Hop Into an X-Wing With This VR Mod for Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance
There's little doubt that any Star Wars fan would jump at the chance to climb into the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter. In no small way is the idea of piloting the iconic Rebel Alliance spacecraft ingrained into the larger cultural zeitgeist, appearing in various television shows and movies across many decades.
Now, thanks to the power of VR and the ingenuity of the modding community, that fiction has become reality in one of the series' more revered games: X-Wing Alliance.
First reported by UploadVR, the X-Wing Alliance VR mod is the product of a single developer, known as Prof Butts on YouTube. Though I haven't yet tried the mod myself and work is still being done, the developer's YouTube channel shows the incredible progress that's been made since the project started in March.
The video at the top of this article showcases one of the mod's more recent updates, which brings a dynamic cockpit into the game. However, there is another video (seen below) showing super awesome dogfighting and other XWA gameplay that highlights the power VR can have in a game like X-Wing.
Making this an even more impressive achievement: this is their first mod ever.
Those interested in giving the mod a whirl can download the latest version here. According to the developer, who I spoke to on Reddit, "version 1.0.0 supports PSVR and Google Cardboard through third-party software, and it's also compatible with SteamVR ... Oculus, Vive, and Pimax."
Prof Butts explains how to use the mod with PSVR in this Reddit post.
They also say that VR in X-Wing Alliance is not exactly a mod in and of itself. Instead, it's more accurately a "graphics library mod" doing most of the work.
I'm not really modifying the game; we don't have the source code for XWA. Instead, there's this graphics library that is used to translate old DirectX 6 commands into DirectX 11. The source code for the graphics library is public, and that's what I'm modifying.
So, I guess, technically speaking, it's not even an XWA mod; it's a DirectX 6-graphics-library mod that just happens to make XWA run in VR.
They say most of the work is done with Visual Studio, although some other community-made tools are necessary as well. The most recent update to the project fixes previous issues with the game's HUD.
This virtual reality mod for X-Wing Alliance isn't the first time players have had the chance to immersively sit in the cockpit of an X-Wing. Several arcade games have attempted to recreate the experience over the years, although those did not implement virtual reality and instead relied on other immersive haptic techniques to simulate a cockpit experience.
2016's Star Wars: Battlefront — Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission allowed PlayStation VR players, who also owned that year's Battlefront reboot, to pilot the eponymous craft. However, as the name suggests, that "game" is only a single level, one that clocks in somewhere around 20 minutes. While extraordinary, it's hardly a robust experience.
The dearth of X-Wing VR experiences is actually what set Prof Butts on this modding journey in the first place.
Growing up, I loved the X-Wing/TIE-Fighter series. I played them over and over. Then, around 2016, the Rogue One VR mission came out for PSVR, and it was AMAZING! [sic] But short... I wanted more.
I kept waiting for this other flight simulator to come out [Ace Combat 7] ... because I read somewhere that it was going to be 100% VR. Then it finally came out and [I] saw it on the shelves back in [February]; but the VR content was again about 20 mins. It was very disappointing and my PSVR was essentially just gathering dust in the meantime.
Around that time, my sister (who is also a big Star Wars fan) and I were talking about how it would be great to have a full VR X-Wing space combat sim game. So then I searched the web for any X-Wing VR games and found tools that automatically converted old games into VR, like VorpX, Trinus, TriDef and even some nVidia VR drivers.
None of that worked very well (it was just varying degrees of flatness). So, more frustration. That's when I asked myself: "How hard would it be to convert one of the classic games into VR?" And here we are. Also, I chose XWA because it's the only game in the series with 3D cockpits.
Another impressive fan-made project, called Star Wars X-Wing VR, allows players into the cockpit of an X-Wing but only for the now infamous trench run from Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. The cool thing here, though, is that it's a student-made experience compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance released on February 28, 1999, on Microsoft Windows and IBM PC compatible. It improved on the earlier X-Wing and Tie Fighter games in several ways. Outside of improved graphics and a mission editor, the game increased the size of its playable maps as well as the number of ships present in each battle.
The game is currently available for $9.99 on both Steam and Good Old Games. Those interested can download more mods for the game by visiting Darksaber's X-Wing Station, a modding site shared with us by Prof Butts.