of Performance and Visual Effects on FPS (source: BrentsOnAnOutlap)

    A good baseline to use for a very marginal impact in visual quality with good FPS. Try to never go above "Low" for AA unless your resolution really needs it.

    Automobilista 2 Post Processing Effects

    Exterior and Interior Sun Flare are very impactful in VR performance, so either go with Minimal or Subtle here. Rain Drops likewise has a hefty impact in FPS but here it depends if you are fine with the reduced immersion in raining scenarios by turning off the effect. All the other effects here are just a matter of preference.

    Exterior and Interior Sun Flare are quite hefty, especially in certain contexts, so if you don't mind the decrease in visual immersion is best to keep both low
    Handy XML settings

    In the folder "Documents\Automobilista 2" you will find a series of xml files containing many settings that are not exposed in the game. The most important files for what it concerns VR are "graphicsconfigopenvrdx11.xml" and "openvrsettings.xml" that allows you to add some special sharpening filter in the game (so you can lower resolution more and keeping the visual quality sharp), increase/decrease the scale (very important if the world seems too small/large) and even adjust the placement of the HUD very precisely.

    SharpeningStrength increases the power of the effect, SharpeningClamp affects the area. The settings above are a good baseline for a sharp image without too much shimmering.

    NearZ is useful to change the far clip plane to prevent clipping, IPD scale instead changes the world scale, with higher numbers decreasing size and lower numbers increasing it.
    OpenXR Toolkit options

    If you are really struggling for performance then, as I said previously, you can try to use Open Composite in Tandem with OpenXR Toolkit to open up some options you didn't have before. The mot important ones being FSR/NIS that allows you to upscale the game using a proprietary filter by AMD or Nvidia. Which one is best to use depends on what you want to achieve. Usually FSR results in less shimmering but it sharpens less, while the contrary is true for NIS. If you need to lower your SteamVR resolution to less than 60% to have good FPS in your system it could be a good idea to keep a little higher (let's say 70%) and then try using OpenXR Toolkit with the above mentioned filters. I suggest users even here to never go below 60% as the visual quality becomes exponentially worse after. Likewise never go above a certain threshold with sharpening as you will cause shimmering. You can use the above mentioned config file changes to sharpen the game internally more.

    How to use OpenComposite in Automobilista 2:
    OpenComposite OpenXR
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