After a brief hiatus in favor of other prestigious online championships hosted the popular sim racing hub, season number seven of the RaceDepartment Le Mans Series is set to commence in February of 2017, bringing the top virtual drivers from around the community to the rFactor 2 platform for several full-length endurance racing events that are sure to test the bladders and patience of everybody involved in the production. With the complete 24 Hours of Daytona highlighting a schedule that also includes half-marathon stops at Fuji Speedway, Imola, Interlagos, Silverstone, and Road America spread from February to October, RaceDepartment simply aren’t fucking around here. This is the real deal – an online racing league where you won’t be frowned upon for keeping a stash of piss jugs next to your sim rig, because it’s worth every inch of the track position you’ll save from not making an unscheduled pit stop.
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch.
RaceDepartment have announced the seventh season of their Le Mans Series championship will make use of the recently-released Endurance Series mod for rFactor 2. While the benefits of the mod include an asking price of absolutely nothing compared to a similar payware offering put out by UnitedRacingDesign, and an extremely comprehensive car roster spanning four distinct classes of machinery from a multitude of late-2000’s sports car championships, there’s a very good reason why the release of this mod hasn’t generated an increase in rFactor 2’s popularity – it doesn’t drive very well.
As the organizers of a premium online racing league, in which participants are required to pay a legitimate entry fee and have every right to expect something a bit more compared to the traditional online league experience, it’s the duty of RaceDepartment to ensure the on-track product is worth the asking price. That can’t be guaranteed with what EnduRacers have put out on the Steam workshop.
While many sim racers initially flock to the Endurance Series mod due to its diverse array of sports cars and prototypes, the most common complaint people have reported across what’s now multiple racing simulators, relates to how EnduRacers have chosen to model overall tire wear and behavior. Simply put, the modern sports cars featured in the mod – which generate downforce figures in the thousands of pounds – can be driven sideways to such an extent, it’s as if you’re tearing up the back roads of Hazzard County in a bright orange Dodge Charger. Based on my own experience with EnduRacers mods, I don’t believe the car setups required to post competitive lap times are outside the realm of realism by any means, but once you’re out on the track, regardless of the class, the absurd slip angles and tire heating patterns simply do not match on-board footage of the real cars in the slightest.
As a result, a bunch of people end up being turned off by the mod; initially reeled in by the enormous list of cars, only to discover everything drives like a hovercraft that’s got a bunch of excess weight in the rear end, and no amount of setup work can dial it out. This isn’t one of those mods where you’re required to be a physics expert to spot discrepancies; when you look up in-car footage on YouTube and compare it to your own personal wheel inputs inside rFactor 2, you’re turning right while the real drivers are turning left. It’s silly, and sim racing YouTube personality Joe Nathan has put together an alright explanation on the matter here:
Now as I mentioned above, I’ve run two online seasons with EnduRacers third party content across two entirely different games, and despite winning both championships, I can’t say I was satisfied with the car physics I was forced to put up with. These stories are not to wave my dick around on PRC, but to establish the fact that I’ve pushed these cars to the absolute limit in some sort of competitive setting over a period of several months, and by the end of my time with them was simply not happy with what I drove – it never once warranted the praise these mods receive on other sim racing discussion outlets.
In early 2015, the boys over at 4Chan hosted a mixed GT2/P2 endurance racing series, consisting of eighty minute sessions at many class-appropriate racing facilities, such as Spa, Interlagos, Barcelona, Watkins Glen, and I think for the season finale we went to Shanghai of all places. From what I recall, one of the main problems the series organizer ran into (prior to falling in love with a transvestite over voice chat, because this is 4Chan after all), was that none of the cars were balanced. While we used a Simtek add-on pack to inject the field with a more relevant roster of cars, it seemed like throughout the entire season we were chasing a dragon when it came to ensuring a level playing field.
Not only were the Simtek add-on cars not balanced with the default EnduRacers content, the EnduRacers cars that came with the vanilla mod weren’t balanced with each other, and it turned into a bit of a nightmare for series organizers – there wasn’t exactly a base level of performance to start with. There was a lot of testing and pre-season updates, and it was the subject of great debate for a large chunk of the calendar. I piloted the default Corvette C6R to a championship, and most of my victories came down to great pit strategy, or the leader simply choking away the lead – as the round at Okyama played out. The car fucking sucked on fuel mileage, and most races I ran in economy mode for the complete duration because turning the fuel mix up even one digit would put me at a massive disadvantage to other drivers.
And of course, this is before we talk about the floaty handling – which made no sense for cars that generate this much downforce.
Now for a free league where you just sort of show up every Saturday afternoon and race, this is an issue that eventually you’re just going to have to deal with because it’s organized by a couple of guys on 4Chan in their spare time. With a massive live stream production, and a premium entry fee, this isn’t the kind of thing hardcore sim racers are going to want to deal with. They’ll want a level playing field.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of competing in an online series using EnduRacers content yet again, this time making use of the Flat6 mod for rFactor 2, which if you can’t figure out from the above screenshot, is supposed to be based on the Porsche Carrera Cup Series that competes in a whole bunch of different countries. Hosted on the Race2Play platform, the championship started up almost immediately after the mod came out, capitalizing on the post-release announcement buzz and subsequent video by EmptyBox, which encouraged everybody to rush out and re-install rFactor 2 because this was the mod which showcased the potential of the otherwise dated, dying simulator.
I like Matt, but throughout the seven race championship, as well as a few one-off special events at Bathurst and Lime Rock Park, I really wanted to know what he was smoking, and if one of my friends knew a guy who sold that stuff locally. As I wrote in my review of the mod – appropriately titled “Boats on Ice” – no piece of on-board footage displayed the same kind of driving experience EnduRacers had created with their Flat6 mod for rFactor 2. Not only was I literally throwing the car into each corner and counter-steering as if I’d been driving a Dirt Late Model, someone sat down, cracked open the tire files, and realized the tires EnduRacers had composed didn’t actually wear or lose adhesion if the temperature increased. You intentionally sent the car into a slide on entry, jammed the throttle to the floor, and allowed the build up of rubber from rFactor 2’s real road technology to glue the car to the ground, because excess heat from sliding had virtually no effect on the car’s handling – completely unlike that of a real car.
As the season progressed, car counts slowly dwindled, with many drivers clearly unable to deal with such bizarre handling characteristics on a consistent basis. Though I will admit I had some epic battles for the top spot with a number of drivers whose names I can’t pronounce, there were an equal amount of drivers in the field obviously perplexed by a car that simply didn’t make sense, displaying their bewilderment via numerous catastrophic incidents which ended their races prematurely. All of this was unfolding in a competitive league, while the greater sim community claimed this was one of the best cars ever released for rFactor 2.
So in two seasons of online racing using content created by EnduRacers – and winning both of them – the most prominent thing that sticks out to me is that while these guys create phenomenal 3D models and load up each package with a library of cars to choose from, the actual driving experience is as if some sort of crazed sociopath yanked the default set of physics from Need for Speed shift, injected it into a highly anticipated rFactor mod, and called it a day. And thanks to the work of a few dedicated sim racers on 4Chan, they discovered the cars weren’t even balanced correctly – essentially having to reverse engineer a mod the rFactor community practically jizzed itself over just to conduct fair races.
Now if you’re one of those people who loves the Endurance Series mod regardless of the stuff I’ve outlined above, it’s cool, I respect your opinion, because there are a lot of fucking cars in this mod, and I still think it’s worth the download just to marvel at the car select screen and slowly go through everything. We’re certainly not in the F1 Challenge days anymore; mods this comprehensive don’t come around too often, so I can understand it’s a bit of an event when something like the Endurance Series package drops on the community.
But I respectfully object to the mod being used in some sort of premium league. Look, I’m not just talking about RaceDepartment in particular, but across the greater sim racing community there are tons of people who dismiss games like Gran Turismo, Forza, and even Project CARS as “inferior semi-simulators.” And you’ll know it when you see it; mentioning you enjoy Gran Turismo 6 instantly warrants someone claiming it’s not a true sim… We’ve all been there, and even if we haven’t participated in those threads directly, we’ve seen it shouted at someone else.
So to see a community such as RaceDepartment that’s so anti-simcade, pro-hardcore simulation, choosing to conduct the ultimate elite online championship with a mod that objectively drives worse than Gran Turismo 6, and then proceeding to delete comments in the official thread discussing it, to me it looks extremely hypocritical. I’m not saying to run the URD payware cars instead – because they suffer from their own unique problems – but for a premium online league to essentially throw realism out the window when that’s literally the whole point of the website… It’s goofy. Really goofy.
But at least EnduRacers will let RaceDepartment take their mod and make the necessary physics corrections prior to the start of the season, right?
Oh. Guess not. Looks like we’ve got hardcore sim racers justifying sub-par, unrealistic physics just because the name of the game they’re playing is rFactor 2 instead of Forza Motorsport 6. Whoops. Can’t let anybody see that.