For about a week in February of this year, RaceDepartment was set on fire. Proclaiming a revival of the iconic GTR brand on behalf of SimBin UK – an off-shoot of Sector 3 Studios – we were given several lengthy pieces and interviews with key team members promising us that yes, after many years of ideology changes and botched projects, GTR 3 was indeed a real thing. In a sim racing climate in which developers load up their respective pieces of software with as many unrelated vehicles and locations as possible in the hopes that something will captivate their audience, the community saw this announcement as not only a breath of fresh air, but a return to form; the days of single-series simulations we’d seemingly moved far away from were now on the horizon once more, potentially hinting at a second golden age like the one we saw in the early 2000’s was not too far off. Though the initial batch of images SimBin UK published were quickly ripped apart by internet sleuths, who noticed lighting irregularities and oddly placed car models, we were assured that by some point in 2018, we’d be playing GTR 3, and at the very least, the team would have a working game by the summer of 2017.
Of course, when some noticed how absurdly difficult it would be for SimBin UK to create a scratch-built simulation physics engine in Unreal 4 with just the four or five staff members they’d had on the payroll at the time of the game’s announcement, the metaphorical crickets could be heard in abundance – giving doubters such as myself the impression that a lot of people were being taken for a ride, and GTR 3 was yet another pipe dream; the team mocking up a few proof of concept shots and using their connections among the sim racing community to publish pseudo-announcements in high traffic areas, with the hopes of securing an investor to actually fund their vision.
In case you haven’t figured out from the plethora of coverage on YouTube from your favorite sim racing outlets, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is in full swing. This isn’t some sort of obscure gaming show by any means; E3 is ourWoodstock per se – the entire goddamn industry comes together for one giant event in southern California to demonstrate the products we’ll be playing either in the fall, or at some point over the next few years. Now, is it reserved for the giants of the industry? Of course not; Kunos Simulazioni flew out there to announce indie racing simulator Assetto Corsa on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the Kylotonn guys are there displaying WRC 7, and even 704 Games – the questionable team behind the modern NASCAR Heat reboot – brought a laptop and some Xbox controllers to debut NASCAR Heat 2. This is on top of the already stout lineup of Forza Motorsport, Project CARS, Gran Turismo Need for Speed, Formula One, and The Crew – though the latter isn’t a personal favorite of mine.
Absent from this list, would be SimBin UK’s GTR 3, possibly the only major racing game that’s been announced yet did not make an appearance at E3. Now you’re certainly not required to travel halfway around the world show up to the California-based convention to demonstrate your game – a simple YouTube teaser would suffice – but that too appears to be missing in action. When the world is focused on the gaming industry as a whole, and your entire collective target audience have their eyes locked on YouTube to take in the sights and sounds of all the new racing games, it’s certainly odd that there’s not been so much as a peep from the GTR 3 team.
Yes, that’s my “scoop” for today; SimBin UK have not shown off GTR 3 at E3 or at least taken advantage of the hype and pushed out a teaser trailer on YouTube, so I personally have a hard time believing this game exists, or that things are going smoothly behind closed doors. But before you call me an evil conspiracy theorist set to destroy other games, let’s take a bit of a journey around the internet to see what might support this theory, and make it significantly less of a wild conspiracy perpetuated by a sim racing “hate blog.”
SimBin UK’s own web page lists an abundance of job openings, and this is something you can navigate to and see for yourself. There are at least five active positions available to apply for on the SimBin UK company roster, most of them being very prominent positions that play a key role in the development of a multi-platform racing simulator. They don’t need random motherfuckers to bomb around the office and crank out car liveries every few days, they need senior programmers, C++ programmers, and network programmers. These are the kinds of positions you fill before announcing a game, slowly fleshing out the roster with supporting positions as the main guys fall into place and bust their asses on the heavy stuff.
How do you announce a game in February, proceed to whip all these different websites into a flurry of excitement, and then five months later still have openings for key positions on the team? This is like announcing you’ve started a rock band and are recording an album, but post on your official Facebook page that you need a drummer, lead guitarist, and singer.
Next, we travel to the team’s Twitter account, which is suspiciously quiet. Aside from seemingly being configured to retweet anything relating to RaceRoom Racing Experience, there’s virtually nothing about GTR 3’s progress. There are something like seven or eight posts in a row about the official Mercedes DTM competition on Sector 3’s RaceRoom simulation, but that’s clearly not GTR 3, it’s RaceRoom – an entirely different piece of software. In regards to GTR 3, there’s actually a whole lot of nothing – save for one custom tweet stating their new website is live.
That was back in March.
In an era of gaming where developers across the sim racing community sit on forums and social media virtually all day, bantering with customers and/or releasing teasers of upcoming projects or future updates, for SimBin UK to announce a major racing simulator earlier this year, and then put their social media on autopilot to regurgitate articles focusing on a game from their sister company, in combination with no progress or updates on their game in six months, no appearance at E3, not even a newer teaser piece, and a whole lot of important positions yet to be filled, is highly suspicious.
Links to the team’s other social media pages from the SimBin UK website, such as Facebook and YouTube, direct to pages that in some cases haven’t been touched in three years.
This kind of anti-progress and questionable chain of announcements seems to be something not specific to SimBin UK, but also extends to Sector 3 Studios themselves, a team responsible for an objectively good racing simulator with R3E. While the team have been openly talking about turning the online portion of their title into something that can compete with iRacing at a fraction of the cost – something that’s very well possible given the diversity and overall popularity of the content offered in RaceRoom Racing Experience – as of two days ago, long after this stuff was first announced, Sector 3 can be seen openly trying to recruit employees to actually build that element of the game. So between both Sector 3 and SimBin UK, I’m under the impression they’re both operating in a manner in which they announce upcoming features, and in some cases entire games, without actually having the staff necessary to build them. They then go “oh shit” and scramble around to fulfill their previously announced goals, hoping the sim racing community either forget the previous announcements they made, or vehemently defend them if they can’t be seen to completion because “muh small developer” and stuff.
I’ve been patiently awaiting the new online format for RaceRoom Racing Experience as I love how the title drives, and would not hesitate to purchase all the content the honest way if I woke up to news that the structured multiplayer format was set to go live in a few weeks, but the reality is that all we’ve got is a few new GT cars and some obscure Swedish tracks. I was told around September of last year that they were working on an iRacing-like multiplayer service, and nine months later we’ve gotten precisely no new info; only clues that they don’t even have the relevant staff positions filled to complete it in the first place.
And I believe that’s what’s happened with GTR 3 as well. Judging by what’s publicly available, the lack of any updates or teasers at what’s traditionally a time to take the covers off everything in the gaming industry, the awkward silence on social media, the abundance of open positions on the team’s official website, the difficulty in creating a high-fidelity simulator engine from scratch with a skeleton crew, and zero coverage from sim racing publications that were once happy to push the announcement of GTR 3 to the forefront, I have an exceptionally difficult time believing this game will see the light of day.
Again, I want GTR 3. The popularity of sports car racing is at an all time high and it would be sweet to have that flagship GT game where all you do is race GT cars, in the same manner that DiRT 4 is that all-encompassing off-road title for fans of rally racing. Warts and all, I don’t think it’s too hard for a non-traditional team to deliver some sort of niche sports car game; Milestone’s MXGP3 is proof that no matter how obscure the subject matter may be, a good racing game is a good racing game.
But in this particular situation, there’s a marshal holding a red flag in every corner. Radio silence at a time when even the lowliest of NASCAR and Isle of Mann developers are proud to demonstrate their software to the world, no social media activity, a blackout from the publications who once covered it, and prominent job openings when original interviews stated there’d already be an internal build operational in the summer. If you want myself and the other skeptics to believe GTR 3 exists somewhere other than the imaginations of SimBin UK, this isn’t the way to do it.