It’s not a Reader Submission here at PRC.net, but it should be, and as a result, I’m going to treat it like one. No less than an hour ago, a user by the name of Vadara over on Reddit’s home for Sim Racing posted a lengthy rant detailing his opinion on the marketing pitch used used by both Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, in comparison to the hardcore roster of PC-based racing simulators. Vadara is frequently annoyed at the claims made by Turn 10 and Polyphony Digital indicating their respective products are no-nonsense racing simulators, when the entire world of PC sim racing exists and are demonstrably operating on an entirely different level compared to mass-market mainstream console games. His points are valid, and I believe this is something we should talk about here at PRC.net.
Does the pretension of Forza and Gran Turismo bother any of you guys?
Forza isn’t too bad, but as I get deeper into the world of sim racing, I find Gran Turismo and Kazunori Yamauchi’s pretentious attitude to be insufferable. GT carries itself as this super-realistic driving simulator even, though any PC sim racer would find that laughable. There are features in early-2000’s PC sims that still aren’t – or won’t be – in GT6 or GT Sport.
The Real Driving Simulator? GT6 still doesn’t understand that high-horsepower rear wheel drive cars spin out when you dump the clutch and mash the gas from a standing start (I also remember a thread on GTPlanet where it was conclusively determined that GT5 does not model tire width at all). Then there’s shit like the GT Academy (as if GT could ever prepare someone for real racing) and GT Sport’s “official FIA GT” malarkey. GT Sport will allow people to get a license that qualifies them for real-life FIA GT events, which is just laughable honestly. Then we have Yamauchi’s bizarre belief that he’s creating the most hardcore realistic driving simulation ever, doing things like making his team obsessively model the stitching on a Miata’s seats while the tire physics lag behind NASCAR Racing 2003 and rFactor. The dude has even trashed Forza and said it wasn’t a sim, as if his game was a sim at all and as if Forza’s physics weren’t superior to GT’s at the time (they still are). He doesn’t even acknowledge PC simulators at all!
I have the Apex book that came the Collector’s Edition of GT5. The book’s prose has this insufferable tone that it’s a guide to racing in real life too. At one point it mentions hell-and-toe shifting, even though GT’s clutch function is hidden behind a button press not mentioned anywhere in the game or manual. And I’m pretty sure no car in GT actually needs rev matching to stay stable. The fanboys are the worst. GT has conned a huge amount of people into believing that it really is the most realistic sim out there. There are people who buy wheels JUST to play GT!
To be honest, Forza isn’t as bad, they have the same “super-realistic fuck yeah Pirelli tire data” marketing hogwash, but Greenwalt was never as pretentious about it as Yamauchi. It really is the definition of pretension – pretending to be something more talented than one really is.
I dunno, man. I have a lot of great memories with Forza and Gran Turismo, but they’re just too… Simple. iRacing, rFactor, Reiza Studios products, Assetto Corsa, and NASCAR 2003 have a dynamism and liveliness that the two mainstream console sims just can’t provide, and to see those two series act like they’re the pinnacle of realism (Christ, Project-Fucking-Cars is more realistic and that game is a goddamn mess). It’s like those guys who say they’re hardcore gamers, but all they play is Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. Or guys who claim to love music, but only listen to Top 40 hits and maybe a meme genre. We’ve got all these great sims who aren’t even mentioned for their achievements, while reviewers give GT and Forza high marks for “realism.” Ugh.
I agree that the marketing tactics behind both Gran Turismo and Forza can be a bit bothersome, and I think it’s valid to say Forza and Gran Turismo are being a bit pretentious in this regard. However, the bigger problem lies in how these games are designed to be played. I personally enjoyed how Gran Turismo 6 felt when I made fairly substantial changes to the driving assist and tire compound settings, but nobody is going to play the game in the same manner as I do. And I don’t think the NASCAR Expansion for Forza 6 felt all that bad, but I’d indeed much rather be playing NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. I will say that both Gran Turismo and Forza can be quite good when you sit down like a true sim racing autist and figure out how to disable all of the babby-tier assists, crafting a PC sim-like experience inside of a strange and foreign environment.
The problem arises when how these games are structured from a design standpoint They’re advertising a simulator, and with all of the bullshit turned off they are indeed approaching a level of fidelity on-par with PC simulators, but you’re given no incentive to play the game like a simulator. Instead, Polyphony and Turn 10 hold your hand at every possible point during your journey. Why does Gran Turismo give people ultra grippy compound tires by default? Why was Forza pushing a “rewind” system for so many years? What’s this Skid Recovery Force setting, and why can’t it be turned off during the trademark license tests in Gran Turismo 6? Why are an overwhelming majority of the single player campaign events three lap affairs? Where’s qualifying? Where’s the traditional race weekend format? Why are the Endurance Races in Forza 6 pushed off to the side, the completion of which now entirely optional?
I’m not even asking for pace car support or flag rules yet, but I agree it’s pretty ridiculous how we have multiple companies coming out to boast about how hardcore their games are, but when you put them in the disc tray it’s just a bunch of random three lap races with no qualifying – Mario Kart with real cars. Like, you’ve built this multi-million dollar racing “simulator”, with physics engines that are allegedly the most advanced on the market, but suddenly the entire product has been designed around intentionally not wanting to do racing simulator-y things. Instead, the races have become almost secondary to the progression. Be sure to rate your favorite designs on the marketplace! Buy perks! Level up your driver! Develop affinity! Complete our handful of random oh-so-silly challenges!
When you call that experience a simulator, and there’s this whole line of PC games just sort of chilling in the distance that fit the simulator description better than “knock over all the cones for a gold star!”, pretentious is a good word to start with.
If Forza and Gran Turismo would stop holding people’s hands throughout the entire game, I think the rivalry between PC sim racers, and their console brothers, would more or less disappear. The console guys would have a worthwhile product to invest themselves in, and the PC guys would even be inclined to check out the console offerings. That’s the direction Turn 10 and Polyphony need to go in, they need to eradicate this rivalry by changing how their games are structured. For a real world example, my local sim racing center is actually quite popular, and there are a lot of guys who come in touting previous experience on the Forza Motorsport series. Many are outright brutal when they’re behind the wheel in rFactor 2, and some actually leave the place in disgust, convinced that the game is broken or something. That kind of situation adds to the rivalry.
So how would a developer turn this thing around?
Let’s identify the problem with these console games.
As I mentioned above, Forza and Gran Turismo have told their user base that they’re playing hardcore racing simulators, but neither game bothers to take off the kid gloves at any point in time, and that’s what causes this hate and disparity among genuine sim racers and Forza/GT fanboys masquerading as sim racers. You have two completely different experiences offered under the same general banner, and only one of them fits the definition of hardcore simulator. Yes, Forza has assists. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because not everyone is a fantastic virtual driver out of the box. Yes, Forza has rewind. Again, not a bad thing, because restarting races can get frustrating for someone who is new and constantly smashing into the wall. And yes, both mainstream racing sims have woefully short events throughout their single player campaigns. Also not a bad thing, I don’t want to drive any sort of Toyota hatchback in a 40-minute endurance session for a few thousand credits.
But as both games progress, neither title explicitly stops holding your hand and welcomes you to the big leagues, so to speak. At no point in Forza or Gran Turismo are you asked to qualify for a race, with the Restart button greyed out to drill home how nerve-wracking a super-pole session can be. When you hit Driver Level 20, the races suddenly don’t become hour-long affairs that require razor-sharp reflexes, the Endurance races are always neatly hidden away in a sub-menu far away from the primary progression. After two or three clean races, the driving line isn’t permanently turned off; you can smash and shunt your way through career mode at your own pace, and Forza actually dropped the once-hilarious concept of paying for repairs after each event because it was too demoralizing for the players.
What I’m getting at, is that neither Forza nor Gran Turismo force you to become a better virtual race car driver – and they should. Simulators are supposed to be challenging, demanding, and requiring your total concentration. Both titles are quite competent under the hood, but this competence is always kept away from the public eye under a flurry of simplified bullshit meant for kids like SLAPTrain who can’t go more than a few corners without wrecking. If after a few hours of play, Forza turned all the assists off on you and said “Nope, you’ve got to complete this endurance event at Road Atlanta because you’ve passed the tutorial stages”, I think the marketing babble of calling it a hardcore simulator would at least feel appropriate rather than pretentious. And it’s the same with the Gran Turismo line of games. The entire career mode shouldn’t be a repetitious Sunday Cup, and there has to be a point where the title no longer tries to coddle you.
- Two hours in? Alright, no more three lap races. Here’s a touring car, each race in this series is anywhere from ten to twenty five laps. Rewinds and the racing line have been permanently disabled. You have two qualifying laps. Good luck.
If Turn 10 and Polyphony were to turn the full power of Gran Turismo and Forza loose on the masses, their marketing campaign would no longer feel pretentious.