Using Virtual-O for Orienteering Coaching and Training

Very special post written by Nick Lightfoot. Thanks for sharing your experience about using Virtual-O in coaching:

I’ve always found that the perceptual and decision making skills involved in orienteering are better learnt than taught a view that is backed up by recent trends in cognitive science. To become a world class orienteer you have to practice the relevant skills for thousands of hours. Traditional training with a map is time consuming and expensive so I’ve been an advocate of regular ‘armchair training’. Things like leg planning, simplification, map perception etc. can all be practiced with a mixture of fast decision making exercises under pressure and slower analytical exercises with coaches feedback, and I’ve found a strong correlation between speed and confidence in armchair training and performance in orienteering races.

Photo by Laura Harrison

The idea of using an orienteering simulator takes armchair training a step closer to the real thing, offering a more complete training experience at a fraction of the cost in time and money. It’s also a lot easier for coaches to observe and offer feedback, particularly for larger groups. The challenge is to make the simulator realistic enough so that the skills required are as close to real orienteering as possible. From a coaching perspective realistic ‘game play’ is critical – rewarding good technique so that right skill-sets are reinforced, whilst a realistic visual experience makes the overall game more engaging and enables training of map perception skills in different types of terrain, but the most important thing is it needs to be fun. If Virtual-O can make training fun for novices and elite athletes alike.

I’ve been experimenting with using Virtual-O for coaching sessions with club, regional and national squad level athletes with the sessions varying to suit the size and needs of the particular group.

At a recent South Yorkshire Orienteers club night we had a couple of class room sessions – Group 1 was for younger children (under 11s) mostly novices and Group 2 for older children and adults with a mixture of abilities, about 30 in each group. For both we used one computer and a large screen and distributed printed sheets with screen grabs of the courses to allow people to follow where we were going on their own map. For the younger group the courses were all on paths, for the older group we used a some easy courses on contour only maps plus a more difficult course as an introduction to Swedish terrain.

For each leg one of the group proposed a plan which we discussed and which the I then executed. For some legs I stopped and asked the group where we were -either at our planned checkpoints or deliberately (or accidentally) off course at which point we discussed relocation strategies. I used ‘Beginners’ Game Mode (x1 speed) for most of the exercises, which I think offers a more realistic experience particularly when it comes to distance judgement, and also made it easier to follow and point out key features en-route. So we were able to discuss and practice leg planning, relocation and contours in one session. It seemed to work well and we had good feedback.

Photo by Laura Harrison

I think it would be better to have one person driving virtual-O and another interacting with the audience. It would have been useful to pause the game and enable a pointer on the map or even overlay drawing tools to highlight map features, but a laser pen would do the job. As with any large group it’s difficult to pitch the standard at the right level to keep everyone engaged all the time – if anything I’d aim higher to keep the more experienced interested and give the novices a chance to stretch themselves in a safe environment. One or two of the younger children just wanted me to run through the marshes and jump off crags and a few struggled to follow the action, but most were answering and asking questions.

At the last YHOA regional squad session we managed to get 3 computers running virtual-O so we did a hands on session. We had 3 teams racing each other on the same course with 3 in each team taking it in turns at the controls so 9 children involved in each race. It worked well! All three team members seemed engaged throughout discussing plans and helping to relocate when necessary and the competitive element adds to the fun and training benefit. As a coach I was able to see much more of the action than a typical forest race and got a pretty good idea of individual styles and abilities. Most seemed to pick up the controls very quickly but I think I pitched the technical level a little too high for the less experienced.

We used ‘Normal’ game mode (x2 speed) to get through the races quicker, but it added to the challenge particularly with distance judgement with lots of overshooting which makes relocation doubly hard in Virtual-O as you see less of the map than normal. A lot of the athletes use baseplate compasses so one of the challenges was learning thumb compass style map orientation – it would be good to see a proper baseplate compass option in Virtual-O in the future.

One of the elite athletes I coach is a sprint specialist who’s looking to improve compass use, contour interpretation and confidence in non-urban terrains. We used the club night courses but as a hands-on exercise with myself observing and occasionally offering feedback. We’re hoping that her laptop will be powerful enough to allow her to use Virtual-O for regular session, but if not then we’ll certainly continue to use it as part of our joint armchair training.

There are lots of features already in Virtual-O which I can imagine adding variety with different map levels, weather conditions, night orienteering and prototype of tools for corridor and window exercises. I can see Virtual-O being an excellent tool for increasing the number of hours of technical training for serious athletes, but it also has the potential for offering a fun alternative to normal orienteering particularly for older juniors who play video games. With that in mind that in mind it would be great to extend the online gaming features to allow private competitions, leagues, rankings within a club or other orienteering community.

Nick Lightfoot

How to enable AMD CrossFire for Virtual-O

Enjoy this great guide how to enable CrossFire support for Virtual-O made by Angus Haines. Thanks!

I have just provided recipe how to run Virtual-O in exclusive mode and Angus have researched it further and tested. I’m pretty sure hat you can perform similar steps to enable SLI for NVIIDA cards.

CrossFire setup guide

To enable Virtual-O to utilize AMD CrossFire you first must force the game to run fullscreen (not windowed borderless, the default setting).

To do this you need to go to your Steam library, right click on Virtual-O, Properties and under General click ‘Set Launch Options…’ and enter the command line:
-window-mode exclusive

Then open AMD Radeon Settings, Gaming then Virtual-O (if it’s not there, then click add in the top right corner and either scan or add it manually).

In AMD CrossFire Mode I found that using ‘Optimize 1×1’ resulted in the best performance.

Once you have launched Virtual-O make sure to have Antialiasing set to FXAA or lower, as TSAA results in some serious issues with outlines, and to have V-Sync enabled to reduce screen tearing.

Landvetter is here. Or enjoy biggest update in Virtual-O history

New scandinavian map is now available in stable branch of Virtual-O! Basically 10 months of development which was living separate in beta branch is now available for everyone as default.

What do you need to do? Well basically nothing. Stable branch is now automatically replaced with newest version of Virtual-O. And players which were using beta branch can still stay on it.

It will be same version as stable till new beta branch update will arrive.


This area is dominated by large wetlands and sparse low-growing pine trees with good visibility
Size of terrain is 2x2km


In rare case when update wouldn’t work for you, you could still switch back to legacy branch

Here is guide for that:

1. First report your problem to email specified in main menu. And it would be fixed ASAP
2. Right click on Virtual-O in Steam library. Choose Properties -> Betas
3. Pick legacy branch in beta dropdown
4. New build will start to download

Change log:

  • Apart from adding new map of course
  • Added validation for bounds when creating elements for symbol map. Simply only used part of the OCAD map is converted.
  • Replaced SMAA with TAA
  • Added Screen Space Shadows
  • Major update of game engine version (in paradox game could be slower in some cases)
  • Made control 25% bigger
  • Optimized 4.9KB garbage allocation per frame
  • Improved world globe performance
  • Added Objects Streamer
  • Optimized image effects into one uber effect
  • Added optimization for multiterrain rendering (specially for Landvetter and Kingdom of Webs)
  • Added terrain culling distance slider. It specifies distance on which whole terrain will be culled.
  • Added runtime spawning of tree colliders (used for Landvetter)
  • Fixed “floating” pines in Lada
  • Removed annoying tooltips which where showing on picking of value.
  • Fixed Wrong reaction distance in course builder when selecting controls on Landvetter
  • Replaced vignette and brightness/contrast by Unity post processing stack. Adjusted eye adaptation too.
    (You may need to tune gamma again as it was reset)
  • Upgraded Unity to 5.6.2 which solved graphical glitch when screen collapsed to triangles
  • Added new gameplay tips in loading screen
  • Optimized runtime evaluation of symbol map (speed, direction disturbance etc)
  • Updated Steam API to newest version
  • Fixed mouse not reacting problem on computers with touch input
  • Fixed particles
  • Fixed bug of missing trees after exiting course builder. (terrain culling refresh was missing)
  • Optimized runtime footsteps generation
  • Removed weird stripg on grass color in Landvetter. Adjusted blueberries tint to remove too green effect.
  • Implemented basic corridor training prototype. (now disabled in UI for first beta branch test
  • Support for localization. Added Steam based language switching. (if that language is supported
  • CourseBuilder and CourseReplay are now prefabs shared between all map base scenes. Added localization to course builder, replay
  • Added Tahult brown map image
  • Fixed bug of loosing changes to course conditions while course list is updated
  • Fixed sorting for competition type, status, difficulty in course list, added support for translations
  • Added vsync in main menus to do not bake your GPUs when not needed
  • Added power lines to Landvetter
  • Added possibility to invert mouse based map movement and rotation (separately)
  • Now assigning tail colors based on finish time in course replay
  • For now I’m disabling TOD rays even if it’s enabled as with actual version it’s basically not working
  • Updated Unity to 5.6.3p3
  • Improved performance for ultra high settings
  • Added validation for missing control descriptions before uploading competition/course
  • Added validation for course name uniqueness before uploading competition/course
  • Added wrap to course and competition descriptions in course builder
  • Fixed Str8 compass rotation when using it in right hand
  • Fixed mixed values order for course builder mode slider
  • Fixed missing base plate compass 3D model
  • Added shadows distance and LOD slider
  • Added translations preview
  • Fixed bug with wrong color of local vs online replay of actual player

Known issues in Landvetter:

  • Small jittering of hand and compass while looking to map
  • Disabling objects streamer is available just for debugging purposes. It will be removed in future to secure fair conditions for all.
  • Some cliffs are too flat

Some symbols are not yet converted:

  • 519 Stone wall
  • 522 Fence
  • 526 Building


Beta branch update version 0.8.6516.41426 released

Change log:

  • Added validation for missing control descriptions before uploading competition/course
  • Added validation for course name uniqueness before uploading competition/course
  • Added wrap to course and competition descriptions in course builder
  • Fixed Str8 compass rotation when using it in right hand
  • Fixed mixed values order for course builder mode slider.
  • Fixed missing base plate compass 3D model