Become Stefano’s Apprentice at Kunos Simulazioni

Though there haven’t been many clear or even partial indicators regarding the future of Kunos Simulazioni and their beloved homegrown simulator Assetto Corsa – aside from the controversial acquisition by Digital Bros. – recent job postings have hinted that at the very least, Kunos are planning to stick around for more than just a string of downloadable content packs. Posted just a few short days ago to the official Assetto Corsa forum, is a link to a handful of programming positions that have recently became available within the company, implying Kunos will be looking to at least partially expand Assetto Corsa over the coming months, if not outright work on a sequel altogether.

The job openings come at a very pivotal time, especially for Assetto Corsa supporters, as the game itself is in a bit of a crossroads right now. No longer the quirky early access racing simulator with a lot of potential we once knew it as, Assetto Corsa is now a veteran of the sim racing scene, yet hasn’t exploded in popularity as the original rFactor did many years ago – a game released with similar goals for the software in mind.

The modding community is good – not great – those interested in online racing are still split between numerous traditional leagues and the excellent SimRacingSystem app (meaning online participation isn’t totally centralized for online racing in Assetto Corsa to take off), and as a whole certain elements – such as the objectively brutal user interface – still feel as if they were tacked on at the last moment, to be substantially improved upon at a future date. While new content is nice, especially with the overall feel conveyed by the tenth iteration of the game’s tire model, it’s certainly time for the rest of the game to receive the same tender, love, and care as the cars always do. Hopefully, the new openings will allow Kunos to apply that level of polish to the areas of the package that need it the most.

So what exact plans could Kunos Simulazioni be hoping to implement with a few more programmers added to the roster?

My first guess, is that the team are looking to somehow integrate SimRacingSystem – or their own unique equivalent – into the vanilla Assetto Corsa experience. The Portuguese third-party application has been a life-saver for Assetto Corsa’s online scene, providing a structured experience that’s identical to iRacing within a significantly more realistic driving model, and I have no problem saying it’s partially responsible for the game’s long-term appeal in 2017, especially considering the simulator is quite stale otherwise. Kunos building their own counterpart to SimRacingSystem would turn the game into a valid alternative to iRacing almost overnight, drawing in hundreds if not thousands of players to the PC variant of the game. Strategically offering several online championships making use of DLC cars would also help Kunos generate a steady stream of revenue, to extend the lifespan of Assetto Corsa 2 if a sequel is not on the board, as the new content could be used almost as a mock “entry fee” for newer championship rotations. I’m not saying I’d agree with an influx of DLC, but if you want these guys to survive solely off of transactions relating to the game currently on the market, that’s the way to do it.

My second guess, is that Kunos Simulazioni are in the early planning stages of creating Assetto Corsa: The Second, and the first order of business is obviously to expand the roster of staff members. However, in my opinion this is a bit of a stretch estimation, as the first game was quite the ordeal for Kunos Simulazioni, with tales of mortgaging homes and extremely high stress levels surrounding the development of the game – and I just can’t see these guys wanting to go through that again unless a third party offers the resources to do so. With the console renditions of Assetto Corsa not doing particularly well among both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners, I also couldn’t see Kunos beginning work on a PC-only sequel when it’s hard to imagine what a sequel would actually look like. More cars? More tracks? Why would that justify an entirely new game when they can just add to the current one?

My third, and most prolific guess, is that coding whiz Stefano Casillo is planning to step away from the sim racing industry altogether, and this act is merely to find a partial replacement crew. It’s no secret across sim racing message boards far and wide that while Casillo is a literal genius, and his work is a large part of why Assetto Corsa blew us all away when it first arrived on the scene, but the guy just can’t handle the community element that plays an integral role with the day-to-day shenanigans taking place among this industry. It is entirely possible that this is all a build-up to Stefano announcing his departure from Kunos Simulazioni, but that’s not something we’ll know until that piece of news has been published on much more prolific websites than ours.

Regardless, if you have the proper credentials and would like to work for a prominent figure in the sim racing ecosystem, Kunos Simulazioni are hiring.

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Are Kunos Simulazioni Capable of Releasing Assetto Corsa 2?

Despite the success of the original rFactor, a project which was the culmination of years upon years worth of sim racing research, American developers Image Space Incorporated were unable to capture that same magic when the inevitable sequel went live on the digital marketplace in the spring of 2013. Unfinished, unoptimized, and almost completely disorganized, what was once considered sim racing’s premiere team for all they had provided the community since 1999’s Sports Car GT, instead fell to the wayside – pushing out a product so disastrous, a third party was forced to take over the reigns just to keep it on life support. It was a strange couple of years within the sim racing landscape; the elder statesmen responsible for licensing out their engine for others to build upon and succeed, a group so talented they were able to launch a platform that perfectly drew upon what the community did best – create shit – awkwardly stumbled and sputtered during their own comeback tour.

And yet there are people who think the same situation won’t befall Kunos Simulazioni, eagerly anticipating what the Italian simulation team – now under the guidance of Digital Bros – will churn out next. If you haven’t figured out already from the title of this post, I’m certainly not one of those individuals. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect much from Assetto Corsa 2, and that’s if the game materializes in the first place. Unless a drastic restructuring behind the scenes takes place, I’m under the impression we’ve seen the last of Kunos Simulazioni. Stuck in a very strange grey area as a team, the staff are firmly within what many would consider the indie developer category, yet still too small to properly tackle such a complex genre such as sim racing, especially considering they’ve built the software from the ground up as opposed to licensing a competitor’s engine and injecting their assets.

Here’s the short and sweet: Kunos have spent five, potentially six years building Assetto Corsa into what it is today – very long, arduous, rocky years – and though there’s been a slight change in management and ownership, getting the same core team to do it all over again is a task that on paper is beyond what the individuals involved are capable of. Unfortunately, this means that for sim racers pledging allegiance to Assetto Corsa, the future is now – regardless of how rough around the edges it may be. Realistically, you probably aren’t getting Assetto Corsa 2 any time soon, and even if you do, there’s no guarantee it’ll be the mammoth upgrade you’re anticipating.

Recollecting the progression of Assetto Corsa over the years – watching it grow from a humble “driving simulator” into a more robust experience, and the revisionist history behind it – is what inspired me to write this quick piece today. The reality is that Assetto Corsa exploded in popularity when it first launched thanks to a phenomenal driving experience and out-of-this-world force feedback effects, but it very quickly ran into hiccups. Message boards soon became a warzone, with flocks of sim racers questioning why Kunos Simulazioni seemed almost apathetic to add basic features seen in other games into the core experience, while others aggressively attacked the critical portion of the community for being unable to lower their standards for a smaller development team. Stuck in the middle were the staff at Kunos Simulazioni, who sided with Assetto Corsa supporters, and for months upon months displayed outright reluctance and hostility to anyone who suggested Assetto Corsa as a piece of software could somehow be improved.

Though the overall tone from customers has changed to imply Kunos are this hip indie outlet who are fully in-touch with their fanbase, the reality couldn’t be further from this assertion – most improvements were only made after scores of sim racers complained that portions of Assetto Corsa were not up to an acceptable standard. In a now infamous screenshot, Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni can be seen downplaying the software’s artificial intelligence issues by urging users to “work with the software and not against it”, only to be posting about AI improvements he himself played an integral role in almost two years later because people wouldn’t stop listing the atrocious AI as one of the game’s biggest negative aspects. In another image, our own personality Sev can be seen giving the tire model within the game a failing grade and Stefano berating him for his comments on the game’s official forums, only for the tire model to receive updates several months later that magically rectified exactly what Sev had been critical of.

Shifting the spotlight away from PRC-infused moments regarding Assetto Corsa, this kind of stubbornness also rose to the surface when the console versions of Assetto Corsa launched last year. Shipping with no custom lobby functionality whatsoever, droves of customers complained about the title’s lack of what many racing game enthusiasts see as an essential online feature, to which 505 Games replied “our priority is a stable launch.” Only after scores of users returned the title and promptly bombarded their social media outlets with negative feedback and accusations of blatant laziness did Kunos finally try to implement the highly requested feature – although it’s still yet to be seen on the Xbox One.

The point I’m trying to make with these examples, is that had the community not taken a metaphorical battering ram to Kunos Simulazioni staff members, and hounded them for months upon months to advance the game in a meaningful fashion, Assetto Corsa would have remained a very stagnant, dull simulation with very little to offer compared to its competitors, even after five years on store shelves. And even with a very demanding community outlining exactly what they expected from Assetto Corsa, some of these upgrades took forever for the Kunos team to implement. New tire models were introduced gradually across multiple builds, AI behavior was largely work-in-progress for years, and only recently were things like pitstop strategy presets introduced. It’s not a game, so much as an eternal science project with no date scheduled for conclusion. Left to their own devices, Assetto Corsa would look very different had paying customers not been pushing Kunos to ensure their software was captivating in some aspect.

And this is where a hypothetical project such as Assetto Corsa 2 doesn’t look all that great on paper. Deep in development, and away from the hands of the general public to constantly critique what needs fixing, Kunos are left to build Assetto Corsa 2 using only their beliefs on what a racing simulator should be – possibly with a bit of guidance from Digital Bros as well. If you can’t see why this might be a problem, I’ve got news for you.

Kunos Simulazioni is a team that prioritized tire models over the ability to select the color of your car for online races. They’re a group who designed a game world engine with just one light source – the sun – in mind, making night racing impossible in an era of sim racing where night time events are almost taken for granted. They’re a team who intentionally left out both custom lobbies and custom button configurations from the console renditions of their game, not to mention were unable to ship the game with some sort of post-race animation, instead awkwardly warping cars to the pits as if participants were playing a tech demo. It’s a group who allowed an extensive third party modding community to flourish on the official forums, only to shut it all down one day, and a developer whom segregates online servers via copious amounts of DLC that are structured in a way to split, shatter, and then fragment the userbase into have’s and have-nots despite other games figuring out how to avoid that scenario altogether.

What else have I missed? Oh right, there’s the bizarre lack of in-game leaderboards for a game many use primarily as a hotlapping simulator, a clunky user interface with atrocious HUD elements that look as if they’re out of Rigs of Rods, and lastly some shoddy mod compatibility that breaks most mods with each new build – turning the most enjoyable community element of Assetto Corsa into a scavenger hunt for mod fixes and updates with each passing patch. These were all things that Kunos could have rectified ahead of time, one way or another, but instead for some inexplicable reason opted not to.

The ideology of prioritizing minute details over a complete, functional, and enjoyable package doesn’t bode well for a developer when your rivals are monolithic entities such as Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, and your potential customers have been playing the shit out of those in anticipation of your game.

The task of this same group sitting down for a couple of years and churning out something with the name Assetto Corsa 2 that’s not just a sequel, but a vast improvement over the original, is something I feel Kunos Simulazioni just aren’t capable of doing. Had it not been for the fans aggressively pushing for a more complete experience, and the developers reluctantly giving in after months upon months of hounding, year after year since 2013, the sheer density of bone-headed decisions and questionable omissions would prevent something like Assetto Corsa 2 from even getting off the ground.

And that’s before we talk about the team’s aforementioned inability to take criticism, which has been a dark cloud surrounding the otherwise surprise underdog story propelling Assetto Corsa to new heights within the sim racing world. It seems like every couple of months, there’s a new developer meltdown to cover that displays a Kunos Simulazioni staff member losing their cool at mere peanuts on the official forum, with Norwegian stunt driver Fredrik Sorlie’s private exchange being the focal point in a long list of public, private, and rumored outbursts. With these situations taking place with such consistency, one has to wonder if Kunos have already cracked under pressure, and key staff members are in the process of planning their exit from not only the spotlight, but the industry altogether. Though many are inclined to sympathize with Kunos for the way some sim racers have treated them, and deemed their reactions to be a natural response to a never-ending wave of criticism from customers, the team certainly haven’t done themselves any favors by shipping products that many felt were inferior, lacking, and behind the times – regardless of what the Instagram models would have you believe.

But while other developers can take this hostile environment in stride – a recent example would be Codemasters directly responding to criticism of DiRT 4 in a launch day livestream and being upfront that they weren’t quite ready for release in regards to some cars – it seems to instead drag Kunos into the fray and actively impede the team’s progress, becoming some sort of known phenomenon for those who have follow Kunos’ rise to fame among the sim racing scene.

In conclusion, because of the team’s inability to make sound decisions about the direction of their game without fans hounding them for an excessive length of time to implement features other pieces of software would include by default, and the staff’s track record of being unable to deal with actual, legitimate criticism, I have a very difficult time believing Kunos are capable of building a sequel to Assetto Corsa that’s worth our time – and that’s if they even want to. It took five painstakingly long years to morph Assetto Corsa into a simulator people can recommend to motorsports fans, and after all this time there are still things missing, incomplete, or simply configured in a way that aren’t user-friendly, which fanboys awkwardly have to explain or defend whenever they’re brought up on the official forums. For Kunos to sit down and embark on this entire process again for another, more detailed simulator, knowing both their shortcomings as a developer, as well as what awaits if they get it wrong, is something I have a hard time believing they’ll see to completion.

 

Assetto Corsa Fails Tech Inspection with Xbox One Update

Pushing out post-release updates for software on current generation consoles can be a pain in the ass for even the biggest of development teams. With both Sony and Microsoft requiring each new package to go through a rigorous certification process prior to the update going live – as opposed to Steam’s rather relaxed set of rules that allows developers to mash the metaphorical update button – it’s not uncommon for smaller teams to run afoul of the inspection process, and be forced to announce that long-awaited updates to their game might not come on the scheduled launch date, let alone anywhere close to it.

This is the situation Kunos Simulazioni have currently found themselves in with the Xbox One version of Assetto Corsa. It has been revealed that the version 1.14 update for their indie racing simulator did not pass Microsoft’s certification process – a virtual tech inspection, if you will – and Kunos will have to make the required tweaks to the package and then re-submit all over again, beginning the process anew. It’s just one of those things that happens, and something I’m personally familiar with dating back to the days of NASCAR The Game 2011; Xbox 360 users received updates almost two months earlier than PlayStation owners, as Sony’s evaluation process was much more intricate in the previous console generation.

However, it’s certainly not something Xbox One owners of Assetto Corsa wanted to hear. The version 1.14 update promised much more than physics tweaks to the base simulation experience; features promised to significantly extend the lifespan of the game and had been left out by Kunos Simulazioni due to poor foresight and a lack of resources – most notably the ability to host custom sessions with your own personal settings – were set to be implemented with this update. With the version 1.14 update now back at square one, those who purchased Assetto Corsa for Microsoft’s flagship console are left with a game that is drastically inferior to both the PC variant, as well as it’s PlayStation 4 counterpart. Version 1.14 is essentially what Assetto Corsa on consoles should have been at launch, and this unexpected delay looks to be the final nail in the coffin for those who were berated on the official forums for supposedly not being patient enough with the progress of the game. Ten months later, their patience still hasn’t been rewarded with much of anything, and the already small userbase of this game on the Xbox One is certainly bound to drop to dangerously low levels knowing there is no set release date in sight.

Of course, this has not stopped the rabid Assetto Corsa defense force from promptly lashing out at Microsoft, with some RaceDepartment users believing that the electronics giant is intentionally sabotaging Assetto Corsa’s progress on the Xbox One due to a conflict of interests with one of their own intellectual properties.

Of course, this is simply ridiculous, but just goes to show the extent of which Assetto Corsa fanboys have been brainwashed into believing that the entire sim racing community is against them. Both Kunos Simulazioni, as well as their supporters, appear to be living on the borderline between their own fantasy vision of Assetto Corsa as it exists in their imaginations, and what Kunos Simulazioni have actually created. These hyper-fans genuinely believe Assetto Corsa has the footing to take on one of the biggest franchises of the current gaming era and is such a threat to the market share it’s actually forcing Microsoft to sabotage things behind the scenes, when in reality it took Kunos Simulazioni almost nine months just to add private lobbies – a stable of racing games dating back to the late 1990’s – into the PlayStation 4 version; the Xbox One servers boasting a pathetic 50 users per night according to RaceDepartment forum user MarkR while Forza Motorsport 6 boasts something like five million semi-active players.

This mentality appears to further extend into the professional circle, as the team can be seen giving a lecture on how to successfully launch and maintain a product on the Xbox One. We’ve covered this video already here on PRC.net in a previous article, so it’s kind of shitty to re-visit a prior topic, but in hindsight it’s a lecture that’s getting better with age, knowing how the team would eventually fail certification checks and piss off the remaining Xbox One owners who still held onto a copy of Assetto Corsa.

Where does Kunos go from here? That depends how angry the remaining customers are, and whether it’s actually worth continuing to support the game on the Xbox One. Though I don’t possess any hard statistics, I have a very difficult time believing there’s this substantial renegade group of Assetto Corsa owners on Microsoft’s console checking the official forums twice a day for any news on the version 1.14 update; your average gamer, unless they have serious psychological issues and an abundance of time to waste, will simply not be content with buying a game and then sitting around, not playing it for nine months because they’re patiently waiting for an update – that shit gets promptly returned to GameStop or EBGames within less than a month, if not the first week. So if Kunos do by some chance push out the update within the next month or so, I have to ask the obvious question here – who is left to play it?

But they’re also stuck in-between a rock and hard place, because if they cut their losses and don’t release the update, it’ll be a permanent black eye on the company for royally botching the Xbox One release, which will follow them to whatever game they choose to push out next; whether it be Assetto Corsa 2 or an unrelated arcade racer, the Xbox One owners will undoubtedly follow them across social media spouting things like “remember how they handled Assetto Corsa?”

It’s certainly not a situation I’d like to be in, but that’s the risk you take when you inexplicably believe a hardcore PC racing simulator with barely any features to reel in mainstream gamers is somehow worth porting to current generation consoles.

Thank You For Complaining About Assetto Corsa

No, hell hasn’t frozen over; Kunos Simulazioni have indeed pushed out an objectively fantastic update for their indie PC racing simulator Assetto Corsa, with the recent version 1.14 update bringing along a wonderful set of artificial intelligence upgrades that have turned the offline experience into much more than just a Chris Harris hotlapping simulator as many have previously joked about. I can assure you this is not a belated April Fool’s joke; it appears that overnight, the AI drivers were seemingly given world-class racecraft, and the end result is simply stunning – Assetto Corsa’s single player lifespan has now been exponentially extended, with the AI behavior leap-frogging every other modern racing simulator at the market in a resurgence akin to what we saw with Honda and Brawn GP between the 2008 and 2009 Formula One seasons. If you own Assetto Corsa on the PC, and have either shelved it or completely uninstalled it due to the lackluster AI opponents, I can say with 100% certainty that now is precisely the correct time to give it another whirl.

However, in this article I will take a drastically different approach than what many are expecting from an otherwise positive piece on Assetto Corsa. I will not praise Kunos Simulazioni for the contents of this recent update, because they simply aren’t responsible for what has been implemented. Instead, I will praise the community.

I shouldn’t have to give a lengthy history lesson to readers of PRC, but if you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years, the chain of events are quite simple to comprehend. When Assetto Corsa first shipped and started to reel in a very zealous group of diehard supporters, it did so primarily by offering a very engaging, intuitive driving model that felt leaps and bounds ahead of anything else on the market – an especially profound achievement given iRacing’s dominance over the sim racing genre. However, those not willing to bleed the colors of the Italian flag discovered that beyond the driving model, there wasn’t much else to do in the game. Online multiplayer was about a thousand times more painful to configure than already established offerings, and the game’s artificial intelligence was simply atrocious; absurdly slow on even the highest setting, driving straight into walls if the track grip was anything other than optimal, unable to pass slower cars, and downright embarrassing if you were a cheeky cunt and merely stopped on the track to see what they’d do – which was nothing.

Fanboys kicked and screamed inane phrases such as “you just don’t understand the point of Assetto Corsa; it is a DRIVING SIMULATOR, not a RACING SIMULATOR” upon valid criticisms of the AI cars being discussed in many areas of the sim racing community, while developers themselves on Twitter came out and said that the AI would never be able to pass faster cars and “probably never will”, adding that “people should work with the software, not against it.” The arrogance on the part of fanboys and developers was nothing short of mind-blowing; it’s like these people who loved Assetto Corsa like their first born child, didn’t actually want Assetto Corsa to improve – satisfied with mediocrity and internet “likes” for kissing the asses of developers on the official forums.

Regardless, sim racers unsatisfied by the single player experience in Assetto Corsa kept complaining over a period of years. At some point, these complaints must have been too much for Kunos Simulazioni to tolerate, as they have finally gone out and shut everyone up with an objectively wonderful batch of AI personalities to beat and bang with. Just the footage alone is impressive, which is why I’ve linked a couple videos that show off just how good the new update is.

Again, if you own Assetto Corsa for the PC, this is probably the time to either re-install, or fire up the application and spend a few hours messing around with the new AI code. It’s worth it, I promise.

However, there’s also a dark cloud in the distance that we should probably talk about. The long-awaited inclusion of private lobbies in Assetto Corsa launched only a few short days ago, but it’s been a bit of a mess. There have been a couple of people in our comments’ section ragging on Kunos for a disaster of epic proportions on consoles, and at this point I’m actually inclined to agree with them, again sticking to my belief that launching Assetto Corsa on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 was a huge mistake, as it’s only serving to damage the reputation of the company far worse than what a shitty little WordPress blog could ever do.

So for starters, the Xbox One version of the update didn’t actually launch. Microsoft and Sony have vastly different Quality Assurance testing processes, and the PS4 version was able to pass all of the mandatory checks, while the Xbox One update has been delayed by about three weeks. However, this is the least of the team’s worries. In implementing custom lobby functionality, the PS4 update actually broke online play for the Xbox One version of the game altogether, presumably as both variants were operating under the same basic server farm 505 Games had acquired for the two variants of Assetto Corsa. So while PS4 owners have a rocky yet useful implementation of custom lobbies, Xbox One players are struggling just to enter any sort of online race at all. On the Xbox One side of the Console Lounge forums, it’s basically mass confusion as users are completely unsure as to why online functionality in Assetto Corsa stopped working the moment the PS4 update launched.

I mean, thank God I own a solid PC, but I spent several years primarily using an Xbox 360 as a preferred gaming platform, so I’m aware of what it feels like to be at the mercy of a developer making countless mistakes behind the metaphorical wheel and unable to troubleshoot for workarounds in the meantime.

Regardless, there’s a silver lining to this custom lobby update. Like the AI upgrades, custom lobbies were also demanded by critics of Assetto Corsa for several months after launch – the bizarre dedicated server approach defended by fanboys and staff members who repeated the hilarious line of “our priority was to ship a stable game”  just as the shitty AI of the PC game was a few years ago – only inserted in because the tirade of angry customers upset that a common feature was left out for no justifiable reason wouldn’t stop.

So to those who have been very abrasive in their criticisms of Assetto Corsa, thank you. Kunos Simulazioni are finally listening to you, and it is resulting in a drastically better game than the one we once ripped on in the past. I can’t imagine how horribly unfinished this game would be if you guys kept your mouth shut and let fanboys and staff members bully you into silence.

Genuinely Perplexing, or Setting a Precedent? The Assetto Corsa DRM Mod

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.