Reader Submission #93 – No Simulation Value

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Our resident Project CARS expert Ruben Galvez Lopez has sent us yet another lengthy Reader Submission, and this entry is probably my favorite in his mini-series of picking apart the controversial crowd-funded racer. Curious to determine the level of authenticity in his simulator of choice, Ruben has sat down and compared the lap times of real-world cars, to the performance of their virtual counterparts within Project CARS. The result? All shitposting aside, Project CARS is simcade and has no simulation value – and Lopez proved it. Bust out the popcorn, this one’s a fun read:


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Hey PRC, it’s been a while! Somehow, one of those reader submissions you got flew under my radar, and after I read it almost a month later, I can’t avoid sending you a piece myself. The submission I’m referring to was the piece entitled “What Accuracy?”

Accuracy is a quality I really appreciate in a sim. There are many reasons to pick up a sim racing title: some look for the best possible racing, some look for eye candy & amazing sound effects, some enjoy tweaking a setup… But the main reason I personally am interested in sim racing is because I CAN’T RACE FOR REAL.

I am not a hugely talented teenager with a family that can support my hobby until somebody notices me, I’m just a 28 year old motorsport enthusiast, fairly competent behind the wheel, with an economic background that makes it highly unlikely that I’ll ever be a Ferrari customer that gets to drive awesome cars.

The reason I like these games is because it’s the closest I’ll be to driving the cars I grew up watching, and still drool over today. If these cars aren’t represented with a minimum level of fidelity in terms of performance, the experience loses a lot of appeal for me. Of course, it’s still fun to have an eventful race with a field full of fictional cars, but if we add an accurate representation of a car I have a crush on, it doubles the value for me.

What’s the point in having a Lotus 98T in a modern racing sim if you give it a ride at Monza in wet weather conditions, and it slaughters the lap time of a 2008 Formula One participant? That’s NOT a Lotus 98T, it’s just a pretty skin that performs and drives like an entirely different vehicle.

The submission I mentioned says at one point that the reason many current games are so far from the real cars in terms of performance, is because developers have realized that not many people care. I have to disagree. As you probably remember, I’m stuck with Project CARS, which is not exactly the most polished and accurate sim out there. Still, I’m really interested in understanding myself how the cars in the virtual environment compare to the real thing.

That question pushed me to drive mock qualification laps within Project CARS, and compare them with real life pole position laps, taking into account as many details as possible to ensure absolute fairness. I’m well aware you can’t make a straight comparison between real life lap times and video game lap times – we have all sorts of unfair advantages such as unlimited attempts, one lap setup exploits, rapid fire downshifting… So I tried to factor them all out. I set up the cars for a long race in series with parc ferme rules, I limited the number of attempts to mimic the real world qualifying format, I adjusted my lines in places where the game lacks high curbs, and made all sorts of effort to find out the day/hour/weather of the real session to get similar environment conditions. I also used the most “green” track the game offers – free practice mode.

This is one of the videos that came out of all that hassle, which I feel tells the story about how the average test usually went:

In case anyone is interested in seeing how other cars performed on other tracks, here are all of the combinations I tested.

In most cases, the cars were two to three seconds faster than the real thing, even when treating the game with respect and not exploiting track limits or nonsense setups. Only on one occasion the real world lap was faster, and fairly often I found completely broken combinations. For example, the Lotus 98T is faster in the rain at Monza than Sebastien Vettel’s 2008 pole lap!

Now, I want to know your view on this topic. Is it too optimistic expecting better accuracy than this in games that try to cover a vast variety of series? Is software/hardware today good enough to demand something better than this? Is the lack of accuracy down to the limited data available for game developers, or is it due to lack of know-how from them?

Also, one last important question… Unlike me, you have played a shitload of different titles over the years. Which one was the most accurate you’ve tried? Did you ever have a game where a talented guy could find himself doing very similar lap times to the real cars across many combinations?

Cheers.


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There’s a lack of authenticity primarily because developers aren’t as talented as we think they are. It boils down to the brown M&M’s contract rider theory that helped Van Halen survive on the road – if one little detail has been messed up, you have reason to believe other aspects of the operation are just as flawed. Only a few weeks ago, Kunos pushed out an update for Assetto Corsa that saw cars fall through the ground at Spa. If they can’t get that right, what makes you think they’ve accurately nailed the performance of each invidividual car? And again, we can ask the same questions with Project CARS – if Slightly Mad Studios couldn’t rectify a landmine bug present as early as 2009 in the Need for Speed Shift series, what makes you think their new Audi Prototype DLC will warrant authentic on-track performance?

With the technology we have available to us today, there’s no reason lap times shouldn’t mirror the real thing, but in 2016 you’re looking at a sim racing landscape where developers literally can’t get their shit together over the most basic of problems – opting to instead rely on bullshit marketing campaigns and aggressive fanboys to pretend like everything is okay. I’m sure the Kunos engine, in the hands of somebody competent, could produce extremely satisfying results, but the reality is that their lead coding guy is too caught up in calling his own customers retarded monkeys to care. The isiMotor engine isn’t a bad base to build a racing simulator around, but when the guy in charge of the entire project tells people to shut up when they’ve discovered a bug, do you really think there’s been any care put into ensuring the virtual cars match their real world counterparts? Of course not.

It’s all on the developers. They have the tools necessary to push out phenomenal stuff, but for whatever reason, aren’t.

As for the second part of your question, I can think of at least four games that absolutely nailed the performance aspect of the simulation, and unfortunately they were all titles released prior to 2008. This is basically the whole premise behind PretendRaceCars.net – we had a fantastic group of racing simulators to play, and for whatever reason, developers just sort of stopped making them and started shit-talking their own community instead.

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We masturbate over NASCAR Racing 2003 Season on a daily basis here at PRC.net, but there’s a reason we hold the game to such a high regard. While the interviews and detailed explanations regarding the topic have been lost to the sands of time, the popular urban legend is that the Craftsman Truck Series physics released by Project Wildfire were so accurate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his extended group of friends credit their on-track success in the early 2000’s to their obsession with the final Papyrus simulator. What a lot of private leagues would do – including Earnhardt Jr.’s own DMP Series – is they would take the CTS physics and apply them to the other cars available for the game. The reliance upon the Craftsman Truck mod can be seen in the segment below, where former Cup driver Jerry Nadeau can be seen driving the Project Wildfire mod at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Most professional race car drivers aren’t sim racing mod connoisseurs, so you have to wonder who tipped him off about this, and why.

Maple and I put this urban legend to the test on an otherwise dull summer evening. When browsing through NR2k3Tracks.com, we discovered a track Maple’s actually raced Late Models at – Motoplex Speedway in Vernon, British Columbia – had been created for NASCAR Racing 2003 Season under its former name of Sun Valley Speedway. Now, because the Papyrus sim was ten years old at the time, the scenery of Vernon’s track looked like complete ass compared to the real thing – but the important part was that the track geometry was basically identical.

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So we jumped in and switched off every ten laps or so, using the Craftsman Truck Series physics on a popular yet dated Late Model package. We knew from being at the track earlier in the year that a good lap was in the 18.4 to 18.6 range, and Maple threw some realistic setup tweaks at the car just to test NASCAR 2003’s authenticity. At this point, we weren’t really taking things seriously, we had just been operating under the impression that NASCAR 2003 being used as a training tool was just another meme – the forum users regurgitating it falling prey to a marketing scheme being blown horribly out of proportion. Essentially, the story about Dale Jr. and his buddies being rumored of obsessing over this game was on-par with the Project CARS ad campaign of those Rene Rast videos from 2015.

Upon consulting the lap times and tire temperature readouts, we quickly realized this was much more than an urban legend. We were running times which were identical to the real thing, down to the time it took for the tires to generate heat. Yes, the graphics looked like ass and the force feedback could use a complete overhaul, but there wasn’t a difference when it came to how the car performed on-track. Now, this hotlap session took place during a period of time in which iRacing flat out sucked and there was no sugar-coating it, so not only were we blown away at how good a decade-old game could be, we also couldn’t believe how the exact same development team could get things oh so very wrong after ten more years of research.

So NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is one of the games immediately coming to mind when people ask if a game has ever truly come close to perfection. Papyrus built something that was objectively perfect, on inferior hardware, before the obsession over tire models renditions and other marketing garbage was even on the horizon.

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Another title which nailed the authenticity of a major auto racing series right down to the finest details, was released by ValuSoft. Yes, that ValuSoft. I don’t remember why or how, but the shovelware crew who brought the Hard Truck/18 Wheels of Steel franchise (later to become Euro Truck Simulator) to the forefront somehow acquired the rights to the National Hot Rod Association in the late 1990’s. The first game was trashed by most critics, so we’ll just skip over that one for now. But for the second title, developer Moto1.net made a genuine push towards improving the product. Part of these improvements revolved around bringing aboard real world drivers to help with the development of the product.

Traditionally, developers use real world drivers as a cheap marketing gimmick to generate the public’s interest in a title. At this point, most sim racers are able to see through the generic PR babble claiming one of the series’ drivers was somehow involved in the development of the title, but Moto1.net did things in a much different manner. They actually went and found a driver who had a degree in software engineering.

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Don Schumacher Racing driver Ron Capps, who at the time had been driving for NHRA legend Don Prudhomme, was taken aboard the Moto1.net program for the development of NHRA Drag Racing 2. The involvement of a professional driver who also understood the development side immediately helped to turn the project around, as the second installment in the line of officially licensed NHRA Drag Racing games was well-received by the websites who once trashed it, admitting the new release was surprisingly competent for a budget title.

The quality of NHRA Drag Racing 2 immediately resulted in a huge online community growing around it, and it was later revealed that many of the hardcore users were actually professional racers themselves. This was iRacing, long before iRacing became a thing, and it was due in no small part to how real data could be applied within NHRA Drag Racing 2 and be met with instant success. The title’s rudimentary garage menu had been crafted in such a way to allow for advanced setup techniques to work within the virtual environment, and as drag racing admittedly isn’t as popular as Stock Car or Formula One racing, the only people who really picked up this title were drag racers themselves.

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It may look simple compared to today’s modern racing simulators, but drag racers flocked to the title, and were blown away by how realistic a piece of PC software could be – especially during a time when the technology wasn’t quite there yet. My uncle, who traditionally wasn’t an avid PC gamer, invested several days into the online portion of NHRA Drag Racing 2 as there wasn’t any sort of learning curve for an experienced driver or crew chief to overcome. It all worked. There wasn’t a buffer zone like there is in something like Project CARS.

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The most disappointing part of the two examples mentioned above, is that both games were released over a decade ago – sometimes more. Somehow, we’ve moved away from this level of authenticity, while marketing campaigns claim we’ve moved towards it. Once developers can start pushing out products which match the experience offered by the PR babble, I think you’ll see this issue rectified. The biggest problem is trying to dial out the narcissistic ideologies plaguing several developer teams. The technology is clearly able to produce a 1-to-1 level of authenticity – it was somehow fine a decade ago – but the challenge is to now curb the personalities from telling their customers to fuck off, and instead set them on creating a fantastic product.

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55 thoughts on “Reader Submission #93 – No Simulation Value

  1. Project Cars has joke physics. Not even close to how a real car or tyre behaves.

    Take the Caterham, and go and try and do some doughnuts. It’s laughable.

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  2. According to the real pilots, due to reasons that aren’t related to the physics, with a simulator, considering an average circuit of 4 kM in (example) a GT car, you are going to be 2 or 3 seconds faster, so ironically if a simulator is accurate with the times, it is not accurate with the “real life”.
    All the above doesn’t exclude the fact that a sim may have or not a shitty physics, but the lap time is not the parameter to keep in consideration to decide if a simulator is realistic or not.

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    1. Nonsense. Driving in a sim is marginally SLOWER than in real life if the models for car and track are 100% identical and the mileage is done in similar conditions.

      SoP > Toy steering wheel with FFB.

      I bet you´ve read thousands of times drivers saying “it´s harder on the sim because you lack feedback”.

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      1. it’s also harder for a sim racer to jump on the real car and do the same competitive times straight away. There is much more feedback and forces on the body and scarier sensations, because you are driving the car in the real world.

        So as sim racers have to do adaptations when jumping in the real car, so real drivers have to do adaption when they are put in the virtual car.

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      2. There’s many things involved: fear, money, pressure, physical stress and many other reasons that aren’t related directly to the “tech” of a simulator. For this reason a “perfect” sim lap time will be generally faster than the real counterpart if the sim, under the physical aspect, is accurate enough.
        For this reason some sim (games?) are interested to simulate the driver experience, nor just the perfect physics, because there’s certain things that cannot be emulate at home behind a screen and a “toy” wheel. The lap times are the last thing to be considered when comparing a sim to the real world.

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  3. “Only a few weeks ago, Kunos pushed out an update for Assetto Corsa that saw cars fall through the ground at Spa. If they can’t get that right, what makes you think they’ve accurately nailed the performance of each invidividual car?”

    Fallacy much, James?

    So if the cars fell through the ground at Spa when the update released, and didn’t fall through the ground in the previous version, it means the devs don’t know how to make realistic cars any more? What about other tracks in the new update where cars didn’t fall through the ground; this means devs now know about realistic cars?

    See, your argument has no argumentation value, because is full of holes. Therefore calling it a fallacy.

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    1. I know, right. James I won’t say you have a personal vendetta, but that’s either A. Being childish or B. Writing nonsense (and not knowing how tracks work) just to piss people off, but hey it generates publicity so it’s all good right?

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  4. Project SCAM is still simcade garbage to this very day. AI is a joke, as they will cut corners, ram you, and pit on the last lap. Physics are just as simcade as Shift 2. There’s also still endless bugs and glitches.

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      1. just to clarify, the lap times I posted were on dry. I believe this one from Vettle during qualifying 1:37.555 was on wet.

        The layout only differs on the first chicane, which was slower in 1986 compared to the modern track.

        F1 2007 did 1:22.871 on lap 15, by Fernando Alonso. In 2009, 1:24.739 by Adrian Sutil, and 2010 1:24.139 by Alonso.

        The lotus 98t in Assetto Corsa does 1:25.012 according to RSR livetiming, in 1.5.6 version, with Qualifying tyres.

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      2. Plus 2008 race was wet, FL was towards the end with the track barely ready for dry tyres. It’s ironic he’s asking anyone to research yet…

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      3. “The layout only differs on the first chicane, which was slower in 1986 compared to the modern track.”
        And Curva Grande, and the second chicane, and both Lesmos.

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    1. Not 100% accurate is one thing… But when you see an 80’s F1 car outperform a modern F1 under heavy rain you know it’s time to quit a game.

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      1. F1 has been heavily rules-restricted since the 40s, you can’t just say “2000s F1 should be faster than 80s F1”, every year they tweak the rules to slow the cars down, sometimes more successfully than others. Modern F1 cars have half the power of 80s cars, how is it at all surprising that they’re faster on a track like Monza that’s 90% flat out.

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      2. But that may be just half the story. The car could still be accurate on dry conditions, but the water/wet physics may not be well made as in real life. So the car accuracy can’t be faulted because of wet track, but the rainy weather has to be investigated to see if it matches how it performs in real life. Otherwise compare just the dry conditions performance or behavior, and lap times.

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      3. To the last comment…

        You’re saying the 80’s f1 running faster in the wet is somehow going to compare more favorably in the dry?

        Wtf? Unless you have more grip in wet conditions in pcars, your logic is faulty…

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      4. I don´t know about the dry, but in the wet it can do mid 1:34s on race trim (low boost), and 1:32´s in quali (almost full boost).

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    1. You fool this conversion has no physics mesh value!

      LFS IS THE BEST SIM OF ALL TIME AND HAS ALL THE POSSIBLE SIMULATION VALUE!

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  5. lool only american racing genre on your best sim selection, another proof that you don’t know how to judge various racing categories present in modern sim’s,but…

    LFS IS THE BEST SIM OF ALL TIME AND HAS ALL THE POSSIBLE SIMULATION VALUE!

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    1. 「But LFS have barely any licensed cars whatsoever!」

      Yes, that’s semi-sarcastic because I am aware that LFS DO HAVE real cars (FBMW FB02, BMW Sauber F1.06, and the super obscure RaceAbout, as well as the McGill FSAE MRT5 car). However, none of those cars are seen as relevant to most LFS racers, in my eyes at least.

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  6. One of the craziest things about pcars is that at least some of the ps4 tyre compound heating models dissipate heat considerably less quickly than the PC version….

    Results in the ps4 version being considerably more difficult and arguably more accurate.

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  7. well make a deal with yourself that if you crash you`ll throw your PC out of window and if you crash really bad you jump from 2nd store … now do the testing again .. there goes your 2 seconds .. I`m not saying pCars is accurate or good .. just that this comparisons are not really telling much

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    1. If you think a real modern driver leaves an inch of performance in the car during a quali lap because he’s strapped to it, you really don’t know much about racing…

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  8. First time playing Project Cars, chose a 500hp or so RWD car, all aids turned off, drove around a fairly tight corner, put the foot flat and got no wheel spin or over steer at all. Laughed my head off and never played the game again, switched to AC and rF2.

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  9. Project Cars IS simcade and has no simulation value, and the physics are complete arcade garbage, but laptimes are not the way to prove it, especially considering there are very few laser scanned tracks and the tracks generally are extremely shitly modelled. For example, you clearly can’t compare laptimes at Silverstone in PCars to real life laptimes because the track is LAUGHABLY inaccurate in the game.

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  10. The 2-3sec faster then Real life seems to occur on consistant basis in more sim and more mods then one. Even in rF2. I believe this is due to average driver being 2-3sec slower then a fast driver. Fast drivers don’t mod, or dev. Avg drivers do. So, when the builder of the physics-mod-dev goes to test, he keeps adding downforce until he matches real life laptimes. Then someone fast tries the car and blows them out of the water. What would happen next is if you take all that downforce down to make the car 2-3sec slower, then the car will have major instability and debalance issues (manor vs mercedes type of thing). Most of real life GT cars are well balanced, just like the sim 2-3sec too fast GT cars are. For most case they have the same balance in fast-slow type of corners that they do in real life too. Now, you might wonder where are we. Well, you need to build the car-setup and entire vision and project balanced from the start and until you reach 2-3sec slower then real life, stop there. Then, you will match real life. If no alien in the universe can match the real life laptimes, then you can simply add that 0.01% more downforce and it’s done. The trick is not to surpass the real life laptimes. Once you surpass them, going back is next to impossible. It’s not all about laptimes. The car has to have balance, and certain personality traits as well, and those you can only build and build until you’re finish. There is no stepping back once you get in that direction. We learn all the time and now we’re at this stage that we rediscovered which ancient developers 15 years ago utilized.

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  11. To satisfy the “Lap time must be accurate” people the game would have to be designed with the starting point of the pole time or fastest lap in a race at a given circuit by a certain driver sitting down and recreating that lap on that track.So for instance you could get Rene Rast to do all his lap times for every track in the Audi R8.This would satisfy the accuracy people but would compromise and probably mess up the rest of the game given how much data,paramters etc are involved in every game.Bear in mind also that development every season gains most series 0.5 secs.How do you simulate that?

    As a former club racer in real life I want games to simulate the racing experience.So Rallycross in Dirt Rally or Iracing comes close.Only the nerds care that the McLaren GT3 car does not have the correct suspension geometry in a series which has Balance Of Performance.You get what you pay for in life.Most games are $60-80 so 10% accuracy on lap times is fair in my opinion.

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    1. The argument is that laptime is an indicator of mistakes done in development of the sim-mod. And real life racers for most part are fast in sims, but he has to put as much effort into making that laptime as he does in real life. Which means for most part he wouldnt. Then it’s just better to go out and find someone who already does put that effert and clearly matches the level of talent and get him on the job to do it. Once again, the argument is that laptimes are clear display of errors within development. Read a post above you, it clearly explains how those mistakes can-not be easy fixed, which also explains why iRacing and Assetto Corsa’s physics are trash despite dozent of tire model updates! The ground for physics has to be set right. Steps have to be respected, one by one and this means no deadlines, no rush. This is the approach LFS had many years ago and rF2 has now and that is why their phyics are leaps ahead of others. But, it also means they get far less updates, since there is more things to begin with. Which ironically brings to their lower popularity, since simracers seem to be attracted to updates like baby to a candy. Anyway, to get back from offtopic, to topic, look up the comment above which explains how reverting back in laptime, would ruin the experience and why the physics have to not surpass the real life capability! You will learn something new today. And then this adds up to extra experience that you might have. Which will defenetially feel even better and more challenging when you’re 1.5sec slower then real life laptime, it’s a touch more difficult to drive with that big less downforce to help you stop the car and accelerate that early, but you got great support and balance from suspension and tires if you have any setup knowledge to find water in this new and more unforgiving environment.

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      1. “The argument is that laptime is an indicator of mistakes done in development of the sim-mod.”

        And as we have seen there are always mistakes made.This blog writes nearly every day about the mistakes software people make.Who has the patience or money to make a simulator over a period of 5-10 years that would be perfect?F1 teams have the most accurate simulators but even Lewis Hamilton says it is shit so he lets the test driver do all the development work on the simulator.

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  12. “the lap time is not the parameter to keep in consideration to decide if a simulator is realistic or not.”

    Im pretty proud to see my old fiance NR2003 pronounced as an outstanding sim compared to some of the newer racing games.
    BUT BUT BUT – using the laptimes as an judge if a racing game is sim or arcade is pretty lame.

    If we take one of the more famous mods for NR2003 the GTP mod you can lower or raise the laptimes +- 5-10sec pr lap by changing the 2x params track_asphalt_grip/track_concrete_grip in the track.ini file.
    And Im sure that even today iRacing are using this simple tweak when they from time to time adjust the reachable laptimes on some of their tracks.
    So using the laptimes in a racing game as some kind of proof/disproof if it is a racing sim is as mentioned lame and unintelligent.

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  13. The amount of computing power required to simulate everything needed for a 100% accurate game is beyond anything you can currently own.

    A true 1:1 simulation would require not only simulating the world and it’s systems but the vehicle and its systems. That means building the cars literally the same way real cars are built. Every gear, every seal, combustion, all of it.

    Its just not ever going to happen in our lifetime, not likely anyways. If it were to happen computers would be building the cars at that point because it would be too time consuming for a person. It already takes many weeks to design and build a car in forza imagine needing to build engines on top of it.

    So for now we will just have to live with real suspension, tire and atmospheric stimulation and leave the rest of that stuff to the future generations.

    I mean…on a technical level with cloud compute like azure or aws the raw computational power is available but…not exactly cost effective for a game unless you wanna pay $1000 an hour to play it.

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    1. My thoughts exactly. If anyone thinks you can have a 1:1 simulation in a consumer product, they’re just wrong. And all that nonsense about ancient NASCAR and drag racing (lol) games no one cares about is just that, nonsense.

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  14. I just recently had a league race in GT3-class at Spa and i can tell, that 2:16 is an alien-time very unlikely in real life and pCars as well. Good people in this league and i think the pole was around 2:18 I got a 2:20 in place 10 and finished 6 at the end (1 hour race). With a 2:16 you just risk to much or have a very unique setup not made for the race, just for hot laps.
    In RL the cars have far more fixed setups and BOP-regulations than in pCars like a fixed gear ratio or fixed differential setting. So this is completely bullshit and even proofs how good pCars really is.

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  15. I haven’t read the whole article yet but the part that says “For example, the Lotus 98T is faster in the rain at Monza than Sebastien Vettel’s 2008 pole lap!”

    The problem is, Vettel’s 2008 pole lap at Monza was in the extreme wet.

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  16. This entire article is another shamefully distorted argument full of fallacy and bullshit and basically everything you expect from a C student in the bar when he’s feeling like holding court over his opinions.

    James is apparently just a rubber stamp on anything that denigrates titles he doesn’t like.

    Its nothing but trash talk masquerading as informed opinion.

    Like

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