Just one of these articles is one too many – as it indicates a serious problem within the Sim Racing scene that we seem to be the only site talking about – but alas, here we are with the third installment in PRC’s Developer Meltdown series. Whereas our first entry highlighted Ian Bell’s angry tirades towards unsatisfied customers after the disappointing release of Project CARS, and our second entry documented Stefano Casillo slowly admitting Assetto Corsa wouldn’t have key features the community felt were necessary, today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with any gameplay elements whatsoever.
Unless you’ve been sleeping in the back of your Ford Focus for the previous two weeks, you’ll know all too well that there’s been some pretty wild stuff transpiring within the world of sim racing. Formula One Management, the multi-purpose entity which controls the licensing aspects of the Formula One brand, began cracking down on mods they deemed to be in violation of copyright & trademark laws over at RaceDepartment. As site owner Bram Hengeveld kindly pointed out to us, nearly 80 community modifications for Automobilista, F1 2013, and F1 2014 were removed at the request of Formula One – meaning several livery updates and other oddities only meant to enhance a user’s gaming experience were yanked from RaceDepartment’s extensive library of add-on content. This pissed off a whole bunch of community, as while Formula One had every legal right to take action against these individuals, the entity suffered no demonstrable financial loss from what these hardcore sim racers were doing. The downloads pulled from public consumption were primarily livery updates, and to use these livery updates, you needed to spend the money on an official Formula One product in the first place. In short, it was hard to sympathize with Formula One – the move could easily be described as “power tripping”, and gave longtime F1 fans yet another reason to say nasty things about Mr. Ecclestone’s operation.
But after a few days of silence, Formula One Management struck again. Automobilista, a rather niche racing simulator by Reiza Studios – boasting just over one hundred active players at any point in the day – was suddenly removed from the Steam Online Store. Reiza declined to comment who exactly had filed the DMCA request, but circumstantial evidence pointed to the same culprit behind the RaceDepartment ordeal earlier in the week – Formula One themselves. Given the fact that Bernie’s boys know full well that sim racing is a thing, and they traditionally have kept a close eye on the community, it comes as no surprise that occasionally they drop the hammer when the scene least expects it.
However, in this situation, it was difficult to feel bad for Reiza Studios.
Operating on a small budget and unable to secure big name brands or exclusive licenses, Reiza Studios opted to travel a road commonly used by the Grand Theft Auto series of games. Instead of pursuing expensive licenses with Holden, Ferrari, or any other number of prestigious models, the team at Reiza Studios would simply create Chinese knock-off vehicles based on iconic real world race cars. The Holden Commodore V8 Supercar became the Super V8, a 2014-spec Formula One entry became known as the Formula Extreme, and Ayrton Senna’s 1988 Mclaren MP4/4 became a Formula Classic. In most cases, even the liveries remained near-identical to that of the original car, save for the primary sponsor logos being swapped out for generic Reiza Studios and Cockpit Extreme decals.
What ended up happening, is that Reiza Studios failed to stray far enough from the source material, and the legal team representing Formula One Management figured it out just by looking at a few screenshots on the game’s homepage. Combined with the partial list of current and historic Formula One tracks available in Automobilista, sim racers are well aware that Reiza have essentially built a hardcore Formula One simulator without Formula One’s permission. And unless you have acquired the correct licenses as seen in rFactor 2 or iRacing, you can’t do this. It’s illegal.
The story blew up, and the sim racing community was split between two distinct ideologies. The first group believed Reiza had done nothing wrong and Formula One were once again power tripping on the little guys, while the second group merely cited copyright laws and pointed out that what Reiza had done with the content featured in Automobilista indeed deserved a smackdown courtesy of Formula One’s legal team. Objectively, the second group is correct. Reiza made little to no effort to hide the fact that there were a shitload of unlicensed Formula One cars in their software, and again, that’s illegal. That will not stop the first group from being blind fanboys. That’s okay. This place thrives on those individuals talking out of their asses. It’s funny.
Renato Simioni – the key public figure over at Reiza Studios – declined to comment on the extent of the team’s issues with Formula One Management, but eventually took to RaceDepartment’s forums and began voicing his frustration with the whole ordeal.
Even though it can be demonstrated that Formula One Management occasionally lurk the various sim racing message boards and news outlets, throwing cease and desist notices at everyone from rFactor modders to the browser-based BATRacer, Simioni points the finger at “disgruntled” community members for secretly working with Formula One to carry out a personal vendetta against Reiza Studios. That’s right – a developer who barely tried to hide the fact that he included a plethora of unlicensed Formula One content in his game assumes this is all just a bunch of trolls from 4Chan or a similar medium trying to fuck with him – even though Formula One have consistently shown up unprovoked and contacting them as an average Joe is notoriously difficult. Simioni ends the post by stating this situation may change how their business operates, and that “there just isn’t enough money in the type of products we’ve been making to be worth this kind of hassle.”
I don’t know about you, but at least the way I myself interpret it, the idea of closing up shop appears to have been tossed around. I get a lot of shit for fear-mongering, but that’s what I got out of that final statement there.
So a few community members obviously poke and prod Simioni for more information, and he complies:
Simioni again believes that the sudden removal of Automobilista from Steam is “indirectly related to an environment where destructive attitudes for the sake of attention, fun, and giggles are celebrated” – and several people have messaged me over the past few days saying things like “Renato is blaming you for their game being removed” – so I can only assume he’s talking about us. Now whether that means me as a person, or just the guys chilling out in the comments section while taking a dump at work, I don’t really know, but the safe guess is that he’s referring to PRC in some way.
Which is cute, because circumstantial evidence should indicate to anyone with a functioning brain that we aren’t the culprit:
- Formula One has gone after New Star Games in 2009, and VirtualR.net in 2014.
- Formula One has gone after RaceDepartment and asked them to remove nearly 80 community mods.
- There are six seasons of unlicensed Formula One cars available in Automobilista, to the point where exact car numbers and even the Martini stripes on Williams entries have been faithfully recreated.
- Three days after the RaceDepartment ordeal, Automobilista was removed from Steam due to a copyright claim.
- PRC.net actively pushes Reiza’s products, lists them in their Sim Racing Buyer’s Guide as sims you should buy without question, and even attempted to run a league on their platform. I mean, the league failed, but we sure as hell tried Goddamnit!
Yep, totally sounds like the folks at PRC.net are the masterminds behind this saga!
Oh wait, no it doesn’t.