It’s not very often I agree with the snobbish attitude of the sim racing community, but today, I’ve found an exception.
Occasionally the large and diverse group of virtual motorsports connoisseurs that make up our hobby have a very real tendency to to explode into territory only experienced by commemorative coin collectors. Threads spanning multiple pages serve to discuss the varying ethical stances on “stolen mods”, users boast about contributing to crowdfunding campaigns benefiting games they don’t actually play, and some sim racers have literally been banned for running liveries deemed “too offensive.” As a foul-mouthed shit disturber who isn’t too interested in staying on the politically correct side of intangible message board politics, watching users discuss some of these extremely obscure talking points at length is laughable – it’s splitting hairs taken to an entirely new level. There are some days where sim racers are literally pissed off at things that it takes a genuine effort to get pissed off about. It’s meta as fuck.
Yet as I sit here tonight pumping out this entry, I’m thankful that the sim racing community has the ability to throw a collective shit-fit over virtually nothing. This time, they have a legitimate argument.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months or so, you’ll know damn well that Reiza Studios have released Automobilista on Steam’s Early Access platform. The game is powered by the trusty isiMotor engine, which has seen action on a yearly basis in some form since Sports Car GT back in 1999. As Image Space Incorporated intentionally designed their masterpiece of a racing simulator engine to accommodate third-party mods with relative ease, there’s basically been a massive modding scene surrounding any title using the isiMotor powerplant immediately upon launch. The add-on community that spawned with the release of Sports Car GT eventually migrated to F1 Challenge 99-02, moving on to rFactor in 2006, GTR Evolution in 2008, and eventually to Stock Car Extreme in 2012.
To ensure each game had a huge selection of content upon release, and in some cases to offset the woeful list of fictional content shipping with the default version of the game, many modding teams resorted to quickly converting mods from one game to another. Due to obvious advances in technology, third party mods which floored the community in one era would be completely underwhelming when ported to a new platform. Yeah, there were a whole lot of good mods, and I’m not taking away the spotlight from the truly great stuff from a handful of different mod teams, but there were also a whole lot of shitty conversions. Finding good mods for rFactor or GTR Evolution more or less became a game unto itself.
Automobilista marks the next entry in this list of isiMotor titles which allow for the implementation of third party cars and tracks, and already our boy Patrick Giranthon has released a collection of four stellar tracks for the title which serve to flesh out a primarily South American selection. While not a partnership that’s been officially announced aside from hints being dropped on various sim racing forums, rumors are swirling that Reiza Studios are working hand-in-hand with community member Giranthon to circumvent licensing restrictions and add a selection of recognizable tracks to the brand new title. The small budget and obscure source material basically doesn’t allow for Reiza to go out and license Monza or the Nurburgring for the list of vanilla content within Automobilista, so working with Patrick and releasing the add-on tracks in a high-traffic environment such as RaceDepartment is essentially a legal loophole.
But sim racers have drawn a line on the quality of content arriving in Automobilista. After sifting through years worth of half-assed conversions for F1 Challenge, rFactor, GTR Evolution, and Stock Car Extreme – over a decade of putting up with content clearly not polished for public consumption on a new platform – sim racers are fighting back. Basically anything released for Automobilista over on RaceDepartment without the proper tender love & care needed to flourish on the new platform is being given horrid reviews by a community who are as a whole unwilling to play conversions of conversions. And I’m cool with this.
The lone mod still remaining in the Automobilista category is a conversion of the Enduracers Flat 6 package for rFactor, which had been hastily converted to Stock Car Extreme using a freeware tool, and then again converted to Automobilista. Most users reported graphical issues, force feedback issues, and even crashing in some instances. The 2015 DTM mod, which also appeared on RaceDepartment, was removed after a short period of time for similar reasons.
Lastly, after Patrick Giranthon released four extremely impressive tracks with Monza, Spa, Barcelona, and the Nurburgring GP circuit, a conversion of the Nordschleife – the most desirable location in all of sim racing – was blasted by the community members for not being up to standards.
I don’t mind this sudden push by the community to be better than the rFactor or Stock Car Extreme modding scene. After over a decade spent gobbling up conversions derived from other conversions of content which is now old enough to take a babysitting course, there comes a point where some of the old stuff simply doesn’t cut it anymore. With Reiza taking certain measures to ensure Automobilista is a step above the source material it has been derived from, it’s only appropriate that the community mirrors Reiza’s ideology with this title in how the modding scene is handled. Yes, it probably hurts a few people’s feelings, as they indeed spent a bit of time getting the damn thing to work in Automobilista, but the last thing sim racers want is an Assetto Corsa-like environment, where basically everything is a rip of questionable quality. It’s snobby as fuck to unify and aggressively pursue those quickly shoveling shit into the new Reiza title, but it’s to prevent something like this from becoming the norm:
Of all the things sim racers get upset about on a weekly basis, this is one of the few times where I feel their cohesive anger is justified. For once, I am not browsing sim racing forums while on my break at Subway, laughing at how petty some of the long-winded complaints are. This one actually makes sense, and adopting Reiza’s ideology behind Automobilista for the modding community surrounding the game will only benefit the title in the long run.