Throwing Money At The Problem

1I feel like we’re reaching a point here on PRC.net where it’s almost time to split the iRacing tag into two specific sub-categories. On one end of the spectrum, even though I currently don’t have an active iRacing account, many of our readers do, and it’s important to cover both software updates and content releases to keep people informed without the generic PR babble found on other publications. Yet what ends up happening is that the complete absurdity of the iRacing community often manages to steal the spotlight away from the more traditional set of articles breaking down changes in the software, and we end up using the iRacing tag to discuss a diverse group of delusional man-children using the simulator to live out their failed auto racing dreams.

Each and every time I venture into the iRacing Subreddit, I’m genuinely impressed by how backwards this particular set of sim racers can be. Readers who have stuck around PRC.net for the long haul are familiar with my intense hatred towards the average iRacing member for being far too emotionally invested in a simple video game, yet now it feels as if meme magic is guiding the world of sim racing, and iRacers are making a subconscious effort to live up to their stereotype against their will. Now before I get started on today’s discoveries, I’d like to briefly outline the four elements I feel most iRacers exhibit which cause them to have such a poor reputation outside of their own member forums.

  • iRacers are eager to throw money away when it isn’t even necessary. They defend the enormous cost of the simulator compared to other video games in the same genre by pretending iRacing is somehow in a league of its own when it comes to computer software, and it supposedly isn’t fair to hold the game to the same general set of standards you would for another driving simulator like rFactor 2, Project CARS, or Assetto Corsa. These people also constantly take steps to make pricey improvements to their sim setup in the quest for both immersion and pace, yet these efforts are always futile; no matter how fancy your sim rig is, you will always be sitting in a basement playing a video game, and equipment does not determine your on-track performance.
  • iRacers invest more than is necessary into their virtual driving career. It’s cool to take a few screenshots of your custom livery and plaster it on Facebook. It’s fine to celebrate a couple of big wins every now and then; I mean, if you win a My Little Pony fan art competition, you still won something, and that’s neat to be good at something you do in your spare time. It’s not cool to pass out hero cards for your iRacing team inside the garage area of a real NASCAR venue; it’s actually really awkward. And you don’t need to thank all your sponsors during a carefully rehearsed speech in your post-race interview on some YouTube Stream with 30 viewers. There are no NASCAR scouts watching the 6:30pm Class C Fixed race, nor will Tony Stewart throw you in his Sprint Car if you decimate the field during some Mobil 1 virtual showdown gimmick. The higher up the iRacing ladder you progress, the more you’ll run into folks who have unfortunately forgotten that they’re playing a video game.
  • iRacers are hyper-sensitive to aggression. The game’s userbase is big enough to house several different sub-communities that all gravitate towards one series or discipline, yet small enough where everybody knows everybody else in some fashion. Drivers who are deemed by the rest of the pack to be “too aggressive” on the track, “too crude” over the chat functionality, or “too abrasive” on the member forums are forced to deal with their contemporaries ganging up on them and basically chasing them away from the iRacing servers. The irony in this situation is that real-life auto racing is aggressive as hell; middle-fingers flying out the window are a daily occurrence, shady moves and occasional contact are merely part of driving a race car, physical fights in the pits routinely land on the front page of many motorsports news outlets, controlled substances are more common than you’d think (and you’re naive if you believe otherwise), and the dialect used among peers and on the radio is anything but G-rated. The sim racing community which populates iRacing effectively tries to enforce a chess club-like code of conduct in a competitive environment that resembles the aggression of professional hockey.
  • iRacers feel their sim of choice places them on a platform above other sim racers. You’ll see this across many message boards where users are allowed to openly discuss a variety of racing simulators under one roof; those that dare to imply iRacing isn’t the gold standard in virtual auto racing are promptly bullied by a flurry of iRacing members whose entire post history consist of pro-iRacing comments – most of which immediately resort to accusing the user of not being able to afford iRacing, or that they have an irrational vendetta against the developers.

throw-moneySo we now get to the topic at hand today, which starts us with brockman44’s rather innocent question to the iRacing community on Reddit. Quite simply, he runs a low field of view setting that was undoubtedly the result of fiddling with a field of view calculator, and has now realized driving with binocular vision is not very effective when racing in a pack on an oval circuit. He wants to know the best way to visually monitor the competition beside him, and inquires about either a triple monitor setup, or a virtual reality headset.

Had a friend posed this question to me while we were bullshitting on Teamspeak, the short answer I’d give is “neither.” You can map a Look Left/Look Right button to your steering wheel, and use INI configuration files to adjust the head swivel time to be instantaneous; just long enough to check on the status of the car beside you. Aside from cranking up the spotter frequency to max – so he continues to repeat “Car Outside” every second or so – field of view calculators aren’t entirely reliable (sometimes producing completely unusable results), and there is no harm in jacking up the FOV value and moving the seat position around so the extreme edges of the monitor display just a sliver of your side window – and thus letting you see where your competitors are sitting if they get beside you on-track. What I’m getting at, is brockman44 can solve his lateral visibility problems in about fifteen seconds.

The highest rated comment, posted by Melbeachmoose20, encourages him to drop $400 on two additional PC monitors. This is insane. Don’t do this. Rather than use any one of the twenty-second suggestions I mentioned above – some of which can be done simply by visiting the options menu in-game – brockman44 is told by a fellow iRacer to bust out the credit card. This is buffoonish advice, and only goes to show some iRacers have no fucking idea what they’re talking about. Changing the field of view setting is free. Mapping two buttons for Look Left and Look Right is free. Moving the seat around is free. As a sim racer who runs a single monitor setup quite successfully, you simply do not need to drop $400 just to see the cars beside you. If you want some sort of man-cave setup with a proper racing seat and three monitors because of the cool factor, then yes, I understand. But the problem in the original post is purely down to not being able to see your competitors, and omitting several twenty-second fixes to push this kind of purchase on someone is just plain fucking crazy.

hurt-feelingsWe now arrive at a different Reddit post from a couple of weeks ago, posted by a user operating under the tag of iracer46. While not hardware-related like the last example, this one really drills home how fragile the average iRacer can be. A lengthy introduction (by reddit standards) gives way to the story of an obviously talented sim racer running circles around the field and being a lippy asshole through the game’s voice chat system – as if nobody has ever done this in the history of online gaming anywhere. It’s important to note that by the author’s own admission, the iRacer being slammed for his behavior wasn’t actually wrecking anyone or being a nuisance on track; he was merely shit-talking the rest of the pack, which has been par for the course in virtually every online computer game dating back to the late 1990’s. iracer46 goes on to describe this user as “the most despicable iRacing member” he has ever encountered, and claims this guy has severe psychological issues.

Again, I have to reiterate that it’s October 5th, 2016, and basically everyone whose even partially invested into online gaming in this day and age will list “shit-talking little kids and other random gamers on Xbox Live” as a fond memory of their teenage years. If you are so fragile that merely being in iRacing’s version of a public lobby with a guy being a goof through the voice chat system inspires you to write a blog post ripping on his “despicable” behavior, all you’re doing is proving my point that the average iRacer is a hyper-sensitive man-child who shouldn’t be anywhere near a real race car.

Because this sort of thing is common-place not just on the voice chat servers in competitive online gaming, but in real life auto racing as well – you know, the environment iRacing is trying to accurately simulate? This brings up a comment I mentioned earlier in this entry; iRacers are genuinely trying to turn a high-energy, dog-eat-dog competition into a High School Chess Club on wheels to prevent from hurting anybody’s feelings. This is just embarrassing.

I think maybe we should make this the next big thing on PRC.net; along with our standard Reader Submissions, you guys are welcome to send in anything retarded you come across on the iRacing forums, and we’ll bundle them up in a couple compilation articles to display how ridiculous some of this stuff can get. Are you guys down? We sure are.

This Isn’t the Wheel Support You’re Looking For…

forza6apex_announce_07_wmIf you haven’t given Forza Motorsport 6: Apex a shot yet, I don’t blame you. Intended to be a strange mashup between an elaborate tech demo and a genuine trial run for Turn 10 in bringing the critically acclaimed Forza Motorsport franchise to Windows-based operating systems, Apex is light on modes, features, and content – a game that won’t win any favors among the hardcore sim racing community. However, for those who have otherwise missed out on what has traditionally been quite an enjoyable line of games for Xbox owners dating back to 2005, many are obviously curious as to how the physics engine stacks up compared to well-established PC simulators powered by the isiMotor engine. Unfortunately, their efforts were initially hindered by a complete lack of toy steering wheel support when the game launched on Windows 10 a few short months ago, causing tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists such as myself to loudly proclaim the game was little more than a pathetic attempt to con users into installing an operating system that was both intrusive and configured to monitor your online behavior by default.

Turn 10 eventually threw the hardcore guys a bone; the latest update for Forza Motorsport 6: Apex patches in plastic wheel compatibility for a wide variety of Logitech and Thrustmaster products. Needless to say, many sim racers who once scoffed at the title are now at least giving it a genuine shot, as despite the lack of gameplay modes, progression elements, and content, they can finally experience Forza Motorsport from the comfort of their own unique sim racing setup.

And of course, they aren’t happy, because Turn 10 didn’t really try.

f6-wheelOn the Forza Motorsport section of Reddit, sim racers are furious. To them, the wheel support feels like a last-minute addition tacked on to check a box on the list of planned upgrades for the game, rather than a genuine effort to get it right the first time. I’ve attached some of the most prominent posts in the picture above, but you can check out the full thread here if you’re one of those guys on the fence when it comes to upgrading to Windows 10. In short, wheel compatibility in Apex feels like you’re trying to play NASCAR 99 on a Nintendo 64 Emulator by mapping your wheel axis to the control stick – nowhere close to satisfactory by any means. Some even report that the game is flat out uncontrollable with a wheel, and while I’m usually against using iRacing as a base to judge the physics of another racing simulator, even I can wheel a car in the Xbox One version of Forza Motorsport 6 without much trouble.

c318e709-c051-4eb9-aae4-581d5884df63Now a lot of people are probably wondering why this topic is being discussed at PRC.net, as many consider Forza to be beneath the status of superior PC-based simulators. The answer is actually quite simple; Forza is now a multi-platform franchise, and Apex was used basically as an open beta for future titles. While the series obviously has its roots on the original Xbox console, Turn 10 will be bringing Forza Horizon 3, and the inevitable Forza Motorsport 7, to the Windows 10 operating system very, very soon. Forza Horizon 3 launches in a mere twenty days, and given how good the previous two games have been in this newer, more radical spin-off series, there are a whole bunch of PC gamers who not only can’t wait to rip around the eastern coast of Australia in a huge number of exotic cars, they want their shit to work out of the box. Currently, wheel support in Apex doesn’t work. If Turn 10 can’t get it right during what was intended to be the testing phase with Apex, why should sim racers have any faith that they’ll figure it out in less than a month?

It’s worrying, to say the least.

car_543_1_56d63346c910fMany will be quick to argue that Forza’s underlying driving physics are the root cause of the problem, and I think it’s important to state that I heavily disagree on the matter. Honestly, if we drop the dickwaving contest between PC simulators and console pseudo-simulators for just a minute of our time, Forza Motorsport 6 isn’t the complete piece of garbage you’ve been led to believe. A few weeks ago I was at my buddy’s house spending the night after a race, and early in the morning I fired up Forza 6 to dick around before he woke up. I stumbled into the showcase section and ended up running an Endurance race at Road Atlanta with the GT3-spec Audi R8. Aside from the mammoth input lag resulting from his admittedly crappy HDTV, I really struggled to see why many are so quick to talk down about this series. The AI put up a good fight on the difficulty level one notch below Unbeatable, tire wear seemed reasonable, and the little driving tricks you learn from PC sims still applied. So when I see people write on Reddit that Apex is unplayable with a wheel, I can definitely see a situation where Turn 10 simply fucked up wheel support, rather than having a poor base to begin with.

photo8Horizon 3 comes out in a few weeks, and I personally loved the original, so maybe it’s time to let the NSA poke around my browsing history in exchange for a fairly enjoyable recreation of Australia. However, if wheel support in Apex is truly as broken as some are saying it to be, y’all are in for a hell of a ride when Horizon 3 drops.

Reader Submission #116 – A Strategic Lack of Updates

whitePS4-970-80.jpgIt’s much more than a nasty rumor making the rounds as a cruel joke on sim racers who have chosen Sony’s PlayStation 4 as their home gaming platform. If you haven’t figured it out by now, there appears to have been a falling out of sorts between Sony Entertainment and Fanatec, leading to a situation where all Fanatec products are no longer compatible for a console a whole lot of people bought. There wasn’t any official announcement and no major report from mainstream racing game publications on the matter (N4G actually links to us of all people), nor did any developer explicitly come out and say there had been a major shake-up behind the scenes, so sim racers were just sort of expected to infer from the official wheel compatibility list of each title that Fanatec owners would be left in the dark for the foreseeable future. Sure, there was a blog post on the official Fanatec message board, but let’s be honest- how many people actually read those?

Codemasters subtly warned people ahead of time that their Fanatec gear wouldn’t work with Formula One 2016, but Assetto Corsa fans weren’t so lucky – their Fanatec products were fully compatible with the Italian racing simulator provided they did not connect to the internet and download a day-one patch, adding to the already growing array of launch-day complaints. Yet through this madness, there appears to be at least one developer who have intentionally avoided this situation altogether by purposely not updating their game – at least according to today’s Reader Submission here at PRC.net. And surprisingly, that developer is Slightly Mad Studios..


Fanatec-pic-01Hey PRC. First of all, I’m a long-time “lurker” fan of this place. You guys really do shine some much needed light on the cockroaches in this industry. Please don’t attribute this to me or my email/domain in anyway should there be something legitimate to it. I completely quit participating online about two years ago, and have never partaken in social media.

Earlier I was talking to a friend about the recent split between Sony and Fanatec. Now according to what I’ve read about Assetto Corsa, Fanatec products work fine with Assetto Corsa before the day one patch. But, if you apply the day one patch, it breaks compatibility. So something happened between Fanatec and Sony between the time Assetto Corsa went gold about four weeks ago, and last week or so.

Now as you know, Project CRAP desperately needs updates on the PlayStation 4 to fix many bugs, and I’ve read on many places people are getting antsy because nothing has been forthcoming since the last DLC pack. My theory is that the friendship between Ian Bell and Thomas Jackermeier of Fanatec goes back a long ways, and they were warned ahead of time not to update Project CARS on PS4 specifically to avoid Sony forcing them to patch-out support for Fanatec products, as Sony had requested with Assetto Corsa.

As for the bugs found in the PlayStation 4 version of Project CARS, the game still isn’t where it needs to be. One of the easiest to verify is the lack of ghost entries on the long courses, not to mention the recurring audio/FFB drop-outs… If you’ve got access to a PlayStation 4, visit the time trial leaderboards for the Nordschleife, and the full versions of either the French or California coastline tracks. You’ll notice there aren’t any ghosts available for many of the top 30 runs… It’s just basic stuff like that popping up everywhere that gets in the way of Project CARS being really enjoyable. And people really want one or two more patches to get all of this in order, but I believe they won’t just to avoid the Sony drama.


8996061_origI can believe it. Sony is being absolutely ridiculous right now and royally screwing over customers, so it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one dev team tried to put a stop to it just to keep some people happy. You’re looking at a situation where you have these extremely niche games being released for your system that require expensive toy steering wheels just to play them in the desired fashion – equipment costing hundreds of dollars, I might add – and Sony has effectively stepped in and said “spend more money on yet another toy steering wheel which in theory you shouldn’t even need to begin with, or else you can’t play your favorite game.” That’s fucking horrible. I mean yeah, Fanatec owners can still boot up Assetto Corsa on the PlayStation 4 with a gamepad, but let’s be real about this situation – these are games you should by all means be playing with a wheel.

If you’d like to simplify the situation a bit further, look at the Rock Band franchise. Don’t lie, you’ve got a couple of plastic guitars kicking around somewhere, that shit was awesome. Harmonix actually sold a special adapter for Rock Band 4 so you could continue to use your old instruments from the previous generation of games on what are now current generation consoles, and weren’t forced to let the plastic guitars keep piling up in your living room to play what was effectively the exact same five-button rhythm game. Here you have a developer bending over backwards to ensure everyone can play the game in the desired fashion, and yet in sim racing land you literally have a console manufacturer demanding developers to release patches which break wheel compatibility for certain users, and forcing them to drop $400 more on a new wheel despite their current wheel working perfectly fine 24 hours prior.

Ugly and unacceptable. I’m not even a Fanatec guy, but this is just wrong.

Reader Submission #114 – Sony Drops Fanatec?

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With the impending launch of Formula One 2016 by Codemasters within the next week, a title which will most likely be hailed as the greatest entry in the series history due to an explosion of improvements across the board in nearly all aspects of the simulator, the studio have recently released the full list of wheels which will be compatible with the title. To the surprise of many sim racers, Fanatec-branded equipment has been completely omitted from the PlayStation 4 version of the virtual Grand Prix product, despite previous functionality support for Fanatec wheels seen in all other PlayStation 4 racing games. Not too many people will be happy about this, and today Alex G. has sent in a Reader Submission outlining the basics of the situation.


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Good afternoon, PRC. I think I’ve found an interesting topic for you guys to cover, one which is flying way under the radar in the world of console sim racing. This time, it’s about the ridiculous fight between Sony and Fanatec.

You’ve probably seen it by now, but there are no Fanatec wheels supported on F1 2016 for the PS4. Even though previous Codemasters efforts such as DiRT Rally and F1 2015 were accommodating to Fanatec wheels, as well as Project CARS when it came out last year, it’s extremely surprising to see Codemasters suddenly does not support Fanatec products. It’s quite a popular brand in the small world of consumer wheels, and many PlayStation 4 owners purchased a Fanatec wheel due to their overall quality and compatibility with other PlayStation 4 games. Yet it appears from August onward, no racing game for the PlayStation 4 will support Fanatec wheels.

As you can read on the Fanatec forums, there will be no support for wheels that are not branded as “Official PS4 Wheels”. Up to August 2016, developers could program wheel support for basically any wheel they wanted on the PS4, they were just not supported in the PS4 menus – but inside the game they were fully recognized. Now, only equipment dubbed “Official PS4 Wheels” will work, like the endless stream of Thrustmaster or Logitech products. Interestingly enough, Fanatec themselves said at the end of March that they will remove the PlayStation Compatibility icon from all their wheels, because they want to release a new “Official PS4 Wheel” (which is still unknown), but functionality of all wheels would still be guaranteed. This has now completely changed. If you own a Fanatec wheel that was said to work on the PS4, no future games will support it.

Like the Fanatec forums stated, the most reasonable explanation for this situation is that Sony is asking for a bit more money from Fanatec for the license, or someone like Thrustmaster paid Sony to eliminate Fanatec from the PS4 market so Sony completely excluded support for Fanatec drivers in their new SDK 3.5. Developers are now tasked with handling the hate to keep this deal under wraps, like in the Codemasters forums, but I imagine Sony’s lawyers are more powerful than some gamers. Anyways, it’s an interesting and rather shocking twist of events to see unfold in such a niche market. In the end, everyone loses. Both Sony and the developers themselves lose revenue from their games, because once-loyal customers now won’t be inclined to pick up the assortment of brand new racing games, Fanatec loses a big chunk of their customer base as gamers are forced to run out and purchase a different wheel, and the number one loser is obviously the customer – they’ve bought a fancy Fanatec wheel that was advertised as working with their brand new system, and now all they can do with it is stare at it in the corner.


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I consider myself as a Logitech fanboy, so this issue doesn’t affect me, but I do agree that it’s indeed quite stupid. You’re right, Sony essentially rounded up a giant group of people and completely screwed them over. You have a bunch of PS4 owners who loved racing games enough to purchase a dedicated wheel for their system – quite a good one, I might add – and now they’re back at square one. Assetto Corsa won’t support Fanatec stuff. Gran Turismo Sport, the iRacing-like entity for the PS4? Nope, they’re out of luck as well. F1 2016 looked to rejuvenate the franchise? Sorry, you can’t play it in a way that would be satisfying unless you go shell out upwards of $350 on another toy steering wheel. I was a part of the whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band fad back in the day, and the thought of shelling out for yet another plastic instrument to take advantage of a new feature or two was absurd, so knowing fellow gamers will be at the same crossroads over a much more expensive purchase that isn’t even required on other platforms in the first place definitely sucks.

Elbowgate

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It’s no secret here on PRC.net that I’m not a fan of Direct Drive Wheels, or any high-end racing simulation gear for that matter. If you’ve been patiently waiting for an extensive review of a fancy Thrustmaster, Fanatec, or even an Accuforce product – hoping we’ll one day drop the pessimistic antics and establish ourselves as a somewhat legitimate sim racing publication – I can safely say that we have no plans to progress in that direction at any point in the foreseeable future. The three of us behind PRC.net are absolute proof that you can be extremely successful in the world of sim racing with entry level products, essentially invalidating the extensive marketing campaigns used by the aforementioned companies which promise a greater level of immersion and virtual car control in exchange for a four-figure investment.

For us, it’s hard to even take a passing interest in the various hardware peripherals aimed at sim racers willing to part with large portions of their disposable income, as the standard Logitech stuff has served us quite well over the years. When you are already at the front of the pack in nearly every online race your enter, it’s hard to justify upwards of $1,400 on a fancier toy steering wheel. I mean, how could this possibly improve the experience? You obviously need some kind of steering wheel to get the most out of a racing simulator, but if you’re already atop the pretend podium with none other than generic Logitech shit you snagged off eBay from a previous owner, what comes afterwards with an equipment upgrade? Zero-th?

And because of that position, it’s admittedly difficult to look at owners of Direct Drive Wheels as anything other than modern-day equivalents of Nintendo Power Glove adopters. It’s completely unnecessary. Now I do my best to stay out of sim gear threads, as well as sim rig threads, because all too often a line is crossed where the expenses of building a sim rig surpasses the expenses of strapping your ass in a race car, and jumping into the conversation to tell people that is just going to create an abundance of pointless arguments. But the few occasions I have combed through threads discussing Direct Drive Wheels in an attempt to understand this sub-community of elite gear enthusiasts, I’ve always felt like I’ve run into the gear snobs from high school gym class all over again. When guys boast about their new Direct Drive purchase, I’m not jealous; I’m reminded of the kid who bought a pair of Under Armor receiver gloves for our Flag Football month. I can assure you that we didn’t call him Randy Moss because of his ability to catch a football, and a belt-driven steering wheel certainly won’t grant you the driving abilities of Ayrton Senna.

And yet despite this – what some could be justified in calling an irrational hatred towards Direct Drive Wheel owners – I’ve struggled to properly convey how bizarre this group of individuals can be. I mean, I can sit here on Teamspeak with our group of bros and describe how direct drive owners are a bunch of clueless old men who can barely drive to begin with, have no idea how to configure their force feedback, and blindly follow ridiculous marketing gimmicks promising unprecedented sim racing immersion for more than the cost of going racing at your local short track, but I’ve never been able to show hard evidence of just how retarded these people can be.

And then a friend of ours fired this piece of absolute brilliance to us on Facebook – originally posted by a Boeing employee on the iRacing member forums.

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I don’t think anybody on any sim racing message board will ever manage to top the sheer stupidity of this post. Here you have a Boeing employee (information supplied by our buddy), an individual who helps build America’s most prominent commercial aircraft – the 787 Dreamliner – risking his livelihood to absolutely annihilate his arm with his pretend steering wheel in the pursuit of immersing himself in a computer game.

Oh, you think this is all a bunch of bullshit; some troll account messing with the iRacing member forums? Alright then, we can play that game.

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The next time you go on the forums and start asking for high-end gear advice, keep in mind that you’re literally among people who are so fucking retarded, they’ll completely botch the configuration of their pricey toy steering wheel setup to the point where it’s physically injuring them and forcing ’em to see a doctor.

At least it makes for a good iRacing story, right?