The Simulationing

This week, the sim racing community will be split into two very distinct groups of people, as it is with each passing year at around this time. There will be those who brave the “mass market bells and whistles” of Codemasters’ officially licensed Formula One game, F1 2017, discovering a very modern, well-rounded racer that’s already receiving rave reviews from fans & critics alike, and there will be those that scoff at the title, unwilling to accept anything other than a bland, boring piece of software in the pursuit for unparalleled authenticity.

While brands like Electronic Arts experiment push the envelope with each new iteration of their yearly sports franchise, this year giving Madden fans three distinct gameplay styles and a narrative-driven piece on top of seemingly endless features and refinements that reflect an authentic game of professional football, the sim racing landscape is the only sub-genre of video games in which members actively call for new releases to remain stale, dated, and lifeless, while criticizing showcase elements that actively engage the user within the virtual world. These gentlemen do not want unlockable vehicles, they do not want elaborate single player career modes, they do not care for modern visual fidelity – though this is probably down to their outdated computer specifications being unable to handle it – and the thought of a car that isn’t trying to kill them in every corner, at least in their eyes, places the game into the same category as Need for Speed; a distraction for children and teenagers.

As if there has been some sort of hidden contract signed by a portion of the community, no matter how genuinely good Formula One 2017 ends up being when the routine patches stop and we’re left with a game that is considered “complete”, sim racers are not allowed to like anything that doesn’t fit the status quo of being a bland, uninspired package with some cars and tracks that are somewhat realistic. Just look at the responses from sim racers after Liberty Media revealed there would also be a small Formula One eSports championship taking place during the back half of this season, with bigger plans obviously in the pipeline for next season and beyond. I wouldn’t call it a complete meltdown, but it’s obvious the community takes offense at the mere thought of a racing game that goes against the established norm of what a simulator has traditionally been composed of in the past, being called a simulator by the biggest racing series in the world.

Is Formula One 2017 a little bit easier to drive than the real thing?

Very few of us sim racers have driven a Formula One car (hi Max, care for an interview?), so we can’t really sit here and give a definitive answer. But it’s certainly plausible Codemasters have sat there during the game’s development and said, you know what, the average consumer needs just a bit of assistance that we’ll code into the game’s tire behavior. Not a lot, but a little. And that’s perfectly understandable, because this game is not advertised but as a hardcore simulator that’ll crush your balls and force you to donate a portion of your paycheck to some financial dominatrix in Russia, but instead a reasonable virtual representation of the pinnacle of motorsport – and the surrounding activities as well.

And does Formula One 2017 offer a set of distractions that maybe pull you in a different direction and serve to entertain you rather than encourage you to focus on perfecting your speed, car setup, and racecraft?

Well, absolutely.

But does that give hardcore sim racers a justifiable reason to scoff at the title?

Not at all. And they won’t like the answer as to why.

Above, I have compared an iRacing qualification lap from Esterson Motorsports in preparation for the 2017 24 Hours of Daytona, versus the qualification charts provided by IMSA.tv for the real deal. In a simulator that advertises itself as the absolute pinnacle of authentic, accurate motor racing from the comfort of your own sim rig, the lap times produced within this software were profoundly inaccurate – the virtual Mercedes running a blistering five seconds faster than the quickest real-world team campaigning the same car. Yes, there might be some balance of power going on, and yes, the weather conditions within the simulator may have been a touch different than the real event, but five seconds is still five seconds. For the absolute top of the food chain to produce such a massive discrepancy, after years upon years of the marketing department – and other sim racers – parroting this elaborate pretense that all of the world’s best drivers use iRacing to practice for upcoming events, the discrepancy between the real thing and the virtual counterpart is equivalent to that of a Codemasters game, if not more so.

And this isn’t even an alien time, with Esterson’s YouTube account not appearing to display any sort of footage that indicates they’re at the peak of the virtual racing ladder. This is one of the more talented average Joe’s in the community, who maybe race for fun and because they’re good at it, but do not have an elaborate Facebook fanpage conducting mock interviews with their drivers.

Five seconds.

We now move on to Automobilista, a game many including myself believe to be the best commercial usage of the isiMotor engine and the absolute best “traditional hardcore” simulator you can buy with little aside from an active Steam account, eclipsing ISI’s own rFactor 2 in the process. Several weeks ago, as part of a community-wide competition, Reiza challenged all owners of Automobilista to attack the Suzuka Grand Prix circuit with their knock-off 2002 Formula One entry, code-named the Formula V10. Michael Schumacher’s pole time for the 2002 Japanese Grand Prix, set during what was arguably his prime years behind the wheel, was blown away by four seconds by a flock of nerds sitting in their basements – one hundred and thirty one nerds, to be exact. The other nineteen professional race car drivers on the grid (give or take a few pay drivers) wouldn’t even be in the ballpark if their real world laps were to be submitted to the Reiza leaderboards.

This is a game that sim racers recommend if you’ve exhausted basically all of the “mainstream” simulator options, and want something that offers maximum simulation value, though with it comes maximum obscurity as well. And yet Schumacher’s impeccable speed – which should be absurdly difficult to match for all but the most talented of sim racers – is a lap time that any moderately talented driver can obliterate.

To me, that sounds like an arcade game.

And then there’s Studio 397’s rFactor 2, which has recently partnered with McLaren themselves to hold some kind of elaborate eSports competition – the ultimate reward being a job as McLaren’s in-house simulator driver. The audience, admittedly, has been very nice – surpassing what genre front-runners iRacing have been able to do with their championship series – but the authenticity aspect is up for debate. rFactor 2 was chosen partially for it’s status as an ultra-hardcore PC racing simulator, yet the top drivers – and many more that follow in the extended leaderboards – are turning laps three seconds faster than the Blancpain GT series pole time. Yes, again there’s balance of performance that we maybe don’t see in rFactor 2, and maybe some track conditions at play as well even though these sessions are held in a public server that can’t be manipulated to produce insane grip levels…

But three seconds is three seconds, and this is a leaderboard full of professional race car drivers. To be blown out this badly by computer nerds who in some cases don’t actually possess valid drivers licenses, is not simulating much of anything. Either the real world drivers should all be fired; their jobs given to names such as Enzo Bonito and Risto Kappett, or maybe the whole thing is no more or less accurate than a Codemasters game.

Lastly, we get to Assetto Corsa, again a game with it’s own flock of followers who praise the indie racing simulator to high heavens, and during the game’s on-going botched console release, can actively seen belittling those who do not understand what the fuss is about as “console children” who cannot appreciate authentic car physics as the game’s bread and butter.

I have not chosen to consult the popular RSRLiveTiming leaderboards to compare lap times, as these laps are often completed in what drag racers call “mineshaft conditions”, in which users manually opt for insane track grip and temperature settings outside what would occur in reasonable competition.

In a SimRacingSystem GT3 event, Polish sim racer Jakub Charkot posted a qualification lap almost three seconds faster than the Mercedes AMG GT3 pole time set during the 24 Hours of Spa earlier this season. Kunos have already balanced the cars among one another, and this lap was set under authentic race variables; imperfect track grip, other traffic to contest with, and realistic fuel consumption.

Give Jakub a ride? Or re-consider your perception that these hardcore simulators that boast unparalleled levels of authenticity and realism are really no better or worse than a Codemasters Formula One game.

Though everyone will obviously have different tastes when it comes to the precise way they enjoy their pretend race cars, the elitism that a portion of sim racers hold in regards to titles like Formula One 2017 is simply not justified.

On top of having Formula One cars that are marginally accurate, the F1 series from Codemasters has an actual game built around the experience. There are stunning visuals that you can show off to the general public and they won’t crack jokes about it – as per the Visa Vegas eRace stream – there are practice training regimes, a team of mechanics that can respond to voice commands and have a simple conversation with you, there are unlockable bonus cars, dynamic racing lines, a full TV-style presentation, animated paddock area with individual characters who act out a predefined role, research and development arcs, cooperative championship play against a field of AI bots, and last but not least an artificial intelligence that’s compelling to race against.

Hardcore racing simulators, on the other hand, have marginally accurate cars and confusing menus. And then the excuses come.

  • It’s not supposed to look nice, it’s a simulator, think X-Plane but with cars.
  • I don’t care for good AI, I just like to test drive the different vehicles and better my lap times
  • The developers don’t have enough money for flashy gimmicks, but I don’t care, I just want to drive, those other modes are a distraction and take away from the driving anyways.

So if they both provide the same objective experience behind the wheel – the same marginally accurate vehicle performance that can be deconstructed with a quick trip to the results sheet of any major racing series – why is the complete game scoffed at, whereas the elaborate tech demo praised?

Jealousy.

Enjoy Formula One 2017. For those who are unwilling to, ask yourself why you put up with this abomination when the on-track product is the same.

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World of Speed is Risen

So this is probably not the news you were hoping for on the day of the solar eclipse, but it certainly fits the theme of “strange shit happening” nonetheless. Originally conceived as a lighthearted, free-to-play alternative to Project CARS –  appearing to use numerous assets from Slightly Mad Studios’ previous workWorld of Speed fell into development hell after the release of the company’s flagship racing simulator; news outlets (aside from us) remaining totally silent on what exactly had happened to the game. Though it certainly wasn’t something that would captivate hardcore simulator fans, the free-to-play racer promised to bring a visually striking title to the homes of those in geographic regions where purchasing a fully-priced title isn’t always an economically friendly option, so there were actually a lot of people looking forward to this game. However, months upon months of radio silence on behalf of the developers frustrated those who became emotionally invested in the upcoming title title; most jumping ship in exchange for greener pastures, and in some cases reverse engineering Need for Speed World or Motor City Online for a similar experience – despite Electronic Arts taking both games offline.

Saber Interactive, a company who have recently found moderate success with both indie off-roading simulation SpinTires, as well as the alternate sports title NBA Playgroundsa throwback to the gameplay of arcade classic NBA Jam – are listed as the developers behind this project on Steam, meaning that when World of Speed inevitably does make it into the hands of the general public, the number of eyes on the title, as well as those who give it a whirl out of curiosity, will be significantly higher than what was initially projected several years ago. Saber, along with publishing company Mad Dog, have done a great job in particular marketing NBA Playgrounds to all the correct online voices – those with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube – so at the very least there’s a shot the initial size of the online community will actually be quite large, and in turn this means the game’s social and competitive features – elements woven into the core experience of the game – will be ripe with activity. Regardless of how neutered the handling model may be compared to traditional simulators, there will at least be an abundance of people to jump in a lobby and race with; the same cannot be said about the aforementioned hardcore sims.

And as you can probably guess by the header image, we won’t actually have to wait long for World of Speed to be more than a piece of trivia. The title recently appeared on Steam’s Early Access platform with an estimated release date of August 2017, so despite Saber running into some problems with the projected launch – which was probably intended for today – we’re going to enter a period of time where World of Speed is a legitimate product you can play, and not some obscure disappearing act akin to Grand Raid Off-Road that only a few people remember.

Obviously, any delay due to issues discovered in quality assurance testing is worrisome, but given the overall positive reception both SpinTires and NBA Playgrounds have received during their time on the market, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which Saber are unable to iron out what needs to be fixed in time for the release of World of Speed. At the same time, it also brings into question what has happened to Lauda Interactive, the company that was last said to be working on World of Speed. In October of 2016, the company – run by Niki Lauda’s son – was said to be entering the world of eSports with a multi-platform World of Speed release, though visiting the same address in present day leads to a completely blank website.

Regardless, you’ll be able to play World of Speed very soon, and with a decent group of folks behind it after years spent in development hell, there’s a chance it might not be too terrible for those in a desperate search to find a successor for Need for Speed World.

For 13.8 Seconds, Question What You’re Paying For

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You’d think for a piece of software that prides itself on being the most authentic & accurate simulation consumers can buy, massive discrepancies between real world car performance and the virtual counterpart wouldn’t exist to begin with, and simulation enthusiasts wouldn’t actively work to brigade someone drawing attention to what’s a completely reasonable talking point.

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series is set to visit Bristol Motor Speedway this upcoming weekend, one of the oldest circuits on the schedule despite it’s modern coliseum atmosphere, for the second of its two 2017 dates: one in the spring, taking place during the day, with this weekend’s being a night race that’s known for chaos and destruction akin to a local short track event. Despite being just a half mile in length, Bristol’s 25+ degrees in banking generate a very unique vibe; insanely high speeds and close quarter combat is the auto racing equivalent to flying fighter jets within the confines of a high school gymnasium. The Monaco Grand Prix may send Formula One entries blazing past elaborate casinos, and V8 Supercars can get a little hairy in the resort town of Surfer’s Paradise, but there’s nothing in the motorsports kingdom quite like Bristol Motor Speedway – a track that actively encourages mangled heaps of automotive wreckage..

In keeping with the standard formula of how iRacing operates, all major stock car series within the popular online racing simulator will mirror the real world NASCAR Cup series schedule and also visit the concrete jungle throughout the week. The top simulator drivers on the service have spent the past few days preparing for a multitude of high-profile events, whether it be the standard top Class A open run-offs that dictate the drivers eligible to compete for $10,000 USD next year, or the significantly longer NASCAR iRacing Series contests, which are more in line with the simulator’s origins. However, in testing for these events, one YouTube user flying under the name of GeneticJD has made a pretty startling discovery – and it’s one that all iRacers should be taking a close look at, if only to understand where their money is actually going.

In a single car qualifying run under realistic weather and track conditions – which he actually addresses directly to dispel the fanboys’ claims before they can arise – GeneticJD, who isn’t a prominent face in the Peak Anti-Freeze Series, but just another somewhat talented sim racer on the service, has clocked in with a time of 13.8 seconds in his virtual #31 Kraft Velveeta Chevrolet SS. To provide some context as to why this might be an issue, qualifying for the 2016 night race at Bristol saw now-retired ace Car Edwards snatch the pole with an elapsed time of 14.6. Drop down the results list to see how other talented drivers performed, and racers such as the inevitable 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson registered a 14.91, while three time series winner & short track veteran Tony Stewart clocked in with a 15.02.

GeneticJD’s lap by comparison is so absurdly beyond what these cars are capable of in real life, it actually matches the World of Outlaws Sprint Car track record set by Sammy Swindell back in the early 2000’s, when the series used to temporarily convert the half mile oval into a dirt track. Those cars have a power-to-weight ratio more ridiculous than a modern Formula One car, and aided by a giant wing that essentially allows them to turn an entire lap at full power while sideways – yet iRacing says a 3200 pound stock car is just as fast. Drawing natural conclusions from the car’s performance, GeneticJD comments that iRacing absolutely need to slow the cup cars down. How iRacing’s stock cars are going upwards of a full second faster than their real life counterpart in a track this short, is absolutely inexcusable.

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Of course, the iRacing defense force have already appeared to downvote the post into oblivion on the simulator’s official subreddit, with comments conveniently dancing around how bizarre this performance is is – instead wanting to see pedal inputs, the setup used, or claiming that the video was “less interesting than I expected.” And sure, to them, maybe it really isn’t a big deal that some guy with infinitely more driving talent than they have somehow cracked a barrier that’s virtually impossible.

But to myself, and others as well, it’s pretty hilarious. iRacing isn’t just a boxed game you buy from Wal-Mart for anywhere from $60 to $80, and put up with the bad in exchange for the positive things the software accomplishes. This is a game that demands you fork out several times more than you’d traditionally find yourself paying for virtual race cars, and then thrives on a concept called post-purchase rationalization plus an admittedly exceptional marketing campaign, one which makes deluded motor racing enthusiasts believe they’ve acquired the very best in consumer-grade race car simulators. Usually this would be the part of the article where I would take aim at hardcore sim racers roped in by the cult-like mentality of iRacing’s finest to perpetuate such bullshit, but instead I will take a different approach.

When I browse YouTube videos of either NASCAR: The Game, or the current iteration of NASCAR Heat – two console offerings that admittedly aren’t up to par with what we should expect from video games in 2017 – I always see the same comments from miscellaneous users: “Why are you playing this trash when iRacing exists; it’s the best and most realistic racing simulator money can buy.” Sometimes it’s worded a lot nicer than that, but the overall theme remains the same.

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I have to ask, what weight does this argument hold now? It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a genuinely good oval racing game, but acting like iRacing is this be-all, end-all solution for dedicated NASCAR fans, only for the most popular cars on the service to generate performance figures that are significantly less accurate than these supposed “arcade games” everyone has no problems shitting on, is pretty comical.  In no way am I defending the horrid dumpster fire that was NASCAR Heat – not by a long shot – but seeing the average person parrot claims of iRacing’s alleged realism, when this is demonstrably false just by comparing virtual lap times to the real thing, definitely raises the question as to what sort of brainwashing has been taking place.

It also makes me wonder how more people aren’t genuinely questioning where their money is going when renting the content on iRacing, and how there’s not a more widespread level of criticism surrounding the biggest name on the market today. Sure, I got screwed over by DiRT 4’s decline in quality – as did many others – but at the end of the day it was a one-time, $60 purchase, not a long-term investment that continuously asked for my money just to explore a fraction of the content available on top of annual subscription fees. And though Codemasters did parade around a couple of real world drivers to vouch for the authenticity of some of the vehicles available in DiRT 4, their promotional efforts were nowhere near as extensive as those carried out by iRacing, who for years upon years upon years have touted close working relationships with a multitude of real world teams and engineers to ensure the utmost of accuracy out on the virtual race track.

Let me ask a simple question: Where is this accuracy customers have been promised?  Because there seems to be a pretty major disconnect between what the marketing team would have you believe, and what actually occurs within the game world. For a development team to supposedly be in touch with Monster Energy Cup teams on a regular basis and actively employing individuals within the Cup series garage area, how in the fuck do we reach a scenario where Cup cars are blasting around Bristol at World of Outlaws speeds? No, it’s not a case for false advertisement, but I’m genuinely surprised that so many people have no problem parting with their hard-earned cash primarily due to the game’s self-proclaimed status as the most accurate and thoroughly researched simulator on the market, with some members even being blissfully unaware that other racing simulators exist altogether because they’ve bought into the iRacing or bust mentality themselves, yet are suddenly silent or apathetic when this authenticity is objectively proven to be false?

I’m also a bit surprised in regards to how on top of the demonstrable lapses in authenticity, sim racers are unable to read between the lines and notice something is amiss when it comes to how iRacing advertise themselves as the pinnacle of realism, when real teams aren’t actually using it.

Chevy SImulator

I’m not a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, I’m actually in the Kevin Harvick camp that believes his lack of on-track success has kind of hurt the sport – usually the most popular athlete is also the most successful, and in this case he’s not – but one thing Dale has done a good job at is being an ambassador for sim racing on a global platform, and he’s been doing this basically since the start of his career, which we all very much appreciate. However, in his weekly podcast, #186 at the 42 minute mark if you’re looking for something to get you through your workout routine, Dale mentions that the Chevrolet simulator uses “old gaming technology”, and though iRacing as a company don’t currently provide simulators for any of the teams (which in itself should be a red flag), it’s something they have an interest in – and he’d prefer for them to enter the realm of professional simulators as well.

Yet this “old” gaming technology, which Dale refuses to name – though we all know from pictures it’s clearly a variant of rFactor – helped his own Hendrick teammate tie his father’s NASCAR record by notching his seventh championship last season. In the meantime, average Joe’s on the iRacing service are blowing the doors off real world qualification charts, running times that would put them in an entirely different vehicle class. With this tidbit alone, you’d think people would figure out that maybe they’re not getting the experience that they’re paying for.

Another tidbit worth noting, would be Dale’s own career statistics. Earnhardt Jr. advocates for iRacing to enter the professional simulator realm, as he was a very active driver during the service’s early years, believes the software has the potential to go above and beyond what rFactor Pro provides, and obviously has a great relationship with the people in Massachussetts, but these years spent diving deep into sim racing – moreso than his Windows XP years – also happen to ironically coincide with a disastrous four-year slump that has defined the final half of his career.  From June of 2008 to July of 2012, NASCAR’s most popular driver failed to win a single race – a slump so crippling, his own teammate posting similar statistics lost his job. As you can see from the video above, Earnhardt Jr. was most active on iRacing starting from it’s beta period, until about late 2011 or early 2012, during the initial stages of the new tire model when a lot of people thought it was quite good.

Look, if there’s this top level NASCAR driver going around telling people about how helpful this one piece of software is compared to all the others, but while doing so he’s actually putting up results that would be job-threatening to anyone not named Earnhardt, how is anyone not asking questions about the accuracy of the software, but instead just sort of going along with it and using it as a reason to spend even more money on the game? The North Carolina rumor mill has obviously lit a fire under claims that Dale was asked to stop iRacing until his on-track results improved, because supposedly people figured out it was messing with his driving style, but that’s not really something we can confirm as 100% fact.

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For 13.8 seconds, you should question what you’re paying for. A team supposedly this in-tune with the current motorsports climate, hiring engineers directly from the industry, and working closely with individuals to ensure their software is the absolute pinnacle of sim racing, should not be producing virtual vehicles this far off the mark from their real world counterparts. Yes, maybe DriveClub’s version of a Ferrari Enzo will drive as more of a ballpark guess than anything else, and sure DiRT 4’s R5 rally cars are pretty fucked up, but that’s almost to be expected with those pieces of software. But with such a heavy marketing campaign surrounding it, one which swears up and down that iRacing is the last simulator you’ll ever need, these claims shouldn’t be getting blown the fuck out by a random YouTube personality who somehow figured out how to break the sim in such a way, Cup cars are as fast as World of Outlaws 410 deathtraps. No, just stop, that’s fucked up. You’ve failed at your goal. Go back to the drawing board.

You should also question why real drivers, the same that can be seen on iRacing’s testimonial pages bragging about how great the software is, are accidentally admitting in their podcasts that iRacing to their knowledge isn’t actually used by any professional race teams whatsoever, yet they’re still advocating for the use of iRacing despite this “old” software winning their teammate his record-tying seventh championship.

I don’t think there is a simulator out there that uses iRacing software. – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jr. Download Podcast #186

Lastly, you should question why this professional driver coincidentally suffered from a career-defining slump during the exact time frame he was actively helping out with the development of the game.

But, of course, the country club members won’t want to ask these questions, because bringing iRacing into disrepute is against the sporting code, and can therefore warrant a suspension or outright ban for those who dare to rock the boat.

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Reader Submission #144 – The Entitlement of Sim Racers

Are sim racers acting entitled? That’s the theme of today’s Reader Submission from Damien, who explores his time spent mentoring budding sim racers, as well as recent events that have transpired in the iRacing community, which have given him the impression that many sim racers appear to be too lazy to do anything themselves – except drive, that is. From refusing to learn even the most fundamental basics of car setups, to asking for handouts on crowdfunding platforms, Damien notes that this behavior is not a new thing, and is instead rather insulting for those who race in real life – like himself.Hey James, you can call me Damien. After reading through some of your recent articles regarding some of the… stranger happenings in the iRacing community involving jumping from the sim to reality, I want to build a little more on some of the things you’ve mentioned. With you being a short track racer yourself, you’ll probably get where I am coming from as someone who has done and is doing work in the industry. A lot of this may seem obvious to you, but to some I feel it goes straight over their heads. Right now, I want to explore the main offender of these incidents: mentality. With Will Byron basically being showboated by iRacing, I only expect it to get even worse from here.

True racing drivers are a strange breed. No normal person would think of strapping themselves into what very well could end up a twisted metal coffin for fun, let alone a living. Racing drivers are the most dedicated of hobbyists and/or athletes, refusing to even let nearly career-ending injuries get in the way sometimes. That being said, most sim racers can hardly be considered one of the breed, which is a statement you’ll probably agree with judging by some of your posts on the blog. 

I’m an avid iRacing user who is racing for real, thanks to someone I met through the game (yes, game) who I have been working with for a while. I’m a respectable driver with a well-above average iRating, but I digress. As I’ve climbed the ladder, I’ve had people reach out to me for help, with my involvement varying from sending hotlaps to tutoring in practice sessions. Some guys are swell, some are not, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that the overarching problem is that many sim racers just want to drive and have work done for them. My experience has given me familiarity with behind-the-scenes work, and I can attest that motorsport does not work this way. A good majority of real drivers, including me, see racing as the reward for their efforts off the track.

Many a sim racer I’ve helped has expressed interest in making it to the Peak Antifreeze Series, yet most of these people have not only never messed with an open setup before, but also refuse to learn, wanting to rely on their teammates to set their cars up. It’s also worth noting that a few of them want to make the same jump from the sim to the real thing, which is an idea I balk at, bearing in mind their lack of mechanical know-how on the sim. Granted, I haven’t taken very many under my wing, only a handful at most, but I know this mentality of driving first, work second is widespread. I see and hear it on the forums, in the voice chat, and sometimes on my Facebook as well. My rebuttal will always be the same: “How can you expect to race for wins if you don’t understand the car?” It’s just like in that one shitty Tom Cruise movie, you know, the one with the NASCAR’s, where Cruise’s character fails miserably due to lack of mechanical understanding. I don’t care if you don’t want to learn to prevent yourself from getting “distracted” from driving (yes, that was a real excuse I heard): if you don’t know how to work in tandem with your engineers to figure out how to go faster, you don’t stand a chance. Period.

Obviously the mechanical side of things is just one facet of a successful operation, but as you definitely know, you can’t race without monetary backing. Sponsorships are the obvious solution to the problem, but sponsorships are horrifically misunderstood by the average Joe. Sponsorship is more than putting a fancy sticker on a fast car, it’s a full-fledged business partnership that benefits both parties, creating ROI through an elaborate relationship that goes past just a paint scheme and decals. In other words, sponsorship takes serious effort. Any other “sponsor” who agrees to put a sticker on a car and gives away free money has no clue what they are doing, and trust me, I’ve seen it before. Countless times, it never ends well.

In your post about Jason’s GoFundMe campaign, you mentioned how sponsors need a full report on where the money is going, right down to the last penny. This is the most crucial part of the operation in my opinion, and it is imperative a team takes care of companies or benefactors they intend to have a long-standing relationship with for years to come. Going online and begging for money to race is NOT a sponsorship. It is not sustainable, it is not reliable, and above all, it perpetrates this “race first, work second” mentality. It’s every sim racer’s dream to race, a fact that will be drilled into your cranium every now and then with the familiar “come help me race” posts in the forums.

One could make the argument that I’m a hypocrite for supporting Jordan Anderson’s crowdfunding campaign after his unfortunate accident this year, but here’s the deal: would you rather put your personal money towards a driver who busts his ass in real NASCAR trucks, full with outlined perks and structure, or towards someone who has no other explanation that a childhood dream? If you choose the latter, stop lying.

Not to mention, how often do sim racers take time to develop a tangible plan that isn’t just a bunch of series logos organized in a flowchart? Yes, having a visualization of the path to where one wants to go can help, I guess. But planning a real career is FAR more involved and complicated than what PS2 NASCAR games will have you believe. You can’t just jump into a Dodge Viper, beat Ryan Newman in an eerily deserted stretch of NYC road, and start tearing shit up in a modified to try to land a truck seat. I know many drivers in the area who could kick serious ass in something like ARCA or K&N, but opportunity comes in “if’s”, not “whens” like the games. I’m not saying to lower expectations and standards; I’m saying be realistic in goals because very few get to race for a living in the big leagues.

Also, in a more relevant tone, set priorities. I’ve been trying to go this whole piece without singling anyone out too much, but how can you say that you need money to race when you’ve already bought a $23,000 simulator, with a $16,000 ARCA showcar for another rig? How can you say you wish you could race like the pros when you spent your cash on a sports car instead of a street stock program? I know you’ve already touched on this specific bit, but it bears repeating. It should sound like common knowledge by now, but it goes in one ear and out the other for some.

In regards to people encouraging behavior as seen from, for example, Jason Jacoby, like him or not, he found a way to resonate with quite a few (probably easily impressed) folks who also dream big and don’t want to do the work. However, when the dream comes under threat, it seems as if there’s some kind of a shared ego or identity between him and his enablers, and they rush to his defense. This phenomenon happens often, especially in the last US election, and some of these rebuttals are nonsensical because of threatened face. Plus, I feel like Jason kind of represents that part of them that wants to partake in these outlandish hijinks, but either can’t or won’t, and that’s some of his appeal too. It’s almost like George Costanza in a way, I suppose.

What I’m trying to say is you can’t say anything unless you’ve made the effort, done the work, and shown passion for it. I’m man enough to admit that I once had this naive outlook, until I understood the value of hard work through my own desire to get ahead. True racers are passionate, don’t let much get in the way of their goals, and don’t give up until they’re forced to with no other options. Spending money on needlessly large rigs and promptly asking for money towards a real car is quite the opposite of passion in my opinion, as is refusal to learn or work, only wanting the thrill of the fight.

As a stock car racer yourself, what do you think about my take on the whole “racer first, worker second” epidemic? I certainly hope I haven’t been beating a dead horse with you, but with so many people looking for the easy way into a sport that punishes half-assed efforts, I just needed to get all of this off my chest. As a driver also working his ass off towards a dream that might not even come true, I feel insulted by people basically trying to turn the sport into some kind of video game. But for everyone who’s stuck in this dangerous mentality, takes some advice from my dad: “Do the work. Get it done. Get it fucking done.”

Lots to cover in this response, so I apologize if this all seems a bit dis-jointed at times.

Many years ago, I too had the “racer first” mentality, unwilling to sit down and learn car setups, and this is something iRacing kind of encouraged with their abundance of fixed setup series. What a lot of the new guys to sim racing probably don’t know, is that iRacing at launch was significantly more hardcore than it currently is, races being double or triple the length they are now, and every series was open setup. To reel in new members and retain interest in the title, they then began offering shorter, fixed setup races as a throwback to the pick-up servers of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. I joined in late 2011, so by this time fixed setup series were all the rage, boasting much higher participation numbers than open sessions, so as a new guy, take a guess where I went.

The rise of fixed setup racing gave me the impression that uniform car setups were the “great equalizer” between sim racers, but that was until I actually sat down and attempted to understand what was going on under the hood, rather than assume it was just black magic. In all honesty, iRacing’s underlying physics engine perpetuated my refusal to learn car setup theory, because for many years setups on the service were brutally unrealistic, and stuff you’d learn on tutorial websites – whether it be for other simulators, or real life – simply did not apply to iRacing. So I was in this weird spot where yeah, I could take the time and learn all I could about car setups, but none of it would actually apply to the simulator I was spending the most time on. There’s a famous comment on PRC from a few years ago that kind of confirms this, where a dude from Travis Kvapil’s truck team mentions how their real world setup was a complete and utter fail when applied to the sim.

Playing a game as broken as this, it’s sort of understandable as to why so many are refusing to sit down and do the hard work themselves. Everything they could learn, can’t be applied anyway, so of course they’d rather delegate it to the turbonerds who have memorized all the exploits. I’m sure things have improved in 2017, but iRacing was in this state for years, and that means entire waves of sim racers hold this same delegation mentality. In short, I’m blaming iRacing for this. If setups are so broken in your game that literally no real world theories work, of course there are going to be entitled sim racers passing off setup duties to those in the know, rather than figuring it out for themselves.

In my situation, it took being banned from iRacing and exploring other simulators – usually powered by the isiMotor engine – to understand how integral car setups are to your on-track success, and that what I first thought to be “black magic” was actually quite simple. You drop the ride height as low as you can go without scraping, and then stiffen the springs until it doesn’t scrape, with softer springs at the back so the car isn’t overly-loose on corner exit. I have been running the same camber and toe values across all sims for about four years now (-3.5/-2.8 and -0.2/+0.1, respectively), and for tire pressures I usually run 21 PSI cold. These numbers have won races, championships, and set countless fast laps across a multitude of different simulators, but of course with iRacing making waves of sim racers believe car setups are literal rocket science and introducing new exploits with each build, most have no incentive to even try and figure it out. Can’t say I blame them, but that’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear.

As for sim racers thinking they can get into racing without lifting a finger, unfortunately I’m going to give you another answer you don’t want to hear, but I’ll at least explain how I got to that point so we don’t have a bunch of entitled kids on the iRacing forums thinking they can just show up at the track with money and follow in my footsteps.

The extent of my mechanical abilities is that I can change a tire and install my transponder; regardless of what car I’m campaigning over the weekend, other people are doing the dirty work for me. This isn’t actually uncommon at my local complex, I’ve talked with other drivers my age who are in the exact same boat, but in my case it’s to the point where calling me a “useless millennial” is pretty much a meme in our section of the pit area.

But it remains a meme, because despite lacking any sort of mechanical skills, I can still offer something else in exchange for repairs to my race car. In my situation, I’m essentially the go-to PR/marketing guy for about three or four different drivers at the race track. I run one driver’s Facebook page, have created sponsorship pitches for at least three people other than myself – all of which were successful and landed said drivers a sponsor for the 2017 season – some days I’m helping people put together invoices, others I’m editing their on-board YouTube videos so they’re not thirty eight minutes long, or getting shit like car numbers designed for them. To the sim racing community, a lot of this stuff seems like brainless work – because for us, it certainly is – but you have to remember the average person is still downright terrified of PC’s and their browser of choice is loaded with those shitty third-party toolbars, and there’s no way in hell they can sit down and whip up a one-page sponsorship pitch in fifteen minutes.I’ve had offers to film promo videos for ex-Pinty’s Series drivers, even to become the full-time social media guy at the local track, but had to turn them down because I just didn’t have the time – though I certainly would if my personal schedule allowed it. So while I can’t turn a wrench, there’s something extra I can at least bring to an operation, and that gives people an incentive to turn the wrenches when I’m unable to. In addition, though I’m probably the dirtiest driver on the property (and this is something I take a lot of pride in), being involved in severe wrecks has been a rarity since I’ve started racing, so a lot of guys have peace of mind that if they spend the time to fix something on my cars, statistically they can expect at the very worst to replace bolt-on parts at the conclusion of the event, not panicking that the car is destroyed because I got mad and punted somebody.

It is indeed possible to primarily be a driver first, but you have to contribute something to make the partnership worthwhile for everybody involved. If you’re landing sponsorships for not just yourself, but others as well, drafting up invoices, editing their YouTube videos, running their Facebook pages, designing their logos, towing their cars to the track, paying for shit in a timely manner when asked, they’ll have no problem helping you.

On to the next topic, Jason’s GoFundMe campaign. Personally I disagree with your assertions as to how sponsorships should always be approached in a very formal fashion, because at least in Alberta, some guys just have more money than they know what to do with, and think it’s cool to have their name or business they own on the side of a race car. There’s really nothing wrong with this; whatever floats their boat.

But as a driver, regardless of a potential sponsor’s mentality, you should be going the extra mile to inform these people what their money is going towards, because it’s just the right thing to do. I’m not talking specifically about Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that map out where the funding will go, I’m talking about the most entry-level, basic shit that gives them confidence they’re not being scammed. For example, I was confused as to why Jason could not provide a single picture of him racing in the past, nor could he provide a link to results of the races he supposedly ran. Unless you’re racing in a complete backwoods facility, most circuits require a transponder to be installed on your vehicle, and of course these results then get uploaded to a website, which you can link people to as proof as your driving prowess. Jacoby basically ignored all of this and resorted to “my Grandpa said I’m good.” Oh please, my mom thought I sang well in Kindergarten for our spring concert, but I ain’t no country music star.

I think his crowdfunding pitch would have actually been reasonable  yes, I’m defending the guy here – if he had pictures of his old street stock, lap times from the events he did attempt, and a description that was less of a life story, and more of a “I’m looking to get back into racing after a few years honing my skills on sims, would anyone with a small business like to contribute” angle. With that kind of pitch, it’s more along the lines of a local racer using his sim racing connections as an additional avenue to secure funding – again, very reasonable – rather than a deluded manchild embarrassing himself on a public platform.

Or I guess he could just sell his rather useless toys and ignore the whole crowdfunding thing altogether, but I guess that’s too much to ask.

Reader Submission #143 – Disappointment Championship USA

We don’t talk much about arcade games here on PRC, but given there really is no underlying theme to the website aside from “virtual cars”, anything and everything is up for discussion if you so choose to notify us about it. Today’s Reader Submission comes from longtime contributor FMecha, who has arrived to notify us that the newest iteration of Daytona USA – yes, they’re still making these – has not resonated well with critics and fans alike, offering a very rushed, lackluster experience that eschews series traditions and caters to a very different crowd, all while repackaging old content as “new.”

It’s a disappointing fall for Daytona USA, as the series was once a critically acclaimed staple of arcades around the world for several years in the 1990’s, offering many a glimpse of what hardcore sim racing would be like from the comfort of their own custom battle stations many years later. But is this decline really all that upsetting? Or is it just a fairly natural result of a consumer base growing largely uninterested in public arcade cabinets?

Hey PRC, FMecha here. It’s been a pretty substantial amount of time since I’ve sent in a reader submission, but I’ve finally found another topic worth covering.

This time, I’m writing about Daytona Championship USA.Developed by the London-based Sega Amusements team rather than the original AM2 team, the game generated hype among the arcade racer fandom everywhere, to the point it was originally touted as the third numbered title in the series. Ultimately, however, the “3” was dropped from the game’s title – for the right reasons.

The first evident aspect the fans noticed, one which will disappoint every single one of them, is the game’s gear shift choice. Instead of the traditional 4-gear H-pattern configuration previous Daytona USA games once used, as well as the SCUD and Sega Rally machines, the game opts for a more simplistic low/high configuration. That means no more drift tricks using the manual transmission that advanced Daytona USA veterans are used to. Second, the fans figured out that the “new” tracks are just simply re-skinned and mirrored versions of the original layouts. Furthermore, the new tracks also use recycled soundtracks – evident in the Lakeside (mirrored Advanced) course, where it uses the song from Daytona USA 2001’s Rin Rin Rink course. Talk about effort, or lack thereof.

Reportedly, a podcast from Arcade Heroes stated the game was mainly created because the spare parts for the original, Model 2 hardware-based Daytona, released in 1994 – still in service by many arcades – are running out, sounding like a cash-grab for both operators and players alike. I mean, Sega Racing Classic, and exact remaster of the original game sans title, released in 2009, already exists, and it has the original AM2 team involved… so…

Meanwhile, Sega Japan have something else which, while does show more effort on their end, also makes you ask where Polyphony Digital’s Super GT License went; apparently the license has changed hands, and is the basis for Sega’s upcoming World Driver Championship.

I think the bigger issue at hand here is the role arcade cabinets are currently playing in the overall video game industry. Developers are understandably going to half-ass new variants these machines (and the accompanying software), as we no longer have massive, ultra-popular arcade centers in every single strip mall across North America. Obviously I understand these games are pretty huge in Japan considering vidya is more of a social outing over there than it is over here – where we sit in isolation injecting dangerously unhealthy levels of Mountain Dew directly into our bloodstream – but with that drastic reduction in popularity across an entire continent, comes a significant lack of need to go above and beyond in regards to the play-ability of these games. So the option of half-assing it certainly exists.

For that reason alone, I can understand why Daytona Championship USA captures none of the magic that turned the original titles into a worldwide phenomenon, and as you mentioned, is more of a formality to (quite successfully) bait those currently maintaining old machines, into upgrading to the newer model in what’s essentially a cost-cutting measure. It’s honestly not a bad business decision considering good fucking luck if your original Daytona USA machine gets trashed due to somebody’s drunken rampage or obsessive usage from a local, but of course the trade-off is that it shits on what was a pretty outstanding legacy via underwhelming software.

Arcade racers are not a particular forte of mine; the biggest arcade spot in the city – West Edmonton Mall’s Playdium – was turned into a concert/lounge just as I got to the age where going out and spending money on vidya was a viable pastime, so sadly I cannot connect with the appeal of coin-op machines. I think though, with the reduction in popularity of these machines, at least in North America, a reduction in expectations should also come with it. Arcade machines were popular in the late 80’s and early 1990’s because they offered an experience that home consoles and computers simply couldn’t match, which was part of the allure of going to the arcade in the first place. With that disparity now inverted, it’s a bit foolish to believe arcade cabinets will still somehow offer an experience worth paying for – at least to those who don’t already visit arcades for social outings.

So for that reason, I think that while it’s shitty a once-historic franchise has fallen pretty far off the map, this seems to be a pretty natural chain of events.