Only a few short days ago, Paul Jeffrey of RaceDepartment.com pushed out a mid-season review of sorts for PC racing simulators Automobilista and Assetto Corsa, detailing how each simulator had evolved under the guidance of both Reiza Studios and Kunos Simulazioni respectively. The lengthy piece served as a solid positive recap that described the evolution of both titles throughout the 2016 calendar year, outlining the major changes fans of each game had been subjected to during the now all-too-common ongoing development cycles, which see products receiving major updates while in the hands of the consumers. However, in a rather shocking turn of events, some important individuals used the comments section of this celebratory article to voice their complaints with a genre that has unfortunately become a bit of a university laboratory, as finished video games have now been replaced with eternal science projects lacking any sort of completion date.
Sim racing YouTube personality Matt Orr, known better by his stage name of Empty Box, penned a highly uncharacteristic reply early on in the thread’s lifespan chronicling his lack of satisfaction with the genre as a whole. Orr draws attention to the lack of progress Reiza Studios have made on Automobilista – an issue some are basically choosing to ignore due to their allegiance to the developer – and voices his concern on whether Reiza 2017 will ever materialize within a reasonable time frame considering how racing simulator developers consistently struggle to meet self-imposed deadlines. Orr ends his post by listing a string of slow-to-be-implemented features in other titles, and finally states stating sim racing as a whole has “gone off the deep end.” Pretty shocking for a guy that many deem to be the ambassador of the community, the anti-PRC, if you will. This is someone who is supposed to enjoy sim racing for what it is, and right now, he’s not.
But Matt wasn’t finished. After triggering a firestorm of comments that jumped on the popular YouTube personality for seemingly pulling a 180 in his stance on his favorite line of games, Matt responded with an extremely blunt take on the status of the genre. In an ironic twist of events, Orr believes the eternal quest for maximum simulation value to begin with – no, this is not a joke – has caused developers to basically ignore the traditional concept of finishing a game, instead pursuing a reality where “endless tire model updates” and “endless whatever updates” take precedence over creating a product that is enjoyable for customers to play, front to back. In Matt’s words, “game value is the problem with racing simulators.”
And I have to agree with him. Drivetrain flex added nothing to iRacing, and it’s certainly not worth a fancy loading screen discussing the identical matter in RaceRoom Racing Experience as well. Most real life drivers were completely fine with how the beta version of iRacing’s New Tire Model handled back in the summer of 2011 – nobody in their right mind went on the forums and begged David Kaemmer to spend the next five years continuously updating the tire model at the expense of other unfinished or wonky elements in the physics engine. A whole bunch of people felt Assetto Corsa drove fine during the spring of 2014, and maybe needed a minor refinement or two based on user feedback – not ten fucking tire models while fans sat around on message boards asking for pace cars or night racing. And as Matt said in the posts I’ve supplied above, Automobilista is actually behind schedule right now. Reiza Studios are instead choosing to talk about a New ECU Model so two or three cars handle a bit better under acceleration – even though not a whole lot of people were complaining to begin with, and there is still much to be done according to Reiza’s outline for the sim – a title that has less than a year remaining in it’s lifespan before the next one is supposed to hit.
Does it look like the game they’ve described? Nope, not even close. It’s another rFactor. Still excited for those ECU changes? I think not.
Simulation Value, in the most ironic chain of events, has basically ruined sim racing. Developers jerk each other off – as well as the community members whom they grow attached to – obsessing over details that are basically insignificant or impossible to notice for the average user, yet due to the size of their teams, not a whole lot else gets done to ensure the game itself is a complete and enjoyable product. Now, this would be fine if developers were releasing a re-package of NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona or Need for Speed Pro Street over and over again, but they’re not. There’s no career mode. There never is. There’s no tutorial mode or racing school, that’s now a thing of the past that only GTR 2 owners talk about. There’s nothing to unlock, no compelling artificial intelligence to race against when your buddies aren’t online, no in-house livery editor to throw together a nice ride at the click of a button, no XP level to grind out and swing around online as a massive virtual phallus, no upgrades to buy for your car or your shop, no cars to collect and switch between based on the location, no damage to repair as a punishment for your driving sins, no killer tunes by bands you haven’t heard of, and racing online requires gaining entry into a virtual tree house just to have a semi-decent field of drivers on the grid for one night out of the week.
Each new title is an old sandbox like the one before it. And there’s an increasing amount of people who’d like to do more than just aimlessly play in an empty sandbox, rather than be handed a slightly different shovel every two months.