When the popularity of your simulator is at an all-time low, pumping out an obscure car as a “surprise” will do little to reinvigorate the masses. Image Space Incorporated have learned this lesson the hard way; the new Gasoline Alley content for rFactor 2 was met with an immensely harsh response – and for good reason. Out of place in the simulator’s already spotty list of content, and horribly out of date visually, the array of 1960’s USAC oval racing entries were collectively deemed to be a pointless addition for a game already on life support.
Originally beginning life as an off-the-beaten-path mod for the first rendition of rFactor, Gasoline Alley was slightly cleaned up by Bill Guillaume and Gilles Benoit to be included as part of ISI’s third party affiliate program. Projects like Gasoline Alley are released as a way to pad the selection of quality vehicles and locations available for rFactor 2, enlisting the help of dedicated community members with the same common goal as ISI themselves – expand rFactor 2 into something extraordinary. Unfortunately, the third party affiliate endeavor hasn’t taken off quite as well as ISI would have hoped – releases are still few and far between, and in the case of Gasoline Alley, many would have simply preferred ISI to finish up the often-teased Nissan GTR GT500, or the Daytona Prototype that’s sitting around in a corner… somewhere…
As a result, the overall community reaction to Gasoline Alley’s release was that of disgust – and in a rare case, I actually agree with the point they majority of sim racers are making. rFactor 2 is a very good racing simulator once you navigate through all of the bullshit, but there’s no denying the title is on life support, and it desperately needs more than just an obscure car or track to get people genuinely excited about the title. There’s just one track the historic USAC cars are compatible with, and much of rFactor 2’s userbase flat-out doesn’t care for historic IndyCar racing. Comments over at RaceDepartment liberally rip into Image Space Incorporated, as not only did people not really care for these cars in the first place, the quality of the release itself isn’t nearly up to the level expected by sim racers in 2016. I’ve captured four of the comments I’ve found to be the most direct about the issue, but you can browse through the entire thread at your own pace by clicking here.
This was an extremely bad call by Image Space Incorporated. rFactor 2 doesn’t just need an obscure car or track thrown at the small but loyal fanbase every other month – it needs a piece of content that people are racing home from work to ensure every last portion of their evening is spent behind their toy steering wheel playing with it. This isn’t it. The cars are visually unappealing, there’s literally one relevant track to race them on, sim racers aren’t interested in this series in the first place, the original version of the mod wasn’t very popular, and the mod itself sticks out like a sore thumb among other, much more polished pieces of rFactor 2 content.
The Howston Dissenter was an alright addition, because no developer has really set their sights on a classic Trans-Am machine, licensed or not. Toban Raceway maybe wasn’t necessary, but it’s a track people have fond memories of when they’d first discovered rFactor, and it’s not a stretch to assume they’d like to try again. But these little releases only really make the game’s activity jump from 40 active players to maybe 60 or 70, and when you consider there are as many people at your nearest bowling alley on any given night, those numbers are pretty pathetic. This whole third party affiliate program isn’t really working – it’s time for ISI to bring out the big guns.
Some kind of full series license, even if it’s not the biggest series in the world that everyone’s jizzing their pants over – such as GT3 sports car racing – is desperately needed. Seeing this Gasoline Alley pack come out to such a dismal reception, I fully sympathize with the frustrated sim racers who are still waiting for the day rFactor 2 becomes relevant. Right now, what’s going to happen is that people will boot up the game out of curiosity, drive a few laps around Indianapolis with the Gasoline Alley mod, and never touch it again. That’s not the way to keep people interested in rFactor 2, that’s just dumb. Maybe it’s time for an almost complete package of IndyCar tracks? Maybe it’s time to pursue a license with any number of amateur North American road racing series? Any crazy alternative one can dream up on the spot is better than a quickly converted mod from the original rFactor.