A Lecture on Mediocrity

Though the speech is in Italian and you’ll need to head to the official Assetto Corsa forums for any kind of English summary, Alessandro Piva and Fabrizio Brugnaro recently made a fourty-six minute speech at Codemotion Rome 2017, in which they discuss in pretty great detail the process of taking Assetto Corsa – a racing simulator which had been built primary for the PC platform – and porting it to both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. We don’t have many native Italian speakers here, so the footage is admittedly of little use, but ZX636 has taken the time to translate summaries of each segment for those who still lurk the Assetto Corsa message board. It’s a long read and highly informative if you’re into the technical process of re-building a video game to be compatible with other types of hardware, but there’s one underlying theme about the whole thing that in my opinion makes this lecture a bit silly:

The console versions of Assetto Corsa were terrible, both from a technical standpoint, as well as a gameplay standpoint. Seven months after release, owners are still not satisfied with the product.

Maybe I’m being far too hyper-cynical for Good Friday, but it takes an awfully large set of testicles to give an entire speech on the process of successfully porting a PC racing simulator to current generation consoles, going into great detail about optimizing the application for use on inferior hardware, knowing full well the game suffered from substantial performance issues at launch, was universally panned by customers, and is now considered to be a sort of bastard child that should very well have been aborted thanks to the team’s inability to bring the console rendition of the game in-line with what’s available in the original PC variant.

Piva initially discusses how Assetto Corsa struggled to retain 20FPS in the early days of development for each console, but goes on to explain how they were able to use the architecture of the two primary consoles to achieve their goals. It’s funny how they conveniently didn’t address the game’s launch, which saw several console owners taking to YouTube and other social media outlets in frustration at the game struggling to maintain a stable framerate, not to mention the intrusive screen tearing which spearheaded an influx of returns and refunds. Arriving on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in August of 2016, by October of the same year, sim racers were still complaining of basic software issues that prevented smooth gameplay after several patches.

To me, it’s just flat-out goofy to read these guys talk about the steps in porting a game to consoles, knowing at the end of the day, their efforts were not successful in the slightest, and they bit off much more than they could chew judging by the quality of the final product. No, it’s not a crime by any means to give a lecture on an intricate process such as porting a video game from one platform to another, but typically you’d want to hear from someone who did it well rather than did it poorly, and whose game isn’t being blasted across all review sites not based out of the same country as the publisher. I mean, the transcript is still an informative read so I urge you guys to go through the full thing, but knowing how the end product turned out makes it all a bit moot.

Fabrizio Brugnaro then steps in and admits that the process of Quality Assurance – you know, testing a video game to ensure it’s not bugged to hell and works as it should – was new to the team. Brugnaro explains that the PC version of Assetto Corsa does not have any sort of dedicated Quality Assurance team, but rather relies on a “small group of sim racing enthusiasts” to hunt for bugs and other issues.

Dear God this is asinine. Though there are some knowledgeable folk that can be found within the sim racing community, letting a group consisting of random modders (who in some cases might not even have a driver’s license), fanboys who will kiss your ass religiously no matter how badly you botch an update, and shitposters with 10,000 forum posts give your $60 product a shakedown before being sold on a worldwide platform is just asking for trouble. I really shouldn’t have to engage in a full-on sperg-out to convey just how absurd this is, so instead I’ll say that this should give some valuable insight on the existence of longstanding AI troubles, poor user interface, and hilarious stuff like cars falling through the ground at Spa in a certain build of the game.

When it’s been publicly revealed that one of the main coders cannot take any hint of criticism without lashing out at the guy, do you really think the “sim racing enthusiasts” serving as the renegade QA team are little more than blatant ass-kissers? Nope, and the product suffers as a result. There’s your proof that Assetto Corsa on the PC doesn’t have any kind of formal quality assurance system behind it, but are instead just sort of hoping random people in the community with no Q/A experience whatsoever give it the thumbs up. This is fine for, like, a private rFactor mod, but certainly you’d think things would be treated with a significantly higher amount of professionalism when shipping a $60 video game on Steam, plus an array of downloadable content alongside it.

Now in regards to the console version, Brugnaro states it was the first time Kunos had ever assembled some kind of proper quality assurance team, and for a period of time didn’t have “methods” or “tools” for the developers to collaborate with the bug hunters – though this was eventually rectified and the process exponentially sped up. So while it can be forgiven that the “pro” quality assurance team missed some things due to inexperience, like a notification box in the setup screen that says your setup doesn’t meet the minimum ride-height requirements, I’d like to know how Q/A testers missed pretty blatant framerate and screen tearing problems, because these are elements you don’t need to be a professional race car driver or “sim racing enthusiast” to notice as he alludes to later – it’s like, basic “how a piece of computer software should work in 2017.”

I’m not happy with how the Q/A team is blamed by a member of Kunos for basically not being able to drive the car a few hundred feet forward and see that the game chugged significantly, or there’s a spot on the road in one track that basically fucks the car for no reason, or that the AI is supremely fucked beyond belief. These are all really simple things you don’t need to be a “sim racing enthusiast to spot”, and yet that’s the excuse we’ve been given – the Q/A team were so bewildered by a hardcore racing simulator, they could not find the “drive” button and actually play the game.

In conclusion, what we can say about the Codemotion Rome 2017 lecture, is that Assetto Corsa was simply not a game that should have been released on consoles. The team faced a Mount Everest-like climb to prepare the software to work on inferior hardware, using trick after trick just to achieve a semi-playable framerate that took many months of patches after release to satisfy the customers whom had purchased it. And even when the game did get whipped into a playable state, the quality assurance team were simply incapable of shaking down the game properly, to the point where some of what they missed is so stupefying, many will undoubtedly be under the impression they simply checked to see if all of the menus worked as they should, not once hitting the track to examine basic gameplay and performance elements. As an added bonus, we also have confirmation that the PC version of the game outsources Q/A testing to random people who lurk the forums, the credentials of which are questionable at best.

While the original variant of Assetto Corsa is slowly being turned into a somewhat okay racing simulation after years of Kunos being pushed by the community to flesh out the game with additional features and functionality, I am left bewildered by the console counterpart, which was obviously created as a quick cash grab. The man hours dedicated to learning all of these tricks and shortcuts just to get Assetto Corsa to achieve more than 20 FPS on the PlayStation 4 could have easily went to fleshing out the PC version people already had fallen in love with, rather than building a product for another platform that most people would return in the first week thanks to glaring technical problems. The quality assurance team could have then been tasked with refining the PC version, allocating an appropriate level of bug-hunting tasks exclusive group of fanboys… er… beta testers rather than placing the whole game on their shoulders.

Yet because of the above decisions, Assetto Corsa is merely okay on the PC when it could have been great, and Kunos now have to explain why there’s this awkward console version a portion of their fanbase are clearly upset over, instead of establishing themselves as one of the leaders in PC simulations.

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61 thoughts on “A Lecture on Mediocrity

  1. Attention to ian/austin:

    STEFANO WILL PUT HIS FANBOYISED BLACKED OUT HIV AIDS POSITIVE HOMOPHOBIC CANCEROUS DISEASED VIAGRA COCK IN YOUR FILTHY SCUMBAG FULL OF DOG SHIT PISS MOUTH AND SHUT YOU UP FOR GOOD WHILE FINGERTIPPING YOUR PR0L.PSED ANUSH0LE OF DOOM!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beating a dead horse a bit with this imo, AC is solid on PC its not on console because they screwed up & clearly a learning experience for them. Not excusing that but this is like the tenth article on the subject.

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    1. Eh, I would say a dev hosting a lecture in which they talked like they overcame FPS problems with all these little tricks (when they didnt) and then admitting they have no traditional QA testing & were flying blind on QA testing for consoles – the testers supposedly not checking gameplay but just menu functionality – warranted another piece.

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      1. Are you talking about features here & game design? I’m talking about the game doesn’t crash often & works. If you’re suggesting the TC is broken it’s news to me.

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      2. You should lower the TC number to 1 to have the strongest traction control. Several cars have by default 3, 4, or higher.

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  3. Bad port would be if it ran worse than the original with similar hardware, this clearly isn’t the case here since I was getting very similar 35-60fps with 16 ai cars on my old pc which had weak amd cpu.

    As for lack of professional QA team, hardly any small indie studios can afford that.

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      1. For a simulator having a CPU on console where its clocks run at 1.6GHz is quite hard to work with. Unless you wanted dumbing down of the simulation to achieve those sweet 60 fps. Yea go ahead and jubilate on how these great simulators (gran turismo and forza) can achieve stable 60 fps.

        PS4 Pro increases the same CPU to 2.1GHz, increases the GPU performance as well, and adds a bit more RAM. It has a boost mode that makes many games that on standard PS4 struggle to get to 60fps get the job done with the console upgrade.

        Are there flight simulators on consoles? Can they even reach 30fps? I guess they should dumb down the simulation to Gran Turismo and Forza levels so that reviewers like James have one less negative point to talk about. Get a grip dude.

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  4. Ok Austin but if AC is an example of mediocrity in this genre then so was your friend Ian’s pCARS, let’s be honest here. In fact, the shit SMS pulled with that turd was arguably worse than AC.

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      1. And there it is. Words of support for SMS and Ian. This time around last year and two years ago there was nothing but words of shit towards these sim devs and companies.

        You did well Ian, you did well. Unfortunately for the other devs that didn’t pay James anything they won’t get words of support towards their games and people.

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              1. Don’t bother.. it’s like talking to “flat earth” believers. Just because you’re in any kind of deal with SMS means you are a tainted source, no matter how much you try to explain it. People with small minds will always be susceptible to confirmation bias. I’d just ignore these trolls.

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  5. I’m probably one of the 3 Italians being a regular here (the other two are the cucks Stefano and Marco) and I could translate the entire 46min video without problems.

    Although, as I do this kind of things professionally, if I have to endure 46min of nonsense from AC, I want to get paid.

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  6. This video made my day!
    1) Turn on subtitles/closed captions
    2) Turn on Settings -> Auto-Translate -> English
    3) Sit back, enjoy…

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  7. “Fabrizio Brugnaro then steps in and admits that the process of Quality Assurance – you know, testing a video game to ensure it’s not bugged to hell and works as it should – was new to the team. Brugnaro explains that the PC version of Assetto Corsa does not have any sort of dedicated Quality Assurance team, but rather relies on a “small group of sim racing enthusiasts” to hunt for bugs and other issues.

    Dear God this is asinine.”

    Written by a Slightly Mad Studios employee. Dear God this is hilarious.

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    1. But… but… he’s a sim racer getting paid to poke holes in the game. Can’t you spot the difference? 😀 😉

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        1. yea racecar drivers must be gods. Racecar drivers > simulation engineers > simulation programmers

          Look at how many racecar drivers Pcars has for testing, is the greatest simulator of all time. James, being the racedriver god he is, will increase simulation value by a thousand. Pcars2 will be used as training tool at NASA for astronauts to learn how to operate the Rover on Mars. That’s how realistic some of these simulators are, out of this world.

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  8. I found Assetto on ps4 at launch disappointing to say the least, tried it again a week ago and found it much better. As is the way with alot of games these days, I think they way forward is to wait six months or so after release before picking them up. If they sort out the public lobbys, at least it’s now in a state where you could throw a few hours into it without pulling your hair out

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bullshit. The way forward is to point out to these greedy devs and publishers that it’s morally wrong to release games in this state and embarrass them by giving them crap reviews.

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      1. I feel more embarrassed by how people act and write in the sim racing community (I’m not talking about Jacobby guy or hero cards) than by any devs creating these games and still listening to people for improvements years later after release.

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  9. Everything about AC and Kunos stinks. The game resembles an early access beta. It is truly dreadful. The only good thing about it is the sound. Apart from that it’s a shambolic shallow empty husk of shit.
    However, the thing that winds me up the most are the arse licking “thank you for taking time out to tell us that private lobbies are coming soon Stefano” sycophantic pricks on their forum.

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      1. not really, may not be as spectacular as in real life but is realistic enough for the internal sound to belong to the real car.

        Several mods exaggerate stuff or straight out copy from youtube. Some mods even put external recordings as cockpit sounds. That’s not realistic at all.

        Maybe you could actually show examples where it is abysmal, or better yet, create a feedback thread in the forum and make that comparison. That would be helping sim racing. Coming to this blog and say some stuff is bad without anything backing up what you said doesn’t help anyone, and this is valid for all sims.

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  10. What about worse than mediocre opinions on AC?

    “Don’t fall for all of the hype! This is pure arcade garbage! It reminds me of a failed nineties PC Formula 1 game. Except that it isn’t as good. Trust me, save your money. Even the audio for this game is junk. I can’t believe I fell for the BS. I guess I was hoping for something better than the other games being heavily touted as racing simulators. This product doesn’t even come close. I am so disappointed. Never again. Hey developers: record some real automobile audio and put some real braking and steering dynamics into this arcaic piece. Seriously. ”

    James can you come out and tell us you disagree with this? You do praise AC as a simulator though, although behind pcars2 right?

    As you see, several reasons why people give this game a low rating is not strictly for technical or missing things, but simply because they lack the understanding. Or is simply a troll review. It could be that.

    Maybe you could do some articles tearing down reviews and opinions, or you believe in that BS that the customer is always right? I doubt it, since you never believed anyone who said bad about Race2Play, yet most people just didn’t want anything with this service.

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  11. The whole piece has been translated to English by one of the kind souls on their forum. Not long now before the rose tinted glasses wearing merry band of bum lickers come out and thank Kunos for being so open and honest etc etc etc

    Like

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