Earlier this year, iRacing introduced dynamic weather into the popular online-only racing sim, with predictably disastrous results given their shaky consistency when delivering game-changing updates. While in theory the new weather effects would be a welcome addition within the sim and take another step towards unprecedented accuracy, iRacing is still trying to fix an issue that popped up on launch day where every user registered for the session is given a completely unique set of weather conditions – completely skewing the playing field. Have they found workarounds? Yes. Has it been outright fixed? No.
iRacing’s New Surface Model drops tomorrow, which is said to implement a living track surface an entire step up from what is offered in rFactor 2. Not only will a dynamic racing groove appear on the track based on where people are actually positioning their cars in the session, but shadows, air temperature, position of the sun, and tire temperature will play much more pronounced roles when hunting for grip during a long race.
iRacing also said they would offer a thermal vision camera in order to adequately show those sitting in the pits how the racing surface had evolved throughout the session.
Yet, anonymous iRacing member iRacerUK believes the last-minute removal of the thermal vision camera, a feature that has been demonstrated at length in the numerous preview videos, is iRacing’s way of preventing people from finding out that there are flaws with the new surface model. The user has created two threads on Reddit to voice his concerns, and I’ve pieced together what he’s said both in the original post, and in the comments, below in italics.
Some may recall that during the second week of Season 3 2015, there was something of a fiasco with the weather, where different drivers in the same session received different weather, yielding potential advantages of two seconds per lap. A pretty big fuck-up. iRacing didn’t figure out what was happening until a user investigated it and flagged it up. This means iRacing is not logging information to ensure that performance-sensitive data is matched between client and server. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Someone flagged up the potential for this cheat and got a permanent ban from the service, later reduced to a six month forum ban. Now, the ban is clearly over the top as the information given was totally insufficient to do any actual cheating, as someone would have to figure out how to decrypt the content and modify it on the fly. This isn’t something one can just Google. Interestingly, people mentioning lag switches don’t get banned and that’s pretty easy to Google. If data is transmitted it can be intercepted and changed. The issue is that iRacing are not logging the state at the client end for comparison between multiple clients, so if someone is hacking the weather, iRacing have no way to know it. iRacing seem to be really fucking jittery over this.
The bit where it gets interesting is that the exact same thing applies with the new surface model. Performance-sensitive data is being sent to the client. However, during the unique weather mess, it was possible for the community to investigate when things seemed off, because they could see the weather conditions in-game at the top of the screen. When it didn’t match up, hey, there’s a problem!
On announcement of the New Surface Model, in a single post in the middle of a lengthy thread, Tony Gardner posted that they would not be putting the thermal vision camera out for this build, meaning we have no way to check this stuff. So iRacing aren’t checking that the conditions are the same for each client, and we can’t do it either. A cynic might argue that iRacing doesn’t necessarily care whether people cheat, just that no such perception exists. This move would give ammunition to someone holding that view.
The banned user has tried to get in touch with developers about the issue, and they were happy to talk about how the new EAC anti-cheat system from Valve prevents RAM hacking, but as soon as the subject of a proxy, and logging states to ensure consistency was brought into question, suddenly they clammed up. All very odd.
So, in short, it looks like iRacing know there is a problem and just want to cover it up rather than properly deal with it. Had the community not found the weather problem, iRacing wouldn’t have had to deal with the public embarrassment. One could argue that this is why they are preventing the community from discovering the problem this time around – they’re ensuring they don’t have the tools to point out a competitive balance issue.
Let me make it clear that I 100% want to be wrong on this stuff. I want iRacing to be 100% fair. I’m not the quickest but I do OK, somewhere in the top 15% most of the time, definitely not at the pointy end, but for me to enjoy the battles I have, I have to know that I am competing on a level playing field. My goal is simply to wake iRacing up from the complacent slumber they’ve gotten into lately, and to get them to properly clarify this.
It’s definitely a valid concern, and there’s enough circumstantial evidence to back everything up. However, as is the norm with sim racing communities, a witch hunt began. Hell, despite the guy being from the UK and creating the initial post on Reddit while I was in a lengthy V8 Supercar race, people believed I’d been the one who’d posted it…
So a guy with upwards of $1000 sunk into the game points out iRacing might be covering up flaws in the new surface model by removing the thermal vision camera at the eleventh hour so people can’t detect issues with it, presents enough circumstantial evidence to back it up, and gets told by iRacing fanboys that you just have personal grievances against iRacing as if he’s some deranged stalker.
And his defense is basically:
He’s not wrong; we’ve been IP Banned for pointing out that the Street Stock Camaro kind of sucked and rookie races are full of idiots, and iRacing has tried to sue modders for using the mod tools they themselves gave out years earlier. Of course this dude is going to use a temporary account and purposely withhold incriminating screenshots!
Hopefully they get all the issues with the New Surface Model ironed out, considering iRacing hosts two ultra-competitive leagues that give out a collective $20,000 in prize money for first place and this kind of stuff is amateur hour.