It’s rare that I sit down with some of the new tactile virtual reality video games (“FeelyVR”), but an evening a few weeks ago, I had time to play through “YIMBY Barrel Composter Assembly” by YIMBY. I wired the headset up so I could take screenshots, and I had a tape recorder taking notes while I played through so I could do my writeup below.
This is one of the new “virtual reality with tactile feedback” games. It’s a pretty high resolution setup - check out the screenshots below! I played it on a cluster consisting of a rack of 4U quad Xeon servers, each with 4 Titan Xs installed. Total power consumption was absurd, but, the pixels were perfect! Fortunately, the servers were in a soundproof room.
TL;DR: It really felt like I was actually assembling a composter!
Check out the reflections off the plastic and the shadows on the carpet from the completed unit!
Keep reading for the full review!
The game has a number of different environments one can perform the assembly tasks in. Some of the more interesting ones were a sterile cleanroom (all white), a typical home living room (carpet, some wood, leather couches), a garage (concrete floor), a lawn (dirt, grass, wind, optional rain), and, of course, the moon. God help you if you accidentally flick a tool or nut on the moon…
I chose the living room - it seemed the most complex environment, with the carpet, the walls, the wood floor, etc. And, impressively, there was zero framerate drop from it!
Once the game loads it’s resources and you get the goggles and gloves on, you’re presented with a pretty standard looking box. There’s a knife sitting by the box, and if you open it (which, of course, is the only thing to do), you’re presented with this:
It’s an impressively small box for what looks like such a big completed unit, but I didn’t see any physics tricks involved - nothing felt like it was out of place, and the panels did stack tightly together. I couldn’t see or feel any clipping, so the physics engine, so far, feels pretty legit. If I could have found a keyboard, I’d have tried IDSPISPOPD, but I was restricted to the build area, and there was no keyboard to be found. I’ll look for cheat codes later.
Obviously, the next step is to take everything out of the box. This was my first real chance to play with the tactile feedback and manipulation, and it felt spot on! The plastic is smooth and feels like plastic. The metal base feels like cold metal, and I have no idea how it works, but I swear they felt like they had a tiny bit of protective oil on them. Very, very impressed with this system so far!
Building the Base
The paper guidebook (which feels remarkably like the type of cheap paper these things come with) suggests building the base first, and since I was just playing through for the first time, I did.
You can cut the plastic bag with parts open, rip it open, or just shove the bolts through and create a hole that way. To see how things worked with what I thought would be an unusual behavior, I did that - shoved a bolt through the bag, worked it out, and got the rest of the bolts and nuts out that way. It worked just fine. Nothing complained about it.
The metal clangs very satisfyingly if you smack the pieces together. If you do it too much, though, a voice from part of the house you can’t get to starts telling you to keep it down or you’ll wake the baby. It’s a nice touch, though I have no idea what happens if you keep banging pieces together after that.
In this screenshot, you can see a vent to the left. I shit you not, midway through the build, the heater turns on! It blows the papers and plastic around if you let it! They really did a great job with this environment!
In any case, after securing a few screws and bolts, the base is together, and feels solid enough to continue.
Building the Barrel
The instructions then guide you through putting the ends and divider of the two-chamber barrel together.
It’s very floppy. You’d think they could make the center piece fit properly.
This whole assembly is really hard to deal with. Everything is twisting and flopping! Then, to make it even harder, you’re supposed to align the vents on both sides. I wonder if the difficulty settings change the physics tolerances? This should just work, but it very clearly doesn’t.
Looking at the screenshot later, though, the reflections are at least really impressive.
Then, after getting that together, you have to bolt the thing onto the base. It’s floppy, it’s wobbly, and it’s really quite the challenge.
The Main Levels
It’s not obvious at first, but this stack of stuff makes up the “main levels” of the assembly game. There are 7 panels on the right, and one on the left (the “Boss Panel”).
You align the end plates properly, then start screwing panels on with the provided bag of bolts.
It’s quite realistic feeling - you can feel the plastic squishing slightly under the bolts as you tighten them, and there are some interesting challenges with lining up the panels.
The first one is a bit tricky because everything is wobbling around, and the second one is a bit tricky to align, but once you work that out, it’s a very repetitive set of steps you perform for each panel.
I’ve got two on here. That side is the heavy side, obviously, so it goes to the bottom.
It’s worth mentioning that one of the nuts is really kind of tricky to get at. It’s right up against the center divider plate, and you can’t get a typical socket on it.
I found a trick, though!
If you go digging around in the provided toolbox, there’s a flare nut laying around that works for holding this nut in place. In another neat touch, screenshots taken from in the dark show ISO grain.
Another neat feature of the game is that there’s a bit of “random crap” laying around the living room - and you can interact with some of it! I found this ball and was able to use it to prop the barrel to keep it from falling down.
I’ve got four of the panels installed, and the barrel is getting stiffer and easier to work with. The center divider doesn’t wobble around as much, and I’m getting pretty good at this!
If you want to be sloppy and just tighten stuff to whatever angle, you can. Or, you can be detail oriented and align the screw heads neatly. I chose to do that, because that’s the type of thing I’d do.
Everything is building up to this point: The Boss Panel. The previous seven levels have been getting progressively darker, with less space to work, and it culminates here!
I went into this stage expecting a serious battle - contorted angles, no visibility, having to whip out special tools. There’s no way to get into the barrel to hold the nuts, so maybe an impact driver is called for. This should be a serious challenge!
I mean, just look at the amount of hardware you need to mount the boss panel! This is a good bit more than any of the previous levels. It’s kind of intimidating.
The so-called “boss panel” really isn’t hard at all. You slide the top of it off and have easy access to everything. It was a bit of fiddling to get it into place, but otherwise, quite a wimpy boss. It just goes right on.
Or does it? I had a brief moment of panic when I thought I’d finished, and there were leftover nuts and bolts. And they didn’t even match in count! I went back over the barrel and stand, looking for places I’d left undone, before realizing that this is just game developer trolling. How on earth could one use a nut without a bolt?
The Completed Composter
This is it! This is a completed YIMBY Barrel Composter.
And, just for fun, the tools I ended up using from the selection offered.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
I went into this playthrough not really knowing what to expect. I’d heard good things about the FeelyVR system, and it absolutely blew me away with how realistic it was. The game, though, disappoints. The challenge builds through the seven panel levels and leads one to believe the boss panel will be a proper final challenge, but it really wasn’t - it just went on, taking a few more bolts than the rest of the panels.
The visuals and tactile feedback were amazing, though!
Definitely worth playing if you haven’t tried it out.
And, yes, you may have figured out by now that I just assembled a composter and pretended it was a video game. What can I say? I was bored!
If you want your own, they’re about $100 shipped on eBay.