Reader Submission #62 – The Right Way to do DLC

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:


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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.

 


 

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“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.

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20 thoughts on “Reader Submission #62 – The Right Way to do DLC

  1. That is indeed great. It’s such a shame it’s probably the only sim that does this. There are some people running GT3 R3E servers with all GT3 classes enabled, but I have indeed hit that pay wall hard in some cases.

    It isn’t the first game to do this however, I think Quake Live had such a feature. As some of you may know, Quake Live is sort of a free version of Quake 3 Arena + Team Arena that can be played online. Some content is behind a pay wall and you can unlock it using a Pro Subscription or a Premium Subscription. If I remember correctly if one of your buddies purchased Premium, he/she could create a private session and invite players using free accounts to duke it out in the payed arenas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. consoles isnt much of an issue for AC has they get all the dlc with the game right off the bat. I agree though, this dlc sort of thing is monumentally better then every thing in the sim racing world.

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  3. ” the players themselves are content. ”

    funny how a whole market-segment in “gaming” actually got that right for years, now.
    “free-to-play MMO [i]anything[/i]” – anyone?

    Take a look at WarThunder (one of my guilty pleasures). The way to have fun in that game (for a certain subset of players) is to purchase a completely “under_tier-ed” vehicle or plane and “seal-club” their path through the virtual battlefield. Preying on those players who take the phrase “free-to-play” quite literally (including me). Why I am o.k. to pay for simracing-DLC and not to pay a dime for something offered “free to play” like WarThunder?

    Because I really do pay for my short-lived entertainment in there by “playing the damn game”. I am the prey for those that happen to like the game enough to pay for premium content. Without me there would be one less easy frag to prey on. Without the thousands of f2p-players every hour playing that game: those premium-content customers would really just be left to themselves (essentially evening out the playing field, again – as well as thinning out their virtual battles).

    Let’s face it: another copy of counter-strike / team death-match (in this case: with largely simplified virtual copies of heavily outdated planes) would otherwise not attract too many people.

    So yes: reading about this specific feature of Project Cars on PRC, I actually have to agree: they finally successfully in communicating one redeeming feature that actually holds true to their claim…. …only that it was an actual player who did so. Great: So people actually play this game online?! Who would have thought…

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    1. Eh, I’ve only spent a few bucks in warthunder to unlock crew slots, otherwise I’m only f2p. I do pretty well in planes flying RB cockpit view with a joystick and RB tank battles. It’s still a skill-based game, even if the purchases can give you a pretty large advantage in some cases.

      I think it’s more fun when you don’t spend money on it, honestly. Makes the game seem pretty challenging and destroying premium vehicles is always fun.

      I’m guessing you stick to AB like most warthunder players. It’s really not nearly as fun or as good, but you have to like flight sims in general to enjoy rb or sb and you don’t get a range indicator on the tanks, so you either do quick maths from the reticle or go with instinct like I usually do.

      The thing is, the other modes (RB and SB) often minimize the advantages of spending money. It’s way more important to be a good pilot and know how to deal with the plane you’re flying (most of them will kill you pretty happily, some are downright difficult and deadly to fly on the limit) and the planes you’re fighting than it is to even just have a good plane, even a damaged bad plane can still be deadly. Same thing with the ground vehicles.

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    1. That is your opinion. But you know, not all games need a shit ton of features to give players the pleasure of driving/racing.

      Just this morning I was racing online the Mclaren F1 GTR 96 at Vallelunga and was great fun racing this car. Didn’t do it in a long time and remembered how great it is. So, everyone with their own preferences.

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  4. Not related to the article, but from the next console patch Project CARS is going to stream the game data out via UDP from the consoles as well. It’s the first console game that provides an “API”-like function not linked to some custom hardware, so the usage of all the third party external apps (dashboards, etc.) is not limited to the PC world anymore. Well done SMS.

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  5. I have to say, regardless of personal preferences and stance towards PCars (in relation to other sims, which is not the subject of the article), this is something that is worthy of a long standing applause. Well done, SMS.
    And (IMHO) something that all sim-racing developpers should be taking note and looking to implement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I prefer the way forza does it. All tracks are free and there is usually a bunch of free cars too. Then no matter what you always get the content so you can always join a race but you have to pay to use the cars which is usually cheap.

    There are no race types that lock you out of anything ever and if you don’t have a certain class car you can borrow one.

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  7. I stopped after project cars combined with doing it right. And DLC Just no.
    nothing like a game that releases all its fast cars as DLC so your outgunned online, or having a bad time off, if you don’t buy it.

    PScam

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  8. It’s nothing but an effort to get more people online as fish for the obviously un stocked pond that is PCars.
    Because it’s a broken mess. And they need to extend plenty to those that are still putting up with it. Including free opportunities to show up and get whooped. In a DLC car you’ve never driven.
    Wonder how many run default setups? Hint, it’s zero.

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  9. Look, I built a great tune for my DLC car that you can’t have.
    Wanna race?
    Ummmmmm. Nooooo
    Not really.
    Got default setups on?
    Well no, I got this car two weeks ago and it’s dialed now so I though………..

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  10. Your also leaving out the part where they made the DLC bentley GT3 car way too overpowered in month #1,on motor alone. but didn’t nerf it til last month.
    Nothing to see here,
    Doing it right
    Phfsst

    Like

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