It’s a package of virtual race cars that should really need no introduction among most groups of hardcore sim racers, so I’ll cut right to the chase – the DRM Revival mod team are set to bring their legendary rFactor creation into a much newer sim racing sandbox, with a release date for the Assetto Corsa rendition of the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft series just beyond the horizon. Anticipation for the bundle is at an all time high, as while the authenticity and overall realism of the free rFactor mod from many years ago is still up for debate, nobody can deny the quality of the car models, the beastly engine sounds, and the insane handling characteristics combined to produce an experience that basically everybody who considered themselves a regular rFactor player rushed to download, and subsequently convert to other platforms.
The Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft championship, contested in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, was essentially GT3 cars as if they were first conceived thirty five years ago, boasting primitive turbochargers, wild aesthetics, and a general sense of instability that punished you for even the smallest of mistakes. So naturally, there’s a bit of a hype train rolling, because if there’s anything sim racers love, it’s turning five half-assed laps in a car they struggle to properly control before immediately shooting over to RaceDepartment to boast that they couldn’t complete a clean lap and the drivers back then must have been heroes… Or something…
So as I’ve noted above, the DRM team will be taking these wonderful cars to Assetto Corsa and only Assetto Corsa, which has slowly but surely morphed into a somewhat adequate racing simulator over the past few months thanks to the hard work of Kunos Simulazioni. Now while various previews of the DRM mod have been teased almost dating back to the time Assetto Corsa first launched on the PC, in recent weeks it’s been made very clear that these cars are indeed in the pipeline and set to arrive within a reasonable time frame, so the team have been getting a bit “chatty” with all the major sim racing news outlets as would be expected.
However, in their chattiness, has come one of the most absurd details about their upcoming release for Assetto Corsa – sim racers will have the option of obtaining two different versions of the same mod. One, with simplistic physics, will be free, and the other, you’ll be forced to pay for.
The DRM team have explained there will be a “base” version that everybody will be able to download as a quasi-trial, though it will feature the same exact content as the payware version. However, the “premium” version is said to ship with upgraded physics, sounds, and support – whatever that means. It’s a genuine pain in the ass for sim racers, as there will be two semi-identical versions of the mod floating around on the internet that will be sure to cause an enormous amount of mismatches, as free users attempt to join servers running premium content, and premium owners try to jump into an online DRM sessions, only to discover the server is using the free base version in an effort to reel in more players. Assetto Corsa is already ripped on by loyal supporters for fragmenting the userbase with a heavy dose of downloadable content that strategically places desirable and/or updated cars behind paywalls, so it’s frustrating to see that community members who have undoubtedly been upset by the fragmented userbase will be going out and doing the exact same thing.
It’s also annoying to see a team that already built these cars to completion for another simulation platform and gave them away for free, will be charging for what’s essentially the same product. Had Assetto Corsa blown rFactor out of the water and established itself as the king of PC racing sims immediately upon release in 2014, I could sort of understand trying to monetize a re-release of the same cars, but both simulators are sort of equal with one another in terms of game engine fidelity. So it’s pretty lame that while the DRM cars for rFactor are free, you’ll have to pay for the Assetto Corsa variant, even though the same team made both mods, and it’s not like these cars have changed since 1979 – it’s still the same data that was researched and gathered in 2008 being placed into Assetto Corsa as it was placed into rFactor a decade ago.
Not to mention, there’s still some debate over how accurate the rFactor mod was to begin with. Sure it looked and sounded nice, but there were rumors of the virtual cars created by the DRM revival team turning laps ten or twelve seconds quicker than their real world counterparts. So it’s pretty ballsy to charge for “upgraded physics” when there’s no guarantee that the allegedly improved physics will be worth the money.
But, to play devil’s advocate here, I’m under the impression that maybe there’s a different side to the whole free/premium version thing we’re not really thinking of. Obviously, you can’t sell payware mods featuring real world brands without a commercial license, which is why United Racing Design sell Bayro’s and Darche’s instead of BMW’s and Porsche’s, but maybe the DRM team have discovered a loop-hole where if you can still obtain their creation for free and merely sell physics INI files as an upgrade, that’s how payware teams can get around pesky licensing restrictions. And that’s sort of brilliant, and could set a very real precedent for payware mods in the future where, as an example, teams could put up complete Formula One grids for free, but when you download them they hit 400 mph like that Red Bull monstrosity from Gran Turismo, and the financial transaction is merely to obtain text documents to copy and paste over the “default” physics. Everyone knows what’s happening, but in a legal sense it doesn’t get the payware teams in any hot water. I’m not a fan of payware mods because they traditionally don’t work in a sim racing environment for whatever reason, but I give the DRM team credit for trying to blaze a new trail here, if that were their intentions.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, as the precedent that could be set for other payware teams to follow may be the silver lining amidst a potential cloud of mismatch errors that infuriate the Assetto Corsa community. Whatever happens, you’ll be able to obtain these vehicles fairly soon, and hopefully there will be an equally diverse number of quality historic circuits to race them on, as I can’t imagine the appropriate rFactor tracks will look all that great after being quickly converted in Assetto Corsa for use with the DRM cars.