As many of you have already discovered by now, PRC.net can either fall into the protagonist or antagonist slot when it comes to their relationship with iRacing. Still being on the neutral side of things myself, what PRC.net hasn’t done is review the sim as of November 2015. It’s easy to skim through the iRacing category and see most of the previous iRacing articles have opted to attack it instead, so it’s time to change that. While iRacing administration are locked in a constant battle with James, and now Sev as well, an unbiased review should be a welcome change of pace for our readers.
Lately I’ve been extremely busy, so I haven’t had time to continue my setup articles. The biggest challenge I face is continuing to dive into the deeper portions of setup development without giving away secrets that would stop the advantage my own team has had in NASCAR’s iRacing Peak Anti-Freeze Series, and currently the iRacing Pro Series where we will have over six members competing this season to make it into the big show next year.
This review was supposed to be done by Sev, but previous circumstances stopped that from happening. I don’t agree with how iRacing handled that scenario, but that is only one element of what iRacing provides to the general public.
As of right now, November 2015, iRacing is the best it has ever been, in terms of the raw driving feel. For me personally, the dynamic track surface brought many great improvements. Not only does the car handle in a much more realistic way, and force feedback has been greatly improved, but the tire behavior is much more in line with what occurs in the real world. Tires heat up over a long run and develop a tangible greasy feeling, putting the race directly in the hands of the driver. In other words, it’s no longer a hot-lap competition with a set running order, but a true race, where equipment management and tire degradation force you to develop a strategy each time you pull out on the track.
The biggest change to the driving style required on iRacing, is that you can no longer push 100% every lap. The tires will overheat, and you will start to drastically fall off pace, especially later in the run. Saving tires is the key to victory, as it should be, although it may currently be a little exaggerated. Not exactly in the way it feels but, in the time frame that everything happens. In real life, tires last a little longer than they do iRacing’s current build.
The seventh version of the fabled New Tire Model is also a drastic improvement over previous iterations. Much like Assetto Corsa before the Version 1.3 update, you can actually feel the tire loading through the wheel and giving you a lot of room to work with in the grip zone of the tire. The car moves around a lot more and doesn’t feel like a slot car, and rewards not only people who can drive fast, but those with very smooth inputs. Setup-wise, there is now also a huge difference between a hot-lap setup and a long run setup, especially in iRacing’s Pro Series where we get lots of 30+ lap runs under green flag conditions. This is due to theamount of fall off from the optimal settings for camber and ride height change as the car loads less in the corner.
Dynamic camber changes drastically over a run, as does the ride height and the compression into the track. In fact almost all the testing we do each week before a race has been done in the 80-100% track rubber setting, as it produces what the track will be like at the end of a run. For those new to the setup game, this is when you want the car working the best. Optimal pit strategy now relies on tire wear, and not on how far you can stretch the worn feeling in the tires.
Across all aspects of the sim, iRacing is much more realistic than it ever has been before, and Dave Kaemer, who foretold the New Tire Model would never show its true potential until the dynamic surface was implemented… Well… He was right. Many former Peak Anti-Freeze Series drivers who had once quit iRacing in frustration are now returning to the sim, including many of the real life drivers I talk to on a regular basis.
Hopefully we are not on the receiving end of another Shane Van Gisbergen incident, where a bunch of time was dumped into having a professional Australian V8 SuperCar driver give feedback and try to make the car as realistic as possible, only to have the whole thing change the next build.
As usual, with any new physics model implementations, there were of course flaws and a few bugs. If you’d like to argue that the public has become one giant group of beta testers, you have every right to do so. Despite this trend in modern video games, the fact is that the precedent has been set, and consumers for the most part eat it up anyways so you can’t blame game developers for cutting costs by removing quality assurance testers.
When we look at iRacing’s competition, it’s incredible how things can change in just a few short months. Oddly enough, it seems to me that Assetto Corsa has been going backwards recently in terms of realism, probably in favor of console users who would otherwise struggle with a hardcore racing simulator EDIT: (After a suggestion in the comments I realised AC’s most updated V5 model was only on GT3 and GT2 cars which I had not driven on 1.3.4. My main complaint of AC was always how easy it was to overdrive and yet not lose any lap time for doing so, in comparison to my own RL experiences. With the new V5 tire implementations this is no longer the case, you actually need to build the temp of the tire up appropriately and then although you can drive it aggressively, as you should it fits in very well to my driving style and promotes smooth inputs again so I have to say that if this is the direction of AC in the future and this development improves and gets implemented in all cars I may just have to start loading up AC again in my off time). rFactor2 has stalled out into releasing third party content as official content, while iRacing has taken a drastic leap forward. In fact iRacing feels a lot like a very refined RaceRoom Racing Experience at this point, a game which receives constant feedback from DTM and GT3 drivers.
Of course, iRacing bring with it by far the best multiplayer system, which nobody can deny is light-years ahead of any other sim out there. iRacing’s overall functionality, ease of use, and a rating system that promotes clean driving is the icing on the cake for a game that rewards the skill with top series like the Peak Anti-Freeze Series, Road World Championship, and the new Blancpain Endurance Series. The various top level series pay pretty well, much more than your average amateur racing series, and at a fraction of the cost of running a car in real life.
But like all games, there are downsides. Currently, my biggest complaint is with the staff itself, who have difficulty managing such a large and diverse community. These guys as a whole cannot deal with any article PRC.net publishes about their product, and go through great lengths to silence criticism.
Given the parts of the competitive side I’m privy to seeing with my own eyes, the staff are constantly getting accused of favoritism, and often not giving any responses to several issues that users have complained about for years in the protest system. Sometimes, the staff flat-out ignore criticism.
To give a recent example, the Peak Anti-Freeze Series Drivers Committee sent a lengthy document to iRacing, suggesting improvements for the 2016 Season. Shannon Whitmore basically told us to fuck off, and that he was not going to read anything submitted that undermined his view of what iRacing’s premier series should be. Given that this very dedicated group of drivers are competing for $10,000 over the course of a year, and investing a serious amount of time into playing a video game, it’s very reasonable for them to ask for more say in how the series is actually run. In a polite way, this undermines the dictatorship that Shannon likes to run, but that is the natural evolution of a racing league.
Of course, for the majority of PRC.net readers who are iRacing members, this behind-the-scenes drama should not have any bearing on the service for yourself, as the political side is reserved for the top fifty drivers on the service. Those who feel a sense of accomplishment just from finishing a race without damage will never be exposed this level of high school-tier drama, and it should not be a deciding factor in whether to try iRacing.
As a longtime member of iRacing, anytime a new build is released, the hardcore fanboys flock to defend it. They will always say it has constantly improved throughout the years, and the people that said it was the most realistic in 2011 are the same people that say it is NOW the most realistic, even though the title has gone through multiple tire model and force feedback changes. This often makes the forums an extremely confusing place immediately after the release of a major update, as the same names contradict themselves time and time again with their feedback.
From a real life Late Model Stock Car background, the game is finally living up to the hype of being the most realistic sim on the market. It’s definitely the closest thing we have at this point to driving a race car from the comfort of your computer room. The multiplayer service alone is every bit as revolutionary as it was when the game first launched in 2008, and along with the huge monetary rewards for top drivers, it’s nearly impossible to compete against. The exaggerated tire fall-off and childish playground politics do prevent the game from being perfect for longtime hardcore online racers like myself, but the complete experience is easily able to fetch a solid 9/11.