My creative side got the best of me tonight, and with our own rumors fueling my imagination, I got to thinking, how in the world could Assetto Corsa be successful on the Playstation 4? Despite hands-down the best overall driving physics ever seen in a consumer simulation, Assetto Corsa on PC still has its flaws. The game’s AI needs work, online modes and functionality are nowhere close to what’s seen in gMotor-based simulations (and what we’ve come to expect from racing sims in 2015), and bugs within the software itself are still being ironed out as we speak. Kunos, I love what you’ve given us so far, but there’s still a long road ahead.
And with the disastrous launch of Project CARS, one marred by bugs, glitches, and bad game design choices, the door is wide open for a game like Assetto Corsa to steal the thunder away from Slightly Mad Studios and drop a fantastic racing sim on the masses. The problem is, with the game still having unfinished elements on PC, and Project CARS players already becoming bored with a fully-featured career mode and online format, how in the world do you make the best with what Assetto Corsa currently has to offer? You can’t just drop a bare-bones hardcore racing simulation on console gamers, it doesn’t end well. Race Pro and Project CARS already proved that straight PC ports of racing sims don’t translate very well into the console environment.
So here’s what I’m thinking…
You sell it as a digital download on the PS4 marketplace for $24.99. This price undercuts every major competitor on the market, from R3E and its expansions on the PC, to Project CARS and Driveclub on the PS4. This approach worked for 2K Sports when competing with the historic Madden NFL franchise a decade ago. People will automatically be interested in Assetto Corsa just on the price tag alone – they want a racing game, they’ve heard good things about it on the PC, and what’s this, it’s twenty five dollars? Why even bother paying attention to Project CARS and the never-ending list of patches, Driveclub with its abundance of DLC packs, or Need for Speed Rivals when a new NFS game is on the way?
You totally ignore the singleplayer part of the game and focus on Multiplayer. Look guys, the PS4 audience is a different crowd, and the AI still needs work. Leave the AI out of this altogether. The PS4 audience want to play all their games with friends, in a way that’s quick and easy to set up. You know Gran Turismo 7 will have a robust single player experience, and you know that currently, no racing game exists for the PS4 that offers any sort of competent hardcore online racing. Assetto Corsa shines on the track, so let it shine on the track.
To focus on Multiplayer, it’s time to implement playlists and matchmaking.
My ideal version of AC on the PS4 would obviously feature a test track with all available cars and tracks for practicing at will, but the bulk of the game would revolve around CoD-like playlists. While I admit that all racing games need custom lobbies, Project CARS proved that very few people on consoles actually do a competent job of hosting their own sessions, and everyone who is serious about sim racing and wants to host their own session already owns Assetto Corsa on the PC so this would be a design decision largely aimed at console players. A different crowd means a different approach.
Playlists would be separated into three distinct groups; Street, Open Wheel, and GT. Upon booting up the game for the first time, only the Supercar, Amateur Open Wheel, and BMW M235i Cup playlists would be available. All three would feature a pre-game lobby, followed by a ten minute qualifying session, and a ten minute race. As you progress up through the different playlists, the races would become longer and the top playlists (such as Track Day Special, Modern GP, and GT3) would include a mandatory pit stop and accelerated fuel/tire wear. The next level of playlist would be unlocked after achieving five top-three finishes in the current playlist. This extremely simple method of ranking up, plus capping the field size at 16, would keep the carnage down and you would know once you’ve unlocked a playlist or two that you’re among clean, respectful drivers.
Obviously not all cars are included in the above list, and that’s because there are some cars that just aren’t interesting enough to drive in a competitive setting. I am sure nobody is going to cry if the Fiat 500 is not in the PS4 version of AC. As cars get added to the PC version of AC, and the roster is fleshed out with multiple cars in a competitive class, updates to the PS4 version could include a handful of new cars at a time, with a new playlist or two. This would allow Kunos to work out all the bugs first with hardcore racers on the PC giving feedback, before putting the new cars into the console game.
It’s a very simple concept, a $25 racing sim that plays to its strengths. Would it work? I think so.