Yesterday morning, modding team Simtek released previews of McLaren’s new GT3 entry, the 650S, for rFactor 2. A larger, bulkier, sexier car, the 650s will replace the aging 12c as McLaren’s flagship car for what’s now become an international set of homologation rules for endurance racing. Announcing the release of the mod only for rFactor 2 puts a severe dagger in the side of Assetto Corsa, as Sim Racers will now be forced to contemplate revisiting rFactor 2 despite the fact that ISI hasn’t quite achieved what they’ve set out to do – rFactor 2 is a ghost town online whereas the asking price for Assetto Corsa has made the Italian racing sim explode in popularity.
A curious discussion took place in the comments section between a random rFactor player and Simtek themselves. Despite establishing themselves as a rather big name in the rFactor modding scene, with releases such as the Simtek Add-On for the extremely popular EnduRacers Endurance Series mod, and their own World Endurance Series 2014 mod released only a few months ago, Facebook user James Hazen directly expressed his concerns with the quality of Simtek’s content.
And it was 4chan.
Notorious for pedophiles, murderers, sociopaths, terrorists, and young adults suffering from various spectrum disorders that reduce their ability to socialize in a mature way, 4chan is the largest active message board on the internet. The site has gained an incredible amount of notoriety over the years for extreme online flash-mobbing, sometimes sending birthday cards to an elderly man, other times driving a young girl to tears and causing her dad to have a heart attack. While most of these can be attributed to one specific /b/oard, a place where anything goes and moderation is sparse, the rest of 4Chan operates very similarly to reddit, with boards for photography, sports, cars, cooking, nature, and other various hobbies each with their own subculture.
Similar to the Sports board, which frequently played games together such as Madden, FIFA, and Football Manager (home of the UTV Stalker), the Automotive section had been split between Gran Turismo fans and Forza fans for several years, each with their own distinct communities forming. As October of 2012 approached, only the Forza community was able to reach long-term sustainability, and even held “farewell” races while anticipating the arrival of Forza Horizon, which was due to be released near the end of October. Upon the 4chan Forza Community, sometimes known as WAT Racing Development, discovering that Forza Horizon was nowhere near adequate for hosting elaborate online events, community events organized by veteran members promptly went on an indefinite hiatus.
From the ashes of the Forza Community arose Automotive Vidya General, another, less restrictive community designed to incorporate both Forza and Gran Turismo players who were constantly at odds with one another, as well as the influx of new posters who had taken an interest in racing games due to the mainstream popularity of Forza Horizon. The goal was to create an environment that was the complete opposite of what was found on other virtual racing sites, as at the time, VirtualR had become paid advertisers for Project CARS, RaceDepartment was heavily affiliated with Codemasters, r/SimRacing’s reliance on a post rating system auto-censored controversial posts, and the iRacing forums muted anyone who voiced their displeasure with the tire model. Building a community that openly allowed you to talk shit about anything you pleased was important in a gaming scene where advertisers masquerade themselves as “news shows.”
One by one, new arrivals slowly trickled in and helped grow a rather obscure community into something much bigger than the ideas it housed. By February of 2014, a Mumble server had been created for the regulars to develop genuine friendships with each other, and in the summer of 2014, almost two years after the Forza Motorsport 4 events had been put on hiatus, the decision was made to go racing again.
As Steam helped fuel the resurgence of PC gaming, with affordable titles offering many people an incentive to upgrade their shit and step away from the pre-pubescent children populating console gaming in 2014, the decision was made to host 4chan’s first great racing series using the aging ISI sim rFactor, along with Simtek’s Blancpain Endurance Series 2012 mod.
The races would be 50 minutes in length, seeded by a 20 minute qualifying session. The server would be open for practice 24/7 throughout the week, with popular web application LiveRacers used to track statistics and allow people to take aim at each other’s quickest laps throughout the week leading up to the race, encouraging many drivers to both practice and socialize with each other.
Contrary to most online leagues in any racing sim, there would be no hard-set rules, no car livery restrictions, no language restrictions, and no experience requirement. People could change cars as many times as they want, wrecks were rarely reviewed unless it was blatantly intentional, the schedule rarely used any proper GT3 tracks, and spamming the chat with quotes from a mid-90’s DOS racing game were encouraged. On paper, it was like trying to hold an international GT3 series where the entire field were full of Vadim Kogay clones.
The absurdity of 4chan attempting to hold a serious online GT3 league in one of the most hardcore racing sims ever released to the public only became more bizarre as the series grew in popularity. In a chain of events that nobody could have predicted, 4chan’s OVGT3 became the USFL of online racing.
The current rFactor TouringProSeries points leader and real world Estonian kart racer arrived in a Porsche 997 paying tribute to one of the most retarded flash games of all time. A former two-time iRacing.com overall series champion painted his McLaren in the colors of an online support group helping those who have suffered through domestic abuse at the hands of a mentally ill partner. The best online Rigs of Rods Monster Truck driver in the history of the community committed to run the full season. Even a Formula Renault 2.5 driver who’d had a test with BMW was on the grid. Risto, James, Cosmo, and Ze German were OVGT3’s Herschel Walker, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, and Doug Flutie. Genuinely good sim racers were showing up to compete in a league nobody gave two shits about.
Enticed by the relaxed rules that other leagues and games failed to implement in the quest to replicate real life racing series, these prestigious drivers found a home in 4Chan’s GT3 league, a home where they were allowed to be themselves. The entry sheet even poked fun at social justice issues infecting Facebook and other mainstream forms of media – drivers could list their preferred pronouns and even their emotional triggers. Race chatter was often a mess, with angry outbursts overlapping classic one-liners and the occasional group sing-a-long – all while some of the world’s best rFactor drivers drove the fucking wheels off their shit.
Being in company with drivers of that caliber turned OVGT3 from a casual event that brought the group together, to a highly competitive, highly contested affair. The rest of the 70+ entrants, all with their own unique racing game backgrounds, were suddenly spending hours on setups or perfecting their lines. Similar to the USFL, which offered American Football fans a frenzied alternative to the No Fun League, OVGT3 races were chaotic and spectacular. Thank God the cars had fenders.
Held over fourteen races from the start of September to the end of November, OVGT3 ignored the constraints of traditional GT3 scheduling and took the group of what was regularly 40+ drivers to locations such as Road America, Bathurst, Magnificent Park, Interlagos, Daytona, Circuit of the Americas, and Brands Hatch.
The season-long points battle was fought between James and Cosmo, two drivers with two very different backgrounds. James, a past iRacing champion, and Cosmo, someone who’s primary experience in online racing is done with 10,000 lb Monster Trucks, waged war for three months, sometimes with direct on-track run-in’s as far back as the second race of the season. Adding a curve ball into the points battle was TPS points leader Risto, who joined slightly late yet rarely made a mistake during the races. The three-way battle for the championship saw James and Cosmo constantly trying to “one-up” each other, while any sort of mistake would cause Risto to gain on both of them in the standings.
And this war was waged among drivers from 4chan. Not everyone on the track knew how to safely let the leaders by, or to pull off a clean overtake, or what flags even meant. In some instances, it was revealed that a few backmarkers were driving with the keyboard, and others were intentionally wrecking anybody they saw, because rules about being polite on-track were almost never enforced or really discussed in the first place. The mountains of Bathurst sometimes looked as if Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were placed in an indoor karting facility, lined up at the back of the grid in a field full of teenage girls, and told whoever finishes higher between you two stays on the team.
And this is how the season ended. A backmarker lagged into the pack of leaders during the season finale at Interlagos, destroying all of the leaders except James, who went on to win the race and the championship.
While it’s important to note that this was indeed a 4chan league and some people were registered primarily to troll, a surprising amount of the field were also competent sim racers who sometimes even used the Motec plugin to help make their setups. Throughout the season, it became very apparent that the Simtek mod used for the league was absolutely atrocious. To understand why, we need to consult the real 2012 Blancpain Endurance Series season.
In the Pro class, the class used because it represents the class with the highest amount of resources poured into competing (sim racers have unlimited test days and such), BMW and Audi each scored two victories, with Porsche winning at the Nurburgring and McLaren victorious in Navarra. As fans who paid close attention to the series have said, the two most successful cars were easily the BMW Z4 and Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.
As shown in the Facebook capture from the beginning of this post, Simtek claims their 2012 BES mod was very well balanced.
In OVGT3, the rules allowed for virtually infinite testing and the ability to change cars as many times as you wanted throughout the season. Testing from several of the top drivers concluded that the Porsche 997 was by far the quickest car included in the mod. So quick, in fact, that 12 of the 14 series races, as well as the special 2.4 Hour non-points endurance race at the Nordschleife, were won by a Porsche. The only two races not won by a Porsche were won by James in his McLaren, the eventual series winner.
None of the top drivers who’d done extensive testing with all cars found the F430, F458, Z4, R8, Gallardo, R35, or SLS worth driving.
This gets even more comical.
Four different drivers earned victories in a Porsche – the official standings clearly don’t show the same Porsche driver winning every single race. Five drivers earned a victory in the 2014 OVGT3 season, and four of them were driving the same car.
The Porsche was so over-powered, that it was a deciding factor in the results of the championship. Until Interlagos, James had competed the entire season in his BPDFamily.com McLaren MP4-12c. In the four weeks leading up to the season finale, James had two DNF’s due to wrecks, and two podium finishes, causing him to lose the points lead and the momentum he’d had prior to the DNF’s, where for over a month he never finished outside the podium.
For the final event, James switched to the 997 using a setup developed for Brands Hatch earlier in the season, and proceeded to qualify on pole, lead every single lap of the race, and win the championship. He had never driven that car previously and switched to it at the last moment to secure the championship. This is not an indication that your mod is well balanced, Simtek.
And he was not the only one to switch cars. Cosmo started the season in a Porsche, promptly won two races, and then switched to the McLaren as an act of national pride. His results immediately slipped, causing him to switch back to the Porsche to finish out the season. No better can this be demonstrated by looking at the raw numbers:
Cosmo’s average finish in the Porsche: 2.6, or 3rd
Cosmo’s average finish in the McLaren: 5.75, or 6th
Given that OVGT3 was using the points system found in the Verizon IndyCar Series, this obvious drop in performance drastically changes how Cosmo’s season could have went had he stuck with one car the entire series. Given that the series champion had an average finish of 2.0, Cosmo could have won the championship in quite convincing fashion if he hadn’t stopped driving a Porsche during the middle portion of the season.
And even with the lackluster McLaren phase calculated in, Cosmo’s average-points-per-round was an astounding 32.5 compared to the eventual champion’s 31.9.
When a driver who hadn’t won in two months switches to a car he’s never driven before, and proceeds to not only put the car on pole, but lead every lap and win the championship with it, that’s a surefire sign the cars AREN’T “well balanced.”
The BMW Z4, despite winning 33% of the 2012 Blancpain races in real life, never scored a podium in OVGT3. The Audi R8 and Nissan GTR R35 scored five podiums combined, even though the R8 won twice in real life. The F430, 458 Italia, SLS AMG, and Gallardo never once saw a podium.
I enjoy the sheer amount of stuff available for rFactor, but it’s neat to see how looks can be deceiving. Many sim forums are full of hotlap videos featuring random cars on random tracks, and it really goes to show how far rFactor has come since it was released in 2005. However, league use is the ultimate test of a mod, and given how Simtek’s 2012 BES mod turned into the Porsche 997 cup when used for more than just YouTube hotlap videos, I do not have high hopes for how their work will turn out for rFactor 2.