A wonderful, feature-length interview conducted by Paul Jeffrey of RaceDepartment with Chris and Allan Speed of Sector 3 Studios and SimBin UK respectively has warranted significantly more questions than answers in what was originally meant to be a very celebratory article. Announcing to the world of sim racing that the highly anticipated follow-up to GTR 2 is in development yet again, and giving virtual sports car enthusiasts a rough online as to what they should expect when the multi-platform simulator launches in 2018, there’s actually been a bit of confusion over the exact information revealed in the piece at RaceDepartment, which went live earlier this morning. There is supposedly a game in the works, but contradictory responses from the Speed brothers have already revealed a bit of troublesome insight into GTR 3’s ongoing development hell, which has been a focal point of sim racing coverage dating back to its first publicly unveiled iteration in late 2011.
Don’t get me wrong, I personally want to see GTR 3 happen, as I’m fed up with smorgasbord games that offer a vast array of cars and tracks to explore, but rarely manage to string together a cohesive experience in the end product. GTR 3 represents a throwback to a time when video games shipped as finished, feature complete simulators, and I desperately want that mentality back in the genre of sim racing, represented by a stellar package that captivates a large portion of the community. However, some of the answers given by Chris and Allan Speed make it hard to believe as an outsider that this game is even coming at all, or there must be a complete disconnect between what’s being discussed in the interview, and what’s actually happening at SimBin UK.
It’s not appropriate to call these guys liars because they’re obviously still very early in the alleged development cycle, so realistically there isn’t much of anything for them to show potential customers who are incredibly enthusiastic about GTR3, but there are an absurd number of red flags popping up for a title that was literally just announced, and already has this grassroots campaign behind it.
First, the early material released under the GTR 3 tag had no relation to the actual GTR 3 game in development – it was a selection of vehicles and locations from RaceRoom Racing Experience, thrown into the Unreal 4 Engine. As an end customer who will obviously be following development of the game very closely, because I want to know if it’s worth picking up come launch day, I find it odd for a new team to announce an entirely new game by using heavily manipulated artwork that by their own admission has nothing to do with the game they just announced. This would be like if Kunos Simulazioni had announced Assetto Corsa with photoshopped screenshots of netKar Pro assets thrown into Unity. This sounds asinine on paper, so I’d like to know what purpose this serves with SimBin?
Yes, I understand SimBin UK have labeled these “proof of concept” shots, but if there’s this brand new game being worked on we should get excited about, why can’t you show us relevant material relating to this game? I really don’t care about seeing RaceRoom Racing Experience assets in the Unreal 4 engine; Sector 3 did this already in the spring of 2016. Why can’t we see GTR 3 during a major announcement and interview for GTR 3?
That’s red flag number one.
Red flag number two is when Chris Speed mentions SimBin UK are yet to decide on how they’re going to fund the GTR 3 project, also adding they’re still in the process of hiring people. I would like to know what company begins working on a major multi-platform release without knowing how they’re going to afford it in the first place, and to the best of my knowledge don’t even have a solid foundation of staff members to help bang out the project because they’re talking about hiring staff members – you know, something basic to get the company functioning as a legitimate game studio – for the next two months.
That’s a lot of variables, intangibles, and “eithers” for a project that is supposedly “100% coming.” This would be like if I’d gone out and announced that my rock band were set to put out our first full EP in late 2017, but we had no idea how we would pay for studio time to record the album, and we were still in search of a lead guitarist, drummer, and bass player.
The third red flag pops up when Chris is asked about potential licenses for the upcoming simulator. Rather than drop subtle hints and imply we should get ready for a big surprise in the near future, Speed talks in “aims” and “goals” – their “aim” is to have an official series license, and they’ve been in “talks” with a few partners, but nothing has been confirmed or even hinted at as of yet. Isn’t this something you secure before you start work on a game?
Our fourth and final red flag boils down to a portion of the interview I can see many racers skipping over because it doesn’t have any of the exciting, colorful details you’d want to hear about GTR 3, but instead boils down to staff member logistics and the state of the gaming industry in the United Kingdom.
Allan Speed claims there is “not much happening in the UK at the moment”, which is one of the most absurd statements from a developer I’ve ever heard given the context of his comments. Yes, Evolution Studios were shut down as a company, but a majority of the team were absolved by Codemasters, and they have promised a new IP in the future, along with announcing the long-awaited DiRT 4, set for a June 2017 release. There obviously is a lot going on in the UK, so I don’t understand how the head of a video game studio with direct ties to the industry itself could be this far out of the loop when this stuff was headline news and genuinely got people excited over the future of Codemasters and therefore racing games out of the UK.
Allan also mentions SimBin UK consists of just four people at the moment, with three more set to join sometime in February or March. By comparison, Kunos Simulazioni – the masterminds behind Assetto Corsa – clocked in at around twenty individuals, with coding wizard Stefano Casillo being a fundamental key in how the team were able to operate as such a small outlet, because like him or not, let’s give some credit where credit is due, the guy is an absolute genius when it comes to coding. So you’re looking at a team that’s less than half the size of Kunos Simulazioni, with no Stefano equivalent to pick up the bulk of the work, claiming to be well on their way to churning out GTR 3 for a multi-platform release complete with all the bells and whistles of a feature-complete product, something Kunos Simulazioni were unable to do with double the people, as the recent 1.12 update for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One renditions of Assetto Corsa have still failed to include things like leaderboards and custom lobbies.
Um… Yeah, no.
So to recap, we have a team announcing GTR 3, but releasing screenshots of a totally different game’s assets placed within the Unreal engine. They are unsure how they will fund this new project, the current team as of this writing only consists of four staff members, and they have not announced the acquisition of any licenses that would actually attract people to buy the game, but are willing to go on public record with a sim racing outlet as large as RaceDepartment to say this game is 100% coming, there will be an internal demo in six months, and the end product will boast an experience similar to what people can expect from the mass-market Formula One games developed by Codemasters.
I can’t be the only one who finds this all incredibly sketchy.