An incredible package of open wheel cars warranted an equally captivating online championship, but for the Historic Sim Racing Organization, things on the competition end of the spectrum just aren’t going according to plan.
A few months back, we here at PRC introduced our readers to the stellar CART 88 mod for the original rFactor, a download bundling every single vehicle variant and driver combination that took the green flag during the 1988 American open wheel season into a light-weight download for the legendary rFactor simulation. While many were blown away by the sheer challenge of pushing these cars to the limit, and borderline-autistic attention to detail that replicated engine improvements and chassis swaps across each event, CART 88 as an rFactor mod was only part of the complete sales pitch; HSO would conduct their own full-length, full-distance online championship throughout the 2017 calendar year, allowing hardcore sim racers to step back in time and subject themselves to the same challenges their favorite drivers faced depending on their car of choice – whether that meant limping an under-powered backmarker entry to the finish line, or repeating Danny Sullivan’s dominance.
Yet after only two and a half events, HSO’s CART 88 championship is being remembered not for the intense battles, crafty race strategies, and stellar displays of sim racing prowess, but instead for ineptitude on the part of its entrants. Today’s Reader Submission from an anonymous sim racer competing in the series is here to tell us that while the mod is amazing, the series it was built for, isn’t.
Hello PRC. As I’m sure most of you know, the long process of practicing, qualifying and eventually racing the Indianapolis 500 is well underway. To coincide with this, the Historic Sim Racing organization are holding their own virtual rendition of the event. Using their exceptional, in-house developed CART 88 mod, HSO are running a full season using the mod, with the Indy 500 event being the jewel in the crown. However, this race – the most notable on the entire HSO schedule – has been absolutely plagued by issues. It has been memorable for all the wrong reasons, as the Indy 500 was cancelled (and promptly re-scheduled, to the credit of HSO) without even reaching a tenth of the proposed distance, as ignorance from competitors reigned supreme.
The race was due to start at 20:30 CET, but was delayed for over half an hour due to connection issues experienced by the head administrator. Inconvenient, but very understandable that we’d be required to wait for the primary official, because that’s who is going to guarantee us a fair race. However, this would be the most minor of problems all night, as in my opinion it descended into anarchy.
HSO’s Indy race called on a total of four manual formation laps. The first one was to be completed in rows of two, the next two run in single file, and the field assembling in the iconic rows of three for the final lap. One may ask how competitors were to know when to get underway considering rFactor can only support one formation lap, and the answer lies in hiring a manual pace car driver to do the dirty work for the three additional laps, and then typing “green” as a way to indicate a live green flag.
This is where the first start faltered. After four formation laps, the pace car driver miscounted the laps. He didn’t type green into the chat, and was still on the course. Confused, an admin further back down the field gave the go-ahead. This was disastrous, as the pace car was still on the racing surface. Despite the driver’s best efforts to get out of the way, the field was flustered and a major turn one pile up ensued, with the race restarting.
From that point on, the race was unable to restart smoothly. Several drivers who had partaken in the first start now had connection problems and could not see any cars, as their games did not sync with the server. There were several attempts at formation laps, many of which resulted in additional crashes due to some drivers not being able to see anyone. This was an unwise decision as the people having connection issues could have their problems solved by quitting the server and rejoining.
A short break was taken after the race failed to launch in a clean fashion, with the event now running an hour behind schedule.
Unfortunately, things got even worse. There were more pile-ups on the formation laps, leading to more restarts. In some instances this wasn’t the fault of HSO or any admins; some drivers just had incompatible internet connections yet still tried to race when they should have thought twice signing up for an online league knowing their internet can’t handle it. As a result, the last restart sealed the fate of the race. A caution was called during the start procedure, adding an extra lap before the start as more sim racers embarrassingly crashed on the formation lap. The race did eventually get underway, but the group failed to complete a green flag lap before the yellow flew again. One driver, who had caused full race restarts in the past due to poor internet, put his foot to the floor way earlier than anyone else. He plowed through stationary cars, taking out no less than ten drivers while somehow managing to remain undamaged thanks to shoddy netcode. This ended up being the final straw for HSO admins, who cancelled the event shortly thereafter.
For HSO to operate properly in races of high notability and of a large entry list, they really need good restrictions on the quality of their competitors’ connections, and begrudgingly bar anyone with connection issues. If you can’t see anyone or are lagging like crazy, you should have the decency to park your car, simple. I’m not placing the blame totally on HSO here, the competitors should have the sense to pull out if their connection is like this. However, the admins should regulate how good their entrants’ connections are. I hope there are plans to do so.
This is not a hit-piece on HSO. I compete in the league on a regular basis and wholeheartedly enjoy it. Their in-house mods are the stuff of dreams and most of their races (which are on a smaller scale in terms of entrants) are meticulously organized and go down without issue. However, I would like them to learn some lessons from this farcical occasion. They are a non-profit organization at the end of the day, however their recent gigantic success in the area of mod development has catapulted them into the spotlight, and they need to be giving off a better showing than this.
I agree some effort should be made to impose internet connection requirements not just in HSO, but as many sim racing leagues and clubs as possible. Yes, back in 2005, high speed internet was a bit of a luxury, and at the time it would slightly inappropriate to demand the average sim racer to fork over a pretty penny just to continue what were essentially “gaming nights with the boys,” but times have changed. It’s been twelve years since the original rFactor came out, and cell phones can now download high resolution pornography at light speed while sim racing as a genre has grown exponentially, so there’s really no excuse for dropping loads on pricey wheels, pedals monitors, and button boxes while simultaneously lagging all over the fucking place because your ass suddenly can’t afford anything more than Wal-Mart WiFi.
Call me a major asshole, but you’ve had twelve years and a few console generations to put some money aside so you can upgrade your internet. At some point you have to stop pandering to these people.
However, I will say that the old adage of “sim racers turning five off-pace laps in a historic car before running to the forums and bragging they’re unable to drive it” is a large portion of why the CART 88 series isn’t going the way many have wanted it to. Though we rightfully gave HSO heavy coverage for a phenomenal mod, myself and Dustin ended up backing out after just two races because it was becoming very apparent that only a fraction of the grid could handle these cars for multiple laps in a row. Not only was building a setup for these beasts extremely finicky, they were very difficult to master on warm tires – we’re talking Grand Prix Legends in fast forward. By comparison, most of the guys who signed up for the league weren’t capable of driving the cars in a safe fashion; they either grew up watching the cars, or had an interest in historic online racing. That combination works well in other HSO series that use big, bulky classic GT cars with the weight and general performance characteristics of a modern family sedan, but certainly not here with these speeds.
There is a silver lining to all of this: I’ve been told that HSO will re-schedule the race and do everything in their power to force their league members to prove themselves (and their internet connection) in a different class before moving up to higher-powered cars such as 80’s CART monstrosities, it just sucks these things weren’t figured out prior to the season starting.