For readers of PRC.net who have sunk long hours into the popular PC racing simulator by Italian developer Kunos Simulazioni, it’s been an interesting Thursday to say the least. Not just one, but two major stories have come out of the Kunos Simulazioni camp, and it’s basically impossible for me to adequately cover them as if they’re breaking stories. Compared to most other sim racing web sites, I’m based out of a Western Canadian province in North America and will always be late to the party, so those who have wanted to get anything off their chests regarding the two new pieces of information, have already done so on multiple different platforms. People are bitching about them on RaceDepartment. They’re bitching about them on VirtualR. And even in the official Assetto Corsa forums… yep, they’re talking about it over there as well. Not successfully, I might add. The usual set of individuals are already lashing out at their customers. But that’s to be expected, I guess.
Considering we don’t ban people for merely going against the “safe” stance on either issue, I guess we’ll start a discussion here as well. I get that sometimes sim racers are forced to bite their tongues , so you’re free to explode in the comments section below.
Anyways, on with the show.
The first piece of news, and in my opinion the most noteworthy of the two, is an announcement of an announcement. Yes, we’re at that point where modern racing sims are so dull, unfinished, and boring, that developers feel the need to rile up the community by announcing an announcement. Surprise press releases just aren’t cutting it anymore, now there has to be an advance warning of a press release. Cutting to the chase, Kunos staff members – a whole bunch of them actually – are telling us all via Twitter to mark June 17th on our calendar, using the common wedding term Save the Date as a hashtag. Maybe there’s a subtle hint in this peculiar choice of words, a staff member is getting married or something and it’ll be streamed on the official forums, but realistically, some kind of major addition to Assetto Corsa will be unveiled next Friday.
Do I have any clues as to what it might be? Well, I can throw a few names into the mix based on what’s been said to me. It could be the acquisition of the Aston Martin, Honda, or Initial D license – all three of which are rumored to be in talks with Kunos, though a safe bet would be to put your money on Honda, as Kunos have allegedly purchased a community member’s S2000 model behind the scenes like they did with the R34 Skyline. On a personal level, I can’t see the Honda license validating the need for a massive, week-long hype extravaganza until the eventual announcement, but Kunos can and often do operate in ways that don’t make a whole lot of sense to the average sim racer.
I could be a funny guy, strap on my custom-made tin foil hat, and suggest that the Turn 10/Kunos deal we spoke about earlier this spring will be officially announced on the 17th, but the amount of chaos something like that would generate if it were to come true would be too much for everyone to handle.
Our second piece of news from the Kunos Simulazioni camp today – and a controversy you’ve most likely already discussed on multiple different sim racing discussion platforms – is the abrupt closure of the Assetto Corsa modding community within the game’s official forums. Yes, you read that right. To bring fans of the game up to speed – sim racers who may not spend a whole lot of time inside the game’s expansive online community – the official message boards were home to a dedicated modding sub-section, and Kunos has announced they’ll be closing the entire section down. Car liveries? Removed. Tracks? Removed. Vehicles? Removed. Showcase threads? Removed. Tutorial threads and other related items will still remain for the benefit of amateur modders, but everything else must go immediately.
Aside from the Kunos Simulazioni livery competition, which is still up for some reason, indicating Kunos can’t even follow their own extremely simple rules.
Outside of the official announcement, which hints at an influx of ripped, unlicensed, or stolen content as the reason behind the sudden closure, Stefano Casillo has confirmed within the Assetto Corsa forums that this decision has absolutely nothing to do with legal issues or other miscellaneous problems that may arise from hosting third party content downloads. In fact, on the other side of the sim racing world, Image Space Incorporated maintain a very active rFactor 2 modding community within their official forums, indicating there isn’t any real reason why a team like Kunos Simulazioni would be justified in spontaneously giving the boot to every Assetto Corsa modder from a place they’ve called home for many years.
The news comes as a complete shock to basically everybody within the Assetto Corsa community. Since the game’s announcement and initial release on Steam’s Early Access platform back in 2013, Assetto Corsa was billed as a modding platform, subtly aiming to surpass what was accomplished with the original rFactor in the late 2000’s. From a third party standpoint, the chain of events that have taken place today are absolutely nonsensical.
- Kunos Simulazioni built a racing simulator that was intended to be heavily modded by the sim racing community, first and foremost.
- Kunos welcomed sim racing modders into their official domain with open arms, introducing a dedicated section just for them to converse with each other, show off mods, and have easy access to staff members that could answer very specific questions about the content creation side of Assetto Corsa.
- Kunos allowed this community to thrive for a period of several years, and routinely monitored the modding section of the forums to recruit talented individuals for contract work – content that would find its way into Assetto Corsa as official Kunos Simulazioni content.
- Zandvoort, the Nissan Skyline R34, Lamborghini Muira, Shelby Cobra, and the Audio Quattro are just some of the cars and tracks featured in Assetto Corsa that originally began life as high quality third party mods, only to be literally bought by Kunos Simulazioni themselves.
- Today, Stefano Casillo announced people weren’t using the modding section for it’s intended purposes, claimed there were too many useless threads which only served to feed people’s egos, and told everyone to find some place else to go.
- Literally everyone shit their pants and wondered what the fuck was going on.
It doesn’t take a genius, or a sim racing connoisseur, to understand how batshit crazy this all is, but I admittedly don’t understand just how tight the modding community for Assetto Corsa is, nor do I understand the politics taking place behind the scenes. I’ll instead let a few Reddit comments summarize the overall atmosphere post-announcement.
Two Reddit users, TCLF and smudi, both immediately accuse Kunos of lying about the real reason the Assetto Corsa modding community is being forced to leave the official forums. TCLF states Kunos initially didn’t want any sort of online racing community discussion occurring on the official forums, but Kunos staff member Kevin contradicted the team’s stance and said it wouldn’t actually be a big deal for him to moderate another board. Smudi, on the other hand, says there has been basically no ripped content posted on the official forums, as the incredibly hostile community promptly chases away any bad apples who are caught ripping cars from Forza. In the final portion of his post, TCLF backs this up. Smudi even states there has been no sort of tangible influx of inappropriate behavior on the official forums which would warrant the entire modding section to be closed, directly contradicting what Stefano had mentioned in the initial announcement.
Several other users come to the defense of what Smudi has to say. Viscerous says the claims Stefano Casillo has made about an influx of ripped content is “silly”, while Acc87 allegedly had a Kunos Simulazioni team member congratulate him on an upcoming project he had been working on after posting a single picture. As displayed in a screenshot above, Stefano Casillo has said that the modding section had become an unnecessary showcase of WIP projects intended solely to feed egos, but clemenskaa notes that Kunos staff members had created additional tags primarily for use in the modding forum.
Again, Kunos allowed this in-house modding community to thrive for almost three years, routinely used it to recruit talent that could help build official Kunos content, and yet today they decided to randomly shut it all down – for reasons many community members simply aren’t buying.
So why does this all matter?
Well, for one, it makes sim racers lose faith in Kunos. What asshole developer suddenly destroys a modding community he willingly allowed to operate for several years in his own domain, over purely fictitious reasons? If these kids of rash and illogical decisions are made, ones which serve to universally upset an entire portion of the community helping to breathe new life into your game at no extra cost, what else is going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Some speculate this decision was made primarily to hide the incredible PC modding scene away from the influx of next-generation console owners who don’t have access to this “superior” version of Assetto Corsa when the console version drops, but I just can’t see why that would be a big issue. Everyone knows most PC games have mods, and your average console game doesn’t. Skyrim has an official modding section, even though only the PC game supports mods. This can’t be the reason.
And most importantly, it fragments the modding community. From what I understand, everyone went to the official Assetto Corsa forums to check out what was on the horizon, and download the latest and greatest scratch built creations. It was the central hub of operations, and a place where talented modders could directly ask Kunos staff members questions about the game. Now, with the new rules in place, some will migrate to RaceDepartment, others to F1Classic, and the odd cluster of folks will remain in private Facebook groups – all keeping bits of information to themselves.
An interesting day, that’s for sure.