We here at PRC.net took great pleasure in laughing at the antics of Ian Bell and his staff at Slightly Mad Studios. The damage control carried out by the European developer after the embarrassing release of Project CARS was borderline childish, and the team as a whole quickly established a reputation among not just the sim racing community, but anyone who bought Project CARS, as a developer to avoid at all costs. The guys formerly behind the controls of the two Need for Speed Shift titles essentially wrote an entire instruction manual on how not to interact with their customers when things turn sour, and we gave each individual chapter of their bizarre post-release saga an audience. As Slightly Mad Studios became the laughing stock of the driving game scene over the summer of 2015, owners of Assetto Corsa took pride in the fact that Kunos Simulazioni continued to treat them with respect.
This was because Slightly Mad Studios continuously enforced unreasonable expectations upon the users of their official forums. Reporting a bug in any manner aside from 18th Century monarchy etiquette would result in vicious swarms of fanboys, moderators, or even Ian Bell himself descending upon the innocent user to degrade him. Users who questioned the abundance of bugs and shoddy online experience were told their complaints were invalid and a case of individual customer preferences, even as bug compilation videos circulated among the internet more than footage of actual gameplay.
The rivalry between Assetto Corsa owners and Project CARS apologists turned into a Ferrari versus Lamborghini rivalry, except in this instance, there was one clear cut winner. For a period of time, Kunos was doing a pretty kick-ass job at maintaining a positive relationship with the community.
However, rumors started to trickle in that indicated there might be trouble in the Italian paradise. First, an innocent Reader Submission landed in our inbox from an Assetto Corsa owner, explaining he had been banned from the game’s Facebook page. A month and a half later, a thread over at RaceDepartment popped up claiming more and more users were continuously being banned from the Assetto Corsa forums. Their offense? Being critical of the game. While most owners were happy with the state of the game during the Early Access program, many users became disappointed in the lack of direction post-release, and questioned the obsessive modifications to tire model behavior when other portions of the game requiring attention were outright ignored.
Over the past few months, the community surrounding Assetto Corsa is a bit restless, to say the least. Three massive updates, Version 1.2, Version 1.3, and now Version 1.4, failed to fix fundamental artificial intelligence issues that render Single Player races useless for all but a handful of sim racers under ideal conditions and hardware. Instead of figuring out a way to prevent the two existing Dream Pack DLC’s from segregating the online community, a third pack was promptly pushed upon the users featuring select GT3 rides that will undoubtedly require any serious online racer to drop the $10 to continue to play in populated online lobbies. Currently, Windows 10 support for Assetto Corsa is shoddy at best, with several users reporting the game outright doesn’t work on the brand new operating system, and Kunos themselves are unsure how to fix it.
Do the complaints end at those superficial aspects? Of course not. For a game billed as a hardcore PC racing simulator, camber settings have been broken for the better part of a year, and pit stops, an integral part of lengthy online races, boil down to awkwardly fumbling with your mouse once your car is stopped in the stall.
Then there’s the stuff that hasn’t been a problem since racing games have been appearing on store shelves. If too many people are already driving the car you want to drive in an online session, you can’t drive it. If you’d at least like to pick the color of the car you’ve been forced into, you can’t do that either. A few short months ago, we leaked the details surrounding the impending next-generation console release of the title in early 2016. With the shovelware-centric 505 Games involved, one trusted sim racer with insider info confirmed that the next-generation console version is merely a cash grab for Assetto Corsa 2; the console release’s goal to simply establish the brand. Those who have broken into the new DLC’s encrypted files have discovered some cars physics’ are merely copied and pasted from existing cars, so this might explain the sudden onslaught of new DLC – the game is being quickly pumped full of content for the console release, and owners of the PC version are essentially helping to fund it via these packs.
With the complaints piling up and an increase in the amount of users unsatisfied with the current state of the game, Kunos have taken a pretty firm stance on all of this backlash: Have fun, or get out.
I’ve included the post in full so you can draw your own conclusions from it as you see fit, but there are a few things that stick out to me.
- First, when the game is at the height of it’s popularity, why in the hell would you ever announce to your customers that you’re going to start removing people from the forums at an increased rate? I mean, already there are posts both here and on RaceDepartment describing the Kunos staff as being ban happy. Why in the world would you ever publicly confirm actions that a whole bunch of people were already scrutinizing you for, and then act like it’s somehow a good thing and beneficial to the community?
- Second, why are you labeling your own customers as “toxic” and “trolls”, but providing no clear-cut examples of what constitutes this behavior? As we saw with Project CARS, it got to the point where virtually anybody who dared to criticize the game for its numerous issues was promptly removed from the official forum for “trolling.” Why, after being on the sidelines for the Project CARS disaster and seeing how many people it pissed off, would you ever implement the same environment in your own community?
- Third, why do you believe some of your community members are intentionally rushing to discover issues in an effort to gain notoriety? With the three premium DLC packs, Assetto Corsa is starting to cost a substantial amount for some sim racers, and customers want to ensure Kunos can fix what’s broken in a timely manner. Why are conclusions immediately made that individuals reporting bugs are simply seeking attention?
- Lastly, stating you want to protect your community members from those who are only out to satisfy a personal vendetta is just plain wrong on so many levels. Nobody has a personal vendetta against Assetto Corsa, that’s just fucking absurd. Some are simply wondering what the fuck they just bought given the multitude of issues and shortcomings after a massive hype train, and since you’ve clearly stated you wanted feedback, there’s your feedback you asked for. If you can’t take it and need to whine to everybody on the forums that it makes you feel bad and you’ve been working really hard, imagine the shit that gets thrown at PRC.net on a daily basis. Dig deep and and it’ll turn into a spectator sport fairly quickly.
And I don’t appear to be the only one who feels that way.