Another Year, Another Stefano Meltdown

screenshot_ks_ferrari_sf15t_monaco_20-12-116-17-20-43An old mentor of mine once used the term “terse eloquence” to describe what I should aim for in articles here on PRC.net, and for this entry I believe it’s the perfect time to challenge myself with an alternative writing style. There will be no fancy introduction, no elaborate set of links to older articles of ours, and no recap of events which have transpired over the past year or so. Once again, Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni has done irreversible damage to his company’s reputation by aggressively attacking an Assetto Corsa owner simply for suggesting an alternative approach to the game’s complicated tire model, and the whole thing gives some credibility to the rumor that Kunos simply surround themselves with yes men who shower the developer team with praise, rather than challenge them to create the best product possible.

The Assetto Corsa owner in question happens to be Fredrik Sørlie, a Norweigan stunt driver, former Porsche & AMG performance driving instructor, amateur drifter, and sim racing enthusiast; an automotive personality who has spent the past three decades as a professional driver while also taking up the modding side of sim racing as a hobby dating back to 2003. Not only is this guy a complete wheelman in adverse conditions – as evidenced by the video below – he’s also a mammoth computer nerd; the absolute best kind of person to give feedback on a modern racing simulator. With Porsche, Mercedes, Hollywood, and sim racing’s own Niels Heusinkveld coming to Sørlie for advice, Fredrik is an anomaly within this niche genre. This is someone who has not only dedicated their entire life to the art of driving an automobile to the breaking point, they fucking love video games, too.

Within the official Assetto Corsa forums are numerous sub-sections dedicated to ripping apart the game in a fashion that the Kunos Simulazioni staff can use to evaluate and improve the Assetto Corsa experience as it travels through its post-release lifespan. In a thread dedicated to discussing poor steering response in corners, as well as the process of creating his own modification for Assetto Corsa, Fredrik mentions that there are indeed some irregularities with how tires in Assetto Corsa behave under certain conditions as a whole. To readers who aren’t all that concerned with how Assetto Corsa operates under the hood, it’s obviously an extremely boring discussion between hobbyists splitting hairs in the name of realism, but for modders, this is the kind of stuff that tickles their fancy.

fredFredrik also makes a quick one-liner about needing to use values other than the digits Kunos have provided when it comes to their tire physics file for each car, as they don’t always produce accurate on-track results. A seemingly insignificant piece of banter, Stefano Casillo promptly arrives to claim Fredrik Sørliea professional performance driving instructor employed by both Porsche and Mercedes – knows nothing about vehicle dynamics, and has been writing:“dogshit” on the message boards for the past several weeks. All for suggesting to try a different set of numbers in a very specific physics file, because to a professional driver, those values produced an experience that aligned more closely with real life than the default values.

dogshitThe thread instantly descends into chaos, with Casillo being verbally abusive to Fredrik while the Assetto Corsa army religiously upvote all of Stefano’s posts berating the professional driving instructor. I encourage you all to check out the thread for yourselves; there are some absolutely astonishing quotes in there once things pick up. Halfway through the second page, Casillo has already labeled Fredrik Sørlie as a delusional individual – no insult is off-limits.

Fredrik, just wanting Assetto Corsa to be the best simulator it can possibly be, brushes this horrid encounter off and contacts Stefano in private, the results of which are nothing short of legendary. Fredrik properly introduces himself to the Kunos Simulazioni coding master, and dives deep into his own discoveries with Assetto Corsa’s tire model calculations after detailing an extensive automotive pedigree. Citing past collaborations with sim racing physics guru Niels Heusinkveld, Fredrik explains the very specific changes he had made to the tire physics files in Assetto Corsa, and while fully acknowledging the numbers weren’t one hundred percent correct when used in the current algorithm created by Kunos, they produced a satisfactory driving experience which mirrored his experiences in a real car, and he wanted Stefano to look into why his guesstimated numbers improved the simulator’s tire behavior.

Essentially, an accomplished professional driver with a thirteen year background in sim racing modding came to a member of Kunos Simulazioni and said “hey man, I love your game, here are all of my real world credentials, I made some unique changes to the tire file, I know they don’t make a lot of sense, but to me it feels more realistic than what you guys had by default. Can you look this from your end? It might help.” Whereas most racing drivers will spout random crap about any racing game in pursuit of a paycheck, here we had a driver modding the game. That kind of customer loyalty doesn’t come around all that often.

Rather than responding with a simple “thanks for the feedback, your fix isn’t realistic but it might highlight a problem in our simulation, I’ll check it out sometime this week when I have a moment,” Stefano proceeds to cuss out Fredrik for the next hour, because this is a totally rational thing for any developer to do.

open-a-fucking-book-and-readIt’s a truly impressive piece of post-modern art. The holy grail of racing simulator development is receiving feedback from real world drivers, as data and numbers don’t always manage to convey the sensations a human being experiences pushing an automobile to the limit. Yet after marketing campaigns which saw Kunos constantly mention their Vallelunga offices allowing them to pick the brains of professional race car pilots fresh off the tarmac by placing them in their simulator for feedback, and partnerships with Ferrari, Porsche, and Lotus ensuring the team would model each vehicle as close to the real thing as possible, the above screenshot paints a vastly different picture when it comes to how Kunos Simulazioni operate behind closed doors. In reality, Kunos are actually berating real race car drivers, telling them to get lost, and that only the numbers matter.

It’s extremely fucked up, to put it lightly. Here you have a developer bragging about all of the feedback they’ve received from professional pilots who endlessly praise the quality of Assetto Corsa’s driving model, but in the span of an hour or so, one guy is able to provide evidence to the contrary – Kunos Simulazioni not only become emotionally compromised over a single sentence joke buried deep within a thread surrounding car physics, they’ll aggressively attack you on their own message board for merely providing any sort of feedback whatsoever – and then let their fanboys pile on for good measure. Keep in mind, these verbal sparring matches with genuine fans of the game span multiple hours and take legitimate effort to participate in, when virtually none of this was necessary to begin with. What’s so hard about telling a guy “thanks for the feedback?” Why is there a need to instantly shit on him and make him out to be this delusional autist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, when his YouTube channel clearly demonstrates he might have a clue?

And that’s the scary part. Rather than busting their asses to improve their game, members of Kunos Simulazioni are sitting around on the forums monitoring every last thread for even an ounce of criticism, promptly pouncing on those individuals regardless of their real world credentials. That’s where their time is being allocated, if you’re curious about when certain future updates will be released.

Personally, I’d like to know how some of the bigger brands featured within Assetto Corsa feel about this behavior. Auto makers such as Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and McLaren don’t exactly fuck around when it comes to how their brand is represented in the public eye. Are Porsche even aware that the game developer they just partnered with and made a whole media circus about throw autistic shitfits and lash out at their own customers when real drivers giving feedback on the simulator make a joke on the forums? This is the kind of shit that would get you fired from any commercial storefront job, and cause sponsors to back the fuck out of major partnerships.

Better yet, what real driver would be willing to work with Kunos Simulazioni after seeing this? They’ve made it explicitly clear that unless you blow sunshine up the asshole of Stefano, they will just sit around and call you names until you eventually leave out of disgust.

screenshot_mclaren_mp412c_gt3_ks_nordschleife_20-12-116-19-56-13The whole thing is downright embarassing for Kunos Simulazioni, and further reading on the subject can be seen on Fredrik’s official Facebook page, the SimRacing subreddit, and RaceDepartment, all of whom have spent the better part of today discussing Stefano’s childish antics. Regardless of how you feel about Assetto Corsa, this is simply unacceptable behavior for a developer to exhibit. And I wouldn’t be surprised if more people come out of the shadows to reveal their own absurd encounters with select Kunos Simulazioni staff members.

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The Complete Coverage of Renato Simioni’s April Fool’s Day Meltdown

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Just one of these articles is one too many – as it indicates a serious problem within the Sim Racing scene that we seem to be the only site talking about – but alas, here we are with the third installment in PRC’s Developer Meltdown series. Whereas our first entry highlighted Ian Bell’s angry tirades towards unsatisfied customers after the disappointing release of Project CARS, and our second entry documented Stefano Casillo slowly admitting Assetto Corsa wouldn’t have key features the community felt were necessary, today’s post has absolutely nothing to do with any gameplay elements whatsoever.

Unless you’ve been sleeping in the back of your Ford Focus for the previous two weeks, you’ll know all too well that there’s been some pretty wild stuff transpiring within the world of sim racing. Formula One Management, the multi-purpose entity which controls the licensing aspects of the Formula One brand, began cracking down on mods they deemed to be in violation of copyright & trademark laws over at RaceDepartment. As site owner Bram Hengeveld kindly pointed out to us, nearly 80 community modifications for Automobilista, F1 2013, and F1 2014 were removed at the request of Formula One – meaning several livery updates and other oddities only meant to enhance a user’s gaming experience were yanked from RaceDepartment’s extensive library of add-on content. This pissed off a whole bunch of community, as while Formula One had every legal right to take action against these individuals, the entity suffered no demonstrable financial loss from what these hardcore sim racers were doing. The downloads pulled from public consumption were primarily livery updates, and to use these livery updates, you needed to spend the money on an official Formula One product in the first place. In short, it was hard to sympathize with Formula One – the move could easily be described as “power tripping”, and gave longtime F1 fans yet another reason to say nasty things about Mr. Ecclestone’s operation.

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But after a few days of silence, Formula One Management struck again. Automobilista, a rather niche racing simulator by Reiza Studiosboasting just over one hundred active players at any point in the day – was suddenly removed from the Steam Online Store. Reiza declined to comment who exactly had filed the DMCA request, but circumstantial evidence pointed to the same culprit behind the RaceDepartment ordeal earlier in the week – Formula One themselves. Given the fact that Bernie’s boys know full well that sim racing is a thing, and they traditionally have kept a close eye on the community, it comes as no surprise that occasionally they drop the hammer when the scene least expects it.

However, in this situation, it was difficult to feel bad for Reiza Studios.

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Operating on a small budget and unable to secure big name brands or exclusive licenses, Reiza Studios opted to travel a road commonly used by the Grand Theft Auto series of games. Instead of pursuing expensive licenses with Holden, Ferrari, or any other number of prestigious models, the team at Reiza Studios would simply create Chinese knock-off vehicles based on iconic real world race cars. The Holden Commodore V8 Supercar became the Super V8, a 2014-spec Formula One entry became known as the Formula Extreme, and Ayrton Senna’s 1988 Mclaren MP4/4 became a Formula Classic. In most cases, even the liveries remained near-identical to that of the original car, save for the primary sponsor logos being swapped out for generic Reiza Studios and Cockpit Extreme decals.

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What ended up happening, is that Reiza Studios failed to stray far enough from the source material, and the legal team representing Formula One Management figured it out just by looking at a few screenshots on the game’s homepage. Combined with the partial list of current and historic Formula One tracks available in Automobilista, sim racers are well aware that Reiza have essentially built a hardcore Formula One simulator without Formula One’s permission. And unless you have acquired the correct licenses as seen in rFactor 2 or iRacing, you can’t do this. It’s illegal.

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The story blew up, and the sim racing community was split between two distinct ideologies. The first group believed Reiza had done nothing wrong and Formula One were once again power tripping on the little guys, while the second group merely cited copyright laws and pointed out that what Reiza had done with the content featured in Automobilista indeed deserved a smackdown courtesy of Formula One’s legal team. Objectively, the second group is correct. Reiza made little to no effort to hide the fact that there were a shitload of unlicensed Formula One cars in their software, and again, that’s illegal. That will not stop the first group from being blind fanboys. That’s okay. This place thrives on those individuals talking out of their asses. It’s funny.

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Renato Simioni  – the key public figure over at Reiza Studiosdeclined to comment on the extent of the team’s issues with Formula One Management, but eventually took to RaceDepartment’s forums and began voicing his frustration with the whole ordeal.

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Even though it can be demonstrated that Formula One Management occasionally lurk the various sim racing message boards and news outlets, throwing cease and desist notices at everyone from rFactor modders to the browser-based BATRacer, Simioni points the finger at “disgruntled” community members for secretly working with Formula One to carry out a personal vendetta against Reiza Studios. That’s right – a developer who barely tried to hide the fact that he included a plethora of unlicensed Formula One content in his game assumes this is all just a bunch of trolls from 4Chan or a similar medium trying to fuck with him – even though Formula One have consistently shown up unprovoked and contacting them as an average Joe is notoriously difficult. Simioni ends the post by stating this situation may change how their business operates, and that “there just isn’t enough money in the type of products we’ve been making to be worth this kind of hassle.”

I don’t know about you, but at least the way I myself interpret it, the idea of closing up shop appears to have been tossed around. I get a lot of shit for fear-mongering, but that’s what I got out of that final statement there.

So a few community members obviously poke and prod Simioni for more information, and he complies:

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Simioni again believes that the sudden removal of Automobilista from Steam is “indirectly related to an environment where destructive attitudes for the sake of attention, fun, and giggles are celebrated” – and several people have messaged me over the past few days saying things like “Renato is blaming you for their game being removed” – so I can only assume he’s talking about us. Now whether that means me as a person, or just the guys chilling out in the comments section while taking a dump at work, I don’t really know, but the safe guess is that he’s referring to PRC in some way.

Which is cute, because circumstantial evidence should indicate to anyone with a functioning brain that we aren’t the culprit:

Yep, totally sounds like the folks at PRC.net are the masterminds behind this saga!

Oh wait, no it doesn’t.

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The Complete Coverage of Stefano Casillo’s New Years Day Meltdown

Just when you thought the new year would bring a bundle of optimism to the genre of sim racing, we instead flip to January 2016 on our miniature Taylor Swift calendars to see Stefano Casillo of Kunos Simulazioni calling those unhappy with the current state of Assetto Corsa “losers.”After a very mixed reaction to the end-of-2015 blog post by the Italian developer, users on RaceDepartment promptly blasted Kunos for focusing too much on downloadable content while omitting to flesh out the game around it. The critical discussion of the popular Italian PC racing simulator proved to be too much for Stefano to handle, as he jumped into the fray by claiming those critical of the game are simply losers with nothing more productive to do.

losersThe irony may be lost on some users, so I’ll bring you up to speed: Kunos began the Christmas Holiday season by implementing very strict moderation rules on their own official forums, ones intended to curb hostility, end personal attacks, and extinguish the rather toxic environment that had spawned over the previous year. However, outside the boundaries of their own forum, they have no problem stooping to the same level they claim to be above.

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The thread, which can be read in full over at RaceDepartment, continues on with Stefano continuously taking shots at PRC.net in a non-direct fashion, claiming our site, which has routinely leaked genuine insider info about their product, is “cancerous”. He then goes on to say “it’s no surprise every developer avoids users like the plague” – referring to their own customers. Again, ironic, as Kunos Simulazioni run a community beta program, allowing several prominent sim racers a chance to beta test upcoming builds of Assetto Corsa and form connections with the developer team on a personal level.

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Of course, Stefano’s multi-post tirade doesn’t end there. RaceDepartment user DewCrew88 uses the presence of Stefano on a public forum to inquire about certain aspects of Assetto Corsa, and some of the answers are rather shocking – especially for a game that will land on the Playstation 4 and Xbox One in a few short months. I’m chopping things up for readability, but you can read his answers HERE in full.

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Stefano says the ability to select the color of your car for an online race in a hardcore PC racing simulator is a “minor feature” and “isn’t worth the hassle to improve”, but only a sentence later admits the whole thing was messed up from the start because of how the entire multiplayer component was built to begin with. In short, they made a bad call, and it makes you as a customer ponder what other bad calls they’ve made along the way.

DewCrew88 also asks about the constant physics updates, only for Stefano to tell him that every version of Assetto Corsa is a step forward. This nugget as info comes even as our boy Sev is seen in the thread a few pages earlier openly saying he believes the physics in Assetto Corsa are being simplified for a console release; this claim is backed up by Virtua Simulazioni team members finding bug after bug while in the process of creating third party content.

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The hits just keep on coming, as Stefano then sets his target on Virtua Simulazioni member Qazdar Karim. After Karim asks when the coding livestreams will be back, Stefano immediately says Karim will be blacklisted from being able to watch and/or comment when the streams commence in the future.

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The users at RaceDepartment don’t take very kindly to these responses.

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Stefano then makes an effort to bow out of the conversation, claiming it’s a losing battle and that there can be no dialogue between Kunos Simulazioni and the community. Keep in mind, this is after he entered the conversation by stating all those unhappy with Assetto Corsa are losers with nothing more productive to do. Prior to joining into the discussion, the eight-page forum thread on RaceDepartment had been full of users critically dissecting the game, and worrying about the game’s future given the heavy emphasis on DLC, constant tire model revisions, and lack of features that come standard many other racing sims.

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But it’s not over. After Qazdar Karim references an all-encompassing physics information PDF Kunos promised to release, one which would greatly benefit modders when figuring out how to accurately reproduce their car of choice within Assetto Corsa, Stefano claims this PDF doesn’t exist, calls him crazy, and tells him to get help.

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Ten minutes later, Qazdar finds the exact YouTube clip where Stefano explicitly talks about this physics PDF.

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The following is a transcript from the video referenced above:

  • One interesting thing that I’ve started to do… It’s going to be a slow process, but eventually we will get there… I’ve started writing a documentation for the INI file(s) in Assetto Corsa. So, explaining exactly what each parameter is doing, and that’s something that will appear on the forum soon, because it’s something that I also need as a way of clearing up the INI files.

So not only has a developer shown up on a public form and called his customers “losers”, but now he’s outright lying and trying to label random modders as “crazy.”

Now, the worst part of this whole New Years Day meltdown, is that we’ve seen this before from Kunos. First, Stefano has deemed his audience to be “retarded monkeys” during a livestream of a coding session.

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Next, after people find flaws in the AI that basically prevent any sort of meaningful multi-class racing from occurring (a big deal with the inclusion of many GT-spec cars and the newly announced Audi Prototype in Assetto Corsa), people are told to “work with the software, not against it.”

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And lastly, people reporting more issues with the game’s dreadful Artificial Intelligence are deemed to be suffering from psychological problems and told to find a doctor.

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While Ian Bell over at Slightly Mad Studios had become notorious for his harsh, derogatory forum posts towards his own fans after the disastrous release of Project CARS, sim racers believed the team at Kunos Simulazioni were a developer they could respect and trust with the future of Assetto Corsa. After today’s tirade, it has become apparent that in less than a year, three of the prominent sim racing developers have displayed they simply can’t take criticism, and each of them will lash out at their own customers in their own special way.

The Complete Coverage of Ian Bell’s Canada Day Meltdown

My phone blew up today with not one but four user submissions, all on the same topic. So before I begin, a word of thanks to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (names changed to protect their anonymity as requested) for sending this information in. Through your four emails, I’m able to cover this piece of news as accurately as possible.

iracing-2-0-adds-content-features_100358088_mWe’ve documented the buggy, underwhelming launch of crowdfunded racing sim Project CARS pretty extensively on this site, and a scroll through our Slightly Mad Studios category tells the epic tale of a hype train that derailed in catastrophic fashion. While the weekly patches failed to address the lengthy list of gamebreaking issues, head of studio Ian Bell personally took to various online message boards, including his own, to belittle customers who were clearly upset with the poor quality of the game.

And they had every right to be upset with Project CARS; a game which spent four years in development and tested by 80,000 paying users shipped with an enormous level of bugs that turned off all but the most diehard of fanboys and financial backers.

With the early patches failing to fix the game’s fundamental issues, and sometimes introducing new ones, Slightly Mad Studios announced both a commitment to fixing the original game, as well as revealed that the sequel was already in development. As the post-release drama continued to unfold, Ian Bell became increasingly agitated with the growing chorus of what he calls haters and trolls frequenting Project CARS message boards, voicing their displeasure with a game that even moderators admit shouldn’t have been released in its current state. Ian responded by having any users that voiced or agreed with criticism towards the crowdfunded title outright banned from any Slightly Mad Studios forum, not just the WMD member forums, the but post-release forum intended for fans of the game.

Ian’s periodic outbursts towards negative opinions of the next-gen racing sim are regarded as “cynical British humour” by Project CARS fans, with others dismissing his comments as uncalled for and outright rude. Regardless, even the most loyal Project CARS supporters will have difficulty supporting his newest tirade.

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The latest patch for Project Cars, dubbed Project CARS 2.0, dropped recently, and appeared to have no noticeable improvements on the quality of the game. Triple screen support is still broken, Oculus Rift support is now broken when it was functional before, Force Feedback settings were completely changed, track boundaries are still problematic, and some users are reporting Career Mode isn’t even placing users in the proper racing series they’ve selected. Crashing, FPS issues, and AI shortcomings are still relatively unchanged despite the 1.4 GB download. In short, Project CARS is a mess you should avoid if you haven’t bought it already.

Yet, Ian’s response to customers upset at what’s clearly a disastrous product is to simply ban people who draw attention to the game’s numerous embarrassing problems.

project-cars-wallpapers-hd-1080p-1920x1080-desktop-04Why people tolerate this and claim it’s British Humor, I have no idea.