Assetto Corsa fans had much to celebrate when Kunos Simulazioni announced a few short weeks ago that Porsche, the legendary German auto manufacturer once restricted to only titles by Electronic Arts and Turn 10 Studios, would be arriving as downloadable in the popular multi-platform racing simulator prior to the exclusive license expiring at the end of the 2016 calendar year. However, the inclusion of the popular sports car brand came at a price – Kunos drastically re-structured the third party modding community contained within the game’s official forums overnight, most likely to appease Porsche’s extremely specific demands, and as a result the content creation scene surrounding the title has taken a noticeable dive in activity with no proper “home” established as of yet. But the lack of activity compared to “how things used to be” appears to have an explanation beyond “we don’t have an established home yet.” According to today’s Reader Submission here at PRC.net, Kunos went through the modding community and snatched up as many talented individuals for contract work as they possibly could – something that has become increasingly evident as many work-in-progress Porsche mods previewed months ago have suddenly reappeared as premium pieces of DLC.
Good afternoon, PRC! Your anonymous physics modder is here for another reader submission, and this time I’d like to talk about the upcoming Porsche DLC packs for Assetto Corsa.
It seems everybody has gotten mighty excited about seeing Porsche inside Assetto Corsa. People claimed that it’s the first time we will see cars of the famous German brand given the “official” treatment from a big sim racing name… Or is it? After some pictures already surfaced of ongoing work on cars, people were quick to point out that they are from mods that were already work in progress. It’s dulled a bit of the excitement and instead served as confirmation that Kunos just goes around and buys mods to release them as premium downloadable content. At first glance this seems like it isn’t a big deal, just Kunos outsourcing jobs to passionate fans of the game, and rewarding community members for their hard work, right?
Not so fast. You see, its clear already that the 3D work is being handled by outsiders, and this has the obvious consequence that quality will vary from model to model. Some of it can be up to pa, while others won’t be so good – such as the Toyota Corolla AE86 in the Japanese pack. Now I know that people are more interested in the way they drive, but what proof do we have that the physics are not dealt in the exact same way? Aris can come out and say that he’s in possession of all the data in the world, but when you are getting ready to release a big batch of Porsche cars straight away, does he really have the time to slave over the physics of each and every individual car? You saw what happened with the Ferrari F1 cars and how people freaked when the 2015 Grand Prix entry was struggling with all sorts of inaccuracies on launch day. I’ve stopped believing that Kunos polishes them to the extent that’s advertised.
And there’s another, even bigger problem. It is very very possible that the closing of the official modding forums might be tied to this partnership in more ways than we imagine. Picture what Porsche personnel would think if they find out that their brand is being represented by a bunch of keyboard nerds who were already doing illegal representations of their cars in the first place? And now they are getting rewarded? What would some Porsche public relations guy think if he spent time on the Assetto Corsa forums, and saw a bunch of WIP Porsche cars laying around, just to see them released as official downloadable content a few mere weeks after? Would he believe that Kunos is handling their license with care and passion, and correctly representing the needs of their brand in a virtual environment?
Lastly, there’s the giant elephant in the room: the end result of this is that the average sim racer will essentially be paying for mods – something that has been shunned for years and years in the community. Kunos, in my opinion, is acting like some big Mak Corp-like entity, and basically buying out all the mods of a passable quality in the landscape, to then sell them to you as “Official Content” – cars that you could have and would have been driving for free anyways, and probably couldn’t even tell the difference. Hell, have you ever wondered why so many modders are suddenly rushing to jump on the Assetto Corsa bandwagon? Well, this is your answer: They are hoping their mod is bought. I guess whoever was working on popular Porsche models prior to the announcement hit the jackpot!
Kunos antics are not enticing modders to help turn PC sim racing into something magical. It’s actually killing it by turning modders into hired guns, and making you pay for mods you wouldn’t be paying for in the first place.
I’m going to suffer from a bit of cognitive dissonance here, so stay with me while I explore both sides of the coin.
If a buddy of mine made a fantastic 3D car model and a promising set of initial beta physics for Assetto Corsa, and Kunos gave him a nice chunk of change to have his car included in the next major DLC pack, you bet your ass we’d be celebrating on Teamspeak all through the night. Even if it was something trivial and bummy, like a Chevrolet Cavalier, it would be difficult to downplay how genuinely cool it is for a developer to recognize the talent within the community and reward them for it. So I’m not going to. I think that it’s really neat Kunos have chosen this approach when it comes to post-release content. They are an extremely small team, and with Assetto Corsa sitting in that quasi-finished state, impressive enough to woo the average sim racer, but lacking enough to piss off the diehards, they need all the time they can get to flesh out the product. If it means outsourcing content to the random dudes sitting on their message board, it’s a pretty damn smart move in my opinion.
But, as you pointed out, it’s also risky. I’d rather have a uniform set of eyes looking over each car in the game, and have them all built to the same quality by a person who knows the content inside and out, than a hodgepodge of random contributors equivalent to a rock band hiring session musicians to finish an album (Stefano will like that analogy). Let’s be real here, even the best mods for Assetto Corsa – and other titles for that matter – still have their quirks, inaccuracies, and flaws. With no guarantee that these mods can match the fidelity of the vanilla content, and no guarantee that Kunos themselves can put out an accurate car – as we saw with the Ferrari F1 stuff – it’s kind of shitty to make people pay for random community mods by labeling them as official downloadable content.
I think the most disappointing part of this issue, is that Kunos isn’t upfront with how these cars are being created. For people like myself, as well as other PC-based sim racers who are aware that mod quality differs from one author to another, this matters. A fair amount of of Assetto Corsa mods, even the ones that visually are quite appealing, have a tendency to be utter shit when you hit the track. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable paying for official downloadable content crafted by an author who’s prior freeware projects were met with a swift stroke of the Delete key, and it’s a shame there’s no effort to distinguish what pieces of content haven’t been graced by the magic hands of Kunos.
So I don’t think Kunos should stop outsourcing to random community members altogether – I’ll defend them and say this is actually something they need to do given the size of the company, but we should at least be told who’s behind what. Kunos won’t lose sales by doing so, and it’ll be much less of a shock when we purchase something and it’s not up to par. I mean, this is pretty new territory for PC gaming. You don’t see Bethesda purchasing Skyrim mods and then bundling them into the High Definition Remake of Skyrim, right? So let’s set a really simple precedent before it gets out of hand.