It’s admittedly been a while since we’ve talked about Reiza Studios’ Automobilista here on PRC.net, as the Brazilian-backed evolution of rFactor has remained in stasis for several months; pushing out tiny fragments of objectively high quality downloadable content for the small group of users who still use the title as their sim of choice. Not quite a massive step for the overall sim racing landscape, but still a worthy addition to the library of any hardcore virtual racer, Automobilista was designed as a stop-gap title for Reiza Studios’ 2017 project – which we suspiciously haven’t heard anything about in recent memory – but that’s not the point of today’s article.
Over the past week, Reiza have dropped the green flag on a mammoth hotlap competition intended to bring the entire userbase together for the ultimate display in leaderboard dick-waving, putting up a fairly decent sim rig as a grand prize for accumulating points throughout twelve different weekly time trial challenges, which will obviously span a period of about three months total. The first combination Automobilista owners can try their hand at, the 2015 Stock Car Brazil Series at Velopark, reportedly boasts over five hundred unique entrants, indicating there’s a pretty solid core group of sim racers hanging around to see what Reiza Studios will churn out next.
However, upon actually examining the fine details of this competition, it seems Reiza Studios didn’t put all that much thought into what constitutes as a fair, competitive environment – or take special precautions prior to the start of the competition. Automated setup sharing has been built into Automobilista by default as a tool to ease newcomers into the world of sim racing, meaning that the setup of any individual who registers a lap has their configuration automatically uploaded into an online database, and those hitting the track for the very first time can merely highlight the name of a user, click Fetch Setup, and be given the keys to a car several seconds faster than their own. Now it’s really not a bad idea in theory, especially as the default setups for any car across a variety of games are sometimes just random numbers between the minimum and maximum value – thus creating a car that handles like dog shit – but the problem is that Reiza forgot to disable this functionality before the competition kicked off.
Because every car in sim racing is 100% equal by default, setups play a much larger role in determining the victor of any given competition than they do in real life auto racing. While major sims like Forza Motorsport and iRacing both have external setup marketplaces, neither piece of software allows you to explicitly click a drivers’ name and import their setup for this very reason; whereas real world car setups are just part of the equation to being successful out on the race track, a sim racer’s car setup is basically their whole goddamn playbook, and with sims not being totally accurate, sometimes their setup includes exploits that only they have found.
As a result, participants are discovering the hard way that all of their work and research can be stolen by their rivals at a moments notice, and with a decent prize on the line, several can be seen on the official Reiza forums demanding the developer to disable the function for the contest. Others are explicitly not turning a lap until the closing moments of the seventh day, giving other sim racers little chance to become acquainted with their setup and turn a quicker lap.
It’s pretty bizarre that a hardcore sim developer would not understand the importance of keeping car setups private during an intense, twelve-week online competition in which prizes are awarded. Part of the fun of being a sim racer participating in a serious league is sitting down in front of a PC, reading about how cars work, and applying that knowledge in your simulator of choice to gain a few positions on track, whether it be outsmarting your opponents on strategy or blowing by them with raw speed. Reiza have essentially nullified this entire process, with the vast majority of participants now sitting around waiting for “one of the fast guys” to register a time,” and in some cases beating the quicker entrants with their own setups – which the creator didn’t want shared in the first place.
It’s certainly not a good way to begin the championship, that’s for sure.
But with the setups of top leaderboard drivers now floating around in the wild for all to see, the physics flaws and general shortcomings of Automobilista have now been exposed as well. Though the Stock Car V8 was constructed by Dallara to be a low-cost, heavier, ultra-durable DTM knockoff, a sort of hybrid between a NASCAR Xfinity Series entry and a 2010 German Touring Car, the setups being used at the top of the leaderboard are nothing short of nonsensical from a realism standpoint. Sim racers are setting up these lumbering tanks created for wealthy Brazilian auto racers to be ultra twitchy death traps that loop themselves over the slightest of bumps and elevation changes, mashing the restart key over and over just to complete a clean lap. With no fuel consumption or tire wear enabled, sim racers are hitting the track with a single liter of fuel in the tank and working the two-foot magic save hax garbage to turn laps in a caricature of a Brazilian stock car – which sort of defeats the entire purpose of a hardcore simulator.
To make matters worse, Motorsport.com reports the 2016 Stock Car Brazil pole at Velopark set by Caca Bueno was a blistering 54.172, yet this would put him almost three seconds off pace the current #1 time in Automobilista of a 51.8. I understand that the locations aren’t laser-scanned, but Reiza’s tracks are fantastic works of art regardless, and a difference of three seconds in qualifying trim between the best driver in the history of the Stock Car Brazil series, versus the top twenty five sim racers – some of which have probably never driven the car before this week – is something that should be looked into.
Next week, the Reiza community challenge will take the early 2000’s Formula One car to Suzuka, which may see this problem magnified thanks to the increased complexity of setup building for open wheel race cars.