Drawing attention to a feature that’s been strangely absent in several different modern sims, today’s Reader Submission from Alessandro L. talks about the strange lack of detailed Pit Crews in racing sims – and how we previously had them in much older titles with much lower system requirements.
Hey guys. I came across this video in my YouTube feed and immediately thought of PRC.net.
Two things have gone through my mind when watching the video:
- Even with modern titles, the pit crew animations suck.
- The only developers who try to get it right (or at least make an effort) are not racing sim developers, but games aimed at a much larger audience (for example, the F1 series and Project CARS)
I’m not an expert in digital animation, but for christ sake, why can’t the developers at least try to make an effort in this? I remember Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4 having really good pit animations, and YouTuber Jimmy Broadbent mentioned it in a recent video, where you can actually see the other teams’ crews out waiting for the other cars.
I know there are more important topics in the priority list (get the fucking physics right, iRacing!), but this would help with the immersion a bit.
Hey Alessandro! I haven’t really thought about this topic in a long time, I actually think the last time I actively thought about pit stops in racing sims was when Assetto Corsa published a teaser trailer where they previewed pit stop animations.
First of all, I want to comment on the animations in the first video that you linked, the “Top 5 pit stop animations” in the eyes of the creator of the video. I haven’t played that many sim racing games in my lifetime, so I cannot say whether these are actually the five best pit stop animations or not. However, all 5 of these are pretty decent and I more or less agree with the order that FloatieFilms has put them in.
If we take a look at the animations of Assetto Corsa, then we can see that it looks more like a cut scene than an actual, in-game pitstop. Obviously everything is done in-game, but the way the camera cuts after the pit stop options are chosen kind of destroys the immersion of the pit stop itself. The actual animation of the pit stop is pretty good, it is however exactly the same for all 4 mechanics that are changing the tires. It also uses an illegal way of changing tires in GT racing as it is currently not allowed to have 4 mechanics changing a tire each.
This brings us to the next game in the video, Project Cars. As many of you know, this game has received a lot of shit from us for all of its many shortcomings, but I have to say that I am actually pretty impressed by its pit stop animation, especially when you consider that this was apparently taken from an alpha or beta version of the game. I’m not sure if it is even in the game at this point, if someone knows I’d appreciate it if you could tell us in the comments! It uses the correct way of changing tires for a GT race car (depending on the series though) and the animations themselves look very fluid and overall it looks much better than AC, even in its non-finished state.
Third place on the list are the F1 Challenge games, but I personally think it should have come last. Yes, the animations are from an almost 15 year old game, but if you take a closer look at them then you will see that the mechanics move exceptionally slow, which makes them seem to not move much at all. Considering though that this was 15 years ago, the animations still look really good.
Runner-up in the video is the Gran Turismo series, with parts 5 and onwards, and this time I again agree with its spot on the list. The animations look fluid enough (albeit a little goofy due to the timing of the different parts of the animation), and you can actually see them loosening and tightening all 5 lug nuts on each wheel, shifting their hands around the center of the wheel. The refueling animation surely is lifelike, but for all intents and purposes of a simcade game I would have shortened it a bit to more unrealistic, albeit gameplay-improving levels.
The winner in our case is the Codemasters F1 series, another game that has received a lot of criticism from our side. I have to admit though, that this is probably the best pit stop animation that I have seen in any game so far. From the way the car enters the pit stall, the fluid animations of every mechanic that can be seen on the screen, to the guy in charge of holding the lollipop, everything looks absolutely realistic and simply spot-on. A well-deserved first spot.
The other game you mentioned with your second video is Grand Prix 4, one of the few racing games that I enjoyed playing together with my father when I was young. The animations themselves look a bit more fluid than the similar-aged F1 Challenge, but considering the car seems to float on a rail rather than actually to drive through the pits puts these two games on-par with each other in terms of the quality of animations.
I absolutely agree with you saying that pit stops enhance the immersion of a game, but I also understand why developers aren’t doing it more often or don’t put much effort into it. Back in the day when GP4 or F1 Challenge just came out, the character models of the mechanics weren’t actually that detailed, so the animations themselves didn’t have to be perfect in order for them to look good. As I mentioned earlier, they look a bit weird in those two games if you take a closer look at them, but generally you wouldn’t notice because there is only so much you can do with those low-polygon models of the mechanics. Nowadays however, even something as simple as a mechanic in AC consists of many more polygons, so in order to make the animations look realistic and fluid you will have to sink a lot of time into it.
And time is something that most modern game developers don’t have. Many games run on a yearly schedule (like Codemasters F1) and on a tight budget, so these games should have other priorities than pit stop animations. The only reason why Codies’ F1 games have these awesome animations is because a) they only had to do it once and can recycle these animations with each iteration of the game and b) pit stops are quite frankly an important part of F1 racing, so it makes sense for them to put the effort into making these animations. It probably takes an average animator several days to create these kind of animations nowadays, and when you consider that AC and Project CARS don’t just have a single type of race car like any of the F1 games do, but actually several different types of cars like road cars, GT cars, open-wheelers, Le Mans prototypes etc., then this would mean almost a month of extra work just to implement decent pit stop animations for each type of racing in the game.
I hope you agree with what I said and if you don’t, please let me know in the comments!