Those who rely on more mature publications to receive their sim racing news are well aware that the gang over at RaceDepartment have published a series of interviews with major players within the sim racing genre throughout the spring of 2016. Opening with a two-part interview featuring key figures from Kunos Simulazioni detailing their future plans for Assetto Corsa – the little Italian racing simulator that could – RaceDepartment have now shifted gears and recently published a lengthy interview with Tim Wheatley of Image Space Incorporated. Long thought to be the pinnacle of modern PC racing simulators, rFactor 2 is held in especially high regard by the veteran virtual drivers among us – who claim the game’s overall simulation value is second to none despite any tangible following.
However, after skimming through the interview with Tim Wheatley, it appears the fans who praise rFactor 2 have more faith in the game than the developers themselves. As others on Reddit have already pointed out, the overall demeanor displayed by Mr. Wheatley throughout the interview is concerning to say the least. With a comically small active community, and no tangible plans to compete with what other sims are offering, the future of rFactor 2 looks incredibly grim.
Tim’s responses to even the most basic of questions read as if Bart Simpson has fired up Lee Carvello’s Putting Challenge. Will rFactor 2 see a switch to DirectX 11 in the future? No. Are there any plans to implement Oculus Rift support like virtually every other racing sim? No. Is there a release date for the Nissan GT500, a car teased all the way back in 2013? No. Will you add any new content to the game? No, only third party content we’ve outsourced to other people. Will we see dirt or marble pickup on tires? No. Will we be able to adjust traction control as part of the car’s setup? No.
There’s basically not a lot to get excited for in regards to rFactor 2; the sim will remain in it’s current state until people move on to something else – whenever something else comes along. And ISI doesn’t really care either way, which is a bit strange given how these guys essentially created the entire modern sim racing line-up in one way or another.
Yet the final part of the interview generates some extremely interesting answers from Tim, displaying that the team at Image Space Incorporated haven’t really taken an objective look at how their title has performed, and where they should be going if they don’t want all their effort spent on the project to go to waste. While simulators such as Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, and DiRT Rally have managed to reel in a massive amount of customers, rFactor 2 is essentially a ghost town for multiple different reasons.
Wheatley is asked to share a piece of exclusive news, just for the readers of RaceDepartment. Tim responds by saying they’re seriously looking at the idea of paid mods:
We are looking into possibility of paid mods as part of rF2. I’ve mentioned this a few times but it’s getting serious now. There’s no reason someone shouldn’t be able to give the community what it wants when developers aren’t able to.
This is absurd. For starters, basically nobody has bothered to create any mods for rFactor 2, because the platform has been deemed too difficult for all but a handful of people. In reality, most mod teams that spent years designing projects for rFactor, instead moved to Assetto Corsa as it allowed them to quickly convert already finished projects into a platform with a large player base – ensuring their mod would be downloaded and enjoyed by as many people as possible. Sim Racing community members believe rFactor 2 is this extremely well-built modding platform – and they’re right that the physics engine is objectively better – but the scene just hasn’t exploded in the way that propelled the original into cult classic status. Sure, the group over at UnitedRacingDesign have pumped out a mixture of exceptional unlicensed payware mods, but aside from the IMSA Toyota Celica and a few good tracks, there simply isn’t a modding scene for a game intended to be a modding platform.
And Wheatley thinks that somehow payware will save this game? Yeah, no. The only press rFactor 2 has gotten in the past year outside of sim racing news outlets is the atrocious display by Formula E drivers using a privately commissioned MAK-Corp mod. If Formula E paid for this and immediately dropped it after one race in favor of a much more complete title, what makes ISI think your average sim racer will pay for this?
Next, we find ourselves reading another interesting quote from Tim Wheatley, this time regarding how the title has performed on Steam.
I guess the biggest recent event is Steam, and we are pretty happy with how well the transition to Steam has gone. We encourage people to look into the Workshop as we continue to find new ways to make it a bigger part of rF2!
The Steam transition didn’t go well, so I’m not sure which world these guys are living in, but it certainly isn’t ours. rFactor 2’s launch on Steam was a demonstrable disaster, with hardcore sim racers rushing across message boards far and wide to warn others specifically not to activate the product on Steam for a plethora of reasons. The pricing model confused people, content packages were automatically installed without consent, and widespread crashing issues were reported. When the dust finally settled and Image Space Incorporated ironed out many of the bugs plaguing the Steam release, raw data indicated rFactor 2 was the least successful modern racing sim ever released on Steam. This is not an old picture, this data comes from March 20th, 2016.
On what planet are those numbers considered a success? How is this not a blatant sign to change the ideology fueling the development of your product? Four games of the six games on this list are powered by ISI technology, but the game developed by ISI themselves – intended to be a showcase of everything the team has learned and achieved – isn’t even a blip on the radar. Even worse, when a news outlet comes along and asks if you’re doing anything to keep your title relevant, you answer “no” to everything they throw at you – and then expect people who aren’t playing your game to start paying for mods that aren’t being made.
You’re right Smudi, how in the fuck is there virtually zero outrage over this? ISI has basically thrown in the towel in the most public way possible.