A positive post about Project CARS? You’re goddamn right! You send it in and we post it, it’s time for another Reader Submission on PRC.net. Tonight’s post is a fairly lengthy entry taking a look at one of the few aspects Slightly Mad Studios absolutely nailed when it comes to their crowdfunded racing sim: Downloadable Content implementation. BMH123 has given us an awesome overview of what SMS has done for the community surrounding pCars below:
Project CARS pisses me off all the time because the core game is broken in so many stupid little ways, but what’s especially frustrating about it is that it also gets a lot of little things very right, like how it handles DLC. It’s brilliant and shows amazing restraint (which is not something I ever thought I would say about SMS) for the greater purpose of keeping the community together and playing together.
Here’s how it works: If you don’t own a track that a server is playing, you can still join and race on the server just fine. If you don’t own any cars in the class that the server is running, the game will give you one car from the class for free while you’re on the server. Of course, you have access to neither for practicing on your own or racing in single player as long as you don’t own it, but that’s perfectly fair.
That’s amazing! I didn’t know this until today when I saw a server using the DLC that just came out and tried to join it despite not owning any of it. I’m surprised nobody ever talks about this. This is a big deal to somebody like me.
With practically all my sim racing being on public servers, I’m particularly perceptive about how well a game works for the purpose of public lobby racing. Keeping your multiplayer community together, and not fragmenting it through DLC (as AC, and especially R3E do) is absolutely critical to keeping it alive. What almost all sim racing devs don’t seem to realize is that the players themselves are content. When you have a game with any sort of online component, you need players actually playing online, or else there’s basically no use for the entire mode.
On the flipside, when you show a dedication to keep your players together, such as not letting DLC separate players into tiny niches and create all kinds of uncomfortable situations, everybody wins. Players who bought DLC aren’t limited to only racing others who bought the DLC. Players who don’t want to buy the DLC for one reason or another are not pigeonholed into the often rare (in the case of Assetto Corsa) server that runs only vanilla content. On top of all this, when you let players sample the DLC through online races they might decide they like it enough that they will buy it, something they would not have done otherwise, so that they can practice with it and play on their own.
When a game cuts off access to servers because of DLC you don’t own, it significantly fragments the multiplayer community. This effect only gets compounded the more DLC you release. When your population is as small as it is in sim racing, keeping the players together should be of the utmost importance and weirdly enough, Project CARS actually does just that.
I was considering buying the DLC for Project CARS right there on the spot as soon as I found this out, because this a very commendable practice, but then I remembered how broken the game tends to be and decided against it. When the game has such a game breaking bug for months that which will ignore all your wheel input until the game is restarted, just because you were idle in the server browser for more than 30 seconds, it’s hard to want to support the game in any way. I have a very strained relationship with this game, but that’s a write up for another day.
Either way, I still think it’s worth pointing out this little aspect of Project CARS, because it’s a great example that other sims with DLC should take inspiration from.
“Players themselves are content.”
I’ve never seen it put that way before, that’s an extremely valid point. You do indeed need at least a handful of other human drivers in the room to make online racing worthwhile, and it’s up to the developer to create that environment. I’ve been in far too many 4-man Stock Car Extreme practice sessions to know that a different approach to online racing as a whole is needed. Everyone gets just that much more excited on the grid when it’s a sea of cars, instead of just you, your buddy, and three Brazilian dudes of varying skill levels.
With the abundance of DLC already available for Project CARS, I gotta give credit where credit is due. Letting people join rooms and even race with DLC content they haven’t personally bought is all kinds of awesome. Racing sims aren’t as popular as Call of Duty and they never will be due to the skill required, so it’s the developer’s duty to ensure those investing their time into online racing can at least be rewarded with… actual races.
When a developer doesn’t do this, as we’ve seen with RaceRoom Racing Experience, the results are disastrous. Three separate GT3 classes are found in R3E, none of which are compatible with each other despite being identical performance specifications, and unless you’re playing during European prime time on the weekends, good luck finding a race. Hell, good luck finding a race in anything that isn’t a server configured GT3 or DTM cars. Again, this isn’t Black Ops 3 where there are 59,823 people in the Team Deathmatch playlist at 3AM in a school night; your local bingo hall may be more popular than the servers in Stock Car Extreme.
I think Assetto Corsa’s DLC compatibility settings leave a lot to be desired, especially if this is going to continue on the XBOX One and Playstation 4 next year. A lot of the people picking up Assetto Corsa next year are Forza guys, and previous Forza games had this thing where if you didn’t own the DLC cars some guys in the room were using, they would show up as a black Volkswagen Jetta. Awkward to see a Volkswagen sedan mixing it up with GT3 cars, but at least the player base wasn’t segregated into tiny little fragments. To take things a step further, those bored enough to download the free car from each months’ car pack would also receive the data necessary to display the physical model of each car in online races.
But I don’t think anything compares to Project CARS giving people an unlimited free trial of all available DLC if they happen to come across a room with it online. This could potentially save a lot of people if the game is patched into a state stable enough to run online leagues; only the hosts’ computer would be required to own the DLC, and the list of cars people could pick from would really open up.
Just a shame that, as you said, the rest of the game is still in various states of disarray.