A slow news day in the world of sim racing has yielded quite an interesting Reader Submission here on PRC.net, as a prior anonymous contributor responsible for previous articles discussingthe sim racing modding scene has written to us again – this time about what he perceives to be rFactor 2’s biggest problem. It’s time to bust out your flame shields; this one will be messy.
If you poke around the sim racing community for a bit, you’ll begin to see an interesting trend – many sim racers believe the biggest problem with rFactor 2 are the game’s dated graphics.
Personally, I don’t believe this is an issue.
Historically, the hardcore sim racers of yesteryear were not all that impressed with shiny graphics; they would instead value highly accurate physics above all else. The success of Live for Speed over a decade ago proves this observation of mine. Virtual drivers saw validity in the raw authenticity of the physics, so they could temporarily ignore the cartoonish look and boxy cars – opting to instead focus on the sheer driving aspect, which was phenomenal.
The biggest problem with rFactor 2, and the reason the game simply hasn’t caught on to the extent of the original, is that it’s notoriously difficult to mod. And without good mods seeing a public release on a monthly basis, players are left with little choices when it comes time to find something to drive within the sim. Now back in the days of the original rFactor, the ISI engine was really the only thing in town when it came to having some sort of open modding platform. So Image Space Incorporated, who didn’t make much of an effort to disclose how to build cars for their game, were overcome by the collective efforts of the community more or less reverse-engineering the game. Lengthy threads were written, free tools were created, and it became easy for any average modder to sit down and build something special.
The team over at ISI didn’t learn anything from the actions of the community, nor did they even acknowledge what was happening at all. This is partially ISI’s fault, and partially the community’s fault.
ISI made the error of failing to understand that most people don’t have the time or inclination to sit down and reverse engineer their new game, when competing titles such as Assetto Corsa make the modding aspect extremely easy by default. They seem to be under the impression that most people just don’t do it because it’s time consuming to model and configure a car, a point proven by Tim Wheatley’s recent interview stating that he expects payware mods to help carry rFactor 2 into the future. Tim firmly believes, at least in my opinion, that if someone is driven by money, instead of just wasting their free time, they would actually do it. It’s true that rFactor 2 is probably the most complete platform, and arguably the one with the most complex physics from a customization point of view, but when it’s all said and done, most mods are driven by the modders desire of putting one particular car in a game. If they can achieve that so much faster in other games, they will ignore less competent physics just to do it – as seen even back in the old rFactor days.
But the community is also partially to blame, because as I said in the beginning, they only seem to cry about Direct X improvements and a lack of content. The community displays daily, on various message boards and in response to rFactor related articles, that their main concerns regard elements not related to developing a modding platform. And Tim seems to be upset even with that, as I detected some resentment in his interview when he said ISI merely created what the community asked for. Well, indeed, they sure have built a game that the community wanted, but they based that on the fact that people already knew how to create well-rounded mods for the original rFactor – complete with all sorts of fancy third party modding tools.
When rFactor 2 first launched, a portion of the dedicated community immediately pointed out that it was hard to create new content, and that tools would be welcome. To be fair, Image Space Incorporated made a bit of an effort to help, but not nearly enough to help breathe life into a brand new game. And this dedicated group was soon buried under all of the viral marketers and crowds comparing shader model levels in pointless YouTube videos.
If ISI wants quality mods coming out left and right for rFactor 2, they need to do what the sim racing community was forced to do a decade ago and create tools to help people get started.
And one last thing, drop the stupid subscription model. Please and thank you.
As stated in previous entries, the modding side of sim racing is an area I’m not familiar with at all, but this summary of rFactor 2’s biggest issue makes a lot of sense on paper. The original rFactor was fueled by community members busting their ass to create new content for the game, and from what I remember about the original incarnation of RaceSimCentral, modders were hell-bent on making rFactor the be-all, end-all of PC racing simulators – there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter.
If that scene was aided by the creation of third party tools that obviously took a lot of time and effort to develop, of course nobody will want to do it all over again when titles such as Assetto Corsa exist – making things extremely easy compared to rFactor 2.