Acting as little more than a third party marketing tool, the gaming division of Red Bull have published yet another thinly-disguised piece of propaganda meant to push Assetto Corsa on the masses. For quite some time, it’s been a poorly kept secret that video game journalism is anything but – instead operating as an extension of a developer’s advertisement campaign – but given how well-informed we are in regards to the world of sim racing, it’s difficult to stomach a developer outright lying to both current and potential customers in such a widely-circulated interview. Watching Ian Bell and his henchmen spread the gospel of Project CARS became a nauseating experience – especially after the game failed to impress upon release – but now that we’re in the middle of experiencing the second round of this mayhem, it would be nice if we were subjected to significantly less bone-headed or ill-advised responses. The sim racing community, and developers within our genre, were supposed to learn something from how Slightly Mad Studios aggressively promoted Project CARS, not copy what they’ve done.
To summarize the recent interview Red Bull Gaming have conducted with Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni, and why we’re talking about this article in particular today, buried within an admittedly well-written article are three hilarious nuggets of information that are straight up contradictory. Any developer willing to talk candidly about the development of their game obviously has a big set of balls to begin with, and they deserve a pat on the back for willing to answer any interview questions at all, but in this situation, Kunos really could have used a proper gameplan. There was some stuff that came out – either intentionally or by accident – that really should have required another pass through.
That isn’t to say the article is a completely pessimistic read, however. I personally enjoyed the parts where Stefano discussed the process of acquiring licenses, and how the game’s reputation directly affected which brands they could pursue, and when. It was neat to hear how Lamborghini initially denied their requests to work with them, until they caught wind of Ferrari joining in on the fun. And as a PS3 owner who’s always known about the console’s shortcomings, it was interesting to hear Stefano openly state how the PS3 was a “completely different animal required dedicated everything.” It explains why I’m having to resort to obscure PS2 titles for my lighthearted racing fix. Motorstorm and Gran Turismo 6 just don’t cut it.
But alas, on with the show.
We start with Stefano claiming the second delay for the next generation console version of Assetto Corsa can be attributed to the summer holidays and… European football? Yeah, no, I’m not buying that one. No company in their right mind, after delaying their game once for “extra polish”, would seriously approach their publisher and say “can we wait another two months? Football is on.” This is the literal equivalent of refusing to hand in your high school English assignment on the due date, and giving your teacher the excuse of “I had to pick up my sister from cheer practice.”
The already poor excuse is magnified by the fact that the game’s official forums are loaded with reports of bugs and glitches that have no place in a consumer product, indicating this delay clearly isn’t related to a strategic release at the end of summer holidays. Considering these forums can be viewed by anyone who’s already purchased the PC game, people are going to figure out mighty quick that you’re lying to them, and that your team is scrambling around behind the scenes to squash bugs. The screenshot above is one taken of the forums circa Version 1.5 – so around the time the console version was originally scheduled to be released – and here Stefano is instead chalking the delay up to football matches, even though it can be demonstrated that shit was going very wrong and required much more time on the project.
We move on to Stefano claiming the game’s artificial intelligence uses the same physics as the player’s vehicle, even elaborating on the fact that other games use simplistic models to cut down on CPU load and increase the overall framerate. He continues on this subject, explaining how in other games – most notably isiMotor simulators – that AI cars using the traditional method of artificial intelligence technology run alternative lines where they’re either too slow in one corner, or too fast on a particular straight section. Assetto Corsa’s AI is said to not be using any “cheats” whatsoever – they’re driving the same cars you are.
Is that so? Then why, in this video from a few months ago, can an AI car be rear-ended at 120 MPH, and still make the corner?
Why, when a top level open wheel car is knocked off the racing line by another opponent, can the AI manipulate the car into a chain of drifts that would make Formula D participants blush? This is the exact behavior Stefano is claiming the AI in Assetto Corsa doesn’t exhibit, and yet it’s available for everyone to see on YouTube in multiple situations.
Maybe it’s a technicality, and grip hacks are only temporarily employed to keep the AI cars out of trouble, but the point still stands. We’re told in the Red Bull interview that the AI won’t cheat, and it’s driving with the exact same physics as the player’s car, only for this to be proven demonstrably false. It’s not really the exact same physics if Formula One cars can conquer the grass like nothing, and McLaren street cars can execute perfect hairpin turns at 100 MPH after an intentional shunt.
Lastly, and this is my favorite capture by far, is Stefano’s hypocritical stance on Virtual Reality technology. Less than two months ago, Stefano had angrily taken to Twitter after Oculus Rift and HTC Vive fanboys inquired about Virtual Reality support within Assetto Corsa, and promptly labelled them the “VR Mafia,” even saying he would begin blocking people for merely continuing to ask him about it. In the Red Bull Interview, he states this is a piece of technology that excites him. Back in late March, he brags about blocking people on Twitter for talking to him about it. People are dynamic creatures, and opinions do change, but this is an extremely sharp 180 degree turn in the span of very little time.
The whole piece goes from optimistic and informative, to contradictory and anakastic – which is what I’m hoping wasn’t the feelings Kunos were intending to convey. You can’t honestly tell me that the second delay for Assetto Corsa was due to people supposedly being too preoccupied with football matches, they might completely forget about the release and fail to grab a copy of the game from Wal-Mart. You can’t honestly tell me you’re excited by the new advancements in Virtual Reality technology, when only two months prior you were blocking people on Twitter for merely asking about it. And you seriously can’t say the game’s artificial intelligence abides by a uniform set of driving physics, when people who genuinely enjoy the game are taking to YouTube to document how fucking crazy the AI can be – naming such videos as “physics-defying AI” to drill home the point.
We will understandably get a lot of flak for this article, as we do with basically every piece we publish on Assetto Corsa, but in this instance, what the developer has said in public, and what’s actually occurring within the game, are two very different things. And will those who were invited to the recent press event at Vallelunga dare to discuss them?
Hell no. So, like always, that duty gets pushed onto us, and within 24-48 hours, we’ll be accused of having an irrational vendetta for merely pointing this stuff out.