The past few weeks have been an extremely bumpy ride for the sim racing community. What began as Formula One Management merely flexing their muscles on unsuspecting modders resulted in a situation where an entire racing simulator was temporarily yanked from the Steam Online Marketplace over a DMCA notice sent to Valve. To make matters worse, the average sim racer lacked any concrete knowledge of copyright regulations, leading to many discussions on the matter descending into a flurry of uninformed individuals advocating on behalf of their favorite racing simulator, simply because it was a game they enjoyed playing. In the end, the game eventually did re-appear on the Steam marketplace, albeit with a 750 megabyte patch serving to fix certain errors, and now there are instead more questions than answers.
Here’s what happened, in case you missed it:
Formula One Management surprised everybody by suddenly showing up on the scene and forcing Race Department to remove nearly 80 different modifications spread across three different titles – a move many felt was unwarranted, as the individuals weren’t even making any money off of these creations and simply did it for the love of the game. No less than a week later, Automobilista, a simulator featuring six seasons of generic Formula One machinery painted up to closely resemble several real-world grids, was taken off of Steam completely. While Reiza Studios themselves, as well as all major sim racing media outlets failed to address the issue directly for an extended period of time, we came out almost instantly and said “yeah, there’s a whole bunch of unlicensed shit in Automobilista, and Formula One Management probably came knocking after learning about the title during their first cease and desist campaign earlier in the week.” Everyone else remained silent.
Two weeks later, when the game was finally put back up on Valve’s marketplace, changes to the game’s generic Formula One content had indeed been made – many liveries were altered to differentiate themselves from blatantly ripping off real-world identities. Some of the new liveries are really fucking ugly, especially the baby poop green McLaren. Regardless, the situation has been rectified, and Reiza Studios is free to continue developing Automobilista – a game not a whole lot of people play, but a game many people appear to enjoy.
Here’s where it gets ugly.
Because of how quick we were to jump on the story, and because we pointed out that Formula One Management were fully within their rights to issue a DMCA claim on a game that was essentially a Formula One title with a few less tracks and a couple knock-off sponsor logos, many people grew extremely upset with us. While I genuinely enjoy Reiza products, encourage people to buy Reiza products, and even tried running a league with a Reiza product, selling six entire seasons of Formula One cars in Automobilista with little aside from the primary sponsor logos to differentiate them from the real thing was illegal. This wasn’t something you could really defend; everyone with more than a handful of functioning brain cells knew full well what Reiza Studios were doing.
And yet, as the above image demonstrates, people legitimately tried. Not only did they play dumb and pretend like the cars in Automobilista did not resemble any Formula One car in the slightest, the finger was then pointed at us – by none other than Reiza Studios themselves. In what has now become a three part trilogy dubbed Developer Meltdowns, Renato Simioni of Reiza Studios implied that us here at PRC.net – or one of our readers – intentionally tipped off Formula One Management about the content within Automobilista, despite the game’s promotional material consisting of numerous screenshots showcasing the Formula One content.
As the figurehead of PRC.net, a lot of our readers probably believe that this kind of stuff gets to me. It doesn’t. The more I continued to monitor other discussions of the situation on various message boards within the sim racing community, our close group of Teamspeak brothers realized we were merely dealing with yet another sim racing cult; the same mentality fueling the excessive shilling of Project CARS and Assetto Corsa throughout 2015 had now infected yet another fanbase. When you read forum posts from Reiza Studios supporters who are willing to enter a financial domination-like relationship with a game developer, you start realizing that all of the negativity and false accusations – such as sim racers claiming you’re using multiple IP’s to post fake “anti-Reiza” comments – are coming from forum personalities like the gentleman below:
But of course, it didn’t stop there. Obviously, the rest of the sim racing media was forced to report on the issue – a game being yanked from Steam is a pretty big deal after all – and when they did, I was personally astounded at the way they chose to present things.
Race Department literally asked their users not to speculate who had filed the DMCA copyright claim on Automobilista. This comes hours after a 750 megabyte patch was released for Automobilista, one which drastically changed the liveries for many different Formula One cars featured in the game, and three weeks after Formula One Management caused such an uproar within the modding community, it made the front page of MSN.com. So you have a sim racing news outlet literally asking their readers not to discuss the biggest news of the year, but to instead jump for joy that a developer who had been hit with a very legitimate copyright claim were now back on the market. Not only that, in the same article, Race Department genuinely pretended as if the obvious culprit behind the DMCA claim, wasn’t the culprit – even as Automobilista owners dug through the game’s files and confirmed adjustments were made only to modern Formula One cars. This couldn’t get any more absurd.
And then it did.
Renato Simioni of Reiza Studios released a statement earlier today about the whole ordeal over on the official Reiza forums, and one portion in particular made me question whether I’m still truly alive, or was stabbed in my sleep sometime in 2012 and sent to a special kind of hell. This is the ultimate display of hypocrisy, and I can’t believe someone actually let this guy hit the Publish button on this one. Please, proofread what you post. Hell, I’ll do it for you, my Email is displayed when you hit the Submit button at the top of the PRC.net website. Spare yourself this embarrassment, because otherwise the asshole Canadian is going to call you out:
“We feel the inherent value of Automobilista does not relate to the visual accuracy of some of its unofficial cars, but rather to the quality and realism of the racing experience that it provides, and which we produce.”
Are we seriously going to play that game?
If the value of Automobilista’s fictional cars does not rely on their visual accuracy, why was so much time spent on recreating Speed Energy Formula Off-Road Champion Sheldon Creed’s vehicle, right down to the base livery, headlight decals, and car number? I thought visual accuracy didn’t matter? If Robby Gordon finds out, that’s another DMCA claim, one that’s not so easily rectified just by editing the livery. This is the only racing series in the world featuring these vehicles, so you can’t use the excuse that you just “made it up in your head” one day.
If the value of Automobilista’s fictional cars does not rely on their visual accuracy, why was so much time spent on recreating Dale Wood’s Brad Jones Racing Holden Commodore from the 2015 Australian V8 Supercars championship, right down to the base livery, rim style, and body shape? I thought visual accuracy didn’t matter? If lawyers representing V8 Supercars or General Motors find out, that’s two separate DMCA claims, two that aren’t so easily rectified just by editing the livery. This is the only racing series in the world featuring these vehicles, so you can’t use the excuse that you just “made it up in your head” one day.
If the value of Automobilista’s fictional tracks do not rely on their visual accuracy, why was so much time spent on recreating a near-perfect version of Suzuka, only to name it after a famous Japanese airport? Why was a Brazilian developer team with next to no funding able to slip this one into their PC simulator, but Project CARS – a game with a substantially larger budget – literally bent over backwards on their rendition dubbed “Sakittto” to ensure it would not resemble Sukuka? Are we missing something here?
If the value of Automobilista’s fictional tracks do not rely on their visual accuracy, why was so much time spent on producing an impressive version of the Red Bull Ring in Austria, calling it Spielburg, and removing any reference to the world-famous energy drink brand? Why is Kunos bothering to announce that they’ve got the license to the Red Bull Ring in their 2016 preview and act like it’s a big deal owners of Assetto Corsa should get excited about, when Reiza can just sort of slip it into their game under the name of a neighboring city?
Oh, that’s right – it’s copyright infringement, and can get them in a whole bunch of shit – just like the Porsche GT3 entry that’s planned as part of the post-release wave of DLC content for Automobilista. With how notorious Porsche are for protecting their intellectual property – including a situation where they very well did chase after a third party modding team – we’re looking at yet another DMCA claim for the exact same reasons as the Formula One situation, all while Renato and crew downplay their obvious errors in judgement, pushing their fanbase to attack us for… Well… I still don’t actually know.
Stadium Super Trucks. V8 Supercars. General Motors. Porsche. Suzuka. Red Bull. These are all just some of the names that could follow in the footsteps of Formula One Management and issue very real and very crippling copyright infringement claims on Reiza, who would eventually be forced to answer some extremely difficult questions in regards to their entire operation. Everybody knows that Reiza have essentially built a Formula One simulator, V8 Supercars simulator, and Stadium Super Trucks simulator all under the same roof, but now that the precedent has been set, and certain vehicles can’t just have their liveries changed from red to blue, there’s going to be a point where this moves beyond a temporary takedown.
Automobilista is a great game, and provided there is no more drama in relation to copyright claims, this simulator will eat up most of my free time throughout the course of 2016. However, with what’s been displayed above, Reiza Studios are looking at an extremely challenging future. We’ve named five potential DMCA claims in this article alone, and as the post-release DLC eventually lands in the hands of the customers, that number is bound to grow. Playing with fire is an understatement.