With sim racing regressing into a state of general obscurity, and the majority of developers within this hobby churning out half-finished titles primarily intended for hardcore users, which lack any sort of elaborate financial backing to ensure they can bring a feature complete game to the market, one aspect of simulators that we’ve been missing for quite some time would be basic tutorials. Without naming any title in particular – because they’re all equally guilty of this – the process of sitting down for a rainy afternoon with a friend or family member and introducing them to the world of racing simulators is an uphill battle. They hit the track without a clue in the world as to what they’re doing, spin out a bunch of times, and both of you just sort of hope that eventually, they’ll figure it out. It’s not user friendly in the slightest.
Things used to be different, very different. SimBin’s GTR 2, released in 2006, shipped with a comprehensive driving school feature that taught you the basics of driving in a competitive environment with a license test system similar to what you’d find in Gran Turismo, and Papyrus were known for packaging entire novels with their officially licensed NASCAR series – including a 245-page whopper of a guide bundled with NASCAR Racing 3 back in 1999. Both GTR 2’s academy mode, as well as the lengthy bibles sent out by Papyrus, were fantastic ways to accommodate new players and veterans alike. You could take the NASCAR Racing 3 manual to the shitter after a bad order of Chinese food, and come out with a preliminary understanding of how to drive a stock car at each of the game’s thirty plus tracks. GTR 2’s school also demonstrated that driving high performance race cars wasn’t some black magic for a very specific group of people who were graced with the talent to do so at birth, but a skill that could be learned and refined by just about anyone who took the time to learn it and practice, like ice skating or snowboarding.
In short, this stuff made the newbies say “I understand what this is about, and I get it.” And that’s infinitely important in a genre of video games where no attempts are made to hold your hand whatsoever. There is no “Skip Mission” button to bail you out after you’ve hit a concrete wall fifty times in a row. If you don’t improve, you’re going to keep hitting that wall.
These guides gave you the tools necessary to improve, and actually enjoy the otherwise niche pieces of software.
Sim racing developers have straight up stopped doing this. The same software creators who sit around for months on end, questioning why sim racing isn’t growing in popularity compared to other eSports, are doing precisely nothing to help new users who have purchased a modern simulator purely out of curiosity. When you boot up Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, RaceRoom Racing Experience, Automobilista, or rFactor 2, there is absolutely nothing to even point you in the right direction. Though they’re advertised in a flashy manner on Steam, with fancy artistic trailers showcasing all of the cars and tracks at your disposal, once you’re physically in the application, you’re expected to know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you’re left to your own devices to figure it out on your own.
In a quest to simply understand more about the games they’re playing, this is the point where most people take to either the game’s official message boards – or Reddit given its overall simplicity. And this is where the majority of these curious users learn a very harsh reality: the sim racing community by and large is completely retarded, and most people have no fucking idea what they’re talking about to begin with. I don’t want to throw around words like misinformation or disinformation, but often times it feels like you’re in a beer league hockey locker room, listening to a guy who hasn’t scored a goal in two months blame both his stick and pair of skates for his horrible shot accuracy.
If you’re new to the whole ecocystem, you won’t even know how or when to spot this stuff. And regardless of whether it’s a setup tip, feedback on a game that just came out, or hardware advice, getting shitty advice sucks. It helps to know when to spot it.
A lot of people claim you can outright avoid the toxicity and general stupidity of the sim racing community altogether, but as I mentioned above, none of these games feature any sort of tutorial mode or guide on how to be successful within them. At some point, unless you truly don’t give a fuck and are perfectly content with smashing into walls and calling it “racing”, you’re pretty much forced to head to any one of the several major sim racing forums – exposing yourself to some of the dumbest motherfuckers on the internet – just to have your question answered.
Today’s article features a collection of six different comments I’ve clipped from various sim racing forums that showcase how misinformed, contradictory, or downright retarded the general community can be, and why it’s increasingly hard to trust much of anything you read on any major message board. Sim racing veterans obviously know when someone’s being a complete retard and has no idea what they’re talking about, but we here at PRC.net also have a lot of inexperienced readers who genuinely don’t know how to spot someone who’s totally clueless. This one’s for the latter group.
Thought it wasn’t without a vast array of connection issues that ruined the experience for a whole bunch of people, iRacing wrapped up their 24 Hours of Daytona special event on Saturday evening. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this one in extremely simple terms, but yes, technology has advanced to the point where modern racing simulators can hold full-length endurance races, complete with legitimate driver swaps that see multiple sim racers piloting the same car over the course of 24 hours. It’s a fun diversion from the usual smorgasbord of events featured on iRacing; guys all hop on Teamspeak together, and drive in shifts of anywhere from two to eight hours at a time before pulling it into the pits and giving the keys to a buddy of theirs – just like real endurance racing.
Because endurance racing stints are measured in multiple hour segments, some guys get really creative and/or resourceful when nature calls. Though the jury’s still out on whether the above forum post is either the best satire we’ve ever seen, or one hundred percent truthful, don’t piss yourself for a video game. You’re not a real race car driver risking it all to win, and there’s no six figure payday from a team owner like Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi to cushion the embarrassment of pissing your fucking pants.
Ditto for piss jugs. Be a normal person and run to the washroom the moment you slide into your pit stall for a routine four tire stop. Real endurance drivers don’t even piss themselves , as aside from the obvious hygiene problems that are sure to arise from sitting in your own boiling urine, it’s disrespectful to both the next driver who has to sit in the cockpit, as well as the crew who have to take it back to the shop and rip the car apart.
Goddamn, why did I even have to talk about this in the first place? What grown man needs piss jugs to play iRacing?
This one comes from the largest sim racing group on Facebook; an outlet most people on the outset would believe to be a fantastic resource for information on our little hobby – a place to go if they had a question about something they didn’t quite understand. Somebody took a picture of Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, the youngest Grand Prix winner in Formula One history, playing around with Project CARS on his personal PC setup in his spare time, just to show that “hey, these guys in Formula One, they nerd out just like we do, and that’s pretty cool.” In all fairness, it
is pretty cool; Formula One drivers are some of the richest professional athletes on the planet, and here they are partaking in our little hobby rather than attending private parties and fucking members of the Pussycat Dolls.
Rather than discuss the fact that a Formula One phenom is a closet computer geek like the lot of us, members of the biggest sim racing community on the world’s largest social media platform instead attacked one of the best professional race car drivers on the planet under the age of twenty five years old, simply for playing a game they didn’t approve of. They then claimed that Formula One teams should be looking at the sim racing community for future F1 drivers, because Verstappen has no idea what he’s doing when it comes to computer games.
If this “warm and welcoming community” will attack professional drivers for merely playing a game they don’t approve of, and then aggressively demand multi-million dollar Formula One teams should offer F1 driving contracts to random computer geeks instead, how do you think they’ll respond to an average Joe asking a question about a computer game the community isn’t fond of?
Let’s get the fancy introduction out of the way; iRacing is an online-only racing simulator which charges several times what other modern video games cost, by convincing both current and potential customers no other simulator on the market is more realistic than the experience iRacing offers. You’ll see words like “laser-scanned” thrown around to describe the accuracy of cars and tracks, while terms like “new tire model” and “new surface model” convey the years of research iRacing have put into mere portions of the game’s underlying physics model. Yes, you’re paying $99 per year for a base subscription, as well as $15 for each piece of content – leading to a situation where it’s easy to spend over $750 USD just to test out everything iRacing has to offer – but it’s supposedly going towards an experience that is miles beyond any other simulator you can purchase.
Or so the marketing campaign tells you.
Above, we can see a user stating that iRacing botched an update so badly, drivers were having to use the brakes during a virtual rendition of the Daytona 500. Daytona International Speedway is a NASCAR track where brakes are not required, and all cars are required to install a restrictor plate that’s mandated by NASCAR themselves, which helps to keep top speeds within a safe range. A piece of software hailed as the pinnacle of modern racing simulator development straight up failed at reproducing this on-track experience despite charging a premium, employing a former engineer at Richard Petty Motorsports as their head physics guy, and being on the market since 2009.
A moderator of the iRacing section on Reddit – someone in charge of removing disruptive posts – can be seen stating how much he enjoyed what was in reality a very broken game, and basically playing off an obvious problem with the simulator as no big deal. People spending top dollar on the supposed pinnacle of realistic racing games, don’t even give a shit if the product is as advertised. Do you think these people are going to help you if you run across a genuine problem and point it out in the forums?
As you can see in the example I gave above with Max Verstappen, the sim racing community will stop at nothing to attack you if you aren’t seen playing a simulator the majority of virtual automotive enthusiasts have deemed “realistic.” Fans of Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, and Project CARS have all received a public lashing for supporting “arcade games”, as the whole point of the sim racing sub-genre is to accurately produce a driving experience on your computer monitor that’s as close to the real thing as possible. Games such as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, who place emphasis on amassing a collection of cars and upgrading them with flashy paint jobs and aftermarket performance parts, supposedly don’t aim to produce an authentic driving experience, though no hard studies have ever been done by members of the community to put this myth to rest.
Yet in a discussion on Reddit centering around a poorly constructed 2004 Williams FW26 Formula One entry for rFactor 2 – which saw the virtual version created by members of the community produce lap times eight seconds faster than the real thing – one user can be seen stating he doesn’t actually care if a vehicle in a simulator fails to perform like its real-world counterpart. Several different developers have spent their entire professional lives in the pursuit of creating a piece of software that absolutely nails the behavior of one specific race car down to the exact shift points, tire life, and, subtle suspension nuances of the real thing, and yet the consumers buying said pieces of software are openly stating the accuracy certain developers are striving to achieve with their software doesn’t concern them in the slightest.
All while calling the youngest Formula One winner in history a loser for playing a game they’ve deemed to be unrealistic.
A poor business decision in hindsight, Kunos Simulazioni ported over their most recent consumer release, Assetto Corsa, to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in the summer of 2016. The simulator was universally panned by critics and fans alike – save for a suspicious group of Italian gaming journalists that just happened to attend a private launch party held by the developers – for failing to include basic features seen in other games from fifteen or even twenty years ago. There were no time trial leaderboards in sight, no options to re-map the buttons on your wheel, and no functionality to create online races for just you and your friends. A lot of people were justifiably upset, because most racing games dating back to the days of Windows 98 let you select whatever car you wanted to when racing against your friends.
This meant that whenever they felt like racing online, console owners of Assetto Corsa were forced to select from a preset list of servers created by the developers themselves, and not all cars or tracks available in the game were thrown into the server rotation. Obviously, this caused some problems, as marquee supercars that a whole bunch of people wanted to race against each other and were seen as reasons to purchase Assetto Corsa in the first place – such as the Ferrari F40 – were nowhere to be found within the game’s online mode.
Upon a group of users rightfully complaining, an Assetto Corsa forum member by the name of Gary claimed people who had purchased Assetto Corsa had no right to demand the ability to select the exact car they wanted to race against their friends. Or, to quote him directly, “owning a copy of Assetto Corsa does not give you the right to decide which cars are available online.” In other words, a random consumer is literally bitching at other community members who are making justified complaints, and trying to make the argument that consumers are not allowed to suggest reasonable improvements to a product.
All because people questioned why a video game in 2017 wouldn’t allow them race the Ferrari F40 against their friends, when it was available in other modes, and it was the incompetence of a developer preventing it from being used – not a complicated licensing agreement restricting it’s activity.
Released in the spring of 2015 by Slightly Mad Studios, Project CARS was the first racing simulator to be funded primarily through private individuals. You essentially had the option of paying various amounts to become a beta tester of varying importance, and upon the game’s completion, you would be paid out based on how well the game sold – an advanced form of profit sharing. Though some individuals were dedicated to helping shape the game into the exact experience they desired, most ran around to as many sim racing message boards as they could find in an effort to talk up Project CARS, which would generate more sales, and therefore a bigger return on their original investment. In reality, for a period of years while the game was still in development, these people would create fake accounts on various message boards en mass, and attack anyone who didn’t have positive things to say about Project CARS for one reason or another.
I’ve demonstrated a pretty clear example of this above. On Reddit, I mentioned that the game’s tire model was incomplete, and Slightly Mad Studios were forced to reduce the complexity of the driving experience to appeal to a mass-market audience – significantly reducing the game’s overall simulation value and directly contradicting the team’s goal in creating Project CARS, which was to produce a no-nonsense modern racing simulator. Within ten minutes of me submitting my post, a user who by his own admission had financially contributed to the development of Project CARS, appeared to tell me I was wrong, the team was actually satisfied with the tire model, and no effort was made to appeal to a casual audience whatsoever.
The CEO of Slightly Mad Studios, Ian Bell, personally confirmed to us via Facebook that the team were indeed forced to inject blatant understeer issues into the core driving experience for Project CARS, primarily so a casual audience could enjoy playing it with a standard Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller.
With 35,000 hardcore sim racers contributing to the development of Project CARS, how widespread do you think this problem of financial contributors outright lying about the product is? And if you were new to the sim racing community at the time, would you even know about this bias to begin with?
The underlying point I’m trying to make with the six examples seen above, is that there’s a lot of misinformation within the sim racing community, and if you head to any populated message board with a simple question – whether it be about hardware or software – very rarely will you encounter an individual who can genuinely help you.
There are people acting like it’s okay to piss your pants during a race in a video game, financial contributors outright lying about their investment even when the CEO of the company says otherwise, users telling you that you have no right to select the car you want to drive for an online session, community members calling Formula One drivers losers for playing “the wrong game”, and so-called “hardcore simulator enthusiasts” saying they don’t actually care about the whole simulator part.
The best way to protect yourself against misinformation, is to explore the community for a bit, and learn who everyone is before diving head-first into discussion. Rather than take the diplomatic approach and accept advice from everybody, it’s important to swallow a bitter truth and realize not everyone has advice or feedback worth listening to.
Of course, this problem would be solved if our games had tutorials or strategy guides like they did ten years ago, but that’s apparently too much to ask in 2017. Hell, maybe someone will show up in our comments section and tell me I have no right to demand a better product in the first place.