Reader Submission #95 – The Curious Case of Codemasters

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Away from the confines of hardcore virtual auto racing message boards such as RaceDepartment or NoGripRacing, lies an equally dedicated community surrounding the Codemasters series of officially licensed Formula One titles. While we’ve taken a look at the three most recent titles over here at PRC.net in F1 2013, F1 2014, and F1 2015, it’s hard for us to get an accurate picture of how the userbase itself perceives these titles. Dedicated sim racers often scoff at the amateur attempts by Codemasters to craft a compelling experience with each passing year, as a better part of the community opts to rely on third party mods for isiMotor simulators to fulfill their Formula One fix. With little information available on the team’s upcoming release, F1 2016, PRC.net reader Tyler W. has sent us a pretty decent recap on how Codemasters is approaching their future project – and it’s not exactly an optimistic take.


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Good day, PRC. I need to vent at the moment about Codemasters and their F1 games. I know the series is simcade at best, and has little to no simulation value, but what they’re doing recently has brought me to the boiling point with them.

F1 2016 will be coming out sometime this year. At least, I think it will be. The most popular F1 YouTube personalities, such as Tiametmarduk, Aarava, and xMattyG to name a few, were invited to Codemasters HQ for a press event. We’ve found out through them that both Career Mode and the Safety Car will be returning to the game this year, after being absent in F1 2015. However, there has been almost complete radio silence since the group have returned from this headquarters tour. Codemasters have said nothing in regards to the game the game, and fans are getting sick of it – especially after a tangible decline throughout the last few renditions. Even Aarava has no clue as to why they are being so silent. Codemasters took the same approach last year, and it resulted in an especially poor product.

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But this lack of news hasn’t been the only irritating aspect of Codemasters day to day operations as of late. Their F1 series of games have taken a nosedive since Formula One 2012. Career Mode has become a second thought, as Codies tried to chase a Triple-A game design ideology for some reason, and spent most of their time focusing on multiplayer modes that nobody was really interested in. They never bothered to fix issues present across multiple games, and excuses were made as to why each game lost certain features – such as post race interviews, the tier system that saw each team’s performance change dynamically with each passing Grand Prix season, and why they won’t add certain features such as multiple seasons for Career Mode and/or real life TV overlays. On that topic, Steven Hood’s favorite answer as to why Codemasters won’t closely replicate the real-world heads up displays used in Formula One broadcasts is “we don’t see the point in adding it” – despite some of the most popular downloads for rFactor being – you guessed it – TV overlays.

Codemasters would instead proceed to insert dumb shit into the F1 series, and I truly mean dumb shit. We’ve now got a Very Easy difficulty, and shorter career mode seasons for people who want to play the game, but not too much, all the while never addressing the game’s bugs or physics & handling issues. Or, the fact that until F1 2015, the AI drove like they had power limiters on the first lap of each race.

Anytime Codemasters adds something cool, such as podiums and driver models, they take out something equally or of more importance, such as career mode. What’s more amazing, is that they lie or are hypocritical more often than not. They say they cannot add stuff like TV overlays, formation laps, or podiums because “the license doesn’t allow it”, yet Sony Computer Entertainment had no issue with these “licensing restrictions” in Formula One: Championship Edition.

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They can’tadd multiple seasons from games that they’ve done in the past because they can’t obtain the rights to teams that no longer exist, or drivers as well, yet F1 Challenge 99-02 did. In fact, Codemasters did this themselves in F1 2015, where you could play the 2014 season with Caterham, Jules Bianchi, and the Hockenheim Grand Prix. Caterham folded, Bianchi is no longer with us, and Hockenheim wasn’t on the schedule for the 2015 season.

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I once thoroughly enjoyed playing the current crop of F1 games, but Codemasters just keep removing things, making excuses for the reduction in features, and the fans ultimately suffer. By now, Career Mode should be near a 2K Sports level of fidelity, online should be at least acceptable, and the pure racing experience – I’m talking mainly the AI and car physics – should have been refined to near-perfection. Except, for whatever reason, it isn’t. And now, they aren’t even keeping us updated on 2016’s progress, aside from the community manager saying from time to time “we’ll reveal more info soon!” They’ve been doing that since March, and the fact that it’s now may, with the game expected to drop in July, this isn’t really a good sign for Codemasters. And if F1 2016 isn’t a major improvement over the 2015 release, I think it’s time for them to move on, which is bullshit given how amazing DiRT Rally ended up being. I don’t understand why we can’t have a Formula One title of a similar caliber?


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From what I’ve been led to believe, and someone please correct me if I’m wrong, is that the team at Codemastes responsible for DiRT 3 and DiRT Rally – two objectively very good games – is not the same group of people responsible for the Formula One series. The groups are obviously inclined to share info back and forth to ensure everything under the Codemasters banner is as good of a product as it can be, but as you can see with the DiRT games compared to the F1 titles, that’s obviously not the case. The DiRT games have traditionally been awesome, whereas the F1 series has been on a steady decline for the reasons you’ve described. But that’s the primary reason there’s such a huge discrepancy in quality – it’s literally two different teams. Now, with Evolution Studios in the mix, things might change, but it’s difficult to make an informed speculation at this point. That’s a whole lot of NDA’s thrown at people in such a short notice.

I think the guys responsible for the F1 project have fallen into a trap similar to the Madden and NHL teams over at EA Sports, thought it might not have been a genuine strategy compared to the calculated approach EA Sports has taken. For pretty much the entire Xbox 360 lineup of Madden Football titles, EA Tiburon was notorious for removing features many fans actually enjoyed and found worthwhile, only to add them in at a later date strictly to inflate the list of supposed “new features.” If my memory serves me right – which it usually does – the first three years of Madden on the Xbox 360 didn’t even include proper broadcast commentary, and it was finally inserted into Madden NFL 09, a full four years after the release of Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Madden NFL 13 is the game Madden NFL 07 should have been, but this approach allowed EA to keep shitting out products on a yearly basis, labeling genuine criticism as “rabid haters”, and dismiss any petty complaint as “we’re still learning the new hardware.”

One can imagine a situation where Codemasters has secured the license for a number of years, and simply intended for the 2017 or 2018 game as the definitive F1 release, using the editions leading up to that year as “trial runs.” It’s dirty and it royally fucks over loyal customers who want something that works, not “is being worked on“, but it’s what EA’s been doing for a while, and the overall revenue they generate speaks volumes about how well it succeeds. I can’t say I’d be happy running a company where people are only buying our products to see if they’re not complete dog shit, but money talks.

Codemasters indeed needs a community manager who actively communicates with the diehard audience, because this sort of dissent is never a good sign, and you’re right to point it out for us. When your own viral marketers are getting antsy over the lack of info regarding an upcoming product, you’re doing things extremely wrong. Your community manager needs to be in constant contact with both parties, firing information back and forth to each side on a daily basis. Codemasters, as well as several other developers with a community manager, are essentially paying a guy whose sole job is to shitpost on the forums and get people excited about the product. If he’s not doing that, the fans have every right to ask questions.

Unfortunately, for this relationship to work in a beneficial way, you have to take a very PRC-like approach to community management and say “to hell with NDA’s and political correctness.” You have to do weekly Q&A sessions or updates, and the developer team needs to be allowed to hand out copious amounts of info to make these weekly sessions worthwhile. You need to let your community manager speak his mind about the product, and talk with customers on a very down-to-earth level, rather than vague PR lingo. If I were given the reigns to the Codemasters community management position for a month, it would be very interesting to see what I could accomplish, but I assure you things would be done very differently than they are now. You need a Glasnost policy.

I could ramble on and on, but I think you’ve figured it out before most of the drones who will undoubtedly buy F1 2016 regardless of it’s quality. The silence is not a very good sign.

 

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23 thoughts on “Reader Submission #95 – The Curious Case of Codemasters

  1. I had the F1 2006 game for PSP. The career alone lasted something like 3-5 years of ingame time and you could run all the sessions in full time (FP1, FP2, FP3, Q, R). While simcade (And for a portable console), the physics were amazing and each setting in the garage would really impact the handling of the car. Each car also had unique physics so the backmarkers such as Minardi and Midland/Spyker were shit, but others were faster and better. Career mode also had objectives and if you were to fail them (Like finish the race in 20th ahead of your teammate), they would kick you out of the team and if you couldn’t find a new ride in the next 2 weeks it was game over. There was fully dynamic weather and basic transactions from a green tarmac to a tarmac which would provide some actual grip as time went on. There was even the podium celebration after the race! Models of the drivers were shit and animations were pretty basic, but it was amazing what they were able to pack in little more than 600mb of space (UMDs could store around 700mb).

    It was simple, yet perfect. Now it’s all shiny, but broken. It reminds me of pCARS.. Or AC.. How times have changed..

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    1. i had the F1 Circus 1991 and Formula 1 97 games and they were so much better than all these modern shiny games combined

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      1. Thats nice, but it was geoff crammond that produced the real deal, adn there hasnt been a decent F1 game since,never mind that console rubbish, we have to rely on modders for the ISI motor now.

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      2. Indeed…F1 97 was incredible for its time. No one, even the dev would say it was a sim but it had everything F1 had from tear offs to engine blowups that started with a little smoke that got a lot worse over time.

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    1. PC wise, DiRT 3 and DiRT Rally both have a metacritic of 86. The last 3 F1 games have been below 80, the last 2 below 70 and the best Codemasters F1 game being F1 2010 with 84 on PC, if we use those reviews as a test. F1 Challenge 99-02 has the best PC F1 game score with 91.

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      1. user scores and reviews are subjective and arbitrary
        they only show how well a game is received by the players, which isn’t really an objective way of comparing quality

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        1. Wait, if you’re going to ignore what some users think of the game, why listen to what “game critics” like PRC think about them? They’re just users the same as anyone else.

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          1. the point is that opinions, reviews, aggregated user scores/ratings, etc. are all subjective, not objective

            a lot of people agreeing on something doesn’t make it true

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  2. You are correct; Dirt games are made by a different team than the F1 stuff, and even a lot of the work on F1 games is outsourced to god knows where. As to the “licensing issues,” it might be Codies being lazy or not wanting to implement things that don’t fit with their vision of the game, or it might be a money issue. And realistically, the licensing agreements are probably very different than what they were 10 years ago, so it’s really impossible to say what’s going on there.

    The YouTube guys have undoubtedly been forced to sing NDAs, and we’re likely many months away from release, so it could be that silence is an indication that they’re actually trying to make a decent game this time. I doubt they will release another game in the summer, as that didn’t work out so well last year. I’m not optimistic that this will happen, and I think F1 gamers would be much better off if Codmasters lost the license, but sometimes no news is good news.

    With all that said, Codemasters’ engagement with the community is shockingly bad. As horrible as SMS and Kunos can be to their customers, at least they make some attempt at engaging with people.

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  3. Agree with much of what you say, but you can’t really compare the licensing terms that Sony and EA had with the license that Codemasters have. Licensing and image rights are far more of a minefield these days than they were 10 or 15 years ago, and while Codemasters do trot out the “licence won’t allow it” excuse a bit more often than seems plausible, I also don’t doubt they’re far more restricted than previous incumbents have been.

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  4. And if they went down the Dirt Rally path and involved the community, they could have one of the best F1 racing sims/games to date. But they chose not too, as they always do, one shitty release after the next.

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    1. “But they chose not too”
      No new F1 game was released since DR was released. So you don’t know if they applied or not something from what they learned with DR.

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  5. Wish F1 licence would go to someone like sector 3, they are in a perfect position to make a great F1 sim that can be played by the masses.

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  6. Speaking of silence, GT Sport has been on radio silence for around 5 months since the original announcement – although there might be a light in the tunnel soon…

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  7. I actually fired up F1 2013 this past weekend for the first time in about a year. IMO that was the pinnacle of the F1 series. You had most things polished (as far as Codemasters polishes their games) with a cool legends mode with older cars. I bought F1 2014 hoping it would be even greater but obviously, that wasn’t the case. I never thought to bought F1 2015 since it was totally broken and didn’t even have a career mode. Who’s brilliant idea was that?

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  8. I do agree with most of the stuff you say here, and I think that hopefully that Codies have finally got it right with F1 2016.

    The key is listening to the fans – at the end of the day, they’re the consumers of the games.

    Like

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