Placebo, or Steam…?

24022478400_d1543c843a_hLet’s add the final chapter to this saga, shall we?

Readers of PretendRaceCars.net who gladly call Assetto Corsa their sim of choice were taken aback on Christmas morning, when we published an entry stating a tiny hotfix was the final piece of the puzzle required to push the simulator’s newest rendition into territory that was extremely close to sheer perfection. Drawing upon observations from other talented sim racers within our posse, we had mentioned that the basic 1.11 upgrade of Assetto Corsa deployed earlier in the week brought with it a set of physics that closely resembled those found within iRacing – the GT3 cars skating all over the place in a manner that simply did not resemble how these cars drove out on the real track – but a small patch deployed just in time for the holiday festivities brought balance to the universe. The raw driving experience is really fucking good right now.

Despite the positive overall feedback we gave to the tire model in its current state, the majority of Assetto Corsa fans believed we had completely lost our minds. Though the footage we provided clearly displayed a car not connected to the track as it should be, and a select handful of readers echoing our findings, a whole shitload of Assetto Corsa owners promptly arrived to tell us any major handling discrepancies were merely the placebo effect in action, and the hotfix didn’t even address an aspect of the game that would dictate how planted the GT3 cars would be at speed. It was a very confusing time to be in the PRC teamspeak, as our roster of sim racers swore that the 1.11.3 update changed something drastic, but a solid 90% of our readers told us otherwise.

I’d like to extend a special shout-out to a sim racer by the name of Ville-Samuli Mutanen, who rather than insulting us, took the time out of his day to record a comparison video between the two versions, letting the footage speak for itself. We admittedly got our shit pushed in for the time being – there’s clearly no difference between the two builds.

However, with his video, came an interesting set of observations in the comments section. Ville-Samuli Mutanen, the same guy who had absolutely blown us out of the water thanks to his comparison video, actually came to  our defense. He too had experienced builds of Assetto Corsa after the launch of Version 1.11 on December 20th, which produced the same exact ice skating-like vehicle dynamics we had discovered earlier – car behavior which Assetto Corsa fans vehemently stated was the result of our own delusions. Mutanen rectified the problem with a Steam integrity check; both he and another user leaving a comment on his video speculated that Steam, for whatever reason, hadn’t been downloading updates properly, and it was up to the user to manually verify their install with the server.

youtube-commentsSo what most likely happened to our readers such as Kondor9999 and Ethan was that the integrity of the update they downloaded for Assetto Corsa via Steam was compromised in some fashion. And if you’ve been at your PC for any length of time over the holidays, you probably already know why this is a plausible scenario; Steam was both attacked and taken completely offline by a group of hackers directly during the period Kunos had been rolling out hotfixes for version 1.11. We simply pushed out an article stating Version 1.11.3 was the magic fix that rectified everything, because that was the first update for Assetto Corsa our friends managed to successfully download without the contents of the update being compromised thanks to a DDoS attack, and Valve’s subsequent server maintenance period.

steam-ddosWhile we were wrong about the 1.11.3 update in particular being this euphoric hotfix of sex, drugs, and Italian sports cars, select individual’s installs were indeed corrupted with borked physics most likely due to a Direct Denial of Service attack interfering with the integrity of the update, and the tire model still is very good. Two out of three ain’t bad.

However, this actually brings up a very valid question: How deep does this rabbit hole go?

Steam is traditionally a very reliable gaming service, more so than Xbox Live or the PlayStation Network; a fairly impressive feat given how many more people use Steam than the two biggest console gaming services on the market. If the potential for the integrity of updates to become compromised for one of several reasons is a very real thing that happens, and bugs can be relegated to the installs of just a handful of specific unlucky users rather than the entire user base, where are software developers even supposed to begin with this scenario?

For example, let’s look at Project CARS. The game objectively shipped with a record-breaking amount of bugs and niggles, many of which were reported on the forum. Though Slightly Mad Studios obviously did their best to support the game after launch and iron out everything with the tools they had available, it’s a reasonable question to ask how many users discovered bugs exclusive to their specific install, and had no fucking idea what to do when the developers couldn’t reproduce the problem themselves, because at the time nobody knew updates were getting partially corrupted during the download process? Is this a possible explanation for why there’s such a discrepancy between Project CARS owners who claim they’ve never run across any bugs, versus others reporting it was the main reason they shelved the game?

pcars-discrepancyIt’s a very interesting scenario to contemplate, especially if these compromised updates aren’t just due to extreme DDoS situations which cripple the entire service, but are commonplace with the average lengthy file transfer process.

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36 thoughts on “Placebo, or Steam…?

  1. Well, even integrity checks don’t work sometimes… third-party games sometimes seem to corrupt, especially if they stay on your HD for a year or two, and they behave like old windows install… you cant fix it, you have to start over. I had that happen to me with the 1.1 install of AC.

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  2. rFactor 2 has a physical thermomechanical tire model, based on real tire construction from first principles, with full carcass, thread and contact patch simulation. Such a tire model alone took many decades of research and development effort.

    Let me remind you that you need thermomechanicalilty to have believable outcomes in all situations. Nobody will be competing with rF2’s thermomechanical tire model anytime soon.

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    1. x-motor-racing has a physical thermomechanical tire model, based on real tire construction from first principles, with full carcass, thread and contact patch simulation. Such a tire model alone took many decades of research and development effort.

      Let me remind you that you need thermomechanicalilty to have believable outcomes in all situations. Nobody will be competing with x-motor-racing’s thermomechanical tire model anytime soon.

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  3. A nice explanation and there are some bugs regarding Steam-downloads. With one AC-update i got very strange FFB and just thanks to the Accuforce and Sim Commander i switched to telemetry-FFB and it was fine. I opened a thread in the forum, but seemed that i was the only one with this problem. With the next major update this issue was fixed.

    With the first Porsche pack there was a problem with the 917/30 and no engine-sounds under 6000 rpm or so. My Porsche was fine, but had issues downloading this update. It stucked in between and i had to trash a file to finish it.

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    1. Almost every update from/for AC tends to fuck something up. Certain mods need to be reinstalled, official car pictures in the selection screen don’t show, no audio on official cars, terrible performance. Almost every time they update the integrity check doesn’t fix it so I have to redownload the entire game over and over.

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      1. “official car pictures in the selection screen don’t show”
        It happens when liveries change or something related to that, so the previous image of the car isn’t selected anymore.

        This has an easy fix though. In the game menu go to options – general and click on Clear car preview cache.

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  4. Every time you download an update do an integrity check, delete your game profile and launch the game…sometimes users change some parameters which will not work anymore or updates are so heavy on game code that you need this to be sure you are running the game as intended..

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    1. I don’t think that’s really necessary. You should only do integrity check if your experiences with newly released update differs a lot from the majority.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is nothing new, things like this happened 3 years ago, too. The difference is that most people try the integrity check first or at least bother to report it on the forums before writing a 3,000-word essay based on the assumption that the devs had suddenly seen the light in a random user’s opinion and made the game right in a post-update hotfix.

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        1. A simple Google search would have told him everything. Though why bothering with facts when he can feel better by letting his imagination run wild and offering us another example of his paranoid view of the world? Pitiful!

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  5. *DISCLAIMER: NOT AN EXPERT BY ANY MEANS* The more logical thing to do in my opinion is to go back in the AC updates/changelists and see where the fix did occur. Needing integrity check with Steam is usually just because of connection while downloading or other end-user system issue, not some “l33t h4x0rZ” or actual bad files on a Steam server. Its end-user connection/install. The only scenario I see as remotely likely involving Steam file integrity is successive updates not installing correctly and the ice-skating being a result of that. Being on an old build, not a corrupted one. So, again, see what update it did occur. Maybe it wasn’t that exact hotfix, maybe it was an update or two earlier. Then I’d rank just “anomaly” as likely before any actual Steam files being different for different users on Steam’s end. Its just not likely in my opinion. And as for the Project Cars varying experiences; That’s just PC gaming. So many different hardware combos, so many different levels and ages of users, just too many factors into what an experience is going to yield. The worst games on the planet will have genuine, non-shill, positive reviews of people that found a way to enjoy them. People defend games they spent 30mins on, etc etc etc. One man’s bug is another man’s shrug.

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  6. Some major updates for R3E came “bundled” with a server connection error, making the game useless because you could not enter it. Integrity checks and reinstalls fixed it. Imagine there was a guy who said he got that for most of their big updates. It might just be a transfer problem. Why was it not affecting games like Portal2 or Dirt3 or even Race07 when R07 was still rather new? I suppose they didn’t receive such frequent updates. But this is just my let’s say fist thought about this.

    But if Steam is really the culprit it’s not because it’s evil and whatnot. Though if this is indeed the problem maybe they can improve the way games and updates are downloaded and applied.

    Now I have to ask: is pCARS really fucking broken or not? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had the exact same feeling as you before the latest hot fix about gt3 cars. Now it’s fine.

    When bought Dirt Rally some months ago, the game crashes every time at random combos. I scratched my head because I didn’t get what was going on, came to every forum to see if anyone had the problems I had. Only an integrity check on Steam solved all my problems with the game, so I think the Steam problems with downloaded content and/or patches is not only because a DDoS, they have some other glitches too.

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