The current generation console version of Assetto Corsa needs no introduction at this point. Horribly un-optimized, and lacking in basic features & functionalities seen in games dating back to the PlayStation 2 era, the popular PC simulator’s jump to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware has been anything but a wise decision for Kunos Simulazioni, with the vast majority of customers exposed to the Italian team’s ineptitude and lack of foresight – traits that PC owners were at least able to sweep under the rug, distracted by an abundance of third party mods to extend the lifespan of the game.
Establishing itself as the peak of the metaphorical mountain of problems and omissions plaguing the console renditions of Assetto Corsa would be the game’s complete lack of custom lobbies. Unlike basically every online racing game ever, which would let you open a private or public lobby under your own rules with the specific cars and tracks you’d selected, Assetto Corsa instead takes an approach reminiscent of modern first-person shooters, and forces sim racers to join already established servers with preset combinations. Obviously, this has not sat well with the userbase – on top of being unable to conduct proper league races and dirty/inexperienced drivers commonly creating mass chaos on the grid, many cars available on the vehicle roster, including DLC cars some had paid extra for, are not available to be driven in online sessions. Given that the game’s artificial intelligence is a bit of a mess, and the Career mode offers the depth of an iPad game, people have every right to be choked.
Customers raised hell upon the launch of the game, as many took to Facebook blasting Kunos Simulazioni for leaving out what is objectively a very basic feature that almost every video game with online functionalities comes bundled with by default. To combat the wave of negativity, the community manager for 505 Games released a very generic statement to try and keep the terrible reception from getting out of hand, but it instead read like a whole lot of hot air – as one forum user puts it, “all I get from that is that they’ve heard the complaints, but aren’t going to do anything about it.”
We hear you! Our biggest priority with the console editions of Assetto Corsa was to release a stable game with great driving. Be rest assured, going forward, we are going to do our very best to take community feedback on board and build upon the foundations we’ve laid.
That was in August of 2016. Yet as the weeks clicked off and it became more and more apparent that the console version of Assetto Corsa was a total disaster compared to its already shaky PC counterpart, a core group of Assetto Corsa fans became very vocal about what the game did well, and said they would be willing to stick around for the long run if Kunos Simulazioni were able to implement custom lobbies, as the raw driving experience was enough to make people dismiss other concerns they had about the quality of the game.
Four months went by – September, October, November, and December – before Kunos Simulazioni actually addressed the topic of custom online lobbies directly, only coming after four months spent pushing out wave after wave of downloadable content package, some of which couldn’t even be used online, as the server rotation had not been updated to include DLC cars. According to the Assetto Corsa community blog published on January 27th of 2017, private lobbies would be coming to the console versions of Assetto Corsa, they were currently in quality assurance testing, and “the finish line is in sight!”
Console owners instead received more downloadable content instead, as well as single player events that should have came bundled with previous DLC packages that Kunos accidentally forgot to include in their respective DLC bundles several months earlier. RaceDepartment estimated a mid-to-late February release for custom lobbies, but to the disappointment of sim racers, Valentine’s Day brought with it more ways to spend money on Assetto Corsa, without any of the promised improvements. February came, February ended, and aside from an increase in DLC, no custom lobbies.
We’re halfway through March, It’s now 195 days after the release of Assetto Corsa for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and a feature that almost the entire community unanimously demanded Kunos Simulazioni to implement into the software from day one, a feature so basic it’s been in almost every online racing game dating back to their inception, is still nowhere to be found. Gaming is such a connected experience in 2017 there’s even a goddamn SHARE button on the controller, but yet Kunos Simulazioni won’t even let you race with your friends in the manner which you desire. Threads on the matter clog up the Console Forums, but at this point they’re acting as comic relief more than anything; the Kunos Simulazioni apologists attacking other users for daring to ask how such a preliminary set of options could be left out of a modern auto racing simulator with such vitriolic responses, you start to wonder if its the staff themselves attacking users under alternate accounts – it’s not like they have the greatest reputation to begin with.
Apparently wanting a product with industry-standard features is akin to kicking and screaming like a child for “not having his toy how he wants it, and when he wants it.” Never in my life have I seen such anti-consumer practices eaten up by a woefully delusional audience; modern passenger vehicles would be slaughtered for not including an air conditioning unit to keep passengers cool, or a radio of any sorts for in-car entertainment, but yet here we’ve got a guy basically saying you’re being a spoiled brat for merely pondering why industry standard online options have been left out of the base product and still have yet to materialize. This is insane, and only goes to show that Kunos are more talented at building a rabid fanbase whom defend their every move, no matter how bizarre or nonsensical they may be, than they are at creating competent auto racing simulators.
Will we ever see custom lobbies in the console version of Assetto Corsa? My prediction is yes, but they will be too little, too late, and people certainly won’t forget about this chaos if there’s a second iteration of the software.