Get That Arcade Shit Out of Here

screenshot_2017-01-12-08-29-45-1What you’re looking at above is the ultimate display in sim racing elitism. As of today, Facebook’s largest group for discussing our little hobby – over 7,500 users strong – have voted to ban all discussion of both the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo series, with users who create posts featuring either of the two titles in the future to have their submissions removed at once, and potentially banned from the group altogether after repeated infractions. The latest in a string of incidents which prominently showcase how toxic our community can be to those who refuse to blindly worship obscure PC simulators and broaden their horizons with software constructed for mass market appeal, a survey completed by just 1% of the Facebook group has effectively told a significant portion of our hobby that two perfectly competent simulators are taboo topics because they’re too successful.

Or something.

Earlier this week, I published an article stating I believed the downfall of sim racing was due to iRacing convincing the community that the hobby should be treated as an exclusive online country club rather than a $60 video game, and it appears some of my sentiments are being reflected in how these online groups are being moderated. I feel this is complete bullshit for the community to act in this manner. Both Forza Motorsport 6, as well as Gran Turismo 6, are virtually no more or less hardcore than titles such as Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, and iRacing; refusing to even acknowledge their existence or label them as “arcade games” is pretty hilarious when you actually pick apart the technical aspects of each console release.

Gran Turismo 6

Let’s start with Gran Turismo 6, because I really want to ruffle some feathers off the bat in this post. While many sim racers got their first real taste of the racing simulator genre with the third and fourth entries in the series on the PlayStation 2 before moving onto the Windows gaming platform, Gran Turismo 6 enters the ring as Polyphony’s flagship modern simulator.

The Gran Turismo series, dating all the way back to its inception on Sony’s original PlayStation, has been all about car collecting and JRPG-style grinding, with the core driving experience taking a back seat to garage management and progression elements. Aside from the endurance championships near the end of each game, most races are three lap sprints against an underwhelming artificial intelligence, which are placed well ahead of your starting position to generate a challenge that otherwise wouldn’t be there on a proper starting grid, so it’s certainly not an authentic Le Mans Prototype experience until the final portions of Career mode – and that’ll indeed make some believe it’s an arcade racer.

But there are ways to turn Gran Turismo 6 into something significantly more recognizable as a hardcore sim nerd. Each vehicle in the game comes with tires that are simply too sticky to be realistic, and Polyphony automatically enable most of the driving assists by default – meaning the Gran Turismo 6 most of you have played out of the box is vastly different than a hardcore sim racer’s custom GT6 profile. Taking thirty seconds out of your day to configure your steering wheel, turn off the numerous driving aids, and equip a harder tire compound than the car’s default, Gran Turismo 6 produces a driving experience on-par with most PC simulators. Lap times at Brands Hatch in the GT3 Spec BMW Z4 mirror what the rFactor 2 Endurance GT Payware mod cars are capable of, and the virtual recreations of locations such as Spa, the Nordschleife, and Laguna Seca are phenomenal.

gran-turismo-6-online-3-e1386199093439-638x360Yes, there is a problem with some of the car setup options in Gran Turismo 6 – running no camber at all generates an instant boost in speed when this would instead destroy your tires in real life. However, this exact same bug is present in Project CARS, a game which was financially aided by 35,000 hardcore sim racers. And though the single player events are designed to fuck with gamers via unfair AI head starts and bogus sprint races that almost never bring tire wear or fuel into account, the robust online functionality of the title offers hardcore sim racers the ability to conduct their own events, with proper practice & qualifying sessions, and a traditional rules package that can make use of standing or rolling starts upon the request of the user. Assetto Corsa, on the other hand, currently does not allow PS4 or Xbox One owners to host their own custom lobbies; they are at the mercy of whatever configurations Kunos Simulazioni have put into the dedicated server rotation.

Gran Turismo 6 has been deemed to be an arcade racer and not worthy of discussion by the same community who financially contributed to a different game exhibiting the exact same camber bug as Gran Turismo 6. This same group of people also neglect Gran Turismo 6 despite offering more functionality for hardcore sim racers than a game whose tagline is Your Racing Simulator.

v8supercarsford5falconfgwmforza6Moving on, let’s look at the other title wrongfully thrown under the bus, Forza Motorsport 6. The Forza Motorsport series originally launched in 2005 as Microsoft’s answer to Gran Turismo, but since it’s introduction to the scene a little over a decade ago, most people believe the Forza series has objectively become the better game. The car roster is a great deal more diverse than the fifty different Nissan Skylines and Mazda MX5’s taking up needless space in Gran Turismo, the livery customization elements, auction house, and setup building marketplace have added a virtual Barrett-Jackson element to complement the racing experience, and last but not least, there’s an enormous amount of shit to do in the game.

Like Gran Turismo, but directly addressing GT’s shortcomings, Forza Motorsport gives users several different ways to play through the game – though most of them are intended to appeal to a casual audience. Online races are short and sweet, perks or handicaps can be applied each race to exponentially increase your post race rewards, thus allowing you to accumulate a comprehensive collection of cars, and some of the engine swaps can get pretty absurd. It’s very easy for a hardcore sim racer to become turned off by the flashiness of Forza.

But it’s just as easy to ignore it all. Buried within the career mode are several Endurance racing events which can be entered with only light progression through the main experience – which most wise sim racers will partake in anyways to dial in their wheel settings and explore some of what Forza 6 has to offer. A pretty solid selection of multiple hour endurance races can be attempted using a vast array of modern racing machinery, with the game’s Free Race feature allowing you to configure your own races with virtually any piece of content in the game – which also pay out cash prizes and continue to your career progression. There is nothing stopping you from configuring a 14-lap race at the Nordschleife in any of the historic Formula One entries available in Forza Motorsport 6 to bring Grand Prix Legends into 2017, and if IndyCar is your thing, 50 laps at Long Beach may not be full race distance, but it’s more than enough.

forza-6-enduranceThe aforementioned perks and handicaps can be disabled entirely, and you can even select the number of mandatory pit stops for each race, generating a Forza Motorsport 6 experience decidedly different than the dudebro culture-infused mainstream gameplay you’ve probably seen demonstrated in various videos from annoying YouTube personalities.

Behind the wheel, it’s also not terrible to drive. A good friend of mine owns Forza 6, and I’ve logged many laps with his Logitech G920 exploring everything the game has to offer because that’s what you do on a Friday evening before raceday. Truthfully, it resembles how Assetto Corsa felt about a year ago. The cars are just a hair too planted in all situations, and though it’s something I can forgive considering the scope of Forza and how it’s intended primarily for mass-market appeal, I find it hilarious when Assetto Corsa owners knock Forza Motosrport 6 for somehow being “less serious” of a racing simulator – in this particular case, an arcade game. Forza, as it stands right this minute, drives how Assetto Corsa did on the PC in the spring of 2016. Unless you’re a phenomenally inexperienced driver who cannot possibly begin to diagnose car handling discrepancies, or just that ridiculously determined to become part of some exclusive PC sim racer club because you desperately need something to belong to, I’m a bit lost at how Forza Motorsport 6 is being labeled an arcade game when it feels roughly the same as Assetto Corsa once did.

Especially given some of the other bells and whistles found in Forza Motorsport 6. The Long Beach Street Circuit still hasn’t been completed for iRacing – instead being sold as an unfinished tech track with barely any scenery – and if you see it in YouTube videos by any chance, it’s a bit embarrassing. On the other hand, operating on inferior hardware compared to modern PC’s, the Xbox One version of Forza Motorsport 6 boasts a beautiful rendition of Long Beach, as well as the 2016 aero kits for the Dallara DW12, while iRacing still operates using an outdated 2012 model. Forza Motorsport 6 also includes in-game functionalities for livery and setup-sharing, whereas iRacing members are forced to download a third party program and manually browse the forums just for a whiff at custom content. And though the game does not ship with a safety car, caution flags which serve a purpose, or the ability to jump the start, the first two features are not functional in Assetto Corsa. Instead, owners of Forza Motorsport 6 get to play in the rain as compensation – a weather variant only found in rFactor 2 and Project CARS.

This somehow warrants Forza Motorsport 6 being labeled an “arcade game.”

maxresdefaultIn conclusion, it’s frustrating to see the elitists of the sim community deem perfectly decent alternatives to hardcore PC racing sims as arcade games that are against the rules to talk about in very large sim racing communities. Forza and Gran Turismo are solid titles, both of which I personally enjoy, and while I’ll obviously stick to my isiMotor stuff for competitive league racing, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what Forza or Gran Turismo bring to the genre. Both series make a genuine effort to accommodate the hardcore users alongside the casual audience, and it’s very bizarre to see sim racers outright ignore these elements.

Gran Turismo 6 has infinitely more online functionality than Assetto Corsa, generates the same lap times as rFactor 2, and exhibits the same bugs as Project CARS, yet Assetto Corsa is the game sim racers are masturbating over, Project CARS is the game they’re throwing money at to help develop, and rFactor 2 is what they’re shitposting about on every message board that hasn’t banned them for their viral marketing efforts, all while calling Gran Turismo an arcade game.

Forza Motorsport 6 admittedly does slightly more to cater to the casual players, but all of these little diversions to the core experience can be set to off, and you can still play Forza as a modern substitute for GTR 2 or Assetto Corsa – with plenty of hardcore endurance events to select from, as well as your own custom races even counting towards your profile’s overall progression. Yes, there are stupid perks, three lap sprints, prize wheels, and a whole bunch of assists enabled by default. You can scrap all of those and run three hundred laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, or 50 laps at Road America if you’d like.

Yet nobody ever dares to mention any of this.

It’s as if I wasn’t kidding when I said sim racers want the genre to be an elite online club so they can finally feel like they belong to something, rather than a selection of driving games which require a slightly higher base level of skill to be successful at.

Gran Turismo 6

Reader Submission #126 – Stop the PR Madness!

ams-2016-11-26-18-53-45-90Earlier in the week here at PRC.net, I published a short piece on iRacing’s Pablo Lopez, who was given the opportunity to enter an invite-only Mazda Miata cup time trial challenge traditionally reserved for real world SCCA drivers thanks to his performance in a sponsored iRacing tournament. As anyone with a functioning brain was able to predict, Lopez didn’t fare so well, adding his name to an elusive group of sim racers whom iRacing has propped up as these online racing Gods, only to struggle when given a shot in a real car funded by iRacing, because the simulator didn’t teach him jack shit and in many ways actually ingrained a number of bad habits into his driving style, habits he was unable to shake while turning laps at NOLA Motorsports Park.

Saturday night’s Reader Submission comes from an individual who has written to us before – though he wants to remain anonymous in this instance – regarding how absolutely stupid these publicity stunts are, and how developers such as iRacing could adjust their marketing pitch to continue with the same concept yet make them more effective in the long run.


ams-2016-11-26-18-58-15-63Hey PRC. Do what you can to hide my identity, I really don’t want to associate my name directly with this piece.

I was reading your last article about how companies such as iRacing try to put sim racers into a real life race scenario – and often failing – and it reminded me about how absurd the concept is of taking people who have never raced in reality and putting them into a situation like that is.

I want to stress first of all that, yes, I know the people who have won past GT Academy competitions can race pretty well in reality and have made great careers for themselves in the motorsport business because of it. However, most of those who have been on GT Academy have had racing experience before, but at an amateur level. For example, before he appeared on GT Academy, Josh Muggleton had competed in a few amateur sedan races in order to get his racecraft and techniques dialed in, before he took part in the filming of the show. Lucas Ordonez was also a semi-professional kart racer before appearing in GT Academy; his karting career only put on hold due to a lack of funds.

While those, including myself and James, who have got some kind of racing license at a NASCAR or even a local level, are ineligible to compete in the contest, those who are in GT Academy aren’t just teenagers that happened to be really good at Gran Turismo; they had some prior practice in real racing, even if it was only just going to a local indoor kart track every week with mates.

What irks me the most about these publicity stunts, is that people are somehow shocked that the sim racers don’t do as well in real life as they do on iRacing or Project Cars and what not. This is because, in reality, the sims that are publicly available don’t actually teach you how to race in real life. Sure, you can learn about racing lines and how to race clean side-by-side, but once you’re in a real race car, that all changes dramatically. Sims don’t allow you to feel the suspension compressing and the car bottoming out and going light over the hill at Eau Rouge or Radillion like it does in real life, they don’t replicate the wind and g-forces knocking you and the car around and the debris that flies around. Because that shit is scary. And race car drivers know this, though they don’t admit it. 

The difference is, however, that both amateur and professional racers have learned to overcome the fear. They still get nervous before a race, but they know how to block it out and get on with the job. They can go wheel to wheel with someone and not think about the consequences of touching or colliding, which is another thing sims can’t replicate. They can feel and react to what the car is doing and how to work with each reaction. Sim racers simply don’t have that. The ones that get thrown in without any experience apart from “oh, they won an iRacing NASCAR League a couple of times” have never had to feel the initial anxiety of overtaking a real car without wrecking themselves and costing themselves a lot of financial stress, they have never felt the car lose grip and start sliding with the g-force being so strong that you have to fight the wheel to get it back in control and no amount of a Logitech G27 vibrating like a sex toy is going to prepare you for that. 

And before someone in the comments points it out, yeah, the real life racers use iRacing and rFactor in their time off. But it’s not because the default version of those games are super realistic and helps them find setups to use in the real races. They basically only use it to practice hitting apexes,  and racing against other humans. That’s not really that groundbreaking in the scheme of things, it’s only really keeping the basics of racing fast refreshed. And in regards to teams using purpose built sim, they usually commission a software company like Image Space Incorporated to provide a specialized sim for them that is far more realistic, and in turn harder for mere mortals to handle. 

So, in conclusion, the advertisement that a sim is so realistic it can make any sim racer a racing superstar is really just public relations fluff that isn’t true in the slightest. What needs to happen in the long run is for companies like iRacing to stop putting people who are not actually qualified to drive in a real racing environment for the sake of tooting their own horn and prancing around how great they are. If they did something similar where an up and coming racer is having a MX5 Cup debut at Laguna Seca, and uses iRacing to help prepare and talk about some of the similarities he or she found, that’s fine, because they at least know what they’re doing. 

Sorry for the long rant, but it’s just a frustrating concept that is so elementary when you look into it. I’d like your thoughts on the matter. Cheers anyways.


ams-2016-11-26-18-55-59-82I’m glad you started things off with mentioning certain GT Academy champions, because it’s a misconception I’ve wanted to address for the longest time here at PRC.net, but didn’t really have the incentive from our readers to do so.

The more you research into who exactly the winners of GT Academy happen to be, a lot of times you find out they certainly aren’t random teenagers from around the world; as you mentioned with Ordonez and Muggleton, they were amateur racers with actual on-track experience, who happened to be talented enough to sit down and haul ass on Gran Turismo when the opportunity was presented to them. I personally wish more and more people other than myself would be willing to touch on this aspect of the GT Academy festivities, because if you talk about this stuff openly and don’t adhere to the narrative which Sony, Polyphony, and Nissan instruct web sites to push, it prevents individuals like the delusional segment of the iRacing crowd from getting lost in their fantasies and believing there are legitimate NASCAR scouts spectating random races on the service.

In short, if you as a video game company go out and tell the general public that random motherfuckers are getting pulled from their crusty sim cockpits and handed a professional racing career for merely being good at their particular video game, there are indeed many people within the community who will take that to heart. And we saw it last week when Jason Jacoby revealed to the world that he dropped a whole lot of money he didn’t have on a custom sim rig, complete with his own fire suit. When you don’t know that GT Academy is a bit of a smoke and mirrors show, or in Jacoby’s case, aren’t aware that NASCAR driver Josh Berry wasn’t just handed a JR Motorsports ride because was friends with Dale Earnhardt Jr. through private online NASCAR leagues over the years, you end up basing your knowledge of this world on quarter-truths and hearsay. Believe me, there are many people in the sim racing community who are like this, and hopefully if our boy finishes his homework in a timely fashion, we’ll have someone on PRC.net willing to put his name out there and confirm some of the insanity I allude to.

ams-2016-11-26-18-57-28-99The next topic you bring up is how sim racers traditionally struggle with the physicality of driving a race car – otherwise known as fear of crashing – and to this, I have to partially agree.

I understand I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to crossing over from sim racing into reality; I’m that asshole who once tore up his own neighborhood in a Rotax kart just for something to do, but I’ll admit it: performance driving is a bit hectic, and you learn real quick if you’re cut out for it or not. Whether you’re out with friends at the local indoor karting complex, shitting up your local oval track, or at the wheel of an extremely powerful purpose-built race car, walls hurt. Hitting other cars also hurts – and even light contact is fairly loud and unsettling. Dancing on the edge of a tire, or willingly letting the rear end of your vehicle hang out on corner entry because that’s how you’re supposed to go fast in front wheel drive cars, is not a feeling most people are going to be comfortable with; there’s a fine line between getting it right, and getting it oh so very wrong. It takes a very strong mind to stay focused in that situation and continue to push.

I got over that portion of anxiety by reminding myself that driving in circles is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a toddler, walls only hurt if you hit them, and it’s not like I have a female companion expecting me to come home at the end of the day. That kind of positive self-talk may not work for others, but it worked for me. And of course, there will be people who comment things like “who are you to speak about this subject, you only drive indoor karts and shit boxes at some oval nobody cares about” – and to that I say it all evaporates into thin air when you’re strapped into something via five-point safety harness.

ams-2016-11-26-18-56-44-98Now for the last portion, I will contest your underlying point about racing simulator experience not transferring to the real thing aside from basic driving lines and race craft. I’ll honestly go out on a limb and say racing simulators are roughly 85% accurate, with the final 15% boiling down to sensory overload elements that no full motion rig can reproduce. I’ve talked about this in the past, but no sim setup will be able to replicate the PA system fading in and out depending on the part of the track you’re on, the smell of Hot Dogs in turn one, the bits of rubber bouncing off the windshield, or the broad range of vibrations you receive from every inch of the car. It’s just not happening.

But just like in a simulator, all you drive a car with in real life are a set of pedals and a steering wheel. In theory, provided the software itself is of particularly high quality, the same wheel & pedal inputs on a simulator should carry over to real life with one to one accuracy – also known as muscle memory. The reason iRacers have such trouble adapting to real cars is because the physics engine is still largely a work in progress project. From one month to another, iRacers are basically given brand new cars requiring a totally different driving style thanks to a constant stream of updates, with tires that most people on the service still can’t comprehend in the slightest, and weird weight transfer effects leading to bizarre tank-slappers that can destroy even the most talented of sim racers. What this does is royally fuck up the muscle memory sim racers acquire through practicing iRacing.

At the risk of sounding like a shill, other games prepare you in a more adequate fashion. One of the greatest things ever to happen to me in my sim racing career was receiving a lifetime ban from iRacing, because it effectively forced me to try out and get good at other simulators, titles actually drove like a real car.

ams-2016-11-26-18-55-00-01But even with the ability to branch out and try other games, merely owning a bunch of different simulators and jumping around to each of them isn’t the recipe for success. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by like-minded sim racers – some of which who write for the site – who were able to tell me things like “rFactor 2 gets this portion right, practice this car on this track in rFactor 2 to prepare yourself for element A”, or “NASCAR Racing 2003 Season models this correctly, practice this car on this track in NASCAR 2003 to prepare yourself for element B” Dustin jumping on Teamspeak and saying “Assetto Corsa sucks, but put in a ton of laps on the Lamborghini Muira because that will teach you proper throttle control” is valuable advice which helped me in my own journey, but it’s also advice that a lot of these iRacers simply weren’t getting prior to these marketing stunts.

And that’s what the team at iRacing really need to do – before Lopez or Alfalla or Huttu find themselves in a real life car with the cameras rolling and the entire world of sim racing watching, someone needed to pull them aside and say “here are the specific areas you need to practice on our simulator to prevent from embarrassing yourself.”

If their simulator isn’t up to snuff and teaches them bad habits, maybe get your fucking shit together and build a competent simulator before you go out and do all of this crazy PR stuff. Because in my experience, managing tire wear was indeed pretty damn close to how it worked on rFactor, and I let the rear end hang out on corner entry the same way I did in RaceRoom Racing Experience. These are developer teams operating on a tenth of iRacing’s budget, and I can safely say the WTCC cars in R3E made me pretty damn good at driving a shitty Cavalier in real life.

ams-2016-11-26-18-55-09-39Lastly, your views on how iRacing – as well as other sim developers – should change their marketing tactics are correct. I really don’t want to see these random online racers get a shot in a real car and proceed to establish themselves as a back marker, because any idiot can read between the lines and determine the simulator didn’t really help them at all. Go out and find talented drivers who race the simulator in their spare time, and talk to them about what elements help prepare them for the upcoming race weekend. Not only is it cool to hear about each individual driver’s training techniques, it reflects well on the community that you have these really obscure games actually playing a genuine role in the real world counterpart.

I agree that it’s frustrating to see these PR stunts fail spectacularly, time and time again. Maybe we’ll move on from them in the future once companies figure out it’s just making ’em all look like morons.

Gran Turismo Sport Bites the Dust?

GT-Sport-Northern_Isle_Speedway_Gr3_09Maybe it’s time to get back on the Microsoft bandwagon. With Forza Horizon 3 quickly approaching, and a slew of supporting racers rounding out what is a growing library of worthwhile Xbox One games, Polyphony Digital have instead began the process of refunding users who have pre-ordered Gran Turismo Sport. Only a few short days ago Kazunori Yamauchi announced the ambitious PlayStation 4 title would be pushed back until sometime in 2017, but it appears this was only the first step in what could possibly be a full-scale meltdown for the franchise.

Gran Turismo Sport was intended to be an iRacing-like experience built for the mainstream audience of the PlayStation 4. Even though much-requested features such as an in-depth livery editor would finally land in the simulator after years of popularity in the Forza Motorsport franchise, the core experience in Gran Turismo Sport was said to abandon the traditional car-collecting meta-game in favor of events conducted under a set of hardcore auto racing rules and regulations. It sounded really fucking sweet on paper, and though some scoffed at what Kaz had been trying to do with the FIA partnership – implement a virtual racing license – the decision for Polyphony to move Gran Turismo in a new direction seemed very promising.

GT Planet is reporting those who pre-ordered Gran Turismo Sport have received a very unique message on their PlayStation 4 dashboard today, indicating Polyphony Digital have refunded their purchase of Gran Turismo Sport. This potentially displays a very serious problem is occurring with the development of the game. Traditionally, when most video games are delayed for a period longer than six months, a customer’s purchase is not refunded, and their pre-order remains intact – though it obviously pisses off the customer who was eagerly anticipating the game. In this situation however, such a fundamental change has taken place behind the scenes in regards to GT Sport, mass automated refunds are taking place. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that’s not a good sign.

Gran Turismo 5

The long-term ramifications this may have on the Franchise could possibly spell disaster for Kazunori Yamauchi and the team at Polyphony Digital. After starting a cult phenomenon with the first four entries in the Gran Turismo series, lengthy delays and underwhelming releases highlighted the fifth and sixth iterations of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation 3. Many fans were put off at the lack of cohesion found in both games, and despite each offering loaded to the brim with cars and tracks, hardcore fans discovered numerous features and oddities announced during development were nowhere to be found. As if their hopes and dreams weren’t already crushed enough, Gran Turismo 5, as well as Gran Turismo 6, relied on outdated PS2 car models to significantly boost the vehicle roster in a way which was actually counterproductive to the overall experience. This “third strike” may be enough to put the franchise firmly in the rear-view mirror.

Gran Turismo 6
Gran Turismo 6

So Gran Turismo Sport Was Delayed…

gt_sport_gran_turismo_sport_release_date_1I’m admittedly a bit late on this one, but given the recent announcement from Kazunori Yamauchi himself, it’s time to shift our focus on discussing the delay of Gran Turismo Sport. What should come as no surprise to fans of the Gran Turismo franchise, yet another modern entry in the once-historic series of console-based racing simulations has been pushed back from the original intended release date, indicating the game Polyphony Digital have been hard at work on might not live up to Yamauchi’s initial vision of the project.

We were supposed to be receiving Gran Turismo Sport for Sony’s PlayStation 4 sometime this fall, and on paper the title aimed to distance itself from the linear campaign of previous entries in the series, instead focusing on an iRacing-like experience with a heavy emphasis centered around online competitions. However, plans have changed, deadlines weren’t able to be met in time, and Kaz now lists the tentative date as sometime in 2017. This could mean anything from blowing off your date on Valentines Day to turn some extra laps in Gran Turismo as a last ditch effort to improve your safety rating, or the team at Polyphony need almost an entire year to flesh out the game.

A safe bet is the latter scenario. While we know that Gran Turismo Sport will basically resemble iRacing for the PlayStation 4, and we’ve seen a fair bit of both the vehicle and location roster, what we don’t know is basically anything to do with the physical gameplay elements. We’ve been left in the dark on what the completely re-built career mode will look like, we’re not sure how safe driving points will be awarded, and there isn’t even any sort of outline as to how competitions are going to be conducted on a weekly basis. We don’t know the average race length, how difficult it will be to progress through the online rankings, or what level of simulation value Polyphony plan to replicate. The more you dig about this game, the less there is to discover – GT Sport will have an abundance of GT3-spec race cars, Prototypes featuring a mix of real-world participants and Vision GT concepts, as well as many of the same locations featured in Gran Turismo 6… But that’s about it. Sure, there’s the weird FIA Virtual License… thing… Yet we’re still at the point where nobody’s really sat down and said “here’s how it will work, and what you can expect from the experience.”

GT-Sport-Screenshots-70We’re definitely sitting at an odd spot in which the vision of Gran Turismo Sport we’ve got in our collective conscious – a valiant attempt at taking the iRacing format and unleashing it on a much bigger audience with the help of an enormous budget – might actually look better in our fantasies than the final product when thrown into our PlayStation 4 consoles. As much as I almost enjoy ripping on iRacing for the endless bullshit that seems to surround the simulator, sitting down and determining the logistics of a competitive virtual online racing world isn’t an easy task, especially when someone like Kazunori Yamauchi is in charge of the project, and has zero experience with this side of auto racing simulators. It’s not like Gran Turismo 6 featured an obscure “Ranked Leagues” mode that could be expanded upon in full for GT Sport; we’re looking at a guy who’s admitted in interviews that he hasn’t even played the products of his competitors, and whose last two titles were blasted by the community who once adored his PlayStation 2 releases.

I’ve heard, from those who have tried the beta builds available at the various conventions, that there’s at least a bit of potential with the game. But a delay such as this one, especially after GT5 and GT6 really shitting the bed in the eyes of longtime fans, is not the way you want to start the project. There’s always a reason games in this genre get delayed – we’ve seen it with Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, and DriveClub – so you know things aren’t going as planned behind the scenes.

I like the concept of Gran Turismo Sport, and I think it’s right for someone to try and do what iRacing does, but better, yet as the asshole who runs PRC, it’s disappointing to see this delay. I started the week writing about how Assetto Corsa on consoles was a buggy-ass game, ventured into the topic of a developer literally re-selling a game they refuse to finish on two new platforms, and now we have one game with at least some potential pushed back by an enormous amount. This genre isn’t dying, but it’s definitely getting driven to the hospital for long-term care.

Pretentious Marketing

GT4.jpg

It’s not a Reader Submission here at PRC.net, but it should be, and as a result, I’m going to treat it like one. No less than an hour ago, a user by the name of Vadara over on Reddit’s home for Sim Racing posted a lengthy rant detailing his opinion on the marketing pitch used used by both Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, in comparison to the hardcore roster of PC-based racing simulators. Vadara is frequently annoyed at the claims made by Turn 10 and Polyphony Digital indicating their respective products are no-nonsense racing simulators, when the entire world of PC sim racing exists and are demonstrably operating on an entirely different level compared to mass-market mainstream console games. His points are valid, and I believe this is something we should talk about here at PRC.net.


ccgt2.jpg

Does the pretension of Forza and Gran Turismo bother any of you guys?

Forza isn’t too bad, but as I get deeper into the world of sim racing, I find Gran Turismo and Kazunori Yamauchi’s pretentious attitude to be insufferable. GT carries itself as this super-realistic driving simulator even, though any PC sim racer would find that laughable. There are features in early-2000’s PC sims that still aren’t – or won’t be – in GT6 or GT Sport.

The Real Driving Simulator? GT6 still doesn’t understand that high-horsepower rear wheel drive cars spin out when you dump the clutch and mash the gas from a standing start (I also remember a thread on GTPlanet where it was conclusively determined that GT5 does not model tire width at all). Then there’s shit like the GT Academy (as if GT could ever prepare someone for real racing) and GT Sport’s “official FIA GT” malarkey. GT Sport will allow people to get a license that qualifies them for real-life FIA GT events, which is just laughable honestly. Then we have Yamauchi’s bizarre belief that he’s creating the most hardcore realistic driving simulation ever, doing things like making his team obsessively model the stitching on a Miata’s seats while the tire physics lag behind NASCAR Racing 2003 and rFactor. The dude has even trashed Forza and said it wasn’t a sim, as if his game was a sim at all and as if Forza’s physics weren’t superior to GT’s at the time (they still are). He doesn’t even acknowledge PC simulators at all!

I have the Apex book that came the Collector’s Edition of GT5. The book’s prose has this insufferable tone that it’s a guide to racing in real life too. At one point it mentions hell-and-toe shifting, even though GT’s clutch function is hidden behind a button press not mentioned anywhere in the game or manual. And I’m pretty sure no car in GT actually needs rev matching to stay stable. The fanboys are the worst. GT has conned a huge amount of people into believing that it really is the most realistic sim out there. There are people who buy wheels JUST to play GT!

To be honest, Forza isn’t as bad, they have the same “super-realistic fuck yeah Pirelli tire data” marketing hogwash, but Greenwalt was never as pretentious about it as Yamauchi. It really is the definition of pretension – pretending to be something more talented than one really is.

I dunno, man. I have a lot of great memories with Forza and Gran Turismo, but they’re just too… Simple. iRacing, rFactor, Reiza Studios products, Assetto Corsa, and NASCAR 2003 have a dynamism and liveliness that the two mainstream console sims just can’t provide, and to see those two series act like they’re the pinnacle of realism (Christ, Project-Fucking-Cars is more realistic and that game is a goddamn mess). It’s like those guys who say they’re hardcore gamers, but all they play is Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. Or guys who claim to love music, but only listen to Top 40 hits and maybe a meme genre. We’ve got all these great sims who aren’t even mentioned for their achievements, while reviewers give GT and Forza high marks for “realism.” Ugh.


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I agree that the marketing tactics behind both Gran Turismo and Forza can be a bit bothersome, and I think it’s valid to say Forza and Gran Turismo are being a bit pretentious in this regard. However, the bigger problem lies in how these games are designed to be played. I personally enjoyed how Gran Turismo 6 felt when I made fairly substantial changes to the driving assist and tire compound settings, but nobody is going to play the game in the same manner as I do. And I don’t think the NASCAR Expansion for Forza 6 felt all that bad, but I’d indeed much rather be playing NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. I will say that both Gran Turismo and Forza can be quite good when you sit down like a true sim racing autist and figure out how to disable all of the babby-tier assists, crafting a PC sim-like experience inside of a strange and foreign environment.

The problem arises when how these games are structured from a design standpoint They’re advertising a simulator, and with all of the bullshit turned off they are indeed approaching a level of fidelity on-par with PC simulators, but you’re given no incentive to play the game like a simulator. Instead, Polyphony and Turn 10 hold your hand at every possible point during your journey. Why does Gran Turismo give people ultra grippy compound tires by default?  Why was Forza pushing a “rewind” system for so many years? What’s this Skid Recovery Force setting, and why can’t it be turned off during the trademark license tests in Gran Turismo 6? Why are an overwhelming majority of the single player campaign events three lap affairs? Where’s qualifying? Where’s the traditional race weekend format? Why are the Endurance Races in Forza 6 pushed off to the side, the completion of which now entirely optional?

I’m not even asking for pace car support or flag rules yet, but I agree it’s pretty ridiculous how we have multiple companies coming out to boast about how hardcore their games are, but when you put them in the disc tray it’s just a bunch of random three lap races with no qualifying – Mario Kart with real cars. Like, you’ve built this multi-million dollar racing “simulator”, with physics engines that are allegedly the most advanced on the market, but suddenly the entire product has been designed around intentionally not wanting to do racing simulator-y things. Instead, the races have become almost secondary to the progression. Be sure to rate your favorite designs on the marketplace! Buy perks! Level up your driver! Develop affinity! Complete our handful of random oh-so-silly challenges!

When you call that experience a simulator, and there’s this whole line of PC games just sort of chilling in the distance that fit the simulator description better than “knock over all the cones for a gold star!”, pretentious is a good word to start with.

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If Forza and Gran Turismo would stop holding people’s hands throughout the entire game, I think the rivalry between PC sim racers, and their console brothers, would more or less disappear. The console guys would have a worthwhile product to invest themselves in, and the PC guys would even be inclined to check out the console offerings. That’s the direction Turn 10 and Polyphony need to go in, they need to eradicate this rivalry by changing how their games are structured. For a real world example, my local sim racing center is actually quite popular, and there are a lot of guys who come in touting previous experience on the Forza Motorsport series. Many are outright brutal when they’re behind the wheel in rFactor 2, and some actually leave the place in disgust, convinced that the game is broken or something. That kind of situation adds to the rivalry.

So how would a developer turn this thing around?

Let’s identify the problem with these console games.

As I mentioned above, Forza and Gran Turismo have told their user base that they’re playing hardcore racing simulators, but neither game bothers to take off the kid gloves at any point in time, and that’s what causes this hate and disparity among genuine sim racers and Forza/GT fanboys masquerading as sim racers. You have two completely different experiences offered under the same general banner, and only one of them fits the definition of hardcore simulator. Yes, Forza has assists. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because not everyone is a fantastic virtual driver out of the box. Yes, Forza has rewind. Again, not a bad thing, because restarting races can get frustrating for someone who is new and constantly smashing into the wall. And yes, both mainstream racing sims have woefully short events throughout their single player campaigns. Also not a bad thing, I don’t want to drive any sort of Toyota hatchback in a 40-minute endurance session for a few thousand credits.

But as both games progress, neither title explicitly stops holding your hand and welcomes you to the big leagues, so to speak. At no point in Forza or Gran Turismo are you asked to qualify for a race, with the Restart button greyed out to drill home how nerve-wracking a super-pole session can be. When you hit Driver Level 20, the races suddenly don’t become hour-long affairs that require razor-sharp reflexes, the Endurance races are always neatly hidden away in a sub-menu far away from the primary progression. After two or three clean races, the driving line isn’t permanently turned off; you can smash and shunt your way through career mode at your own pace, and Forza actually dropped the once-hilarious concept of paying for repairs after each event because it was too demoralizing for the players.

What I’m getting at, is that neither Forza nor Gran Turismo force you to become a better virtual race car driver – and they should. Simulators are supposed to be challenging, demanding, and requiring your total concentration. Both titles are quite competent under the hood, but this competence is always kept away from the public eye under a flurry of simplified bullshit meant for kids like SLAPTrain who can’t go more than a few corners without wrecking. If after a few hours of play, Forza turned all the assists off on you and said “Nope, you’ve got to complete this endurance event at Road Atlanta because you’ve passed the tutorial stages”, I think the marketing babble of calling it a hardcore simulator would at least feel appropriate rather than pretentious. And it’s the same with the Gran Turismo line of games. The entire career mode shouldn’t be a repetitious Sunday Cup, and there has to be a point where the title no longer tries to coddle you.

  • Two hours in? Alright, no more three lap races. Here’s a touring car, each race in this series is anywhere from ten to twenty five laps. Rewinds and the racing line have been permanently disabled. You have two qualifying laps. Good luck.

If Turn 10 and Polyphony were to turn the full power of Gran Turismo and Forza loose on the masses, their marketing campaign would no longer feel pretentious.

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