Rotorcross is an open source FPV simulator released in early 2016. Rotorcross aimed to be a unique simulator in a growing market, as Its open source nature allowed developers the opportunity to contribute to building the sim. Moreover, at the time of release, the simulator had an interesting UI, decent graphics, and unique features.
However, in 2017 with more polished simulators on the market, how does Rotorcross hold up? How has the sim been developed since its initial release? Let’s take a look at Rotorcross and see if it is worth your time!
Launching Rotorcross is very similar to launching HOTPROPS. Opening the sim’s executable file brings up a launcher window where you can customize the graphics and controller inputs (more on that in a bit). Select your resolution, graphics quality, and monitor. Before pressing play, bind your transmitter by customizing the axes in the “Input” window. Once you are ready, press “Play” and Rotorcross will launch.
After the Unity splash screen disappears, you can select a level to play. After selecting a level, you are dropped into the game world and can start flying…sort of
Wow! That’s a lot of customization windows. Rotorcross forgoes a separate settings window in favor of letting you customize all the features in-game. This is actually an interesting feature, as you can make live changes to any setting without exiting the level. Once you are satisfied with a change, you can hide the windows by pressing the applicable arrow button.
The cracks starting to form: missing features and other issues
Unfortunately, I started to notice a few flaws in this process. While the multirotor setup options are surprisingly detailed and allow a great degree of customization, other settings are nowhere to be found. Controller setup – binding, trim, and so forth are not in the main game. Similarly, the flight controller settings are very antiquated in 2017. Selecting a PID controller is no longer relevant to pilots today, and is likely going to end up confusing newer hobbyists.
Perhaps most glaring of all is there is no way to reset your customization changes. You can easily create a problematic quad with no way to restore the default configuration. While you can create new profiles, you can delete the default setup. Not good!
Once configured, flying around the industrial level is fun. Buildings are well placed and allow for some interesting race routes. Moreover, you can hit gaps in interior windows, power lines, and so on. However, the interesting levels end here. The other levels are devoid of assets or have major collision glitches.
I am a little apprehensive about Rotorcross after my first few flights. Before we dive into more of the features, lets talk about the easily missed transmitter binding process.
I was a bit confused by the lack of control options in-game. While there are a multitude of customization features across the UI, the transmitter options are glaringly absent. A quick search on the Rotorcross forum revealed that transmitter setup occurs in the pregame launcher. Select the “Input” tab next to “Graphics” to set your transmitter bindings. This can be very easy to miss after customizing the graphics options.
The binding process itself was similar to HOTPROPS. Select an axis, wiggle the applicable control stick, and the transmitter should bind. While I was able to setup everything correctly, there are a few glaring issues here. First, there is no way to invert a control axis. If you launch the game after binding and find your quad moving in the opposite direction than intended, you are pretty much out of luck. Second, there is no way to customize the trim or deadband. This was more of an issue for me, as one of the transmitters I use for sim testing has a bit of wiggle at the middle that I usually trim out or add a bit of deadband to compensate. While you can adjust the input ranges for each axis in game, I was unable to find any options to fine-tune the controls in any meaningful way.
Each level of Rotorcross drops you into a freestyle flight mode on launch. You can fly around and explore the levels to your heart’s content. Additionally, each level has at least one race track that you can activate in the course menu. Select the radio button for the course you want to fly, and gates will appear on the map.
One unique feature Rotorcross brings to the table is its customizable AI race opponents. While Rotorcross doesn’t have multiplayer, you can setup AI opponents to race against. This is surprisingly fun, and definitely gives the game a more competitive feel over racing against your own time or lap ghost.
Rotorcross has four levels. The Industrial level is the standout of the bunch, as it has multiple buildings to fly through, interesting courses, and fleshed out environmental assets.
|Track Picture||Track Name||Summary|
|Industrial||Multiple abandoned warehouses you can fly through and explore! Most of the tracks plot different courses around these buildings. Easily the sim’s best level.|
|Desert||An open sandy area with an abandoned gas station in the middle.|
|Snow Mountain||A snowy mountainside speckled with trees for you to fly through.|
|Green Meadow||An open meadow with rock formations and scattered trees.|
If you decide to try Rotorcross, stick to Industrial. The other levels feel unfinished and are buggy in various ways. Desert is just a long, flat box. Snow mountain and green meadow have multiple collision issues and invisible walls.
Is Rotorcross worth your time?
Usually at this point in our previous sim reviews, I would jump into possible improvements and discuss some of the pros and cons of the software. However, I can safely say that Rotorcross simply is not worth your time.
While the game likely had a ton of potential at one point, it is now an antiquated and abandoned sim. The last notable update was over a year ago, and there are no signs of ongoing development. Requests for features, updates, or bug fixes go unanswered across multiple forums.
The age shows in some of the customization options and features. While it is awesome that you can customize so many quad features – everything from motor resistance to battery sag – most of the core features you expect in a modern sim aren’t there. While many newer sims are starting to adopt Betaflight style flight controller customization, Rotorcross feels out of date. Options like PID controller customization just aren’t relevant to the current generation of pilots.
Honestly, it’s a shame. I remember when Rotorcross was released there was a lot of hype around an open source sim with, at the time, a great set of features. However, in the age of fully featured paid sims like Liftoff and customizable free sims like HOTPROPS, it’s hard to see much of a future for Rotorcross. FPV Freerider, which is even older than Rotorcross, is a much more complete package for a very affordable price tag.
Transmitter binding difficulty: Difficult to find, but admittedly easy to setup. However, there does not seem to be any way to invert or trim axes, which may cause major issues for some transmitters.
Multiplayer: None, however you can race against customizable AI quads.
Recommended for: We would not recommend Rotorcross at this time unless you have a programming background and are interested in developing it further.
Props: Open source community driven free sim. AI opponent racing. interesting UI selection and customization without leaving the playable game. Multiple race tracks within levels.
Slops: Antiquated quadcopter settings. Rates are difficult to tune correctly. Numerous terrain and collision bugs. Unfinished software that seems to have been abandoned by the developer.