Forza Fans Tear Turn 10 a New Asshole After Pre-Order Announcement

So unless you permanently live under a rock and cling to your Pentium III running Windows 98 as if it’s some sort of metaphorical children’s blanket or teddy bear, obviously you know that E3 2017 is in full swing, and Turn 10 Studios have taken the wraps off of Forza Motorsport 7 – which will be landing on store shelves this November. Boasting upwards of 700 cars at launch – including Porsche and Volkswagen, which were either added in much later via downloadable expansion packs, or left out entirely – as well as something like 38 unique locations, dynamic weather, and avatar customization, Forza Motorsport 7 will easily become the most anticipated racing game of the next two years.

Considering the simulation will also be available on the Windows 10 marketplace for PC owners – a first for the core Forza Motorsport franchise – a whole lot of people are looking forward to messing around with the limitless Forza experience on home computers, as the sim racing scene has traditionally been dominated by no-nonsense software that has remained virtually unchanged since the days of F1 Challenge 99-02. Offering a full career mode, car collecting meta-game, extensive upgrading system, and unique community features that even the big titles like iRacing and Project CARS have yet to scratch the surface of, there’s a lot of hype for what Forza brings to the table – even if the driving model is a bit simplistic as we touched on in our review of Forza Motorsport 6: Apex.

Yet upon revealing the pre-order options to the general public – which offer three distinct ways to purchase the game, with an increasing amount of pre-order “perks” with each tier – Turn 10 is facing an immense backlash from the Forza Motorsport community, and as the title of this post suggests, they’re basically being torn a new asshole at this point. Comments on the official Forza franchise Facebook page are overwhelmingly negative, criticizing Turn 10 for blatantly ripping off their customers with a shady downloadable content plan that puts a time limit on the season pass people are paying extra for, resulting in two waves of DLC; the latter of which is not covered by the already expensive ultimate edition.

The hostility originally stems from how the massive studio handled last years’ Forza Horizon 3 pre-order bonuses. Like what has been depicted above in the Forza 7 pre-order breakdown, Turn 10 gave fans the option of paying a premium price – upwards of $100 USD – for an “Ultimate Edition” of Forza Horizon 3, essentially paying up front for all of the game’s car packs and expansion bundles, which would then automatically be downloaded into the user’s game the moment they became available. It’s obviously a steep price to pay for the standard video game entry fee of $60, but the additional price was advertised as a convenience of sorts; users making one sole transaction ahead of of time for all downloadable content that would be released for the game.

Yet in a highly questionable display, Turn 10 put a finite end to the Ultimate Edition’s perks. Users thought they would receive all Forza Horizon 3 downloadable content for the price of the Ultimate Edition they pre-ordered as early as July of 2016, only to discover the “car pass” that came with the Ultimate Edition was only valid for the first handful of DLC releases, and better yet, did not apply to both the Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels expansion packs. As one user on Facebook explains, he had paid $130 up front for an alleged premium edition of Forza Horizon 3 whilist under the impression all of this content would be included in his purchase, only to be stiffed by the company and told there was a second wave of DLC the premium edition didn’t cover, which took another $68 out of his wallet.

So for those who wanted the full Forza Horizon 3 experience, they were out a whopping $190 USD. This is an absurd price to pay for any video game considering the market has soft-locked the cost of a new piece of software at $60, and you can purchase an entire used console from this generation for roughly the same price as acquiring all content in Forza Horizon 3. And this wasn’t the first time Turn 10 had pulled this stunt; it also occurred in Forza Motorsport 6 – Turn 10 sold a premium edition of Forza 6 bundled with a season pass, only to continue pushing out DLC well after the season pass had expired.

It’s blatantly nickel & diming customers far beyond what they should pay for a single piece of software.

“If you don’t like the DLC, don’t buy it” – Forza Motorsport Fanboy/Shill

This is a common argument I see across the Forza Motorsport community, and here’s why I feel it’s not valid in the slightest.

The Forza franchise is at it’s core a game that relies on mass car collecting as one of it’s main gameplay elements. People love opening up the showroom, scrolling through a list of cars, and handing over the in-game credits to call one their own and put it through it’s paces. That’s just part of the fun in car culture games like Forza or Gran Turismo; it’s not so much the racing or the driving physics or the offbeat challenges; it’s the act of opening a virtual Hot Wheels display case, and saying “that one’s mine, and I’m going to upgrade it and draw dicks all over it.”

So the principle of placing a portion of this experience that’s the life and soul of the Forza franchise behind a paywall, and then doubling said paywall by imposing a bogus expiration date on the first paywall, is a diabolical way to manipulate gamers into giving Turn 10 far more money than that experience is actually worth. Remember, this same car culture experience that we saw in Gran Turismo 4, and previous iterations of the Forza franchise, has now been inflated to $200.

People generally don’t mind forking over an additional $30 for a season pass on top of a $50 game because they know in the end it’s at least adding to an integral portion of the game – car collecting – but going a step further and metaphorically tipping these individuals upside down so all the change falls out of their pockets and they wind up spending almost the whole cost of a console for a few more virtual Hot Wheels in their collection, that’s dirty as fuck. Come on, Turn 10. You are the leading racing game developer across the entire video game landscape, and yet at the height of your popularity, with the most money the company’s ever made in your history, you respond to your financial & critical success by “thanking” the fans who helped you get there with an intrusive DLC scheme that only benefits the company’s bottom line and makes your loyal fans question how much they’ll spend this year?

Naw dude. That’s not cool.

Here’s to hoping that the public backlash Turn 10 are receiving for the Forza Motorsport 7 DLC plan will make them re-calculate their approach and go back to a more reasonable all-encompassing season pass format in time for the game’s launch this fall. If not, they only have themselves to blame for the inevitable Jewish conspiracy memes that will no doubt flood their forums once the second batch of Forza Motorsport 7 hits in the spring of 2018, angering season pass holders who were under the impression their special pre-order perks would go a lot further than just six uninspiring car packages, conveniently running out just in time for the pricey title expansions.

 

 

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SRTC Silently Pulls “Million Dollar Championship” Service Website, Leaves More Questions than Answers

Back in early February, we here at PRC.net ran a rather perplexing article focusing on SRTC’s brand new online racing portal, which promised a structured sim racing environment for rFactor 2 that supposedly handed out extensive cash prizes for partaking in various championships making use of the game’s vanilla content – and a popular third party mod or two.

With the cost of membership exponentially higher than what one could expect from diving into the deep end of the iRacing pool, prizes said to reside in the four to six figure range, and even a couple of elaborate trips to exotic locales such as Las Vegas and Barcelona offered to the most talented sim racers on the service’s leaderboard, the whole thing seemed too good to be true; select broken English wording and vague advertisements that didn’t really explain much of anything were merely the icing on the cake in a shitstorm of confusion.

https://pretendracecars.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/pricing.jpg?w=1572&h=916

Though a representative from SRTC appeared in our comments section requesting to be interviewed so he could set the record straight, it was incredibly hard to justify giving him the time of day considering the website alone painted a very questionable picture in regards to the company’s intentions. Good, honest businesses looking to provide a useful online racing service to sim racers do not continuously ask for your credit card information and proclaim there is some sort of premium membership experience awaiting behind a paywall that asked sim racers to fork out around $42 USD per month for the highest level of commitment, when the entire endeavor consists of shoddy Google Documents that can be accessed regardless of whether you’ve paid the company money, and empty servers registered on LiveRacers that show staff members tasked with testing the service had failed to turn even a single practice lap.

Yet despite their insistence that the SRTC service was a real, genuine effort to compose some sort of valid alternative to iRacing – the enormous prizes helping to offset the ridiculous entry fees – it appears our expository piece warranted some kind of action after the dust had settled.

SRTC have scrubbed the internet of their dubious One Million Cash Prizes service, with leaderboards linked in the original piece now issuing a classic 404 Error, custom mods they’d released on Steam to ensure a fair playing field no longer available, and the home page now re-directing to a generic splash page. Devoid of any references to the structured online racing service that was once advertised, we’re now told there’s going to be some sort of SRTC community meet-up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and that an online championship called the SRTC Pro Series will receive an accompanying website on June 17th, 2017.

Just like that, their entire endeavor has vanished into thin air.

But the internet doesn’t forget, and it has only made me dig even deeper.

The league’s Twitch account has just one follower and no recent activity, while their Facebook page is ripe with links to sub-leagues, such as SRT Poland and SRT UK, but these too lack natural activity you would typically see from an online league – most posts by the administrator have zero likes and zero comments. Furthermore, once advertised as the primary broadcast partner of SRTC, BenjxMotors have not covered an SRTC event since January of 2017. Though I’m not disputing the existence of Sim Racing Track – which appears to be a simulator cafe powered by rFactor 2 located just outside of Paris – I’m under the impression that something seriously fucked up happened to this whole creation between the time we first reported on SRTC, and, well, today.

Now you may be wondering why a random sim league suddenly closing up shop and killing their website is a big deal, as several grassroots leagues rise and fall with each passing month within the sim racing community; it’s really nothing new by any stretch of the imagination, just how our ecosystem tends to work. However, the shocker here is that a French sim racing blog was able to interview Oliver Floyd in person, and he has revealed some kind of a partnership between SRTC and Studio 397, which means this could have potentially been rFactor 2’s actual planned solution to organized, competitive online racing that they discussed a few months back – which would make Studio 397 look extremely retarded if they were at one point indeed willing to go along with this level of delusion exhibited by the SRTC camp.

Either that, or Floyd is about to get sued for implying SRTC and Studio 397 are linked professionally when they’re clearly not.

Extending through several different interviews that all reiterate the same basic rhetoric, six and seven figure cash prizes are liberally thrown around in the same paragraphs as the label of “professional sim racers” is; SRTC having their heads firmly in the clouds regarding their vision of a world-wide sim racing championship using rFactor 2. Preliminary marketing documents have also surfaced, discussing some sort of major television partnership, custom driver suits, and the chance to “drive our race cars”, turning SRTC’s pie-in-the-sky plans into the stuff of legends. You can read the two documents – one for team owners, another for drivers – in the following links:

http://simracingtrack.com/images/Boost-your-career-racing-driver
http://simracingtrack.com/images/Team-PRO-EN

It’s beyond confusing, though it makes perfect sense that this stuff suddenly went *poof* one day and disappeared; there’s no way a small outlet such as SRTC would be able to ensure all of this would materialize in the intended fashion.

So instead, they’ve upped the ante, because this is sim racing after all.

Within the past month, SRTC have signed some sort of partnership with the Trans-Am Euro Series, what looks to be the European counterpart to the highly popular SCCA Trans-Am Championship that has thrived in North America over the past fifty years under a variety of different rule changes. Alongside their SRTC Pro Series – an online championship we still don’t know much about and hasn’t been broadcasted since January, a pathetic race that included just eight cars on the grid – SRTC will also offer an accompanying virtual Trans-Am series, the winner of which will supposedly win an entire fully-funded season in the 2018 campaign, with podium finishers receiving track day driving experiences, and VIP guest passes to select race weekends.

This is alongside the aforementioned SRTC Pro Series, which will suposedly be broadcasted on Motorsport.TV and consist of several Top Gear-like segments that are so absurdly beyond what a little sim racing league is capable of, I’m genuinely shocked this hasn’t been reported on any sooner.

First, they’re promising a $1,000,000 sim racing championship (or $400,000 depending on the interview you read), yet their entire online racing platform was governed by Google Documents that could be accessed regardless of whether you were a member or not. Second, they promised a chain of sim racing tournaments in exotic locales, and this huge structured online racing community supposedly supported by Studio 397 themselves, but one day the entire thing is taken down without warning – extremely bizarre considering they were openly asking for sponsorship and affiliates with an equally perplexing and vague affiliate program, which you can still apply for as of this writing. All of this by itself is highly questionable on its own.

But now they are back, unable to launch a simple online racing service without coming across as an outright scam and having to trash the thing overnight, but in the same breath planning to launch some sort of television show with segments that will rival the production cost of Top Gear, as well as conduct two major world-wide sim racing championships, one of which will award the winner with a full time ride in the 2018 Trans-Am Euro series. If you can’t figure out why this sounds ridiculously fishy, may I suggest an Internet Safety course for seniors?

Older gentlemen plagued by wishful thinking and highly unrealistic pipe dreams are a cancer to our hobby. If you gave money to these people for any reason whatsoever, I advise you to get in touch with a lawyer as soon as possible. I would love to be proven wrong and have a sweet rFactor 2 Trans-Am league to participate in, but given their already sketchy track record, I expect that too, to vanish into thin air.

When Development Goes Awry: The Seven Biggest Mistakes Made by Racing Game Developers

Racing games are a fairly unique genre of interactive entertainment, as while there’s no formal “recipe” as to what constitutes a great experience, it’s sort of expected that all developers make an effort to include as many features, functionalities, and content seen in the games that came before it. And sometimes, the developers in charge of said projects we’re all told to treat as demigods across various sim racing message boards are anything but; merely pretentious artists trying to shoehorn their own wacky ideas into pieces of software that don’t always benefit from creativity in obscure places, or cutting corners in ways that will fail to accomplish anything aside from pissing off the fanbase. When this situation arises, often times it leads to a complete clusterfuck of angry customers questioning how and why certain decisions are made.

Game development is not for the weak; a sub-par product will unleash a tidal wave of criticism unlike anything actors or musicians will have to deal with, but in select instances, this overwhelming display of harsh criticism is one hundred percent justified. When developers eschew from the traditional formula and still charge full price for their creation, it can unleash a shitstorm of epic proportions.

After the explosion of Halo’s popularity on Microsoft’s original Xbox, and the industry’s increasing reliance on “Call of Duty numbers” – Blockbuster games attempting to appeal to as many potential customers as possible, sometimes as the expense of alienating hardcore fans – developers began really thinking outside of the box when it came to driving games, believing they too could have a piece of the pie by deviating from the unwritten standard formula of driving games in pursuit of a wider audience, or finding ways to extract more money from existing customers. Codemasters gave otherwise avid motorsport fans the ability to rewind time in 2007’s Race Driver: Grid, no longer requiring users to actually get good at the game, instead providing them with a literal do-over button so newcomers wouldn’t feel intimidated by an experience they probably wouldn’t care about to begin with. It was seen as sacrilegious, but thankfully could be disabled for an extra cash bonus in Career mode. Other elements, such as the ability to whip out Mommy’s credit card and unlock new cars and parts in Need for Speed: Pro Street prior to naturally attaining them via in-game progression, still exist to this day.

Small potatoes? It sure seemed that way at the time, until it was revealed that Electronic Arts had secured exclusive rights to the world-renowned Porsche brand, causing headaches for virtually every other racing game developer. Forza Motorsport suddenly shipped with matchmaking features instead of custom lobbies. The beloved Colin McRae series received a facelift infused with energy drinks, fireworks, and a flock of drivers most rally fans recognized as freestyle BMX riders, not talented professional race car drivers. Things got really weird in the genre for a while, and many felt as if the developers they once relied on to push out fantastic race car games, had all fallen off the map.

Some franchises saw these years as a temporary rough patch before restoring their former glory, while others were the subject of virtual public lashings, alienating fans and putting the future of the series into question. Today, we’re going to list the absolute lowest of the low; moments in the history of racing games where development had clearly gone awry, and bizarre, counter-intuitive ideas and gameplay mechanics that surfaced during late-night brainstorming sessions somehow made their way into the final product, nearly crippling the end user experience and/or pissing off legions of fans.

Low-hanging fruit will not be addressed in this list, so the 2015 reboot of Need for Speed requiring an online connection just to play through the single player campaign is exempt from our discussion. The deal between Porsche and Electronic Arts also doesn’t count, as both Forza and Kunos Simulazioni found ways to work around the exclusivity, with the existence of Ruf in other games serving as an acceptable band-aid for the German brand’s omission.

These are the seven worst ideas in the history of racing games.

Burnout Revenge introduces “Traffic Checking”

The most anticipated racing game of 2005, Burnout Revenge was poised to set the world on fire. With a reinvigorated art style that promised a darker, grittier, in-your-face arcade racer compared to the bright, lively world of predecessor, a rocking soundtrack that still holds up to this day, and a development budget dictated by the mighty Electronic Arts – who at that point could do no wrong when it came to racing and sports games – many were chomping at the bit to tear off the plastic.

A game that proudly declared “Revenge is for Losers” on the back of the box, the last remaining element the Burnout series could have used to push it over the top – attitude – had finally been inserted into the mix. Burnout 3: Takedown was an absurdly difficult game, offering instant death around every bend and one of the most rewarding arcade racing experience of our time for those who master it, but the pop-punk production created a bit of a weird design contrast. We were told Revenge would exponentially increase the psychotic on-track activity, and compliment the action with an equally dark artistic theme.

Upon finally throwing the CD into the disc drive, we instead found out Criterion had made the game significantly easier. The trademark Burnout gameplay of racing through busy metropolitan areas at breakneck speeds to acquire boost still remained, as did the highly visceral crashes and accompanying car damage, but we quickly learned the playing field would be tilted in the player’s favor. Unlike the previous three iterations of the franchise, which sent you on a white-knuckle high-speed slalom through rush hour traffic, players could now slam into vehicles traveling in the same direction, using them as gigantic impromptu pinballs to destroy opponents.

This created a situation where you could merely sit in one lane for the entire duration of the race, mindlessly slam into traffic cars, and just sort of waltz your way to victory; AI cars unable to endure an endless stream of taxi cabs being flung at them. The whole draw and challenge of the Burnout series – lightning-fast battles through dense traffic – had been removed. No longer a dance between victory and death, Burnout became boring, with further complaints surrounding the game’s lack of a single race mode littering message boards at the time of release. Unless you managed to snag an Xbox 360 copy of the game, once you completed campaign mode, that was it.

FFB Calibration.jpgSlightly Mad Studios turn Force Feedback Configuration into literal rocket science

An entire novel could be written about the meteoric rise and subsequent fall of the original Project CARS, beginning life as a rogue crowdfunded campaign supported by a massive portion of the sim racing community before being quickly rushed out the door thanks to pressure from key investors and an impending schedule of heavy hitters that could easily steal its thunder in the fall. A visually stunning yet deeply flawed mass-market re-imaging of Race 07 for current generation consoles, Project CARS split the sim community in half; for some it was exactly what they were looking for out of a racing game, while others simply could not stop running into game-breaking glitches and elements that desperately needed more polish. Igniting a fanboy war that still rages on to this day, merely bringing up Slightly Mad Studios and/or Project CARS is asking for a message board brawl guaranteed to last several days.

Despite an abundance of supporters defending the title and aggressively lashing out against their rivals, those infuriated with the end product after years of hype scored a key point when stories of the game’s claustrophobic force feedback configuration menu began to circulate. Featuring no less than three pages of sliders and in-game written explanations that only the developers themselves understood, supporters were forced to write their own guides and upload their own presets for the PC version – as well as start a dedicated webpage for console owners – just for users to figure out how to make their plastic steering wheel rattle a certain way. Already facing an enormous wave of criticism for the unfinished nature of the game, many including myself pointed to the confusing and unnecessarily complicated force feedback menu as the proverbial cherry on top.

Though this entire section of configuration screens can be avoided – as I felt the Classic force feedback preset was more than adequate from what I wanted out of my toy steering wheel – the screens directly contradicted the studio’s mantra of by sim racers, for sim racers. Project CARS was supposed to be a game created with the direct help of the community, and no sim racing community would have openly asked for the most complicated force feedback screen in the history of sim racing, so it raised several questions about what was happening behind closed doors, and why the game was allowed to ship in such a questionable state.

Assetto Corsa fails to include Custom Lobbies on Consoles

A heavily discussed topic here at PRC.net, hardcore simulation nerds unable to shell out big bucks for a dedicated gaming PC were jacked to hear Assetto Corsa would be landing on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, especially after many online leagues in Project CARS and Forza Motorsport 6 were running into several issues with their software of choice and putting their championships on temporary hiatus, believing their organizations would be able to adopt Assetto Corsa as their new league platform and continue where they left off. While rumors circled that the team might end up shipping a broken mess of a game lacking key features and functionality console users were accustomed to, in the weeks leading up to launch, Kunos Simulazioni openly dismissed these rumors promised the console rendition of Assetto Corsa would be nearly identical to its PC counterpart.

Aside from crippling performance and artificial intelligence issues that made the game unplayable for a period of weeks, sim racers were horrified to discover that Kunos Simulazioni did not include any sort of custom lobby option in Assetto Corsa for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Racers were instead corralled into public rooms they had no control over – the vehicles and locations pre-determined by Kunos, sometimes omitting popular pieces of content altogether – forced to compete against random drivers.

Why might this be an issue, you might ask?

Leagues and private racing communities exist because the average online gamer in a public lobby knows jack shit about clean, competitive driving in a hardcore racing simulator. Unable to filter out little kids, trolls, and talentless hacks, online racing in Assetto Corsa reportedly became a cesspool of idiocy and frustration, with most owners opting to outright return the game, or take it out of their gaming rotation indefinitely. Leagues which planned to use Assetto Corsa as their new platform promptly went back to their previous game of choice, while those that stuck around eventually grew tired of the car selection and made their way to the official forums to demand more vehicles and tracks to be thrown into the rotation. Most of the time, Kunos refused to adhere to these demands for several weeks at a time, leading to situations where entire downloadable content packs would be released, only to be inaccessible in online events for those who were content with open lobby races.

When asked why custom lobbies did not make their way into the retail release, 505 Games responded with a generic “our priority is to release a stable game” statement.

No shit your priority should be to release a stable game. This is EVERY developer’s priority!

Those who voiced their frustrations on the official Assetto Corsa forum were promptly attacked by hordes of PC version owners for buying the objectively inferior version of the product, acting as if the console release was a sick joke played on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners, which long-time Assetto Corsa forum members were made aware of in advance. Console owners were also locked out of viewing certain PC-oriented forum sections, as if Kunos were actively trying to prevent console owners from discovering their version of the game was a half-assed cash grab to secure financial stability for the company. As of this writing, Kunos have still failed to implement custom lobbies into the game, a whopping nine months after release. Fanboys continue to demand frustrated console version owners to “be patient”, as if waiting nine months for a developer to add in a feature seen in all console driving games dating back to 2001 is a completely normal, rational thing to do.

rFactor 2 Requires a Season Pass for Online Play

Though this has since been rectified, there’s a reason rFactor 2 remained in stasis for several years, an obscure sequel failing to achieve even a tenth of the recognition as its older brother. While the original rFactor was a flexible modding paradise, helping to launch the careers of talented indie teams such as Reiza Studios while providing a killer, be-all end-all for online road racing, rFactor 2 was a disaster before the game exited the open beta stage. A poor selection of content, dated graphics, and woeful optimization saw one guinea pig from each online community purchase the title out of curiosity, only to run back to their respective gaming cliques and instruct their friends to stay well away from the pinnacle of eternal science projects.

Part of the reason so many sim racers refused to touch rFactor 2 with a ten foot pole was due to Image Space Incorporated willing to implement a Season Pass concept when it came to the game’s online servers.

At the time, EA Sports had devised a clever strategy to make money off of used game sales, which they felt had been biting into potential profits considering how many people were picking up Madden and FIFA second-hand with each passing year. EA Sports locked the online capabilities of each title behind a paywall for about fifteen dollars, though all new games would come bundled with a code on the back of the game manual allowing the first owner of the game to access online components for free. Upon returning the title to GameStop, and another individual purchasing the same exact game disc, EA Sports would eventually receive about $15 from that second purchase when the user inevitably wanted to play online against their friends.

It was a genius move by Electronic Arts, but considering you can’t walk into GameStop and see an entire shelf littered with second-hand rFactor 2 boxes, it didn’t make much sense in the context of a hardcore racing simulator that didn’t even offer a traditional boxed copy. Furthermore, those who did take a leap of faith and purchased the online subscription for rFactor 2 (offered in two formats; yearly and lifetime), discovered their cash merely went towards accessing the same server browser screen they once could open as part of the vanilla rFactor experience, although this time it was full of completely empty servers because not many were willing to adopt rFactor 2 as their software of choice. There was no online stat tracking, no populated dedicated servers, and no organized races like you’d see on iRacing – ISI charged extra to access a screen that you could previously enter and use as part of the base game.

It took five years and a change in developer to completely eradicate this bogus move. Had Image Space Incorporated not moved rFactor 2 to Valve’s Steam platform and offered discount after discount as an incentive for curious sim racers to at least give rFactor 2 a shot, we’d be talking about this game in the past tense.

Codemasters remove Cockpit View from Grid 2

While I began this countdown by implying Codemasters implementing the rewind functionality into Race Driver: Grid was a bad development call, the reality is that the rest of the game was a phenomenal simplistic take on the world of motorsports; just enough reality had been injected into a largely fictional world to provide something for everyone; the artificial intelligence put up a captivating fight against the player car – meaning experienced sim racers put off by the exaggerated driving model could at least be entertained by challenging duels, while the lighthearted team management aspect gave everybody an incentive to play through a large chunk of the game to see what would await at the very top. However, as waves of Codemasters fans grew excited over a surely impending sequel, they were instead given multiple off-road games, a licensed Formula One series, and a spin-off title centered around fireworks, crashing, and nitro boost.

Grid 2 was obviously stuck in development hell for an extended period of time, but upon the game’s inevitable reveal in the fall of 2012, most wished it would have remained behind closed doors for good. One of the first bits of information relating to Grid 2 revolved around the game’s omission of cockpit view, with Codemasters promising a casualized “action driving” experience. This obviously didn’t sit well with the target audience, as what idiot releases a racing game in the modern gaming era without an in-car camera, though what Codemasters did next shocked a lot of people.

Codemasters attempted to justify the removal of cockpit view by claiming only 5% of their fanbase used the traditional in-car vantage point, which led to pretty much all of us wondering what the hell they were smoking because this was the most retarded thing a racing game developer could say at that exact point in time. Supposedly, their own telemetry data had told them so few of their customers were making use of the in-car view that it wouldn’t be worth the extra development time to create for every car, but message board discussions quickly pointed to a different explanation; the new iteration of the Codemasters EGO engine, first seen in 2012’s DiRT Showdown, did not included standard high-detail cockpit view functionality. Not only had Codemasters totally lost the plot, many believed they were openly lying to their customers and saving face for accidentally failing to encode dedicated support for cockpit view into their new game engine.

As predicted, the sudden paradigm shift and loss of focus spread to other, more prominent areas of the game; Grid 2 tanked hard, and Codemasters recycled the assets in just under a year for Grid: Autosport, which sold even less despite being the objectively better product and bringing cockpit camera back into the mix.

Need for Speed partners with Michael Bay

Enlisting the help of Criterion Games saw Need for Speed return to the forefront in 2010 after several dismal years experimenting with radical changes in direction, though the revival of the Hot Pursuit name and the use of the Burnout engine did little in the long run to prevent the ship from sinking; a once-storied franchise was clearly on its way out. However, while Need for Speed was dropping cylinders left and right, Electronic Arts as a company was literally rolling in cash, and as a bizarre attempt to re-invent their flagship arcade racing franchise for a fifth time, award-winning movie director Michael Bay was brought on as a design consultant for what would become Need for Speed: The Run, released in the fall of 2011.

Playing through The Run a few weeks ago, a task that can be completed from start to finish in a matter of about three hours, there are two distinct elements working against each other from the time you start the application, until the precise moment you exit the game for the final time and delete the pirated Mr. DJ copy from your hard drive. Remove one of those elements completely – and you can obviously guess which one from the subtitle of this section – and it’s easy to see the potential this game had.

On paper, The Run is an extremely cool concept. Bringing the point-to-point stages of the very first Need for Speed into the 21st century, The Run is essentially a cannonball run simulator with a spectacular list of cars only Electronic Arts would be able to afford the licenses to. There’s something hilarious yet completely awesome about ripping through the gorgeous Yosemite national park in a 2011 BMW GT3 entry; your avatar stopping every so often to pump his own gas at a Shell station while a small crowd gathers, confused yet awestruck at what is unfolding in front of them. Blasting past traffic at 300 km/h on a rural North Dakota road as a summer storm lurks over the horizon and gradually approaches with each passing stage, hauling ass out of Las Vegas and into a pitch black desert, or dueling with rivals on the Chicago freeway – which actually feels as expansive and bland as a suburban freeway would – there are moments in The Run that are just flat-out cool, and it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But then the narrative elements take over. You aren’t a nameless, faceless driver trying to win races, earn cash, and customize your unique library of cars. You’re some asshole named Jack, the girl that locked you in the friendzone you thinks it’s funny to call you on Skype while you’re three wide for the lead, and the mob is after you because… reasons… Just as you’re starting to have fun with the raw driving element and take in the sights of the United States as seen through the Frostbyte engine, suddenly you’re subjected to on-foot quick time events that quite frankly have no place in any racing game, or being anally ravaged by a group of Porsche SUV’s scripted to destroy you – which turn into private helicopters later in the campaign. There are“boss characters”, but they’re in your rear-view mirror almost as quickly as you’re introduced to them, one asshole is constantly trying to get you killed – but we never find out why – and the final stage in the game is one long scripted sequence continuously wrestling control away from you.

The story is just too intrusive; I dig the concept of ripping from San Francisco to New York in this lucrative illegal street race, because the track design is both extremely creative and exceptionally diverse, the car selection is phenomenal, and I guess the driving physics are sort of okay for what we’re doing. However, the game takes a total nose dive when your avatar is rolling around on the streets of Las Vegas, karate-kicking police officers because you pressed the X button at the right moment, or trying to smash out windows of an busted police cruiser that just so happens to be sitting in the path of an oncoming freight train. The actual gameplay of The Run is a really cool throwback to the very first Need for Speed, but it’s like you’ve given your little brother the remote control to the television, and at random points he keeps flipping television inputs to some shitty early 2000’s action movie just to fuck with you.

Unfortunately, with these non-driving narrative/action sequences so intertwined to the core experience, The Run turns into this bipolar mess of a video game; dragging down what could have been a genuinely intriguing concept into something you torrent, finish, and remove from your hard drive in a single sitting.

Total Team Control marks the end of EA’s NASCAR perfection

Long-time PRC.net readers have most likely grown sick of my love for the officially licensed NASCAR titles of the early 2000’s. A series so good, a majority of the developers were eventually sent to work on the Madden NFL franchise, the EA Sports NASCAR games were ahead of their time, offering tons of unlockable goodies, alternate liveries, immensely detailed career modes, driving schools, bonus tracks, and basically an entire second game’s worth of shit to explore on top of a pretty decent on-track experience that still eclipses anything released over the past decade. After NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup implemented the Craftsman Truck, Busch Grand National, and Featherlite Modified touring series into the game – allowing NASCAR fans to basically climb the ranks from local tracks to the big leagues – expectations were through the roof for NASCAR 06: Total Team Control. We had no idea how EA would manage to improve on what was basically a perfect NASCAR game.

The short answer is that they didn’t; Total Team Control was a distinct regression. At the forefront of the ’06 rendition were the heavily advertised teammate controls, which you can see at the bottom right of the screenshot inserted above. The right analog stick was now a mobile command center, allowing you to issue legitimate team orders to your on-track teammates – which was sort of banned in NASCAR after it was exploited to the extremes in 2013 – and was intended to create a dynamic racing environment in which there was actually a purpose to having teammates, whether it be in the game’s extensive career mode, or just in traditional single event play while competing as your favorite driver.

The biggest problem was that unlike the exact same functionality in Need for Speed: Carbon a year later, it didn’t actually work. You could ask your teammates to block for you, but it never appeared to warrant any defensive driving on their behalf. You could ask them to draft with you at tracks such as Daytona or Talladega, but they would always get held up by cars in their immediate vicinity, and you were better off scooting around them. You could demand for them to move out of the way upon approaching them, or follow you through the pack of cars into clean air, but again, they weren’t actually capable of doing so. Sometimes, the game would actually notify you that your teammate was currently unable to follow your instructions, kind of nullifying any perceived reliance on team orders to begin with. So there was basically this whole major feature in the game that just sort of occupied a quarter of the screen and wasn’t functional in the slightest.

What you could do with this feature, was use it to swap over to your teammates, and drive their cars for an unlimited period of time, allowing you to start the race as Dale Earnhardt Jr., warp over to Martin Truex Jr., crash into everybody, swap back to Dale Earnhardt Jr., and win the race uncontested. There were no penalties for doing so regardless of what mode you were playing, and tutorials subtly encouraged you to do this, turning NASCAR 06 into this bizarre out-of-body spiritual possession simulator akin to Driver: San Francisco. Keep in mind, this was the number one new feature fans were supposed to look forward to, and we’re not talking about a story driven arcade racer, but a major officially licensed release centering around America’s most popular auto racing series. People were fucking livid at the time of release, and within four years, Electronic Arts lost the NASCAR license due to continuously declining sales.

Are there other titles and features I’ve forgotten? Probably. For every mainstream racing game that had mountains of spaghetti fall from its pockets in front a worldwide audience, there are ten others that have been lost to the sands of time, with bone-headed design choices chasing away all but the most rabid and apologetic of fanboys. However, the seven titles I’ve outlined above are what I feel are the most absurd displays of developer incompetence and poor decision making I’ve ever witnessed when just trying to hang out and enjoy an evening of virtual race cars.

Pray nobody tries to take it a step further.

Excessive Project CARS 2 Pre-Order Bonuses Draw Justified Criticism

I’m starting to miss the glory days of the Xbox Live Marketplace.

A controversial topic around these parts for blatantly obvious reasons, Slightly Mad Studios and Bandai-Namco have taken the wraps off an extensive array of pre-order goodies for their upcoming racing simulator Project CARS 2, and it’s an incredibly tough pill to swallow for even the most financially blessed members of our community. Venturing far beyond a simple car pack or two – turning a piece of software into some kind of pseudo collector’s itemgamers will have the option of forking over up to $460 USD for a copy of Project CARS 2 and various Easter baskets of gifts, including die-cast cars, hats, stickers, magazines for the Ultra Edition, which has been limited to 1000 copies.

No, you’re absolutely not forced to buy the most expensive bundle for access to every last bit of in-game content Slightly Mad Studios will produce for Project CARS 2 – so the completionists need not worry – but it’s the principle behind it that understandably has a lot of people up in arms. Excessive does not even begin to describe what Bandai-Namco have concocted, especially given the status of the Project CARS franchise; I feel this kind of gimmick is inappropriate, and represents the kind of pie-in-the-sky thinking infecting other portions of the sim racing landscape. This isn’t what people wanted to see, especially with no formal release date announced as of yet.

Sure, you can make the argument that this practice of outlandish pre-order bonuses is nothing new and there’s no reason to be frustrated as a gamer over this announcement; the guys at Forza Motorsport go out and do something similar for each release, and I can remember quite vividly Forza Motorsport 5 offered a similar Collector’s Edition with all sorts of oddities that weren’t really essential to the software at hand, whereas Codemasters had the cojones to list a one-off, $190,000 custom BAC Mono for sale alongside Grid 2, and Gran Turismo had a package nearly identical to what’s been revealed for Project CARS 2.

However, in at least two of the three examples I’ve provided above, the excessive material goods are reasonable given the external circumstances. Both Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport had well-established fanbases that justified some sort of fancy Easter basket; Forza is the definitive racing game on Microsoft’s home gaming console, while people who grew up playing Gran Turismo as teenagers in the 90’s now have children, wives, a mortgage, or in some cases professional racing careers. There’s sentimental value in the goodies that come with said special editions of either car collecting game.

Project CARS, on the other hand, is just one simulator that came out a few years ago, and aside from generally positive reviews written by mainstream publications who admitted in their writings they didn’t quite understand the game’s nuances, received a very mixed reception from the community it was primarily built for. So for a developer or a publisher to go out and push various special editions as if their first release was a smash hit and people are chomping at the bit to play the next game, when in reality the hardcore users their game was built for are openly shit talking the title on major sim racing websites, it makes it look like there’s a major disconnect between how the publisher thinks their game has been received, versus how their game is actually received. And that kind of disconnect has the potential to create even larger problems with the product itself – just look at Ubi-Soft’s Watch Dogs.

The silver lining is that to attain all of the in-game content Slightly Mad Studios will produce for Project CARS 2, you won’t have to shell out for any of these inappropriate special edition packages; in fact the prices of purchasing all post-release content is much cheaper than what you’d expect from Assetto Corsa or the Forza franchise – one positive in a literal sea of negatives.

However, as someone who was in high school during the Call of Duty craze, and whom had to carefully manage their Microsoft Points balance because not all of us had jobs at sixteen, I’m still disgusted by modern downloadable content practices – teenage me would be overwhelmed by the current climate. Though I’m open to hearing how post-release content guarantees job security for a studio, as they can continue to work and make money after a game lands on store shelves, from a customer standpoint, it’s bloody intrusive, and history has clearly displayed it isn’t necessary to the success of a game. The original Forza Motorsport, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, and GTR 2 didn’t require monthly bite-sized expansion packs to keep the developers afloat and occupied; in fact Need for Speed once gave away cars that didn’t make it into the full game for free.

When you can vividly remember these times, season passes are frustrating; it feels like developers are feeding us propaganda every time they try to explain the reasoning behind them. You can’t tell me Oceania was always at war with Eastasia, when I was old enough to comprehend eight years ago that Eastasia were are allies, in the same manner that you can’t tell me boatloads of DLC is necessary to stay afloat in the market when the market in 1999 was a fraction of what it is today, and teams seemed to do alright back then.

In some instances, you’re paying almost as much as you did for the game itself, just for an extra platter of content that really should have been in the software since the start, as seen in the notorious Driveclub (which is actually a very good game once you buy the other fucking half in little tiny pieces).

Maybe I’m old school and have fond memories of titles such as Project Gotham Racing, in which Bizarre Creations jammed so much into the vanilla experience that most hadn’t even seen everything the game had to offer by the time the lone piece of DLC was released for PGR 4, but teenage me would be overwhelmed by current DLC practices, and many gamers are still as financially stable as teenage me – so I sympathize with them. I want a return to how things used to be; load the software up with as much shit as possible, then ship the product. Make my $60 go somewhere, not merely be a ticket to spend an additional $40.

Yet I’ll also jump sides and play devil’s advocate, because there’s a certain irony in all of this.

Unlike most mass-market racers, Project CARS 2 is a hardcore simulator. These games aren’t really built for children who have been allowed to run wild with mommy’s credit card; we’re sort of in that weird “adult hobby” area, though with the enjoyment of racing simulators being primarily reliant on skill means the occasional whiz kids can show up and validate their spot in the community (or just be annoying little shit cunts).

Take a journey through YouTube, and the people playing the original Project CARS, as well as a diverse roster of competing simulators such as iRacing, DiRT Rally, or Assetto Corsa, and it’s easy to discover triple monitor setups, dedicated racing rigs, expensive aftermarket pedals, $800 graphics cards, and $1,600 USD steering wheels as being par for the course. This is before the $12 per car cost of iRacing, Assetto Corsa’s constant stream of DLC, or the funny money conversion required to purchase items in RaceRoom Racing Experience’s in-game shop.

So for these people to turn around and suddenly complain that a season pass is too much is kind of hilarious.

But is the criticism surrounding these multiple pre-order packages justified? I believe it is. I think we all knew a season pass was coming, it’s just the way gaming happens to be in 2017, and no matter how much I – or we – cry about it, we’ll be thrown endless metrics and propaganda-like reasoning as to how it’s a necessary evil. If you’re a sim racer and really invested into the hobby, you’re already spending thousands on gear and content for other games, so at some point you have to realize there’s a certain irony in having a meltdown over just another game announcing some kind of post-release DLC plan.

However, I will say the exponentially pricier packages are where I too, like many, draw the line, and I think a lot of the outrage at places like RaceDepartment is 100% justified in this regard. I don’t really care that they’re optional; it’s the principle behind them. Project CARS is a brand new franchise where collector’s goodies don’t really have the kind of weight or sentimental value that a similar Gran Turismo or Forza package would – which is why people buy them in the first place. Bandai-Namco pushing these elaborate gift bags gives off the impression that there’s a disconnect between how they think the title was received, versus how it was actually received, and that can be a bit frightening if that mentality is allowed to blossom in the future.

Engines, Not eSports, Should be the Focus at McLaren

It seems we can’t go more than a few months without some sort of bizarre eSports initiative launched by a company with more financial capital than logistical prowess. Initially teased a few days ago by none other than one of the biggest and most prestigious supercar brands in the history of the automobile, McLaren have officially taken the wraps off an eSports competition they’re dubbing the World’s Fastest Gamer; a cross-platform, cross-software championship where the winner receives the lucrative job of being “a Formula One simulator driver for McLaren” – whatever that means.

On the surface, it’s an impressive trend-setting gesture by an established automotive brand to dive head first into the world of eSports while their rivals merely roll out generic motion simulators and VR booths at major auto shows around North America in an effort to remain “hip” with the “kidz”, but unfortunately it’s also incredibly easy to poke holes in what McLaren are claiming to offer, and I can’t help but think that someone, somewhere, got taken for a ride with this endeavor.

The promotional video immediately acknowledges that unlike many other major pieces of software with a prominent eSports scene, racing simulators don’t have an overall ranking to determine who is the absolute best virtual driver on the planet, with the community split between about eight different games across no less than three different gaming platforms, so at least their knowledge of where the genre stands from a competitive aspect is surprisingly well-informed. However, we then learn that McLaren will also be taking into account mobile gamers who indulge in lighthearted titles such as EA’s Real Racing 3 – a highly contradictory move considering McLaren have billed this primarily as a hardcore simulator-oriented competition.

But then I am only left with more questions than answers. The games that will be featured in McLaren’s worldwide competition haven’t been formally announced, which is odd to say the least. Within the first hour of news in regards to Formula E’s Las Vegas event hitting the internet, we had a download link to the custom-built rFactor 2 mod and a few of the tracks they would be using for the qualification process, allowing participants to turn initial shakedown laps before news of the tournament had circulated across all major sim racing websites. And in terms of smaller championships, such as the CARS eSports Tour – officially sanctioned by the real life late model stock car series of the same name – the announcement of iRacing being used as the simulator of choice was revealed during the initial reveal. So it’s pretty suspicious that McLaren of all people are coming out with promotional material regarding their very own worldwide eSports competition, but they can’t even tell you what games are being used.

Not only that, how do you pitch some sort of series like this to a television network – which is probably the way this is going – when there will be several pieces of competing software on display at one time? Though I may be incorrect on this front, television shows may possibly fall under a different set of licensing sanctions than outlets such as YouTube; what happens if iRacing, Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, or Forza come out and say “hold up, we didn’t give you permission to use our product in this manner” – especially if they’re all going to be competing for television time against bitter rivals, or in Gran Turismo’s case, against an identical show with basically the same premise as what McLaren have planned.

It’s a bit of a licensing nightmare, only fueled by the fact that no games have been announced – just the overall purpose of the competition.

There’s also the question of just who will partake in McLaren’s competition, as the details they outline in the introduction trailer and incredibly vague and kind of defeat the whole purpose of a world wide sim racing competition. Though World’s Fastest Gamer is billed as this massive cross-platform, multi-simulator competition, it’s revealed about halfway through the video that six of the ten finalists will be hand-picked by “gaming experts” – which means if McLaren have roped in a prominent sim racing personality such as Darin Gangi to help oversee their operation, it’ll basically be just a bunch of iRacing road guys tossed into the fray, so Olli Pahkala, Greger Huttu, Bono Huis, Pablo Lopez, Martin Kronke, and Hugo Luis – spoiler alert, there’s your field.

Only four individuals will make it into the actual showcase element of the competition by winning the yet-to-be-announced qualification rounds, so in my opinion it’s more of a marketing gimmick to just toss the same cluster of iRacers who were already in the spotlight into yet another publicity stunt akin to the Visa Vegas eRace, rather than a true worldwide competition where some outsider has a genuine shot at immortality – or at least a prize that can buy lot of cocaine and some expensive hookers in Vegas.

Yet it’s what McLaren are planning to award the winner of the World’s Fastest Gamer that makes this all ridiculously hard to believe it will manifest in the intended fashion: what exactly constitutes as a “Formula One simulator driver for McLaren?” Do you get the official privilege of competing in iRacing events with a custom McLaren vehicle livery, and the tag of “McLaren F1 eSports” as your team name? If so, that’s all a bit pointless; this is something you can do yourself with Photoshop and by merely filling out the name field like a cheeky cunt – you don’t exactly need McLaren’s blessing for it, though if you take it too far and actually start to believe your own role-playing adventures, we’ll write an article on you because it’s funny as fuck.

But okay, let’s say this is a paid position at the McLaren offices, routinely giving their professional grade F1 simulator a shakedown. What would be the point? What would McLaren have to gain from some teenager who won an online contest turning laps in their Formula One simulator, and why would they actually put someone on the payroll for it as a legitimate job for twelve months, when data from professional drivers – who actually drive the real life, physical McLaren F1 cars – would be about a trillion times more suited to give proper feedback? Like, just think about this, after the first week, what would Bono Huis or Greger Huttu actually be able to help McLaren’s engineers with that Fernando Alonso or Stoffel Vandoorne can’t? Factor in McLaren’s current engine crisis with Honda, and I can’t image a multi-million dollar Formula One team would be all that happy with some random sim racer awkwardly stumbling around the offices asking for his daily go in the simulator, while the team scurries around trying to save their very real Formula One program from imminent disaster.

Look, McLaren’s heart is in the right place, they see this whole eSports craze and what it means to so many people around the world, and they’re like “alright, let’s do it.”

But unfortunately, the logistics aren’t on the same level as their aspirations. McLaren have announced they’re holding some major sim racing competition, but they can’t even tell us the games that will be used, the selection process doesn’t actually rely all that much on the actual competition aspect, but rather a “gaming expert” pulling names out of a hat, and the “grand prize” doesn’t even make sense when you consider what the vaguely described job title might entail. I’m under the belief somebody got taken for a ride, and we’ll find out exactly who, and by whom, as more details become available.