Not long after the 2016 calendars flipped over to May, we here at PRC.net received a worrying Reader Submission from Tyler W., informing us about the complete lack of details regarding the upcoming F1 2016 title from the team at Codemasters. Someone, somewhere, must have got the message Tyler was attempting to convey, as the covers have now been completely removed from F1 2016. After a dismal effort last year in F1 2015, a multi-platform release that was lacking in both gameplay modes and overall performance stability, many elements removed from the series during the jump to next-generation consoles are set to make a triumphant return – including a detailed single player Career Mode, as well as the Safety Car. They really shouldn’t have been removed in the first place, but with how disappointing the entire sim racing genre had been throughout the 2015 calendar year, it was almost par for the course.
So yes, screenshots of F1 2016 are plastered all over your favorite traditional sim racing news sites, so go have a look. Graphically, it’s looking much more refined than last year’s title, and new locations such as the Baku Street Circuit are preparing to appear in a racing game for the first time ever. The current Formula One season has been a mixed bag, but obviously a video game rendition will allow people to immerse themselves in a virtual rendition of the sport, and create their own narratives that can potentially eclipse what’s happening in the real-world championship. Given the size of F1’s fanbase, it’s important Codemasters gets this one right, especially considering even the casual fans were left wondering what the fuck they bought last year. It was certainly not worth the asking price.
To duplicate the process that turned another Codemasters project, DiRT Rally, into the best racing simulator of 2015, the team have announced a Closed Beta program to ensure the game is polished to an acceptable extent prior to the software going public. Codemasters will be turning 100 applicants loose per platform on a rough draft of F1 2016, hoping that dedicated Formula One fans will find as many issues, exploits, and glitches as possible before the game is officially put up for sale. You can sign up here, though you must be a Codemasters forum member with some kind of post history to increase your chances of getting picked.
Personally, I don’t think this is a good idea, even though I’m aware that Codemasters is a team that desperately needs the community’s feedback for any game that they plan on releasing in the future. DiRT Rally was successful because the only people who were even remotely interested in providing feedback for the title during the game’s Early Access phase, were hardcore rally fans hell-bent on finding a successor to Richard Burns Rally. The community could work towards a common goal and generally agree on the areas that needed improvement, as basically everyone involved wanted the same thing from DiRT Rally: accurate physics and challenging AI. It wasn’t long before amateur rally drivers were coming out of the woodwork to share their experience behind the wheel, and the game’s tire model subtly improved with each build to the delight of many sim racers who had invested long hours into the title. The end product was nothing short of phenomenal, albeit with just a few too little stages for my liking.
The Codemasters Formula One series, on the other hand, has many different groups all wanting vastly different experiences from the product – and this is completely understandable, as the F1 games are designed for mass-market consumption. Some sim racers who purchase F1 2016 will accept nothing less than a rock-solid simulation, as rFactor mods just don’t cut it anymore. Others believe a simcade route is the way to go, compromising realism for a shallow learning curve and simplified tire characteristics. Lastly, some Formula One fans cannot stomach anything longer than a three lap sprint, guided around the track by numerous driving aids practically piloting the car for them.
Codemasters wants input from everybody, and this simply isn’t going to work. The sim guys will play the first beta build, promptly take to the forums and claim the turbochargers aren’t modeled correctly, then demand the cars need to be more snappy on corner exit. Those who can barely make it around the track without half of the aids enabled will proceed cry out in frustration that the game is now too difficult for them once the proper adjustments are made. A competent yet slow driver may scream “Hallelujah!” over the cars turning laps that are nearly identical to real-world speeds, yet an alien driver may discover a setup exploit that rewards low downforce configurations on high downforce tracks. A teenager who has never even sat behind the wheel of his mom’s minivan may throw in a request for nonsensical handling changes and additional force feedback effects, advice Codemasters might accidentally abide by provided he can word it in a way that makes his request seem reasonable. I get that this whole closed beta program has the best of intentions, but given how many different types of racing game enthusiasts play F1 titles, filtering through everything to find the genuinely useful advice will be nothing short of a nightmare.
This situation has already presented itself in a different racing simulator, a title not operating under the guise of a closed beta. Recently, iRacing physics mastermind David Kaemmer made the preposterous claim that the outside edges of Formula One tires running at extreme negative camber values do not cool down when not in contact with the tarmac. Even though Kaemmer was 100% wrong in his explanation – the tires absolutely do cool down in this situation – and it served to highlight the fact that iRacing doesn’t always get things right, iRacing fanboys rushed to defend Kaemmer’s theories, merely because it was David freaking Kaemmer, and iRacing is their favorite game. There’s a chance somebody could discover a serious issue with F1 2016 during this closed beta phase, only for them to get swarmed by Codemasters fanboys who are just happy they’ve been accepted into an elite club.
I’ve personally seen this kind of behavior manifest itself in the iRacing forums, thanks to the abundance of stat tracking applications willingly posted in each member’s individual signature, as well as the notoriety of certain users. iRacing members not old enough to posses a valid drivers license, or have never turned laps in any kind of amateur race car at speed, have offered extremely detailed and often bogus insight as to how a Sprint Cup car should drive within the simulator. iRacing traditionally listens to these members over those with genuine technical insight, due to shallow message board alliances. The September 2011 build of iRacing is a version many longtime members hold in especially high regard, but after several underage and ill-informed Peak Anti-Freeze Series drivers complained that they suddenly weren’t winning races and had to conserve tires, iRacing embarked on what’s now a six year quest to rectify something that wasn’t wrong in the first place.
Codemasters has the potential to fall into the same trap with this closed beta program. It’s going to be impossible for them to listen to everybody’s insight, given how diverse their Formula One audience can be. As we get into the final months of September, October, or even November of 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised to receive a submission from somebody claiming the Version 0.6.1 build of F1 2016 was the greatest racing simulator ever built, but because xxSniper91xx couldn’t win and impress his YouTube fans, all advanced tire characteristics were scrapped.
Edit: lol I used the same picture twice.