It’s important to give credit where credit is due, and today we here at PRC.net are sending a rare package of good vibes to the folks at Reiza Studios, who earlier this afternoon outlined a very realistic development plan for the final months of Automobilista’s Early Access phase. Focusing on bug fixing, free content, and implementing additional features before pushing several downloadable content packages on the already small userbase, the lengthy post was a breath of fresh air compared to the delusions of grandeur displayed by rival sim racing developers.
The entire post by Renato Simioni can be read on the official Reiza Studios forums, so I’ll obviously advise you to skim through the source material before we get going, but I’d like to draw attention to how the post was structured, and why their development “road map” has put me in an optimistic mood despite my own personal complaints about the game.
As usual we will also continue trying to improve the existing platform by ironing out as many issues adding as many improvements as we possibly can so people can enjoy AMS as seamlessly as possible, including the expansion of our user manual (the partial version already available as launch option from Steam).
First, Reiza are dedicated to ironing out bugs, as well as fleshing out the already lengthy instruction manual included in the Automobilista Support folder. It’s a given that every developer team aims to iron out the various bugs found by the community, but the fact that the game’s Early Access phase is scheduled to end by April means we won’t be dealing with a prolonged science project that Project CARS and Assetto Corsa owners were subjected to last year. At least, I hope.
New builds should roll out every week for the beta, and every fortnight for the release version of AMS, generally in between Thursday and Friday. A new build is schedule to be deployed for the public release version of AMS tomorrow (18/03).
Second, Reiza plan to stick to an absolute schedule when it comes to delivering title updates. There is no longer a lengthy waiting period spent aimlessly browsing the forums to offset the boredom of waiting for the patch – community members more or less know when an update is scheduled to arrive, and can periodically check to see if an issue that affects them has been fixed. I like this.
One of our prioritary goals for Early Access is to develop resources to facilitate, complement & stimulate the community´s continuing engagement with Automobilista.
To this end we are developing a Web Portal, featuring:
- Web-based Multiplayer Lobby: In addition to the current Matchmaker from the Steam client, users will be able to view & join multiplayer sessions from this Reiza web portal (without necessarily launching the game first). This lobby will eventually be accessible from in-game too.
- Official rooms for public multiplayer races, featuring a constantly rotating schedule of official content;
- Leaderboards linked to in-game Time Trial Mode: Set your time in Time Trial and it will immediately sync with the leaderboard for that car/track combo under your Steam name (and update whenever you manage to improve your best time);
- League-Finder : A system for leagues to register their championships in order for potential participants to locate them based on the desired series and schedule
- Official seasonal competitions tied to the real racing series we represent, presenting some special prizes and opportunities to bridge the gap from virtual to real racing.
Parallel to this, we continue to work in the product itself – AMS core focus is to deliver a cohesive racing simulation platform with a large variety of cars and tracks and advanced simulation features.
Third, Reiza essentially want to try building a competitive community around Automobilista, and all of these extra little features will be free of charge. The concept they have proposed is a hybrid between Race2Play and RaceRoom Racing Experience, and of course only time will tell how well all of this stuff works when the public has access to it, but it’s nice to see a developer understand that it’s time to try and experiment with the social side of racing simulators. Currently, both Stock Car Extreme and Automobilista are nearly deserted when it comes to online play, so watching Reiza take note of this and attempt to improve the situation is much appreciated. Again, I have no fucking idea whether it will catch on to the extent Reiza is hoping for, but it’s nice that they’ve seen how the sim racing community reacted to Assetto Corsa being light on features, and have applied that knowledge to their own product.
Of course, there’s a bunch of new content coming, both as free updates to the vanilla package, as well as premium DLC packs. I’m not going to list each new car and track, as Reiza have already gone over it on their own website, but the heavy hitters are Virginia International Raceway, an unlicensed Lotus 49, and an unlicensed Porsche GT3 entry. Unfortunately, Historic Imola has been yanked from the base content of Stock Car Extreme and placed into an upcoming DLC package, but it appears that this is a one-off situation.
However, given that Reiza plans to release their next title at some point in 2017, I’m unsure how the sim racing community will react to premium DLC packs for a game with a lifespan of less than one year. I can’t imagine Reiza will have a comprehensive DLC plan like Project CARS or Forza Motorsport, but with how much of the game still centers around the South American racing scene, they’re going to need a hefty dose of international content to attract more sim racers to Automobilista. I assume the Area 51 forum members have been teased with some pretty pictures, but unfortunately nobody’s sent those to us as of yet.
Now for those who are still on the fence about Automobilista, and are wondering why everyone’s losing their shit over this title despite it looking like basically every other isiMotor sim, I have to say that it’s pretty good, but there are indeed some issues indicating the Early Access phase is justified.
- The AI drivers require a massive overhaul. This may be an issue with the source material itself – the isiMotor engine has never handled offline racing particularly well – but as it stands, Automobilista is atrocious to play in an offline setting. The AI cars simply can’t stay on the track or go more than a few corners without looking like genuine idiots, leading to immersion-breaking scenarios reminiscent of Assetto Corsa’s continuous offline woes. It’s really not good offline, unless you’re in like a test session or something with a few AI cars lapping on different areas of the track.
- The framerate is dodgy. I assume Reiza are working on this, but the minor graphical improvements and post processing effects implemented into Automobilista have introduced microstuttering on machines that could run Stock Car Extreme at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, I’m one of the people who have been affected, and it’s made this game extremely difficult to play when you’ve grown accustomed to Reiza’s last title performing in such a sublime manner.
- The new Heads Up Display sometimes doesn’t work. Reiza have implemented a community modification for rFactor into the default Automobilista install, and it doesn’t always perform up to par. While it features incredible functionality far beyond what the default isiMotor HUD provides, and a tool allows you to customize the layout to your liking, occasionally some of the DynHUD elements have a tendency to bug the fuck out. The iRacing-style delta bar turns off during the final lap of a qualifying session, occasionally the isiMotor black box fails to cycle to the delta screen, and individual pieces of the HUD blink in and out when a new user enters the room online. It all looks very tacky and incomplete.
- The new cars are difficult to drive for inexperienced sim racers. Automobilista’s main selling point was offering a more international selection of content compared to the South American love-letter that was Stock Car Extreme, but many of the new additions are proving to be a challenge for all but the most confident of sim racers. The Formula V10 is simply too fast for most drivers to handle aside from a few solo lap sessions, RallyCross serves to confuse people, the Holden Commodore caused not one but three leagues to fold in three months, and the Stadium Super Truck is rage-quit material for all but a handful of sim racers.
- It might not be ready for leagues. As websites like Race2Play begin to implement Automobilista into their rotation of supported racing simulators, the best of the best have already discovered a few exploits within the new list of content, leading to absurd lap times and lopsided races
Regardless, the immediate plans for Automobilista are certainly promising, and it’s to be expected that most of these issues will be ironed out. Whether the title warrants an indulgence in yet another isiMotor product is something we will evaluate to the fullest extent when the title graduates from Early Access in May.