For the readers who have stuck around PRC.net for the long haul, the lot of you are well aware that I’m primarily an online racer. After I came to the realization that modern racing simulator developers probably won’t ever manage to nail the behavior of AI drivers on par with what was seen in old Papyrus simulators, I basically stopped playing offline altogether in favor of organized races in both private leagues, as well as online services such as Race2Play. It’s just a lot more fun and rewarding to drive against human opponents, rather than bots whom suffer from “that one corner” syndrome as Empty Box has so kindly dubbed it. But not every online race is satisfying. Aliens indeed exist, yet commands from their mothership prohibit them from participating in events around the clock, so it’s not uncommon to see certain races turn into rather lopsided affairs.
A few weekends ago, I showed up to a GT3 race in RaceRoom Racing Experience where only eight of the thirteen total registrants managed to make it to the grid, and after Reinhard Berger choked away the lead mere minutes into the race, I drove the final twenty six laps in solitude. An easy way to pad my statistics, yes, but as a competitor, races like that aren’t very enjoyable. Now I’ve heard that RaceRoom Racing Experience offers the best offline racing on the market, so in an effort to make up for that godawful online event from a while back, I put my faith in the sim racing community’s gossip and began my Single Player adventure.
I really shouldn’t have done that.
For my night of offline racing bliss, and to give R3E’s single player component a proper shakedown, I kept the configuration settings uniform across every track. I’d be driving Kelvin van der Linde’s #1 Audi R8 as seen in the recently released 2015 ADAC GT Masters pack. The race length would be set to eight minutes, I’d be placed eighth on the grid, and I’d jack the AI difficulty all the way up to 120%. Yes, I can already hear some of you bitching at the monitor as you read this – it’s never a good idea to run an isiMotor sim at maximum AI strength because it fucks up all kinds of shit – but unfortunately, an AI level of 120 is literally what I need. In a practice session at a track I’m familiar with, such as Sears Point or Zandvoort, they’re a tenth of a second slower than myself. I’m not trying to brag here, I just need to point out that I’m not intentionally on a quest to break the game.
But that’s what happened anyways, because this is sim racing in 2016.
We begin our journey at Sears Point, where the pack of AI cars would brake check each other with such a frequency, I was able to pass basically everybody (save for the front row) only a few hundred feet after the start/finish line. By comparison, I have gotten my ass handed to me on standing starts by the boys at Realish Racing every other weekend dating back to January. In the shot above, I’m a gear or two higher than the cars directly around me.
The AI couldn’t handle Turn 10. I restarted the Sears Point race roughly three or four times to document all possible flaws once I realized this wouldn’t be a fun night, and this gentle right-hand corner absolutely perplexed them. Cars would violently whip from side to side on entry, spin out, and stack up the field, even if nobody was around them.
Our AI brothers could jump rumble strips at an alarming frequency, with virtually no tangible effect on their cars’ performance. This sucks when you’re chasing someone down, as there are corners where it’s simply not possible to catch them.
But of course, karma is not just reserved for human competitors, oh no. Our boy in the Callaway Corvette GT3 entry made a beeline for the immovable objects disguised as tire barriers in Turn 11, and got his ass stuck in the process.
So I restart the race, and the AI cars go from curb hopping, to simply not caring about track limits. I know I catch a lot of shit for my liberal interpretations of racing surface boundaries, but there’s a difference between using up every last inch of tarmac, and driving on the fucking dead grass.
I didn’t have to care much in the long run, as something like two seconds later, the BMW Z4 leading our little pack decided to plow into another set of immovable tire barriers, which destroyed basically the entire field.
Well, to be fair, it was half the field. The other half, consisting mostly of backmarkers, were taken out in a Turn 1 wreck caused by simultaneous self-spins. Look, I enjoyed the random scripted crashes in the original Race Driver: Grid, but we’re looking at a situation where 30 seconds into the race, something like 80% of the cars are destroyed.
So I guess it’s time to move on to a new track, a location where GT3 cars are known to race. It’s entirely possible that the AI line was not optimized for the GT3 cars at Sears Point in RaceRoom, so the logical fix to these woes would be to take them to a location such as Zandvoort.
Again, the AI is driving on the fucking grass, and the simplified physics engine taking over allows them to continue pushing with no loss in traction. Honestly, this behavior is similar to what’s seen in Project CARS, where the AI cars go wherever they damn well please.
But can they take a simple curb? Of course not, so it was on to the next track.
I took my group of virtual lab rats to the chicane layout of Mid-Ohio. To be fair, we actually made it through the first lap relatively clean, and it was looking to be a decent race until we approached the chicane for the second time. The BMW Z4 in second place, as well as the Audi R8 rounding out the top three, spun in sync and destroyed the pack behind them – which was all of us. Next.
This is lap one, turn one, of the first race at Laguna Seca. The AI driver in the black & gold Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 cut across the sand in the manner displayed by countless bots above, and spun in front of the pack, essentially taking the bottom half of the field out of contention less than fifteen seconds into the race.
And lastly, this magnificent trio of self-spins by AI cars occurred at what the 2002 FIA GT Championship program dubs as Turn Four on the Oschersleben circuit. These spins were so violent and so sudden, that I drove into the orange Audi R8 at full speed moments after this shot was taken.
I’m not sure where I fucked up. All I tried to do was take the community’s advice and run a few offline races in RaceRoom Racing Experience to make up for a lack of any decent online action over the past little bit. For my efforts, I received nothing but pain and suffering. The exact artificial intelligence sim racers claim is the best in the genre will literally drive straight into solid fucking tire barriers, spin in the gentlest of corners, brake check each other when accelerating away from the grid, and drive on the grass with no penalty to their performance. Is my shit broken, or is this another case of delusional sim racers pretending massive artificial intelligence issues are nothing to worry about?