The competitive scene surrounding Sector 3’s RaceRoom Racing Experience can be a bit difficult to comprehend. With not a whole lot of people flocking to the title thanks to intrusive micro-transactions which serve to quickly segregate the userbase, and online servers that aren’t always stable enough to host lengthy private league races, the game’s primary source of competition are instead numerous themed hotlap events conducted by Sector 3 Studios themselves. The 2016 calendar year has seen Sector 3 partner up with none other than legendary manufacturer Mercedes-AMG to conduct a season-long championship mirroring the real-world DTM schedule – complete with a proper knockout stage at the end – yet even the lowly forum trolls are calling the credibility of the entire series into question.
The problem is, there isn’t any proof; only theories and speculation.
As someone who actively invests a portion of their free time into RaceRoom Racing Experience and the various leaderboard challenges which Sector 3 conduct for the community, I sometimes do feel that the overall winner did not earn their victory in a legitimate fashion. Now I’m not a horrible driver by any means; usually I find myself competing for the top spot in any competition I enter, so I’m not implying that any track where I’m not the fastest, it’s because the other guy cheated. I don’t mind bringing home a second or third place finish if the gap between myself and the leaders is just a few tenths or hundredths – that’s the thrill of racing after all.
But I have to be completely honest with our readers: on some occasions, the guy in first is just too fast. R3E lets you view the ghost car of any other driver on the leaderboard, and there have been moments where I’m left in disbelief at what the silhouette in front of me is doing. My line may be right, but his car may accelerate just a fraction of a second quicker than mine. In another sector, my throttle rhythm may be superior to his, but the line that was deemed “legal” on his lap triggered a track limit violation on mine. And unfortunately, sometimes the name I’m chasing is one that has been expelled from a prominent online series for – you guessed it – cheating. It calls a lot of things into question.
RaceRoom Racing Experience is a racing simulator that has traditionally suffered from many hidden exploits throughout it’s lifespan, and this is something we’ve covered every once in a while here on PRC.net. Currently, in the GT3 class, the Bentley Continental and Ford GT are simply miles ahead of the pack when it comes to raw performance, and selecting any other car available in the roster means you’ll be battling for third place while drivers in either of the aforementioned cars walk away from the field. Earlier this year, we drew attention to a setup exploit which allowed minimum downforce configurations to be used with no detrimental effects to your car’s handling (which was eventually rectified in an update), and back in January I discovered you could wall-ride without any sort of lap invalidation penalty during Sector 3’s DTM Winter Cup. I’ve recently been informed that crazy toe values are all the rage within dedicated hot lapping circles, and run-off areas at tracks such as Hockenheim and the Red Bull Ring can routinely be exploited via liberal interpretations of track limits. At one point, there was even a transponder error that caused complete meltdowns of the scoring functionality in online lobbies. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy my time with this game, but there’s a pretty substantial list of stuff that affects R3E on a competitive level, and a new exploit comes up on average every couple of months.
It’s certainly tough to label any of this stuff as outright cheating – considering there are no working RAM hacks or third party programs involved that we’re aware of – but if you’re an average sim racer entering these competitions and driving in a completely honest fashion, I can confirm there’s only so far you can move up the ladder before hitting a metaphorical brick wall. In my opinion, these little quips do indeed tamper what is otherwise an enjoyable competitive environment.
Now, onto the main story. The prize for placing well in the Mercedes-backed competition is some sort of elaborate driving school trip, where you get to do much more than just rip around some parking lot in a passenger car. From what I’m able to deduce based on the promotional material, you’re basically given one of the high-end AMG performance driving school packages as a reward for your in-game accomplishments; what would be a life-changing experience for any dedicated sim racer. Yet as I’ve mentioned above, participants in this season-long competition are starting to hit the metaphorical brick wall between honest lap times and quirky R3E tricks as the season comes to a close; discovering the front-runners are clicking off laps that are nothing short of ridiculous.
Sector 3 forum member stuffwinner has tried to put this problem into words, but at this point it’s tough to deduce whether he’s merely trolling the user base after having a bit too much to drink, or if his nonsensical diversions exhibit remnants of validity. SW writes that “any lap time under the 1:32 range at Hockenheim is theoretically not possible”, and preposterously claims he is “without question the best driver in North America” – but in the process brings up an interesting point: How does a developer know when a blisteringly quick world record is valid, and when it’s the result of clever cheating? Sure, there are strict track boundary rules that are uniformly enforced, and the application has been written in a way to detect external tampering, but if the game does not detect any foul play, yet an impossible lap time is achieved, isn’t there reason to believe the lap is still the result of cheating?
This same problem arose on the iRacing platform many years ago. A certain young Australian race car driver who had been competing in the NASCAR K&N East Series had discovered a program which allowed him to manually manipulate the weather conditions and produce a twelve second lap time around Bristol Motor Speedway, when in reality the Sprint Cup Series entries have gone no faster than a 14.572. iRacing’s anti-cheat software did not detect the random access memory hack, therefore allowing his lap to stand as the unofficial track record, but everyone knew damn well that something was up. They can even be heard discussing the tool in the above video.
stuffwinner fails to elaborate on this concept, and instead notifies Sector 3 Studios that he has contacted Mercedes-AMG directly to complain about their major online competition.
He may not be as endearing as Ivan the WRC 5 shill, and he’s certainly not as hypocritical as the $43,000 man from SimRacingDesign, but stuffwinner’s alleged former friendship with US Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump via Valve’s Steam platform makes him a fantastic addition to our growing crop of nutty sim racers which populate our message boards.
What I find fascinating about this personality, is that he has actually managed to draw attention to an important conversation piece despite his otherwise completely insane rants. RaceRoom Racing Experience has traditionally been subjected to interesting exploits on a consistent basis, and it’s honestly not wrong given how much is on the line with this Mercedes competition to question the validity of the current front-runners. When I used to show up on both Race2Play and public servers alike in R3E with my minimum downforce aero configuration, I was frequently accused of cheating because my car was just that much faster compared to the competition. No, I wasn’t technically cheating, but there was indeed some dishonesty at play; I discovered an issue with the game that I could benefit from and destabilize the playing field. If you’re conducting an online season with such high-profile prizes at stake, it’s important as a developer to ensure all of this stuff is eradicated. As I’ve already stated in this article, even the lowly forum trolls are realizing driving in an honest fashion can only get you so far, so I’d say stuffwinner’s claims are worth looking into at the very least.
It’s just a shame the dude is positively nuts and can’t convey this effectively.
Of course, there’s a chance that the eight individuals who will be crowned winners at the end of the competition haven’t actually done anything wrong, and their Mercedes-Benz AMG Driving Academy prize will be 100% justified. However, given R3E’s rocky history of exploits and other miscellaneous things you could do to gain an advantage on your opponents – sometimes accidentally – there’s a very legitimate chance the drivers up front might not deserve to be there.
Unfortunately, there is no concrete proof of any foul play. If there are any secret RAM Hacks being distributed among the top group of drivers, or a magic adjustment has been found that destroys the competition, they most certainly won’t turn them over or even speak about them; a pricey driving school trip is on the line. As a result, we may never know if stuffwinner’s crazy ramblings are the product of an undisclosed mental illness, or the tin-foil hat conspiracy theories will be confirmed later on down the line in a manner akin to the NSA scandal in the United States.