An old mentor of mine once used the term “terse eloquence” to describe what I should aim for in articles here on PRC.net, and for this entry I believe it’s the perfect time to challenge myself with an alternative writing style. There will be no fancy introduction, no elaborate set of links to older articles of ours, and no recap of events which have transpired over the past year or so. Once again, Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni has done irreversible damage to his company’s reputation by aggressively attacking an Assetto Corsa owner simply for suggesting an alternative approach to the game’s complicated tire model, and the whole thing gives some credibility to the rumor that Kunos simply surround themselves with yes men who shower the developer team with praise, rather than challenge them to create the best product possible.
The Assetto Corsa owner in question happens to be Fredrik Sørlie, a Norweigan stunt driver, former Porsche & AMG performance driving instructor, amateur drifter, and sim racing enthusiast; an automotive personality who has spent the past three decades as a professional driver while also taking up the modding side of sim racing as a hobby dating back to 2003. Not only is this guy a complete wheelman in adverse conditions – as evidenced by the video below – he’s also a mammoth computer nerd; the absolute best kind of person to give feedback on a modern racing simulator. With Porsche, Mercedes, Hollywood, and sim racing’s own Niels Heusinkveld coming to Sørlie for advice, Fredrik is an anomaly within this niche genre. This is someone who has not only dedicated their entire life to the art of driving an automobile to the breaking point, they fucking love video games, too.
Within the official Assetto Corsa forums are numerous sub-sections dedicated to ripping apart the game in a fashion that the Kunos Simulazioni staff can use to evaluate and improve the Assetto Corsa experience as it travels through its post-release lifespan. In a thread dedicated to discussing poor steering response in corners, as well as the process of creating his own modification for Assetto Corsa, Fredrik mentions that there are indeed some irregularities with how tires in Assetto Corsa behave under certain conditions as a whole. To readers who aren’t all that concerned with how Assetto Corsa operates under the hood, it’s obviously an extremely boring discussion between hobbyists splitting hairs in the name of realism, but for modders, this is the kind of stuff that tickles their fancy.
Fredrik also makes a quick one-liner about needing to use values other than the digits Kunos have provided when it comes to their tire physics file for each car, as they don’t always produce accurate on-track results. A seemingly insignificant piece of banter, Stefano Casillo promptly arrives to claim Fredrik Sørlie – a professional performance driving instructor employed by both Porsche and Mercedes – knows nothing about vehicle dynamics, and has been writing:“dogshit” on the message boards for the past several weeks. All for suggesting to try a different set of numbers in a very specific physics file, because to a professional driver, those values produced an experience that aligned more closely with real life than the default values.
The thread instantly descends into chaos, with Casillo being verbally abusive to Fredrik while the Assetto Corsa army religiously upvote all of Stefano’s posts berating the professional driving instructor. I encourage you all to check out the thread for yourselves; there are some absolutely astonishing quotes in there once things pick up. Halfway through the second page, Casillo has already labeled Fredrik Sørlie as a delusional individual – no insult is off-limits.
Fredrik, just wanting Assetto Corsa to be the best simulator it can possibly be, brushes this horrid encounter off and contacts Stefano in private, the results of which are nothing short of legendary. Fredrik properly introduces himself to the Kunos Simulazioni coding master, and dives deep into his own discoveries with Assetto Corsa’s tire model calculations after detailing an extensive automotive pedigree. Citing past collaborations with sim racing physics guru Niels Heusinkveld, Fredrik explains the very specific changes he had made to the tire physics files in Assetto Corsa, and while fully acknowledging the numbers weren’t one hundred percent correct when used in the current algorithm created by Kunos, they produced a satisfactory driving experience which mirrored his experiences in a real car, and he wanted Stefano to look into why his guesstimated numbers improved the simulator’s tire behavior.
Essentially, an accomplished professional driver with a thirteen year background in sim racing modding came to a member of Kunos Simulazioni and said “hey man, I love your game, here are all of my real world credentials, I made some unique changes to the tire file, I know they don’t make a lot of sense, but to me it feels more realistic than what you guys had by default. Can you look this from your end? It might help.” Whereas most racing drivers will spout random crap about any racing game in pursuit of a paycheck, here we had a driver modding the game. That kind of customer loyalty doesn’t come around all that often.
Rather than responding with a simple “thanks for the feedback, your fix isn’t realistic but it might highlight a problem in our simulation, I’ll check it out sometime this week when I have a moment,” Stefano proceeds to cuss out Fredrik for the next hour, because this is a totally rational thing for any developer to do.
It’s a truly impressive piece of post-modern art. The holy grail of racing simulator development is receiving feedback from real world drivers, as data and numbers don’t always manage to convey the sensations a human being experiences pushing an automobile to the limit. Yet after marketing campaigns which saw Kunos constantly mention their Vallelunga offices allowing them to pick the brains of professional race car pilots fresh off the tarmac by placing them in their simulator for feedback, and partnerships with Ferrari, Porsche, and Lotus ensuring the team would model each vehicle as close to the real thing as possible, the above screenshot paints a vastly different picture when it comes to how Kunos Simulazioni operate behind closed doors. In reality, Kunos are actually berating real race car drivers, telling them to get lost, and that only the numbers matter.
It’s extremely fucked up, to put it lightly. Here you have a developer bragging about all of the feedback they’ve received from professional pilots who endlessly praise the quality of Assetto Corsa’s driving model, but in the span of an hour or so, one guy is able to provide evidence to the contrary – Kunos Simulazioni not only become emotionally compromised over a single sentence joke buried deep within a thread surrounding car physics, they’ll aggressively attack you on their own message board for merely providing any sort of feedback whatsoever – and then let their fanboys pile on for good measure. Keep in mind, these verbal sparring matches with genuine fans of the game span multiple hours and take legitimate effort to participate in, when virtually none of this was necessary to begin with. What’s so hard about telling a guy “thanks for the feedback?” Why is there a need to instantly shit on him and make him out to be this delusional autist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, when his YouTube channel clearly demonstrates he might have a clue?
And that’s the scary part. Rather than busting their asses to improve their game, members of Kunos Simulazioni are sitting around on the forums monitoring every last thread for even an ounce of criticism, promptly pouncing on those individuals regardless of their real world credentials. That’s where their time is being allocated, if you’re curious about when certain future updates will be released.
Personally, I’d like to know how some of the bigger brands featured within Assetto Corsa feel about this behavior. Auto makers such as Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren don’t exactly fuck around when it comes to how their brand is represented in the public eye. Are Porsche even aware that the game developer they just partnered with and made a whole media circus about throw autistic shitfits and lash out at their own customers when real drivers giving feedback on the simulator make a joke on the forums? This is the kind of shit that would get you fired from any commercial storefront job, and cause sponsors to back the fuck out of major partnerships.
Better yet, what real driver would be willing to work with Kunos Simulazioni after seeing this? They’ve made it explicitly clear that unless you blow sunshine up the asshole of Stefano, they will just sit around and call you names until you eventually leave out of disgust.
The whole thing is downright embarassing for Kunos Simulazioni, and further reading on the subject can be seen on Fredrik’s official Facebook page, the SimRacing subreddit, and RaceDepartment, all of whom have spent the better part of today discussing Stefano’s childish antics. Regardless of how you feel about Assetto Corsa, this is simply unacceptable behavior for a developer to exhibit. And I wouldn’t be surprised if more people come out of the shadows to reveal their own absurd encounters with select Kunos Simulazioni staff members.