Midlands company Symdeck is leading the way with a new innovation in motorsports gaming – and you could win a simulator experience at their Alrewas showroom
Like many of life’s greatest ideas, the inspiration for Mike Johns and Simon Levesley’s innovative gaming race simulator came from a chat in the local pub.
Both self-confessed petrolheads, Mike and Simon have more than 50 years of new product development and manufacturing experience. While discussing the merits of gaming simulators, the duo identified a gap in the market for a motion simulator that would be compatible with Xbox and Playstation consoles – more sophisticated and immersive than standard static simulators and more affordable than the current PC-based motion rigs on the market which will set gamers back upwards of £10,000.
“I had a static simulator set up at home, just a cockpit with a racing seat on it, sat on the floor with a TV screen and an Xbox,” explains Mike. “When Simon came round for a drink at Christmas three years ago I showed him my setup and thought nothing more of it.”
But Simon, who runs a product design consultancy, had seen potential to create a new kind of gaming simulator. Just weeks later, he had designed and built a wooden prototype on castors, placed a seat on top of it and, with a simple pulley system, demonstrated a basic motion platform.
When Mike, who had spent 30 years in corporate design and manufacturing, was made redundant two years ago after the design and manufacturing operation that he managed was outsourced to China, he found that he had little appetite to jump back into another corporate role.
“That was when I asked Simon if he wanted to do something with the prototype idea we’d created,” says Mike. “For the past two years we’ve been developing that initial concept into a production-ready concept, which is now about to launch.”
The result of that further prototype development is the Symdeck Motion Simulator, a domestic gaming motion platform which replicates the acceleration and braking forces experienced in real life racing car driving situations via the forward and rearward travel of the platform.
The platform has been designed as a ‘plug and play’ addition to existing static gaming seat cockpits and will operate independently from gaming software, making it compatible with Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox consoles as well as PC.
Mike and Simon have also designed their own static cockpit and combined this with the motion platform to create the RS Deck, an ‘off-the-shelf’ fully integrated motion simulator for customers wanting to buy a complete solution.
“There are lots of off-the-shelf cockpits so if people already have a static cockpit they only need to buy the motion platform,” says Mike.
“Our own cockpit, though, has a lot more adjustability and a better quality racing seat, plus we’ve integrated a curved screen into the unit to create a much more immersive experience.
“Most motion simulators pivot on a single point, which is more suited to flight simulators because it mimics the movement of an aeroplane or a helicopter. A car doesn’t move like that, and the motion in our simulator is much more representative of what you’d feel in a performance car. You get that shove in the back when you accelerate, and it’s trying to tip you out under braking.
“One of the things we’ve recently added is a racing harness which straps over your shoulders and tensions under braking, so it gives you a tug on the shoulders to add another dimension to the experience. We’ve also added two fans by the screen which come on when you press the accelerator so you get a blast of air. It’s not just a 3D, it’s a 4D experience.
Aiming their simulator at the motorsports and racing enthusiast market, rather than purely at gamers, Mike and Simon have demonstrated Symdeck at events including Autosport International, Race Retro and the NEC’s Classic Motor Show, to much enthusiasm from showgoers.
“It’s been great to demonstrate our products and get some face-to-face feedback from potential customers,” says Mike.
“Our simulators aren’t inexpensive at around £3-4,000, but the only other competitive motion simulators on the market are driven by PCs rather that Xbox or Playstation consoles so that’s our USP. You don’t need a £10,000 computer to drive the software; our unit is ‘plug and play’, it’s simple, it’s reliable and it’s affordable in the scheme of things. It’s also quite compact compared to other simulators.
Symdeck are also part of the Made In Britain scheme, choosing local suppliers as far as possible.
“All of our suppliers are regional suppliers, with many of our parts sourced locally – a lot of our parts are bespoke so we have them purpose-built for us,” says Mike. “I’ve got a passion to keep manufacture in the UK so we’re not importing cheap parts from China.
“We assemble all of the products ourselves here too; we’ve done all of the design, we put everything together and we will be going out to commission and set up in customers’ homes.”
Although Symdeck is new to the market, Mike and Simon are continually testing new ideas to add extra dimensions to the experience.
“We’ve still got loads of ideas, so we’re also setting up a technical development simulator where we can test things out here,” says Mike.
Gaming enthusiasts are also invited to the Alrewas showroom to test drive the Symdeck simulators for themselves and can hire the simulators for gaming experiences.
For more information visit www.symdeck.com
J’AIME has teamed up with Symdeck to offer readers the chance to win a gaming simulator experience at their Alrewas showroom worth £80. Three lucky winners will each be able to take a friend along to enjoy an hour on Symdeck’s unique racing simulators.
For your chance to win this exciting prize, simply answer the following question:
Where is Symdeck’s showroom based?
Send your answer, along with your name, address and telephone number, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with Symdeck Experience competition as the email subject. Entries must be received by 5pm on Friday, May 25, and our winner will be notified by Wednesday, May 30. No cash alternative is available. Terms and conditions apply. Visit http://www.jaimemagazine.com for further details.