Automobilista – unveiled earlier today, this is the name of the Q1 2016 title Brazilian developer Reiza Studios intends to stand with Assetto Corsa and DiRT Rally as one of the premiere PC racing simulations on the market. However, there’s just one problem: Automobilista will mark the fourth time Reiza have released ISI’s rFactor with updated shaders and force feedback settings. As someone who bought rFactor when it was relatively new in the spring of 2006, the fact that I’m now 23 years old with a full time job and still buying yet another repackaged copy of rFactor, even after numerous technological advances in other segments of the video game industry, doesn’t sit very well with me.
Since 2012, Reiza has sold four PC racing sims, all of which were simply stand-alone copies of rFactor; the default content swapped out for officially licensed cars and tracks on the Stock Car Brasil schedule. These four titles are:
- Game Stock Car 2012
- Formula Truck
- Game Stock Car 2013 (renamed to Stock Car Extreme)
The games are so similar to ISI’s vanilla entry, it’s possible to directly copy your rFactor player INI file into the directory of a Reiza title. But we’re not done there; an entire tool exists to convert third party mods from rFactor into Stock Car Extreme with the single press of a button. Lastly, tweaks to the force feedback effects are so simple at heart, one can yank the dedicated force feedback files out of Stock Car Extreme’s root folder and paste them into your rFactor folder. Are these refinements even created by Reiza in the first place? In some cases, no. The lone file dictating the game’s force feedback effects is named RealFeel.ini – a community plug-in that can be found on rFactorCentral.
So why do some sim racers praise Reiza to begin with, and why do even we here at PRC.net use this game as a league platform? The answer is pretty simple: it’s essentially a re-release of rFactor with much better default content, and community patches required for the game to operate on modern systems. Given the sorry state of other major PC racing sims, we’ll take rFactor 2013 Version 1.52 over Project CARS or Assetto Corsa.
But there are a lot of things wrong about the impending release of Automobilista, so let’s start from the top: the title is something you’d see on a shovelware game. To demonstrate this, I’ve photoshopped the game’s official logo on a screenshot of Project Ignition – a game removed off of Steam and banned from discussion on GTPlanet for using stolen assets from other commercial games.
How hard was it to do something like this? I mean, if iRacing can get away with using the Apple iPhone style of branding, maybe a Forza Motorsport-like title isn’t too big of a stretch, especially considering there’s no competitor on Steam, and nobody’s going to touch some obscure Brazilian name because they didn’t the first three times.
Now, we get to how the title will be sold. For starters, if you already own Stock Car Extreme, you’ll be getting this game for free in your Steam library on launch day. However, Reiza announced the deadline for this little promo is January 5th, so you can’t be a cheeky little nugget and wait for Stock Car Extreme to drop in price even further prior to the launch of the 2016 title.
Part of this re-branding of Stock Car Extreme was intended to market the game to a wider audience. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed by now, but Stock Car Brasil doesn’t exactly have the popularity of NASCAR or Formula One, so obviously the team from South America have had to change their sales pitch. It’s not a wise decision to advertise a hardcore racing simulator as “the official simulator of Stock Car Brasil,” so this change in identity hopes to establish a recognizable name in a manner similar to Project CARS or Assetto Corsa.
However, the guys at Reiza fail to realize that PC racing simulators have what’s called a peak popularity. Unlike Project CARS, which sold over a million copies on next-generation consoles thanks to a massive marketing campaign, Stock Car Extreme is a bit of an end-game title; it’s more X-Plane than Ace Combat. Stock Car Extreme is a game you purchase if basically every other racing game in your library isn’t cutting it anymore, and you want an uncompromising auto racing simulator with absolutely zero bullshit. People don’t just jump into titles like rFactor 2 or Stock Car Extreme right off the bat, they’re slowly introduced to them after they’ve mastered the easier offerings like Gran Turismo, Forza, or Assetto Corsa. And mastering those isn’t something that happens in a month or two, meaning the size of your potential audience for a Reiza PC sim is extremely limited.
As a result, barely anybody owns Stock Car Extreme, and the ones that don’t own the game have already decided not to buy the Reiza product because they’re probably satisfied with something else.
So not only is there virtually zero current interest in Stock Car Extreme despite the game selling at a very affordable price of $30, all of these people who do own and enjoy the game will be receiving Automobilista for free. In the end, Reiza’s sold no copies of Automobilista, and they haven’t made any money because they literally gave it away to everyone who was even the slightest bit interested in the new title.
So what was the point of an entirely new game? Why not just keep adding shit to the old one? You are now spending money to produce a game that you won’t generate any sort of meaningful sales off of. I will now have two identical games installed on my hard drive. Nobody wins here.
This comes after not one but three versions of rFactor they’ve released since 2012. Suddenly, their need to create a crowdfunding campaign for additional features makes a whole lot more sense. These guys can’t afford to implement new cars or tracks, because there is literally no logic behind how the studio operates on a day-to-day basis.
Above is a capture from the official Automobilista website, going over the rather large roster of cars and tracks you can expect from Reiza’s 2016 release. Compared to Stock Car Extreme, the game will feature four new cars, two of which aren’t even mentioned, as well as two or three new tracks. Had this been a press release for FIFA or Madden, the anti-sports game guys would piss themselves laughing, regurgitating the “it’s the same game as last year” line that’s been going strong for almost a decade across all relevant message boards.
Further into the press release, we see that the 2016 title will feature dynamic track conditions, advanced transmission and tire model components, and substantial upgrades to physics, graphics, and audio. All of these improvements have been previously regurgitated by rival sim developers as generic marketing babble, hindering their effect on someone like myself who’s been through a few rounds of these phrases thrown at us in press releases. We’ve heard it all before. I find the claims of “substantial upgrades to graphics” particularly hilarious, as lining up screenshots of the two games side-by-side, they look exactly the same aside from the obvious livery adjustments. It’s also known that Reiza use a plug-in called SweetFX for all promotional screenshots, so the end result may not look like what’s depicted below.
However, dynamic track conditions would be something new to an isiMotor powered sim, as the engine’s baseline technology was developed at a time where a changing environment was slightly too much for the software to accomplish.
Until modders figured it out. As with RealFeel and the TrackMap plugins above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Reiza will simply fine-tune rFactor’s existing RFE Weather Plugin for use in Automobilista.
The list of features for the RFE plugin, and even how the physical racing line is depicted in-game, are eerily similar to what Reiza are intending to accomplish with their dynamic track surface. If you’re happy that a dev team used a crowdfunding campaign to compile a bunch of rFactor community mods that can easily be found on rFactor Central, all the power to you, but not everyone enjoys a smoke and mirrors show.
Look, I like Reiza, and there’s a reason we here at PRC.net use Stock Car Extreme as a platform for our official V8 Supercars league, but there was basically no reason for Automobilista to exist.
- The title could have used an extra brainstorming session.
- Everyone who wants a game like Stock Car Extreme, has already bought Stock Car Extreme, and now you’re giving them a new game for free; you’ve now sold no copies of Automobilista.
- With only four new cars and a few livery generic livery updates, there isn’t enough content to warrant a completely new game.
- The alleged improvements funded by the crowdfunding campaign are extremely similar to plugins already available for rFactor, again meaning there isn’t enough to warrant an entirely new game.
- A new title is not going to generate a mass of new sales. That’s what a marketing campaign is for.
I’ll finish on that last point: a marketing campaign is far easier than you think. Let’s say we go back in time a few months and you need a way to attract more people to Stock Car Extreme. You know what you don’t do? Release the exact same game under a slightly different Brazilian-sounding name.
Instead, get in contact with the big guys on YouTube… I’m talking about EmptyBox, GamerMuscleVideos, TeamVVV… Those guys… Hit ’em up by email with a nice official-looking Reiza stationery and send ’em a code for the retail version of Stock Car Extreme. Don’t ask them to say anything about the game in particular, just say you’d like to see them a few videos on it as you enjoy their work.
The last video published by EmptyBox has 17,000 views. TeamVVV received 20,000 hits for their coverage of Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo. The first Nordschleife video by Inside Sim Racing brought in 28,000 views. By comparison, the most people ever playing Stock Car Extreme at one time is a pathetic 124. Out of those massive numbers of viewers, I’m sure at least 100 will say “what the heck, it’s $30” upon seeing footage of Stock Car Extreme, and give it a go.
Automobilista? What is that? Why do we need it? What purpose does this game serve over its identical twin Stock Car Extreme?