Once in a while, I’m reminded that PRC.net is read by many different types of sim racers, from the inexperienced, all the way to the elite – and a few developers, to boot! Today’s Reader Submission is designed to appeal to the guys who are just getting into racing sims, such as Joel A, who are completely new to these types of games and want to race online, but have no idea where to begin.
I’ve been racing offline only for the past few months in GT Legends and GTR 2, after I bought a Logitech Driving Force GT wheel. However, I’d really like to try online racing in the near future. The thing is, even if I get all my stuff configured for online racing, where would I play? From what I’ve read on PRC.net, as well as what I’ve watched from YouTubers like EmptyBox and heard from friends, the only way to play racing sims online is through online leagues. But what leagues? I’m a noob when it comes to online gaming, but would really like to start racing online.
I was wondering if PRC.net could explain to me the basics of getting a racing sim configured for online play, what games I should play, what sites are active for online racing, and how the big sim teams operate?
Before you venture online, head to the Options Menu in whatever game you’re playing, as there are three specific options you need to configure that ensure you’ll have a smooth experience online. In the visual settings menu (this will be uniform across 90% of racing sims due to a majority of them running on the same engine), turn Shadows to Medium, Special Effects to Off, and Visible Vehicles to 20.
Even if you have a modern PC, any game on the gMotor engine (GTR 2, GT Legends, rFactor, Stock Car Extreme, R3E, ARCA Sim Racing, Race 07 + Expansions) have tendencies to drop FPS during on-track incidents, as well as during random points when the garage area is in view. Tweaking the Special Effects, Shadows, and Visible Vehicles settings to what you see above prevent huge FPS drops without any noticeable decrease in visual quality. Turning special effects off also removes smoke from your game, which is a huge advantage when driving through wrecks.
The next step is actually getting online, and most games have a huge button that says MULTIPLAYER or RACE ONLINE. These are not difficult to understand; anything without a padlock next to it is what you’ll see referred to as a Public Lobby, and usually there’s a button to sort the populated servers at the top. If you’re just starting out, these are what you’ll want to join. Even if the server has an official looking name like RACE-BRASIL.BR 1, it doesn’t mean it’s part of a league, it’s just the name of the group hosting the server.
Do not fear joining public lobbies. This is definitely my ego talking, but the vast majority of people you run into in these public lobbies can’t drive worth a shit. Sim Racing titles are notorious for their difficulty, but ultimately this means everyone is fighting the same uphill battle you are. There is no shame in entering a public server after practicing offline for a few weeks, as chances are there’ll be a few guys even slower than you. Events online are structured the same way offline events are in GTR 2 or GT Legends, with a practice, qualify, and race session, so you’ll be very familiar with how things go if you’ve put in laps offline. The biggest warning I can give is that sometimes the practice sessions are extremely long and despite being open to the public, the server is on a set schedule for whatever community is hosting it.
Unfortunately, public lobbies do get tiring after a while. Very few modern racing sims give people any incentive to drive cleanly, as iRacing is the only sim out of the current crop of games people play to offer an insanely detailed ranking system – Assetto Corsa’s ranking system is a third party mod that very few have adopted as of this writing. This results in race after race being filled with guys who are – to put it bluntly – fucking garbage. Although you may end up with the occasional good race, you’re definitely going to get wrecked a lot, and your vocabulary will see a strange expansion in the number of racial slurs and profanity-laced insults from across the globe. My personal favorite is favela, which seems to anger the South American crowd.
This is where Leagues, as well as iRacing, come into play.
EmptyBox spends a lot of time on iRacing, where the entire sim is designed to be one giant online career mode. iRacing doesn’t feature any Single Player races against the AI, but instead has a very detailed progression system and scheduled start times hosted by the game itself, guaranteeing you’re always in a huge field of equally skilled racers.
Myself and others personally knock iRacing due to the driving physics being lackluster, but many people put up with it because of the organization that’s second to none within the genre. Even though functionality for both private leagues and public lobbies are included, a good 80% of iRacing users have never touched either option. Most EmptyBox videos are filmed during a standard iRacing.com online session – all of which count towards your online ranking. It can be stressful for those not accustomed to always having to be on their best behavior (I know of a guy who got nervous just entering practice sessions), but if there’s anything iRacing taught me, it’s how to drive in a pack of cars safely.
Of course, iRacing is the only racing sim to offer this kind of service. To run competitive races in an organized fashion, you’ll need to look to a site like RaceDepartment or Race2Play. I personally use RaceDepartment, but Race2Play works in a similar fashion. Beware though that some sites do require you to sign up for a Premium Account – usually the cost isn’t much – but it’s enough to put some people off.
Either way, both sites host daily online races at a scheduled start time in a variety of different sims. If you’re to choose a modern sim to race online with, I’d suggest Stock Car Extreme first, followed by RaceRoom Racing Experience if you’ve got a bit of disposable income. Both games mentioned above have a huge list of content, have menus with a similar GUI compared to what you’re used to from GTR 2 and GTL, and there’s minimal downloading of mods needed to race in these scheduled events. If you need to download something, the thread relating to the event will tell you how.
Both sites operate in largely the same fashion. There’s a huge event list detailing everything happening throughout the week, clicking on the name of one brings you to a forum thread where you can let them know you’ll be participating and read the rules for the event, and about 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to start, you can join the room in the server browser with the password that’s normally provided to you in the sign-up details. These races are much cleaner than your standard public lobby and the driving standard will be of a higher quality, and usually this is enough for most people.
Online Leagues are the next step up from organized races, and operate in an identical fashion, the only difference is that points are tallied after each race. Online Leagues come in all shapes and sizes, with most being open to the public – the only requirement is that you register on the specific forum and fill out the required info. It’s incredibly easy to find a league to participate in, either by lurking in one of the various subreddits dedicated to the game you’re playing, or simply asking what’s available in RaceDepartment’s numerous forums. Personally, most of the leagues I’ve participated in have been due to getting invited to them – if you run well enough, it’s not uncommon for someone to say “hey, you’re good in these cars, you should check out this league.” Provided you’re a friendly fellow on public servers along with being fast, someone might even ask you to be their teammate.
I’ll receive a lot of flak for this, but online racing teams are essentially the virtual race track equivalent of high school cliques. A good 95% of the time, even the biggest, most successful online teams are just a bunch of guys who all hang out on the same Teamspeak channel. In highly competitive stuff, like the iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series, or official RaceDepartment leagues, you’ll have a guy who primarily builds car setups, or a guy who does the car liveries for everybody, but the organization and dedication pales in comparison to the guys playing League of Legends for a living. It’s really just an evolution of Xbox Live parties from the Call of Duty days, except everyone shares the common love of auto racing and spending long hours on extremely complicated racing games.
The one big warning I have to give out – and again there will be people who shit on me for this – but when making friends with someone online, be careful. Online Racing Teams are high school cliques on a virtual race track, and high school cliques often result in high school drama. For every overseas or transcontinental friend you make, there are an equal number of people who can and most certainly will demonstrate what all of those weird lectures about online privacy in high school meant.
Myself, Sev, Maple, and a couple of my Walk Racing teammates are gearing up for 4Chan’s upcoming GT3 season in Stock Car Extreme, so prepare for a whole new round of race recaps and setups beginning in September.
If, after all this, you find your driving skills to be lacking, read this for encouragement.