Simulator Setup User Guide

Setup document

A setup document (VXC extension) allows you to set up or configure a Vortex application without doing it all manually in code.

 It can be passed to an application that will parse it (like the SimApp) and automatically configure itself based on the file's content.

Through the setup document, you can set some global parameters for the application (such as the default log level, the simulation frame rate, and the starting application mode) but most importantly you can specify which modules and extensions will need to be created along with the application and on which node.  Specifying multiple nodes in a setup document allows a single document to contain the configuration of multiple types of nodes required for a simulator.  

In the Vortex Studio Editor what the SDK calls an "ApplicationConfig" is referred to as an "Application Setup". Both terms represent the same concept but to avoid any confusion this guide will use the SDK terminology.

Content of the Setup

A setup document can contain the following elements:


A node in a simulator represents, at the OS level, a process that will perform some tasks as part of your simulation. A simulator can be composed of a single node (what we call standalone or desktop) or multiple nodes. In the case of multiple nodes, they may or may not even be on the same physical machine. Whether they are or not, all nodes will use the Vortex network layer to communicate and exchange data between them.

Every Vortex simulator needs a master process. In standalone mode, since there is only one non-networked process, it is fairly straightforward. In a network setup, it is a bit more complicated since it is the master node that coordinates the exchange of data with the other nodes, called slaves, and instructs them on what to do. In most cases, the master will contain the dynamics module, while a slave node never will. If one of your nodes contains the dynamics module, it will be designated as the master by the application. A node can also be explicitly set as a master or a slave by settings its parameter "CommunicationModel" to master or slave.

The master node's configuration (or the configuration of the application in standalone mode) almost always contains the DynamicsEngine module. In a multi-node simulator, you must add the NetworkOpenDDS extension to your ApplicationConfig to allow nodes to communicate with each other.
Users of past versions of the SDK might remember having to add the VxSim::VxSlaveModule to their slave nodes' configuration. As of Vortex Studio 2017, this is no longer necessary as all that functionality has been integrated directly into the VxApplication.

To define setup nodes, it is important to understand the interactions between the different modules and extensions of the setup document, as well as the hardware configuration of the target computer.  
The specific association between a node and a target computer is done when defining a simulator in the Vortex Player(Director) application: see 
Vortex Studio Director for more information.


As explained in Vortex Studio SDK: Making a Vortex Application, modules are a core part of a Vortex application. Modules are not part of the content like the other extensions and objects are. Modules are directly added to the application, either manually through VxSim::VxApplication::insertModule() or by adding them to an ApplicationConfig which is then applied to the VxApplication.

For a list of modules provided by Vortex Studio, see Vortex Studio Application Extensions and Modules.


A common workflow is to add extensions to an application by embedding them in a content object and loading the object in the application. Though useful in many cases, if you find yourself re-adding extensions to your content that are not directly related to it (for example an extension handling a user interface or network communication), it is a clear sign that the extension probably belongs inside an ApplicationConfig instead. Extensions that are fundamental to your simulator application regardless of loaded content are good candidates for this.

For a list of modules provided by Vortex Studio, see Vortex Studio Application Extensions and Modules.


A Vortex application exposes some high-level parameters that can be customized from the Application Setup. Some of these parameters are global while others can be overridden by each node.


Frame rate and Sync Mode

Desired Simulation frame rate and the synchronization mode to reach it.

See Synchronization Modes for more information about each mode

Application Mode

Starting application mode. Should be set to editing. In some situations, simulating can be used.

See Application Modes for more information about each mode.

Communication Model

Automatic will determine the Master node by the presence of the dynamics module, all the other nodes will be slaves. This can also be set explicitly.


Log level

The log level can be set per node to the following values, be severity:

  • Off - nothing will be logged
  • Fatal
  • Error
  • Warn
  • Info
  • Debug
  • Trace
  • All - everything will be logged

Log File Prefix

Generates a log file named <prefix>_<hostname>_<process id>. When the value is empty, the prefix is the name of the application and the file is located in the %temp% folder. 


The Vortex Studio Player manipulates these settings as needed but the setup can be used to define the initial state.

See The Profiler Tab for some examples. 

Plugin Path

Add additional folders for custom plugin files (vxp) that contain modules and extensions made by a third party. This allows Vortex to find them when loading your simulator Application.

See Customizing Vortex for information about custom plugins.

Remote Access

Enables remote access so that the Remote Debugger can connect to your Application.

See the Vortex Studio Debugger for information about the Remote debugger.

Python 3

The python 3 options must be set via the application context.

See Writing Python 3 Applications using Vortex Studio for more details.


A seat is a configuration of a group of modules and nodes that are meant to be assigned a specific role during the simulation. See Defining Seats in a Setup for more details.

Application Setup Using a setup document

When a setup document is applied to an application, the setup will first add its global modules, then extensions of the global section (first level), as well as its parameters to the application. Then the node-specific modules, extensions, and parameters are applied. When a parameter is present at both the node and the global level, the node will prevail.

Editing the setup document in the Vortex Studio Editor

An example of a setup document for a simulator is the Vortex Player's own setup document.  It is located in the Vortex Studio installation directory: resources\config\player.vxc. When opening this document in the editor, you can see that the root object is the global setup object.  Through the explorer panel, we can navigate the structure of the setup document.  For instance, the setup global parameters can be changed by highlighting the Setup object at the root and then in the Properties panel, changing any parameter.  Nodes will have similar parameters as the Setup object, however, they are specific to this node.

Under Setup, any Extensions, Modules, and parameters properties can be modified this way, they will globally apply to any setup node.  There is as well the possibility to define different seats at this level.  Seats will refer to modules from nodes that are part of this seat.

On the 2nd level, each node has its own Extension, Modules, and parameters.  A node is a specific configuration for a SimApp in the simulation.

Setup Preset Templates

To simplify the creation of a simulator setup, the Editor includes preset templates of nodes, located in the Toolbox under Presets. To use a specific preset in your setup document, drag the preset into the Explorer panel over the Setup.

The standalone application preset template is meant to be used in a standalone (single node) setup, however other nodes can be combined by adding one node engine (master) and one or more slave nodes.

The available presets are the following:

  • Standalone application

    A single node (global) setup where the node has both a dynamics engine and graphics with a single display. Joystick, recorder, metrics, and audio are also included as well as support for Earthworks and Human. There is also a seat defined with the Joystick, Graphics, and Audio.
  • Master with dynamics

    A node with a dynamics engine is to be used in a distributed setup. The Network Configuration extension is added to the global setup if it's not already present as well as other support modules used in a distributed setup.
  • Slave with 1 window

    A node with the graphics module as well as one display setup. For the engine, other distributed network support extensions and modules are added to the global setup if not already present. Joystick, audio, and metrics support are included.
  • Slave with 2 windows

    A node with the graphics module as well as two display setups. For the engine, other distributed network support extensions and modules are added to the global setup if not already present. Joystick, audio, and metrics support are included.
  • Slave with no graphics

    A template for a slave node meant for purposes other than graphics. For instance, it could be the base template for a dedicated slave meant to run a user module if your simulator includes one or a console (UI) application.

Defining Seats in a Setup

The closest analogy to representing a seat is the seat you are sitting on in the simulator. The operator's seat on the motion platform and the instructor's chair in another room are examples of seats that differ from one another mainly through the hardware that is attached to the seat (screens, motion platform, controllers, etc.). When a role is applied to a seat, only the modules of the seat will manage the extensions of the role, otherwise, the extensions will be ignored by the application.

A role is a counterpart to the seat. It represents an actor in the simulation and contains extensions that are only added to the simulation when it is applied to a seat.

For example, consider the development of a tank simulator. The simulator includes room for one student in the operator's seat and an instructor in the instructor's seat. Inside the simulation, however, there are at least three different roles: one for the instructor (who may be virtually present inside the simulation as a Vortex Human), one for the tank driver, and another for the tank gunner. The instructor seat has a standard desktop with a mouse and keyboard, perfect to navigate the scene and evaluate what the student does. The operator seat has a motion platform, a steering wheel, pedals, and two joysticks. The driver and gunner roles can alternately be applied to the operator seat which contains all the modules to handle the hardware. However, the gunner role does not contain the extension for the steering wheel and the pedals, and inversely the driver role does not contain the joystick extensions. Also, both roles may not use the same displays to reflect a different field of view. On the other side, the instructor seat does not have all the hardware modules of the operator and the instructor extensions may include an extension for using a mouse.

To summarize, roles are added to your content directly but seats are part of your setup document since they go with the simulator regardless of the content loaded on top of it.

The concepts of seat and role are important (especially in a multi-node setup) as they provide a way to assign a set of devices employed by a user on a seat to a different role without the need to configure each extension separately.

Preferred Roles

A seat does not receive a role until one is assigned to it. The role-seat assignment is performed either by specifying the preferred roles directly on the seat (see below), using the Vortex Studio Player Roles and Seats tab, or programming it.

Creating a Seat

To create a seat:

  1. From the Vortex Studio Home page, click Open. Open the setup document player.vxc; The file can be found at <Vortex Studio installed location>/resources/config.
  2. Select Basics in the Toolbox.
  3. Double-click Seat to add a seat to the Explorer panel. Give it an appropriate name via its Properties panel.
  4. Select Modules from the Toolbox, and double-click modules that you want to add to seats in order to include them in the Explorer panel.
  5. Select the seat in the Explorer panel.
    1. In its Properties panel, under Modules, click the + button.
    2. Drag the desired module from the Explorer panel into the newly added row.
    3. Repeat this process to add more modules if necessary.
  6. Select a seat in the Explorer panel.
    1. In its Properties panel, under Devices, click the + button.
    2. Drag the desired device from the Explorer panel into the newly added row.
    3. Repeat this process to add more devices if necessary. (See Tandem Simulators.)
  7. In the seat parameters, you can select to automatically apply the first role loaded (Apply First Role checkbox) in the seat or set a list of "preferred roles" in order of preference. Those two options are mutually exclusive: if Apply First Role is set, the Preferred Roles list is ignored. If none of this selection logic is applicable, then a seat can be assigned to a role later by code or using the Vortex Studio Player role and seat interface.
  8. If you do want to create a list of preferred roles, press the + button in the Preferred Roles section of the Properties panel to create a list of the roles expected to be in the content of the simulator. The name of each role should be <role owner name>.<role name> (e.g., Tank.Gunner, Tank.Driver, Scene.Instructor).
  9. Save the file.

Loading Content at Start-Up

An easy way to make your simulator automatically load content at start-up, without any additional programming or user interface, is to use the Content Loader extension.
The Content Loader extension is added directly to your Setup document at the root level (not in a node). With it, you can load any Vortex assembly, mechanism, or scene document in any combination

To add the Content Loader extension to your setup document in the Vortex Editor, simply follow this procedure:

  1. Open Vortex Studio Editor.
  2. Open your setup document (.vxc).
  3. In the Toolbox, scroll down to the Content category and select it.
  4. Double-click on the Content Loader extension. It should be automatically added to the root of your Setup document.
  5. In the Explorer view, select your newly added Content Loader extension.
  6. In the Properties view for the extension, look for the parameter named Content Files. If needed, expand the Parameters and Content Files section if they are collapsed.
  7. To add a file to be loaded, press the + button under Content Files and enter the path to your Vortex content file or click the ... button to select it through a dialog.
  8. Save your Setup document.

More than one file can be loaded at start-up. Just add as many files as required to the Content Files parameter by repeating step 7 from the instructions above.

Setup Documents Usage in Director

A setup document is associated with a target computer when creating a simulator in the Director. A simulator can only refer to a single setup document, therefore all nodes of a simulator must be in the same document. Further information about the Director and simulator documents is available in the Vortex Studio Director.

Seats and Roles

Vortex® simulators come in many different forms, ranging from an application running on a PC to complex, multiple touchscreen hardware configurations. However, each simulator retains the same basic concept of seats, roles, and nodes.

These concepts are essential in understanding how hardware resources (e.g., CPU, displays, motion platforms) and software components (e.g., extensions, modules) are used as building blocks of the complete simulator, as configured in the Application Setup (.vxc) file.

To understand what roles and seats do, one must also understand modules and extensions:

  • Extensions process information (inputs/outputs/parameters). For example, a joystick extension is required for each joystick that is connected to the simulator.
  • Modules manage information received from extensions. The user does not have to handle the communication between modules and extensions. However, the correct modules need to be added to the setup document in order to be used in the simulation. For example, the joystick module manages all the joystick extensions and makes sure there are no conflicts.

A simple simulator could consist of a single computer running one simulation application. Most desktop or laptop computers with compatible graphics cards can run the Vortex Studio Editor. For example, a simple setup document need only include the following minimum requirements:

The case above consists of one node, requiring only one computer to perform all its tasks: the computation of dynamics data (handled by the Dynamics Engine module), and the display of the simulation (handled by the Graphics module which communicates with the graphics card of the computer, allowing the user to visualize the simulation).

However, most simulators are actually more complex than the example above, and a single computer does not have the necessary hardware and software resources to ensure that simulation performances are satisfactory. In these cases, the information is processed and shared through a network of different computers running synchronized Vortex simulation applications (called nodes), each having a specific job to perform.

The concepts of seat and role are especially important in a distributed simulation scenario, as they provide a way to switch a set of devices used by a user on a seat, a set of hardware nodes, to a different role without the need to configure each extension separately.

The setup document defines the seats and nodes. Roles can be defined in content documents and the setup document:

Nodes are then assigned to various computers on the network using the Vortex Studio Director, where the simulator can then be launched.


A role represents the viewpoint that can operate a piece of specific equipment, avatar, or camera or complete specific tasks using a seat. A simulator can be used simultaneously by several people, each interacting and playing a role. These roles are usually defined in the content (mechanism or scene):

  • A construction site may have a crane operator, a signaler, and two different excavators working in tandem.
  • An armored tank crew would consist of the driver, the gunner, and others, all inside the same vehicle.
  • An instructor, having a console and controls, will interact with students during the simulation.

The purpose of a role is to ensure that the extensions are used only by the person to which they are intended, e.g., the driving controls of excavator #1 will not conflict with excavator #2, or the crane operator will not hear the same ambient noise as the signaler on the ground. This is why the role needs to control certain extensions. When a role controls an extension, it is not managed by other roles.

A role does not need to be part of the content (vehicle or scene). A good example of this is the instructor, not driving or taking part in the actual simulation, but present in every scene. In this case, the role should be defined in the Application Setup (.vxc) file.

Examples of a role include excavator operator, crane operator, ROV operator, Humvee driver, signaler avatar, slinger avatar, instructor avatar, operator avatar, etc...

To add a role:

  1. Select Simulation in the Toolbox.
  2. Double-click Role to add one.
  3. In the role's Properties panel, enter a name for the role.
  4. To add an extension to the role, right-click on the role and select Add Extension(s)
  5. Select an extension in the Explorer view, followed by the check button.

If a role appears grayed out and in italics in the Explorer panel, then it is not currently enabled.


A seat represents a software node or multiple software nodes that are coupled together with hardware devices to provide a simulation experience to one user.

A seat refers to a physical location on the simulator, e.g., the operator's chair and its associated hardware. A seat can only contain modules that exist in the current Application Setup (.vxc) file.

The concept of seats allows the use of different controls on one or more specific nodes, thus allowing the assignment of different roles to a specific seat while keeping the same communication with the hardware. For example, a motion platform is controlled by its module, which needs to be added to the seat. The motion platform will always be present physically, whatever the role applied to the seat.

Using Roles in the Vortex Studio Player

In the Player, you will see the new seat ("Viewer") and the default "Desktop" seat. You can now select a role for the seats.

You can also create additional viewpoints that can be assigned a camera or role.

Using Roles in the Vortex Studio Editor

The Vortex Studio Editor works differently than a simulator in regards to Roles.

The Vortex Studio Editor has its own seat that works differently than on a simulator as defined in a setup document, 

Contrary to a simulator, when no roles are activated, all the extensions related to roles are available simultaneously. This way of running allows users to properly edit content without having to worry about activating the proper role.

This leads to some side-effects like having multiples HUD presents or controls affecting multiples mechanisms.

To test a role, it is still possible to activate them. Once activated, the other roles will be deactivated and only the content associated with the active role will be available, as it is on a simulator.

You can activate a single role to simulate the same behavior on a simulator.

Locating Roles

Filter the explorer view to only show roles, click on the funnel icon, and select Simulation  Role 

Activating a role

  • Locate the role you want to activate.
  • Right-click on the desired role and select Activate
Each time a role is activated, any activated role is deactivated automatically

Deactivating a role

  • Locate the active role you want to deactivate.
  • Right-click on the desired role and select Deactivate

When no role is active, the Vortex Studio Editor returns to its default behavior i.e. making it as if all the roles were activated at once.