For those who haven’t been following the post-release content plans for Automobilista, a piece of news we’ve been expecting for several months now was officially unveiled Saturday afternoon on RaceDepartment in the team’s October development update. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari – otherwise known as the San Marino Grand Prix Circuit or Imola – is set arrive in Automobilista as paid downloadable content. Reiza plan to include four different layouts of the prominent Italian auto racing facility, accommodating the multitude of both classic and modern totally not Formula One cars available for use in the simulator. Imola will join Interlagos, the Red Bull Ring, Jacarepagua, and Montreal as the fifth circuit to be given the evolution treatment by Reiza Studios; in which several iterations are offered to players to increase the number of era-specific complexes for the numerous old-school cars available in Automobilista.
As a sim racer, I genuinely enjoy Imola and I’m happy to see the circuit receive some much-needed love in modern simulators after it was dropped from the Formula One schedule in the mid-2000’s. The course layout relies heavily on elevation changes and natural rhythm sections, which combine to produce compelling on-track action in a wide variety of race cars regardless of the discipline selected.
But the inclusion isn’t without valid complaints.
Stock Car Extreme, Reiza’s previous title before embarking on the project now known as Automobilista, featured an unlicensed (but still extremely accurate) version of Imola circa 1988 – operating under the name Bologna – built into the game’s vanilla list of content. If you bought Stock Car Extreme seven or eight months ago when there was a fairly substantial buzz surrounding the sim within the community, Imola was one of the many tracks you received by default. It wasn’t called Imola, but let’s not kid ourselves here – it was Imola.
There was nothing wrong or inaccurate with what was offered in Stock Car Extreme under the pseudonym of Bologna, and given that nobody seemed to give a shit about the alternate alias used to circumvent licensing agreements, Reiza would have had no problem whipping up a few more variants of the track – dubbing them Bologna Grand Prix and Bologna Historic, as they’ve done with Suzuka – and including them in the base Automobilista purchase. However, Reiza have instead yanked a piece of content found in the base Stock Car Extreme title, given the facility the proper name, and sold it back to customers as DLC for the new game. Developers from other video game genres are crucified for these practices, but once again the sim racing community has turned a blind eye to these acts because of lame excuses such as “the team is small” and “I want to support sim racing.”
Had Automobilista been a significantly different title compared to Stock Car Extreme, and the track requiring serious re-working for the new platform, I could at least understand why it was necessary to yank vanilla content from one game and sell it back to sim racers at an additional cost. However, as I dive deeper into Automobilista during my own spare time, I’m coming across rather enlightening discoveries, such as mods from Stock Car Extreme flawlessly integrating into Automobilista by merely changing the extension of one text file. In theory, you can essentially make your own piece of Automobilista DLC and save yourself $5 by copying the Bologna track files from Stock Car Extreme, into your Automobilista folder.
Sim racers are more or less paying Reiza Studios extra to change the name of a track they already had, and given the abundance of unlicensed tracks already in Automobilista, was it even necessary to pursue the Imola license in the first place? Sim racers really didn’t seem to care that old versions of the Red Bull Ring are called the Spielberg Historic instead of the Osterreichring, so why did they feel the need to do so with Imola?