Five Sim Racing Rumors You Probably Forgot About

With the current platter of stories blowing up within the Sim Racing community, it’s easy to forget where our genre has come from. While the disastrous launch of Project CARS is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and the impending console release of Assetto Corsa serves as a reminder for developers to not bite off more than they can chew, the stories which once warranted massive message board discussions have now been lost to the sands of time. There’s no denying that it’s a slow news day, and as many of our North American readers are parked in front of their televisions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, why not take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the rumors that sent forums into a frenzy.

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What Happened to Midtown Madness?

Angel Studios ruled the late 1990’s PC gaming market with two PC-exclusive open world racers, titles which were published by none other than Microsoft as a showcase for what the Windows platform could achieve. Dubbed Midtown Madness, the expansive cities of Chicago, San Francisco, and London were turned into virtual playgrounds thanks to a plethora of creative game modes, and the long-forgotten MSN Gaming Zone was used to handle online racing functionality. The game received phenomenal reviews across the board in a time when review outlets were not used as a third party marketing resource, and most sim racers who have been around this scene for more than a few operating systems often look back fondly on the two Midtown Madness games.

The Rumor: Rights to develop Midtown Madness 3 were given to Digital Illusions of Battlefield 1942 fame, who released the game as an Xbox exclusive in the summer of 2003 to take advantage of the brand-new Xbox Live multiplayer service. Despite stellar reviews and a noticeable increase in graphical fidelity, Midtown Madness 3 marked the end of the franchise, and the brand remains a relic of late 1990’s automotive video gaming.

The Reality: Angel Studios is still making Midtown Madness games, though they’re clearly not under the Angel Studios or Midtown Madness labels. The team was purchased by the almighty Rockstar Games in 2003, and began releasing a line of open-world racing titles eerily similar to those that helped the studio rise to critical acclaim. Now under the Rockstar San Diego banner, the Midnight Club series picked up exactly where Midtown Madness left off and offered console gamers across all major platforms the exact same addicting experience once reserved for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Midnight Club Los Angeles was the final full release in a series of games spanning nearly a decade, however Rockstar San Diego is credited with playing an integral role in the development of Grand Theft Auto V.

As for the other games using the Madness branding, Monster Truck Madness became 4×4 Evolution, and Motocross Madness turned into the MX vs. ATV series of games.

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It Wasn’t Really EA’s Fault

The Need for Speed franchise began to face an identity crisis in the mid-2000’s, as Electronic Arts moved into uncharted territory with a franchise that had existed on a yearly basis in some form since 1994. Critical reception towards Need for Speed titles had been on a steady decline for several years, and Electronic Arts were simply running out of ideas on how to innovate a series that already had seen more identity changes than David Bowie. To rejuvenate the series, Electronic Arts brought PC racing sim developer Slightly Mad Studios on board, and tasked them with turning a pair of Need for Speed games into hardcore racing simulators for the console masses to compete with Forza and Gran Turismo. Unfortunately for sim racers, the game was a flop, shipping with several technical bugs and handling issues – requiring an entire portion of the community over at NoGripRacing.com to sit down and unfuck the game with various physics changes and unofficial community patches.

The Rumor: Electronic Arts forced Slightly Mad Studios to ship both Shift titles in an unfinished state, claiming that several features were disabled or left half-finished at the request of big bad EA for no apparent reason other than EA is stupid.

The Reality: Slightly Mad Studios proceeded to create a third entry in the Need for Speed Shift series without EA’s involvement, using funds gathered by both the community, as well as wealthy private investors. The idea was to develop a big-budget racing sim without the intrusive hand of a developer making boneheaded decisions about the end product that would anger the hardcore fans the game was intended for. Even with four years in development, 30,000 community beta testers, and the lack of an authoritarian publisher calling the shots on a game they don’t truly understand, Project CARS shipped in a state that implied there was virtually no quality assurance testing done on the title prior to release. Over ten patches have failed to rectify bugs that render the game virtually unplayable for anyone who uses the sim for more than a quick five-lap sprint race. EA clearly wasn’t the reason the Shift games sucked, the fault lies within Slightly Mad Studios itself.

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Where Did Jeremy Mayfield Go?

NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup was an attempt by EA Sports to copy some of the gameplay elements that had made NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona so successful a few years earlier. Instead of focusing primarily on the highest level of NASCAR racing – as had been the norm for several years prior – Chase for the Cup also included three other NASCAR series that compliment the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule throughout the year. The game is fondly remembered by diehard NASCAR fans for its massive career mode, offering an equal level of depth compared to Dirt to Daytona while boasting a more complete roster of licensed drivers and tracks.

The Rumor: Controversial Evernham Motorsports driver Jeremy Mayfield was originally intended to be the game’s cover athlete, a rumor heavily backed up by the intrusive Dodge branding on several loading screens and awkwardly re-named gameplay modes. Mayfield’s erratic behavior behind the scenes, and refusal to attend certain meetings with the EA Sports marketing department, caused for a last-minute switch to Chevrolet driver Kevin Harvick.

The Reality: As someone who’s played the shit out of EA Sports NASCAR titles back when they were brand new, EA Sports had a very real tendency to fuck up and omit one or two full-time drivers from the roster each year. Kerry Earnhardt was left out of NASCAR Thunder 2003 despite appearing in trailers, Tony Raines was left out of NASCAR Thunder 2004 despite appearing in the in-game tutorial videos, Bill Elliot was left out of NASCAR 06: Total Team Control despite appearing in preview screenshots, and Carl Edwards was left out of NASCAR 08 due to sponsorship conflicts. Pocono Raceway was also strangely left out of the game’s extensive track roster, indicating that EA Sports simply couldn’t finalize all licensing agreements before the required deadline. People simply noticed Mayfield’s absence because his 2004 campaign was rather successful – qualifying for NASCAR’s first ever post-season tournament following his infamous win at Richmond.

Meanwhile, Mayfield’s allegedly erratic behavior has been exposed as the result of an extensive smear campaign by NASCAR. Mayfield caused problems in the garage area during his time with the factory Dodge team for exposing the relationship between team owner Ray Evernham and development driver Erin Crocker, but Mayfield was eventually proven correct as the pair wed a few years following his departure from the team. The former driver of the #19 Dodge Stratus was also a victim of NASCAR’s zero-tolerance substance abuse policy, as despite having a prescription for both Adderall and Claritin D, refusing to become the face of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program warranted a carefully crafted backlash by NASCAR itself, labeling Mayfield as a methamphetamine addict.

Mayfield appeared in future iterations of their NASCAR series on consoles, indicating his omission was indeed the result of licensing deadlines not being met.

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Gran Turismo Destroys Enthusia in Sales, Polyphony Digital Hires Their Physics Guy

Released in 2005 for Sony’s extremely popular Playstation 2 home console, Enthusia Professional Racing by Konami was an independent attempt to steal some of Gran Turismo’s thunder. Fueled by the development ideology of “we think we can do it better”the same ideology that helped guide Kunos Simulazioni’s Assetto Corsa into the spotlight – the little-known indie sim racer is still praised by hardcore driving enthusiasts for the raw authenticity of the game’s physics model. However, like most unforgiving racing sims, Enthusia was a complete and utter commercial failure. Clueless reviewers from Gamespot attempting to turn competitive laps with a standard Dualshock controller blasted the game, explaining that:

Rear-wheel-drive cars are especially tough to drive in Enthusia, displaying a huge tendency for oversteer and requiring incredible amounts of patience (and driving touch) to be successful in. While the game touts an incredibly realistic physics engine, it’s hard to believe rear-wheel-drive cars are this twitchy in real life. As one colleague put it to us, “If rear-wheel-drive cars handled in real life the way they do in Enthusia, no one would ever buy one.”

The Rumor: Enthusia was a flop, but Polyphony Digital was so impressed by the level of detail in the game’s driving physics, lead physics developer Yutaka Ito was acquired in time for Gran Turismo’s jump to the Playstation 3.

The Reality: Several message boards appear to treat this claim as fact. Both GTPlanet and NeoGAF threads pop up mentioning this little piece of trivia when looking up “Yutaka Ito Polyphony Enthusia” on your favorite online search engine. While I’m not able to find how long Ito spent at Polyphony helping out with modern Gran Turismo releases, it appears that his guidance was lent to both Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo 6.

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iDT Almost Released a Modern Champ Car Sim

During the first five years of rFactor’s life span, the modding community exploded in ways never previously thought possible, with talented mod teams popping up left and right at a rate simply unmatched by other simulation communities. Mods created by some of these teams are still being updated and converted to other racing sims as they become available, displaying the full extent of how genuinely good the glory days of sim racing once were. Among the long list of semi-professional modding teams were a group based out of the United States, calling themselves iDT Simulations. The team specialized in several high quality modern Champ Car and historic Indy Car seasons, going through great lengths to model many temporary North American street circuits such as Toronto and Long Beach to complete the Champ Car experience.

The Rumor: Back in the late 2000’s, iDT Simulations were hard at work building a complete stand-alone Champ Car title with the official Champ Car license. Like what Reiza Studios have currently done with Stock Car Extreme and the upcoming Automobilista, the game would center around the world of American Open Wheel racing and feature all relevant support series while being powered by a tweaked version of the isiMotor engine – just like Automobilista.

The Reality: This rumor has been confirmed to us by a private source. iDT Simulations had indeed been building a retail Champ Car racing sim – a title which would have been very similar to Automobilista, albeit with a much more familiar selection of content. At some point near the end of the project, a disgruntled member of iDT financially sabotaged the project, and the work that had been done was systematically released as free rFactor mods for the sim racing community instead.

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48 thoughts on “Five Sim Racing Rumors You Probably Forgot About

  1. Enthusia was not flop because being hard/realistic, but because absolutely idiotic way of earning new cars (believe me I know, I finished the game).

    …. but yeah, elitist douche have to put it the other way.

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    1. I’d say the real reason was that Enthusia came out mere months after Gran Turismo 4, and the two had major content overlap. GT4 had about 80% of the cars in Enthusia plus 500 more. Both of Enthusia’s real-life tracks, Tsukuba and the Nordschleife, were in GT4 as well.

      The average gamer would have walked into a store and seen the new Gran Turismo game with some other game that looks just like the new Gran Turismo game with far less content next to it. Of course most would have bought GT4 in that situation.

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  2. “Meanwhile, Mayfield’s allegedly erratic behavior has been exposed as the result of an extensive smear campaign by NASCAR. Mayfield caused problems in the garage area during his time with the factory Dodge team for exposing the relationship between team owner Ray Evernham and development driver Erin Crocker, but Mayfield was eventually proven correct as the pair wed a few years following his departure from the team. The former driver of the #19 Dodge Stratus was also a victim of NASCAR’s zero-tolerance substance abuse policy, as despite having a prescription for both Adderall and Claritin D, refusing to become the face of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program warranted a carefully crafted backlash by NASCAR itself, labeling Mayfield as a methamphetamine addict.”

    Mayfield was not some victim of a Nascar conspiracy.Police found meth and stolen goods at his property and he pleaded guilty.

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    1. Didn’t they also start working on Racing Legends, which was supposed to surpass GPL as the ultimate vintage F1 sim?

      You can actually still visit the title’s website, but I’m too lazy to find the link.

      Unfortunately, developer communication ceased around 2004 or thereabouts.

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  3. There is absolutely no correlation about the state of pCARS and how EA handled the development of the Shift series and how they treated SMS.

    EA could have rush SMS to release both Shift, even if SMS launch a broken game pCARS years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Midnight Club’s actually so much a continuation of Midtown Madness that there’s a port of the New York track back to Midtown Madness 2. Traffic doesn’t work iirc (it’s been a decade plus) but the data formats are otherwise quite similar.

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    1. the iDT time was interesting to follow. That post brought back memories of the A1 GP mod, which was also being made but never made the cut to become a standalone title. iDT also killed a Grand-am game.

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  5. There was also Papyrus developed / published “NASCAR Manager” game and teaser trailer back in late 90s. I never heard of that game again, and cant find any trace of information.

    I would love to have NASCAR Manager game in spirit of Grand Prix Manager series.

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    1. Enthusia is a great game, but it’s hampered by it’s age and by some really weird design choices. That being said, if you have a PS2 and a wheel that works with it, I would thoroughly recommend it.

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  6. SHIFT: 3 millions copies
    SHIFT 2: 4 millions copies
    PCARS: 1.5 millions copies (so far)
    Assetto Corsa: 1.2 millions copies (so far)
    rFactor 2: 2 copies (one purchased by mistake)
    GSCE: 1 copy (but then refunded)

    …don’t think you need a calculator to decide what’s a “success” and what’s a “flop”. :°D

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    1. Good marketing and the fanatics bastards of wmd that make any bad opinion to vanish can lead to great sales. Simply play the game, check the lies from all these bastards that never came true,see the bugs, and you will see that flop is a small word to describe this pos.

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      1. You are talking bullshits too.
        When a game is in shit condition all these game related sits blew up. But this didn’t happened with pcars. There was these outrages here and there and that’s it. Everyone is happy. The biggest complain was the performance with amd but they sorted out…
        I keep seeing these bug videos but for me there are no bugs. I just play and that’s it. I don’t care these nitpicking shits people talking about. I’m just playing.
        Outside of simracing shill community everyone just recommend pcars. Also project cars is the only game with perfect occulus rift support.
        So you can hate it all day. You can keep searching for bugs or shits in the end of the day you waste your time while the others just playing the game.

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      2. In a way you’re right. Some people are too over themselves and restrain their enjoyment for over hyped complaints. And applies to many games.

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      3. If it was bad, none would play it, while pcars (with AC and iRacing) is the most sim played today.. while those others (iRacing & co.) have like 10 people playing.. in a lucky day.

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    2. A few words about Assetto Corsa’s physics limitations.

      Modern openwheelers can be very stiff … i mean extremely stiff, springs and ARBs (dampers as well)! and Assetto Corsa has an engine limitations that doesn’t allow using high suspension rates (causes weird bugs)!

      Interactive aerodynamics physics is a must for an openwheeler, rear aero depends on what’s happening at the front and the rear not only the rear! and vice versa (interaction between front wing and diffuser for example)

      Tyre model is not well explained and needs more variables to be added, to get realistic grip and temperatures/pressure behaviour! You can’t cook accurate slicks with it.

      Lack of setup options possibilities in general

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    3. So, then, since you don’t like to mind the bugs, doesn’t mean they are not there… May I say bullshit FOR YOU, but I am not bullshiting the ppl saying that everything is ok when it is not. Especially the wmd bastards.

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    1. Next year we’ll have pcars2… and everyone will buy it, including the kids who are spitting on pcars here today. It’s the classic internet kids: hate today, but then give your ass away a minute after.
      You will see the sales numbers next year… 😉

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      1. You will choke on that man… Pcars 2 I will not even download it from torrents… If ppl support the wmd and sms sons of bitches again, after the lies and bullshits, they deserve what they get…

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      2. Well, considering that with a likelihood of 99% it will not be out by the end of 2017… Although I play the game myself I have to agree that the amount of bugs in the game have cost it considerable punch. There are areas that shine though, f.e. the time and weather system which is kinda unique across the whole market. Also, if you’re a player with a focus on offline gaming you really can enjoy the game as (while sucidal at selected opportunities) the AI behind you is able to keep you on the back foot.

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  7. The physics of Assetto Corsa are not of simulation value, when you compare it to the way a racing driver and racing team and even vehicle manufacturers can use rFactor and rFactor 2’s physics to develop their cars and their drivers in a way that provides accurate data which they can rely on to use at races.

    To give you an example. All our race team clients and even our series clients, they don’t only use rFactor for track familiarization. They also use it to test setup data before they go to an event, they use it to test potential new part data, by developing new brakes or new engine performances and testing it in the game before they actually commit to building it in real life. rF1 and rF2 provide far higher accuracy for those things than any other simulation on the market. When it comes to Assetto Corsa, their game is marketed for a set audience which covers the Semi-Arcade side. When I drive rF1 or rF2, I’m always in a serious state of mind, I can’t just go out on the track and run a few laps. It is too simulation based and I treat it as such. I work on my setups, I push to find every tenth I can throughout a lap. I analyze too much. When I play Assetto Corsa, I can easily go in, pick a car and track, chill back and drive using my Xbox360 controller and not give a care. The physics seem very much like Forza Motorsport 5, a console game physics HOWEVER, Kunos has done a great job to mix the two styles of physics to provide more sense of simulation for the simulation fans, but cut down to the wire, rFactor 2’s physics engine is by far the most simulation based physics engine using real life aero and physical data that no other title has come close to.

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  8. (Disclaimer: I haven’t even watched videos of MC3)
    I’m posting to recommend Midnight Club 2 (Steam) if you have a slow game day or slow article-writing day. It’s not *this* simmy, yet still simmy enough to make arcade-like fun in a way that Evolution Studios ought to learn from, I love it with wheel and pedals. Simmy enough to make EA’s racers look like a Cruisin’ USA beta with unfinished car handling and controls, I’ve got plenty of time riding a deluxe cabinet of that, beer in hand, to confirm it’s an accurate comparison.

    Others have tried to re-create the MC2 experience of crazy stunts and game-modes in tight busy cities and only MC-fan usermissions in GTA Online have come close. It oozes of fun, vehicles that do not feel like pre-alpha to drive, and wishing that Midnight Club 4 would happen 😦

    Keep up the good work.

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  9. I’ve got a great idea for an article –
    five Assetto Corsa rumours that get repeatedly posted in the comments section and are not even true.

    #1: you can’t choose your skin in multiplayer
    this has never been true. You just need to select your skin in single player, book your spot on a multiplayer server, and you get the skin you chose.

    #2: Assetto Corsa has an engine limitation that prevents high suspension stiffness
    this was true until mid-2015. Then they upped the engine simulation frequencies and now very stiff vehicles can be simulated.

    …..

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  10. I can’t believe I just came across this article. Not sure ‘disgruntled member of iDT financially sabotaged the project’ is a completely accurate summation of what happened…from my recollections (including email, MSN convos, etc.)

    Wasn’t exactly near the end of the project, either. Anyways, it was a nice trip down memory lane.

    Like

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