Sooner or later it’s bound to happen. Instead of spending the evening with your favorite sim after the day’s work is done, the commute home, you’ve assisted with the kids homework, discussed the day with your SO, you finally opt to just surf the web, maybe watch some television and fall asleep. Oh you’d love to spend what little time that is left of the evening flying that mission, but it’ll take a half hour to drag everything out, get it setup and configured before you can make it to the virtual runway. Your “E” just won’t permit that tonight.
Tom “20mm” Hayden’s recent article addressed one aspect of the non-simming simmer, and the ensuing discussion brought out that Tom’s situation was not unique. Longtime flight simmer and SimHQ reader “Corsair8X” posted in the discussion thread, “I can relate to a lot of this. Sometimes what is supposed to be fun feels like effort. This is the main reason I’m looking into building a pit — something I can just hop in and go.”
I’m in the same situation. It was clear that a new look at how to sim was necessary. Think of it like this. Does anyone think that one of the most enjoyable aspects of simming (or gaming) is so totally getting immersed in playing that you can clear your mind of the rest of the world’s problems for a little while?
The “Sim Cave”
My solution was a permanent setup where I could just sit down, fire the system up, and start playing. I won’t call it the popular term of “man cave” in deference to some extremely competent female simmers we have at SimHQ. Let’s instead call it a “sim cave”.
The first task was to acquire a corner of the house where I could setup a permanent configuration. We have a very small bedroom that more accurately could be called “a large closet” for those who live in a wealthy residence. To make the small bedroom work, I was going to have to clear the room of its current inventory of stored items. After literally months of moving and shuffling, the closet… errr, room was mine. Watch for “guod’s gigantic garage sale” for software and hardware coming soon to the SimHQ Buy/Sell/Trade Forum.
While I was moving and shuffling stuff around, free time was used to research cockpits that go for $500 USD. Considering that pre-fabricated sim cockpits can go for a whole lot of money and $500 isn’t much of a budget, I maintained limited expectations.
There were still two major obstacles in the sim cave’s realization.
First, building my own pit from scratch was out of the question. I marvel at the work of cockpit maestros who display their do-it-themself work in the SimHQ Pit Builders Forum. While I’m quite comfortable working on cars and many other things mechanical including building computers, my reputation of doing home repair and construction is, shall we say, less than sterling. In our home we save money by phoning a professional before guod gets out the tool set. Reality is a cruel thing sometimes.
The other issue was, there are dozens of sim cockpits available on the market, but they tend to be dedicated more to one genre or the other — flight sims or racing sims — but seldom equally to both. So not only was I searching for a multi-purpose cockpit that was comfortable for long flights, races, or tactical missions, but one costing under $500 USD.
The principle behind Obutto, and the person I’ve been dealing with is Chris Dunagan. Chris’ bio best tells the story of Obutto.
“I was living and working in Singapore for 10 years and around 2005 I started sim racing. I had been playing one online multiplayer shooter called Day of Defeat since 2001 but my pal kept bugging me to play ISI / EA’s F1 2001 with him since he knew how much I was into cars and race tracking them (E30 BMW’s). Once I started sim racing, I found it to be a nuisance setting up my steering wheel every time I wanted to race so I started to look on the Internet for some kind of purpose built “cockpit”. What I found didn’t have any solution for my keyboard and mouse for my first person shooters and nobody would ship to Singapore. I found a few cockpits that cost $500-1500 USD but none of them really made it possible to comfortably use a computer for extended periods of time.
I decided to lock myself in one of our un-used offices with a bunch of PVC pipe, elbows and an angle grinder with a cutting disk to see what I could come up with. At first it was more of an exercise of making a solution for my gaming habit. But during the 2-4 weeks I decided it may just be viable as a business. The plan from the beginning was to make a strong, stable cockpit that catered to all gamers / computer users, and was priced reasonably so pretty much anyone could afford one. Pricing considerations led me to China for manufacturing.
I left my job and moved to Beijing since I loved the city and the people, and having a close Chinese friend there helped too. Within a month we located factories to make our frames and seats with acceptable pricing and quality.
My father is a retired Colonel (USAF) and he flew combat in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, so flying is in my blood. I’ve always been keen on aviation. I’m not a pilot, but my step-dad had a huge collection of De Havillands in England. Somewhat ironically, I was a late-bloomer to flight sims. I just never thought it would be fun flying from a desktop after being around the real thing. I began playing flight sims only a couple of years ago after I made the flight stick mounts for the cockpit. When I finally did try flight sims, I chose the IL-2 Series since I love those piston-engine planes, and specifically the lighter and more nimble ones.
I’m not any kind of mechanical designer or engineer. My degree is in Marketing. But I’ve always tinkered with my cars, bikes, anything really, and have always wanted to create something and build it. This is what draws me. The fact that people dig it so much is really cool, and even though I struggle with such low margins I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Chris “gets it”, and his products were just what I was looking for. I placed my order for the Obutto oZone Gaming Cockpit ($300 USD), the optional acrylic tabletop ($80 USD) and the flight sim controller package ($50 USD). The shipping total was $110.00 USD for all 3heavy packages. My total investment to the doorstep was $540 USD. The packages arrived within a week of the time of ordering via FedEx.
This review will discuss various features, present some options on setup, and make some recommendations about the Obutto oZone Gaming Cockpit. In a few weeks I will present an extended use report.
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