One of the most disappointing parts of running a sim racing news site is that we never get to play the role of a reader on PRC.net. In fact, to stay up-to-date, we rely on our direct competitors for leads to a potential story, as sites such as TeamVVV, BSimRacing, and VirtualR all play an integral part in us either elaborating further on a current issue, or combing through the comments for a tidbit that could lead to something. Before this site existed, we were reading VirtualR for our news, and now that this site is off the ground… we’re still reading VirtualR. Some things never change.
Within the past week, I couldn’t help but notice that BSimRacing ran three identical articles regarding Assetto Corsa’s latest Version 1.3 update. On October 11th, 15th, and 16th, the site posted multiple YouTube reviews from various sources, all of which broke down the minuscule changes implemented in the latest patch for Assetto Corsa, along with the second premium DLC pack that shipped alongside it.
I get that a lot of people enjoy Assetto Corsa and were really excited for the improvements the second Dream Pack DLC would bring, but the total elapsed time of all three videos above comes out to 50 minutes in length. By comparison, the run time of your average History Channel documentary centered around Adolf Hitler is 44 minutes. As a gamer in 2015, it’s hard not to draw certain conclusions when one particular news site for a very specific subgenre of driving games pushes almost an hour’s worth of Assetto Corsa patch reviews on its readers over the span of five days.
It’s called shilling, and it’s not cool.
But I get that coincidences happen. I get that editors naturally prefer certain subjects over others. We’re NASCAR guys here on PRC.net, and we’re more likely to review obscure oval racing titles from ten years ago than, say, F1 2015. It’s entirely possible that this flurry of very specific Assetto Corsa review articles was a complete coincidence.
Then, I ventured into some of the more active discussions on BSimRacing. This blatant shilling might not actually be a coincidence at all.
Avid sim racers are no strangers to what I’m about to bring up. Known forum trolls Hexagramme and Associat0r have made a hobby out of monitoring every sim racing website known to man, spamming a constant stream of links that allegedly prove Assetto Corsa is the biggest letdown in sim racing history, and that several sites have conspired to advertise the title in a roundabout way while hiding the Italian-based racing sim’s numerous flaws. As much of a ruckus the pair have caused over the past few months, de-railing threads and causing forum wars whenever someone merely utters one of their names, some of their observations aren’t far off from what we here at PRC.net have discovered on our own time.
The game’s AI is indeed unsatisfactory, those who once praised the title are now moving on to different games, some updates have outright caused the game to crash upon launching, and users are being booted from the official forums (as well as Facebook) for daring to point out any of the game’s flaws. It is definitely hard to understand the near-unanimous praise the game has received, especially after an unfinished Early Access version was given a higher score by IGN Italy than Microsoft’s own Forza Motorsport 6.
As a result, there are a growing amount of sim racers left unhappy with Assetto Corsa’s lack of progress, a situation made worse by Kunos Simulazioni’s huge initial ambitions with the project, and the use of Steam’s Early Access program to sucker people in at a discounted price. Many of these users are now starting to become vocal about the team’s failure to deliver a complete product, as well as drawing attention to the inability for Kunos to take criticism from their fans.
Moderators on both VirtualR and BSimRacing, two of the largest online sim racing publications, are having an awfully hard time dealing with a community who are now starting to question the current state of Assetto Corsa rather than continuously praise it. Negative comments about Assetto Corsa quickly descend into accusations and witch hunts, with site moderators liberally handing out bans and accusing innocent readers of being alternate accounts for known forum trolls suffering from an undisclosed mental condition. Arguments and battles once reserved to the cesspool of humanity known as the Steam Forums are now being ignited by reputable editors and administration members within the community.
Isn’t it a little odd for a media outlet to act like this?
Essentially, staff members from news publications that have no public ties to Kunos Simulazioni are getting just as upset over people criticizing Assetto Corsa as the actual developers are, to the point where both parties are labeling their own customers and readers as mentally ill for pointing out bugs and shortcomings in a video game. This isn’t acceptable.
And of course, this is after some of these sites have pushed 50 minutes worth of Assetto Corsa patch reviews on their readers in less than a week.
Does this not set off red flags to anyone else?
These are third party news outlets ran by a group of guys who enjoy video games, motorsports, and writing in their spare time, with no financial ties or obligations to this specific game. There is no explicit need for two publications to bend over backwards and issue bans to anyone who sounds like Associat0r and/or doesn’t say nice things about Assetto Corsa.
It has gotten to the point where if one of the known forum trolls “follows” a random user, that random user is immediately accused of being friends with a known forum troll, or being Associat0r himself under an alternate account, with no proof uploaded to justify that user being removed. Of course, those who give zero fucks and directly call out the tomfoolery exhibited by moderators and site editors are told that they don’t understand the whole scope of the issue, with more bans being handed out in the meantime.
I don’t know man, it just seems odd. The only tangible relationship I can piece together between Kunos Simulazioni and one of these publications is that VirtualR moderator F1Racer owns RacingRenders and occasionally has produced some fancy preview screenshots for Kunos, but that shouldn’t warrant an entire viral campaign to silence criticism of the racing sim across numerous websites, going as far as comparing certain users to Jihadists.
I get that software developers can suffer from a case of emotional hemophilia when it comes to customers criticizing their product – they’ve slaved over their game for so long, it’s almost to the point where the game transcends virtual entertainment and become a child-like figure in their lives. But I don’t understand the sudden push by multiple websites to silence criticism of a game while publishing several rather pointless pieces on it.