We Need Ghost Drivers at Press Events

1Now that the hysteria from the Project CARS 2 reveal has slightly subsided, I feel it’s time to finally to address a topic of conversation that was brought up by none other than the YouTube personalities it affected themselves. I have to admit, I failed pretty hard at addressing the point of discussion during its original period of relevance; I originally believed it would be an isolated incident that nobody would be stupid enough to repeat, but alas, two weeks later, here we are.

Both Project CARS 2 and DiRT 4 are easily the two most anticipated racing simulators of the 2017 calendar year. The latter serves as the ultimate culmination of an entire decade spent turning the Colin McRae Rally series into a mass-market off-road package, while the former promises to substantially improve on a product many hardcore sim racers felt didn’t live up to the monumental expectations and tornado of hype surrounding it. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in off-road racing, you’ve most likely wanted to know more about DiRT 4 since Codemasters hinted that they were moving on to bigger and better things from their 2015 release, DiRT Rally, and if you’re sick of Forza Motorsport and/or Gran Turismo spending too much time catering to their casual audience, you’ve probably been curious about the sequel to Project CARS as well.

It’s an objectively exciting time for hardcore simulation nerds, as rarely do the stars align in such a fashion where two major driving games are set to be released in a very short period of time, each of them focusing on a different auto racing discipline so as to not directly compete with each other. There won’t be any Project CARS 2 versus DiRT 4 debates because they each bring something totally unique to the table, so there’s really no reason you can’t have both on your shelf.

However, when the two mass-market racing simulators were unveiled to the general public for the very first time, each of them managed to share a very frustrating element; members of the gaming press tasked with covering the games lacked so much composure behind the wheel, us sim racers found ourselves clicking away from the videos almost as soon as they loaded despite waiting months for any nugget of information.

2Though their execution varied significantly, Slightly Mad Studios and Codemasters both invited a plethora of video game journalists and YouTube personalities to show off trial versions of their latest products. Codemasters loaded up a private room with various demo kiosks running an early build of DiRT 4, whereas Slightly Mad Studios invited as many accomplished journalists as they could to a Mercedes Benz testing facility in Sweden, allowing the press to test-drive a flock of German sedans on a frozen lake bed before migrating to a much warmer establishment for trial runs on the game.

It’s a pretty normal thing for bigger developers to do; though it has the potential to create a major conflict of interest if the review scores suspiciously skyrocket after an elaborate all-expenses paid vacation. Developers gather up a flock of journalists from major gaming outlets such as IGN and Gamespot, introduce their new game in a very controlled setting, and the developer then gets to see their game introduced to a combined audience of millions – a portion of which will eventually grow interested enough to buy the software – while each publication receives a nice bump in website traffic and advertisement revenue.

But when footage from both events finally surfaced on YouTube after the various embargoes were lifted, it wasn’t the happiest of times. The overwhelming majority of footage which made its way to YouTube as the first ever gameplay footage of a brand new video game revealed just hours earlier was beyond excruciating to watch for anyone even remotely interested in these two titles to begin with.

20-mphA pair of gamers flying under the name of Erased Citizens uploaded a fifteen minute uncut sample of DiRT 4’s raw gameplay to YouTube just moments after DiRT 4 was officially announced by Codemasters themselves, but they immediately received widespread criticism for several instances such as the one depicted in the screenshot above. The very first gameplay the world had seen of DiRT 4 was not of a talented driver flying through the Australian outback at a breakneck pace – showcasing the increase in simulation value Codemasters had worked tirelessly on since the release of DiRT Rally two years earlier –  but instead of a driver who managed to crash his car traveling at school zone speeds, or at least close to them. In another, shorter video accompanied by a proper voice-over, they also refer to a late 1990’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution – a factory-backed WRC entry that brought home several World Championships under the command of Tommi Makinen – as “a car that has been kind of modded for rally”, clearly bringing into question why they were even invited to a private press event for a hardcore rally simulator in the first place.

where-are-you-goingOn the tarmac side of the virtual motorsports spectrum, many privileged journalists who were privy to trying out Project CARS 2 early struggled to keep the nose of the car settled, with inexperienced sim racers blowing braking points, slamming into other cars, and having only a vague understanding of Fuji Speedway’s optimal driving line. The pinnacle of this ineptitude came when the team at PlayStation Access described online league races as “Matches”, further showcasing their complete unfamiliarity with auto racing. Again, YouTube comments begged each media outlet to find someone who could drive or just discuss the game with at least some background knowledge on the subject, though despite Slightly Mad’s own Yorkie065 putting down a pair of semi-competent laps at the ice racing facility away from the eyes of mainstream outlets, most had already seen enough.

Two games hardcore sim racers have waited months for any bit of info to satisfy their anticipation, and they’re clicking away from the footage almost as quickly as they clicked on it.

Oops.

With angry comments regarding the obvious lack of driving skill and the pair’s inherent omission of basic rally racing knowledge taking precedence over any discussion about the actual game on display, Erased Citizens eventually put out a response video to the immensely negative feedback on their exclusive DiRT 4 footage, titled “Does Your Opinion Count If You Aren’t Good at Games?” In a clip lasting about six minutes, the duo try and argue that you don’t need to be an expert about the video games you’re covering when in the role of a journalist, and that games are merely to be enjoyed by anybody who wants to play them, before basically brushing off their own ineptitude and poking fun at their viewers for expecting any sort of decent coverage to begin with.

Now I’m not really sure why you’d want to laugh about being bad at your job and start criticizing your audience for merely wanting proper insight regarding a game they’d like to know more about, but let’s break down their argument instead of calling them names like most already have.

dirt4_largeI actually agree with their points about some games not requiring any background knowledge or skill to talk about, as certain genres are designed in a way where people of all skill levels can show up and have a good time.

Yes, you can use Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode to host semi-legitimate street races with knock-off Group C cars based on the Mazda 787B, but you can also roam the fictional rendition of Los Angeles at your own discretion and just sort of blow shit up whenever you feel like it – and it’s still an incredible amount of fun. iD Software’s DOOM series is another good example; I’m honestly not as good at first person shooters as I was during the Modern Warfare days when basically every kid at school owned a copy of the game and tried to make it big on GameBattles, but what I lack in aiming accuracy doesn’t necessarily detract from the actual run-and-gun experience; it’s still one hell of a thrill ride with a cleverly crafted backstory.

However, auto racing is a bit different. Racing simulations are primarily skill-based, competitive video games centered around what’s very clearly a skill-based, competitive sport away from the computer monitor. These games are only at their best when playing them in their intended fashion. Unlike Grand Theft Auto, where you can just sort of muck around and the game will still be every bit as compelling as flying through the title’s high-production value campaign mode, racing games aren’t very fun if you’re not good at them. The AI isn’t designed to play bumper cars, they’re designed to race. The damage model isn’t designed to split your car down to its last molecule after a heavy accident, it’s designed to merely exist and convey authentic mechanical damage behavior under realistic scenarios. And the driving physics, the most important part of the simulator, are created to nail the art of driving a race car to its limit of adhesion. If you can’t bring the car to that point – or at least somewhat close to it – you’ll never understand what makes these games so special to the people who play them.

Being a skill-based game also means that watching other people play these games – or better yet, talk about them – is only enjoyable or informative if the people know their shit. You wouldn’t have a guy who can’t skate reviewing a hockey stick, a guy who’s never played organized football try to break down why the Atlanta Falcons lost Super Bowl LI on a technical level, nor would you task someone who can’t play the guitar with reviewing a new model of guitar, because there’s no possible way it could be helpful or informative to those who genuinely want the solid information you’re claiming to advertise.

And it’s the same when it comes to racing games. These pieces of software aren’t designed for mass market appeal, they’re created for hardcore auto racing fans who understand the minute technical aspects of a very difficult and demanding sport. In the very same it was extremely difficult for European football fans to watch Ali Dia stumble around the pitch for a match, it’s hard for auto racing fans to watch somebody who sucks at driving a race carwhether that car be a real piece of equipment, or a virtual rendition on a computer monitorbecause it’s a skill based competition where a primary portion of the spectacle comes with watching someone who’s exceptionally talented at what they do.

This is why it’s important to have somebody who knows what they’re talking about – and good at the games itself – cover skill-based pieces of entertainment. There’s no comprehensive story to get sucked into over in our neck of the woods; driving a race car is a skill, and if you suck, it’s not very enjoyable to watch. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s also not very informative, therefore making your entire coverage pointless if you can’t deliver on either of the two concepts.

dirt3_game_2012-06-03_21-14-08-578However, I will say it’s retarded on the part of the publisher, such as Bandai-Namco or Codemasters themselves, to stop inviting these plebians to private press events. Listen, I know a lot of you guys love what PRC represents and are already advocating for certain developers to have us at their little shindigs in place of these clowns, but the reality is that the traffic numbers we produce compared to a mammoth gaming entity such as IGN or GameSpot would make that proposal utterly ridiculous. From a raw business standpoint, I’d want my game covered by website boasting an audience of several millions, rather than a website known for ripping everything apart and only bringing 650,000 individuals to the table.

So the compromise I offer to keep everybody happy is quite simple.

Keep doing these little events with the same people. Let them show up, learn about the new game, allow them talk to the developers and the other miscellaneous individuals appearing on behalf of the developer to ask questions for their inevitable articles… Business as usual. It’s their job to attend these events, let them keep their job and do their thing. It’s a numbers game, and they’ve got the numbers.

But when it comes time to capture footage for each individual outlet, allow them to put their hand up and say “I’m not very good at race car games, can someone sub for me?”  Hell, when you email out the event information in the first place, boldly state that “if you’re not experienced with race car games and the task of capturing decent gameplay footage for your publication feels a bit daunting, we will have several ghost drivers on-site if you wish to obtain the best possible gameplay clips to compliment your coverage.”

Easy.

Plug in the capture card, throw Ben Collins, Nic Hamilton, or even Yorkie065 into the seat instead of the bozos from PlayStation access who can barely keep the AMG GT3 in a straight line, and press record. Everyone wins. The media outlets still have articles to publish and videos to upload based on their time at the press events, you as a developer still get your game out to an audience of several million, but the content of said videos consists of people tearing up a track and showing off the game performing at its absolute best – therefore engaging viewers and getting them excited about the product rather than pushing them to navigate away from the video – instead of loons stumbling around a virtual world they obviously can’t comprehend and clearly have zero background knowledge or interest in it.

It’s that simple.

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One Million Cash Prizes

introAnother month crossed off the calendar warrants yet another awkward sim racing startup. A company flying under the acronym of SRTC have recently taken the covers off of their attempt to steal a bit of iRacing’s thunder with organized online events on a set schedule for large cash prizes, but the reception has been slightly less than spectacular. The folks over at the Sim Racing Track Championship organization are currently boasting a hyperbolic online hub for Studio 397’s rFactor 2 simulation software, but the website has been crafted in such an amateur manner and makes such outlandish claims that it’s the absolute last company you’d feel comfortable handing over your credit card information to. Advertising cash prizes in excess of one million dollars for various rFactor 2 online races – somehow rivaling the Formula E Visa Vegas eRace payout despite no listed affiliate sponsors – we can’t officially label this place as a scam, but this is probably a scam.

Please keep your credit card in your wallet.

pricingWith iRacing members outside of North America already complaining about VAT taxes adding a few dollars extra to each online purchase, SRTC has basically ignored the complaints of the entire sim racing landscape in 2017, offering a tiered membership level which restricts access to certain races based on the amount you hand over, with the top level prizes requiring a whopping monthly fee of $42 USD – or just over $250 USD for the entire season. Quadrupling the price of iRacing for an unproven service is asking a bit much, and I’m shocked that people gave this pricing breakdown the thumbs up.

The sites’ flashy artwork promotes absurdly high payouts for either one-off glorified public lobby races or season-long championships, with basic rule packages elaborating upon how prizes will be awarded across all ten splits of drivers, but at no point on the website can you find proper standings to determine just how many people are already signed up for SRTC and participating in the organized races. There are no championship points tallies or even previous results from one-off events; the website is instead constructed in basic HTML format that basically screams middle school computer class project – certainly not the way to represent a company supposedly ready to hand out thousands of dollars to accomplished sim racers.

prizesMost pages list off a number of generic events with default rFactor 2 content and a very basic set of rules, but they don’t even convey how many drivers have already signed up for each event, nor do they list the exact time the races are set to go off – only the date and length of the event. How are you supposed to register for an event and set aside an evening to race with no publicized start time?

The Top 200 Leaderboard portal, which is advertised to rank the two hundred best sim racers in the world under the SRTC sanctioning body, instead links to yet another rules page along with a Google Document to sign up for the leaderboard… Which isn’t really how a leaderboard screen works, but okay… Winners will supposedly be invited to Barcelona, Spain for a “Sim Racing Super Show” in September of 2017, but there doesn’t even appear to be a breakdown as to how drivers are ranked, or where this event will take place… or… Much of anything.

Promotional material continues to mention the one million cash prizes figure, but the organization’s own preview video is basically a random hodgepodge of real world auto racing clips, an areal shot of Ferrari’s amusement park in Abu Dhabi, grid girls blowing kisses at the camera, and Las Vegas, Nevada, even though by the site’s own admission, you’ll supposedly be flown out to Barcelona. None of it makes any sense whatsoever, or bothers to convey on a basic level what SRTC actually provides as an online racing service, nor how it works.

Now getting into the truly perplexing stuff, there doesn’t even appear to be a members only area that would come standard with purchasing a membership to the organization; as a non-member, you’re free to start prowling through the list of events, and clicking on one takes you to a very basic Google Document page, where you’re asked to manually input all your information for the team to sort through when signing up for a race – including your membership level. These guys are asking you to pay $42 USD per month for advanced level membership to an online sim racing service, when being a member doesn’t actually warrant anything of value. You have free reign whether you sign up or not, and the important bits you want to learn more about, are non-existent.

How do you know these guys are even tracking your information if they’re asking you to input your membership level manually?

register-racesDigging as deep as I possibly can just to discover any piece of information I can find on these guys, there appear to be just two races conducted under the SRTC banner; a pair of four hour endurance events with eight total cars. These races are not advertised anywhere on the SRTC homepage, and due to the complete lack of information on the website, the results of which can not be obtained in the first place. The only place you can view the on-track product SRTC offers is through the BenjxMotors YouTube channel, the videos buried underneath Forza Motorsport 6 and Project CARS footage. Most of these videos have no more than 200 to 300 views.

But yeah, million dollars and stuff.

only-8-carsThe SRTC organization suspiciously continue to ask for your credit card number with their sim racing affiliate program, which promises commission for referrals, as well as promotion of your brand through their sim racing events. I find these guys claiming they’ll help promote your entity to be particularly hilarious, as their own website doesn’t even list championship standings, individual race results, nor YouTube footage of past events, their own YouTube account features one generic promotional video and boasts a whopping sixteen subscribers, while the only two races under the SRTC namesake are covered by a non-ESL YouTube channel that struggles to get 300 views on each individual video. Despite all of these elements which would easily deter affiliates and sponsors, SRTC promise a minimum commission of $150 USD or more – though they don’t even explain how to earn commission from them, just to contact them through another strange Google form.

srtcRecapping this shit is going to be absolutely barbaric, but I’ll try my best.

You can pay a premium price to sign up for the highest level of membership over at SRTC – a brand new online racing platform supposedly offering extremely large cash prizes for races against people around the world in rFactor 2 – but there’s no members area in which you can login to the service. There’s a video explaining the website offers one million cash prizes, but very little to tell you what the outlet is all about. There are indeed a list of races you can sign up for, but none of the races come with a posted start time, meaning you don’t even know what timezone the website has been set to.

There’s a Top 200 leaderboard page, but there’s no actual posted leaderboard in sight. The promotional video shows Las Vegas as a potential travel destination, but the alleged event is listed to take place in Barcelona. There are no standings or driver statistics to show you who is using the service (and what level of a member they are), but there’s a $42 USD monthly fee to become a platinum driver. Registering for an event consists of filling in a Google form that could have been created by a teenager even though the website boasts a steady stream of four-figure payouts. Only two races have been conducted under the SRTC sanctioning body, but they aren’t even mentioned on the official website – instead hiding out within an obscure YouTube channel that broadcasts races in Francais despite the website being published in English. Oh, and if you want to become an affiliate of SRTC who makes commission off of referrals, you certainly can, but it doesn’t say what how the referral process works – only to fill out another Google form.

Be safe out there. Do not give Sim Racing Track Championship your money. After checking these guys out on LiveRacers, and ignoring the multiple AI bots used to test the functionality of their server, there appear to be just six people who have put their credit card information at risk – only three of them turning a single lap on the server they paid a premium to access.

ai-driversI’ve also been unable to find results of either Endurance race supposedly contested. I really hope they didn’t try to pass off an AI race as a live event, but sillier things have happened in this hobby.

Crazy Sponsorship Proposal

pizzaA little just ain’t enough for sim racing Twitch personality JJacoby88. First making headlines in both a positive and negative fashion for constructing the most elaborate faux cockpit our hobby has ever seen via the use of numerous payday loans and credit cards, the twenty six year old Domino’s Pizza delivery driver from Georgia has raised the bar yet again when it comes to going out and executing ideas that probably should have been confined to the comfort of his own private Teamspeak server. JJacoby88’s latest YouTube video, in which he addresses his small audience of Twitch followers and fellow iRacers, now openly seeks sponsorship for the 2017 auto racing season in an effort to drive for a Super Late Model program; lightweight cars that send upwards of 630 horsepower to the rear tires, and are intended for highly experienced drivers only a season or two away from competing in televised NASCAR events.

In short, a random sim racer in his late twenties is basically going out and asking for donations to campaign a car just as powerful – if not more so – than the GT class entries you saw competing during the 24 Hours of Daytona this past weekend, citing his elaborate home simulator setup as his racing experience.

The video itself – which comes in at just under four minutes in length – is incredibly difficult to sit through for a number of reasons. JJacoby88 begins the video dressed in his pristine custom-made Domino’s Pizza fire suit with a freshly baked pizza on the roof of his sim rig, before conducting a series of mock post-race interviews “practicing” for a multitude of scenarios – such as an early retirement or a podium finish – as a sort of “proof” that he’s the kind of personality companies would want to represent them in a public environment. The latter half of the sponsorship proposal includes a set of ridiculously clumsy commercials of sorts, which make heavy use of in-game footage from the iRacing simulator and had me legitimately covering my eyes due to an overwhelming wave of Fremdschämen. I’d love to sit here and say this is one of the best satirical sim racing videos ever conceived, but the description of the video indicates the exact opposite; this was a serious pitch to try and land JJacoby88 a legitimate ride in a car most real-life race car drivers struggle to keep under themselves, let alone a random dude from iRacing.

This guy’s entire pitch is “I play video games, so I should have a shot at driving a category of stock cars typically reserved for the best semi-professional drivers in the country.”

“Hey, guys! If you have a seat that I can fill, I’ll take it! Or, if you are available to sponsor a super late model, I have a program I can get into if you’re willing (please e-mail me at JJacoby88@Hotmail.com).”

iracingsim64-2015-02-13-11-14-07-14-1024x576Many will immediately point the finger at a spectrum disorder of some sorts causing this otherwise average twenty six year old iRacer to believe playing computer games gives him enough valid experience to be placed on par with regional race car drivers looking for a seat, but I beg to differ. The content from JJacoby88 is simply too composed, focused, and concrete to be the result of any mental deficiencies. Instead, I’m pointing the finger at the iRacing community itself for feeding simple-minded individuals with an abundance of misinformation and wishful thinking, to the point where a portion of the game’s userbase is utterly convinced stock car teams will recruit them from a video game.

After all, there’s a reason we joke about iRacers believing NASCAR scouts are spectating random late-night C-Fixed races on the service.

nascar-xs-richmond-ii-2015-josh-berry-jr-motorsports-chevroletRegistering six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts over the past three seasons of competition, Josh Berry of JR Motorsports – Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s personal race team – is an avid sim racer in his spare time. While he primarily calls the iRacing servers home, during the height of NASCAR Racing 2003 Seasons’ popularity in the mid 2000’s, Berry was once a member of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s private online racing league, the Dirty Mo’ Posse, or DMP for short. The popular myth circulating within certain iRacing circles, is that Berry was hand-picked by Dale Earnhardt Jr. himself for his virtual performance in NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, and literally handed a real life race car as a reward for his prolonged online success in the legendary Papyrus simulator. This, coupled with highly publicized contests such as GT Academy – in which Polyphony Digital claim winners have no prior auto racing experience despite this being an outright lie – has caused a portion of the iRacing community to believe senpai will notice them and that they’re somehow entitled to a six hundred horsepower race car just for being successful within a video game.

As you can probably guess, there is a significant portion of the story these rabid iRacing members are not being told. Josh Berry was an employee of JR Motorsports dating back almost to its inception as a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series team, and worked his way up through the company over a period of about a decade to the role of part-time driver. Yes, he was obviously friends with Dale Earnhardt Jr. outside of work, and yes, they sure as hell played video games together, but at the end of the day, the guy was an employee of a professional auto racing team who knew his way around a race car, paid his dues within the company, and forked over some of his own cash when asked – hardly a random kid plucked from a private NASCAR Racing 2003 Season league as the myth suggests.

Unfortunately, that side of the story is rarely told to the iRacing members who need to hear it the most. The result is an extremely awkward auto racing equivalent of playing street ball with your friends, and hoping LeBron James will walk by the court and give you a try-out with the Cleveland Cavaliers; iRacing nerds are now publicly humiliating themselves on YouTube, totally convinced that this is their ticket out of being a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver.

zsNow I want to take a step back and actually evaluate JJacoby88’s sponsorship pitch, because while it’s easy to rip on the guy for having his head in the clouds and being misled by a community full of misinformation and wishful thinking, it’s much more professional and reasonable to sit down and assess why this whole endeavor would be silly for any wealthy company to take him up on.

23830315654_48c86a639e_zFirst, there is video footage of JJacoby88 admitting his massive racing simulator setup was funded with payday loans and alternate credit cards. If I were a sponsor contemplating dropping five figures on putting some guy from iRacing in a top level race car, my first question would be to find out how financially responsible he is. I’d want to make sure that money wouldn’t be squandered or abused, but instead put towards their racing operation in a meaningful and resourceful way. If your driver is willing to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars of money he doesn’t have on an expensive toy for his bedroom, risking his overall financial security to play a video game, how can I be sure my money would be allocated properly in the real thing?

Next, while Jacoby may be somewhat proficient in iRacing, all mechanical engineers know modern simulations are an approximation of real life vehicle behavior, and they’re not always one hundred percent accurate. As a sponsor, how could I be confident this guy wouldn’t tear up race cars week after week – or worse, seriously hurt himself behind the wheel – if the simulation software doesn’t properly replicate what it’s like to drive a real race car at competition speeds? Aside from my own personal complaints about iRacing’s tire model, any average team member who can use Google would be able to see social media comments discussing something called New Tire Model Version 7 and think “gee, it must not be very realistic if they’ve had to go through seven versions of it.”

That’s red flag number two.

1485982844684Third, and arguably the most controversial (or hilarious, depending on your stance), would be Jacoby’s obvious decline in performance after purchasing his new simulator setup. While he claims that the preposterous simulation center within his man-cave has made the driving experience exponentially more immersive, his driving performance has tanked significantly since adopting the full chassis setup and virtual headset, falling almost 2000 skill points beginning at the precise moment he unveiled his simulator to the general public. If this sim racer cannot properly adapt to his own private simulator, as a sponsor, how can I be sure he’ll suddenly adapt to a six hundred horsepower race car, and a field of competitors that will kick the shit out of him in the pits if he collects them in a wreck?

These are all very real questions that sponsors would ask.

gibson_guitars_by_caffeinatedpixels-das65qiLastly, I want to focus on a topic that was a bit overlooked by our readers the previous time we covered JJacoby88’s pursuit of stock car racing stardom here at PRC.net: the role his parents are playing in all of this. JJacoby88 is not a pasty white kid with an undying love for NASCAR, he’s a twenty six year old man who appears to be more than capable of holding down a full time job at a company where you’re forced to interact with a shitload of different people throughout the day, nearly ruling out any claims of crippling spectrum disorders whatsoever.

I would like to know why his parents are willingly helping to humiliate their son with the use of social media, rather than teaching him this is very strange, and very wrong? It takes maybe two minutes of research for a grown adult to realize that awkwardly citing video games as previous auto racing experience – and your adult son dressing in a fake firesuit with the insignia of his minimum wage job – will not result in a flurry of semi-professional stock car teams sending you rookie contracts to drive a race car more powerful than most street-legal Ferrari’s or Corvettes sight unseen. I’m perplexed as to how not one grown adult within the immediate family has said “stop, this is really weird”, but instead continued to help this guy make an ass of himself in front of an international audience by assisting with the creation of these comprehensively delusional YouTube videos.

This goes for the several iRacing members close to him as well, who may have egged him on or even fed him ideas for this pitch; for a supposed ultra-hardcore group of auto racing fans who have in some cases followed stock car racing for decades and should know how the hierarchy works, it’s asinine for them to now believe a random computer nerd putting himself out there asking for a Super Late Model and citing “iRacing” as his experience is anything other than batshit crazy.

 

Smacking the Console Children

analisis-assetto-corsa_6As the classic saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished”, and the same appears to ring true on the official forums dedicated to discussing the popular multi-platform racing simulator Assetto Corsa. Ever since it was originally announced that the independent Italian driving game from Kunos Simulazioni would be arriving on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, there’s been a very tangible rift between hardcore PC sim racers which have adopted the title as their simulator of choice, and curious console gamers looking for a much more serious alternative to Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo. It’s a rivalry that doesn’t make much sense on paper, as more individuals abandoning mass-market military shooters in favor of something significantly more complex is one of the easiest ways to help the genre of driving games grow after a noticeable regression over the past five years, but this hasn’t stopped elitist PC sim racers from relentlessly attacking an audience with the potential to be every bit as passionate about these games as they already are.

As we’ve covered countless times before here on PRC.net, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of Assetto Corsa are vastly different games compared to what you can purchase from Valve’s Steam Marketplace. While the PC version is treated as this divine entity within several sections of the official forums constructed by Kunos Simulazioni to discuss their game, the Console Lounge paints a much different picture of the software – users frequently complain that features found in the PC version are non-existent, and what is present, isn’t always functional. To evoke a bit of colorful language, it feels as if there was an elaborate marketing campaign behind a shovelware title which aimed to sucker in as many customers as possible, and now those customers are sitting around wondering when – if ever – Assetto Corsa for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will ever live up to the buzz surrounding it.

c1ebd777With the Assetto Corsa forums allowing registered Assetto Corsa owners on the PC to freely navigate the entire board and jump into conversations at their own discretion – without restricting individuals based on which version of the game they own – many Assetto Corsa fans playing the game on their elaborate PC setup can be seen openly venturing over to the console side of the board and openly mocking owners of the inferior console version for no justifiable reason. Aside from many little features and functionalities missing from the console renditions of Assetto Corsa, the core driving experience itself is just as serious as the PC offering, meaning those who have signed up for the official forums are just as passionate about the game as hardcore PC sim racers. It’s not like the console game features power-ups stolen from Mario Kart, and the ability to rewind time to correct major driving mistakes – it’s still a racing simulator, just not a very good or technically sound one. As a result, this makes any instance of PC owners attacking console owners for “playing on the wrong platform” quite silly in nature, and basically demonstrates the theory that Assetto Corsa fans feel strangely obligated to act as a rabid cult hell-bent on spreading the gospel of Kunos Simulazioni.

As we’ve discussed yesterday, the current issue plaguing the Xbox One version of Assetto Corsa – sent in by our boy Vernon S. via Reader Submission – is the widespread corruption of save data. Let’s be very clear here, save data corruption isn’t something that can be passed off as an objective complaint of varying importance from user to user – this is a base-level functionality problem with the software itself. In a modern video game centered around the art of driving cars around a track and refining them in the virtual garage area, having your custom setups wiped, your unique player settings corrupted, and your single player event progress undone virtually every time you exit the application, is a pretty big deal. This is the kind of base level functionality flaw that, upon implementing spreadsheet software with a similar issue in their store on a lazy Monday morning, would see CVS Pharmacies drop after roughly an hour’s use. There isn’t really any reason to just bend over and accept the same disruptive gremlins in a piece of entertainment.

Xbox One owners have been reporting this issue on the appropriate section of the forums since Assetto Corsa launched in August of 2016, but it still hasn’t been fixed or even directly addressed by 505 Games customer support reps, and Assetto Corsa enthusiasts on the Xbox One were extremely happy when we covered it here at PRC.net, because we were literally the only outlet willing to acknowledge that yes, this is a problem. That alone speaks volumes; it’s pretty sad that customers are so frustrated with the quality of a product,  and fed up with silence from the developers, that they’re forced to contact a news blog in the hopes that someone will listen to them and feed them more than a generic “contact customer support” response, the same they’ve been receiving for around five months with no tangible improvement to the product itself.

Upon celebrating our article finally covering the save corruption problem on the Xbox One, like clockwork, PC owners of Assetto Corsa arrived to immediately scold the console gamers for being “entitled crybabies who enjoy hating on things” before stating “sometimes the adults need to get up and come over to the kid’s table to smack some manners” into them.

lol-at-prcThere is a fundamental problem with how Assetto Corsa operates as a piece of software, which currently leads to a situation where the application frequently wipes data off of the Xbox One’s hard drive, and PC owners of the game are basically laughing at the fact that Kunos Simulazioni sold a defective product to a portion of the game’s audience for no justifiable reason other than they’re playing the simulator on a different platform than their own. Rather than ponder what a major technical issue such as save data being obliterated at a moment’s notice could indicate about the work ethic and general competence of their favorite sim racing developers, PC owners are using this opportunity to flex their invisible muscles and bully other sim racers when the situation doesn’t even call for it in the first place.

go-play-forzaThis behavior isn’t just exhibited by one user in particular upset that his favorite driver wrecked out of the 24 Hours of Daytona prematurely and desperately needing to take out his anger on someone innocent, but a collection of individuals genuinely trying to chase out fellow virtual auto racing enthusiasts solely based on their platform of choice. Assetto Corsa forum user P73 can be seen above aggressively telling the original poster to “go play Forza Motorsport” if he feels “a few missing features” are ruining Assetto Corsa before labeling all console players as “spoiled brats” and “crying babies”, totally ignoring the initial complaint actually revolves around save data frequently being corrupted by the application itself.

Save data corruption is not a matter of personal preference; it’s the sign of a faulty product, plain and simple. Yet as you can clearly see above, you have examples of two individuals in one thread alone basically celebrating the fact that Kunos Simulazioni released a defective product for their customers on the Xbox One, and then attacking those who drew attention to the issue in the first place by claiming they’re throwing tantrums like spoiled brats. Yes, it’s unreasonable to ask a team of roughly seventeen people to include a four-digit car roster within their simulator, complimented with a comprehensive career mode that features official licenses from all major racing series around the globe. That’s ridiculous But on the other hand, it’s certainly not unreasonable, or “entitled” as some call it, to demand a product that retains your personal data from one session of gameplay to the next. This is like, basic software functionality.

generic-pc-autistAnd responses like these are why console owners have been openly asking Kunos Simulazioni to restrict who can access what areas of the forums for months on end – effectively preventing PC elitists from aggressively confronting frustrated console owners – but like the aforementioned save data bug, Kunos have not acted on what’s a very legitimate problem. And while owners of the console version are not permitted to enter PC-specific sections, PC owners are allowed to traverse the forum freely, indicating a very clear bias towards PC sim racers over their console brethren, who are every bit as entitled to a functional Assetto Corsa experience as PC owners. Instead, they aren’t even allowed to see what the PC version of the game entails, despite PC owners ruthlessly venturing into console specific threads and dismissing any valid criticism of the game.

please-helpI find this behavior absolutely appalling, and it’s part of the reason why both myself, as well as many outsiders, believe the Assetto Corsa fanbase – on the PC, at least – to operate in a cult-like manner. Here you have an entire group of people viciously going after fellow enthusiasts for merely experiencing a software defect, and basically celebrating the fact that Kunos released a product that destroys your own Xbox One hard drive data after a session of play solely because “lol you bought an Xbox.” Nevermind that these people may soon turn into talented virtual race car drivers themselves, or indulge in the hobby on a level similar to the passion PC sim racers exhibit in this hobby, Assetto Corsa fans don’t even try to hide the fact that they take pleasure in their favorite developer royally botching the release of their favorite game to an entirely new audience.

Not only are they stunting the growth of an otherwise extremely small genre by bullying those with legitimate complaints and chasing away individuals with genuine interest in the genre, they’re basically telling Kunos it’s perfectly fine to release a piece of software with obvious technical defects. I have to ask, what kind of precedent does this set? You’re indicating to a game developer backed by a major investment firm and publishing company that in a category of video games highlighted by precise attention to detail, that it’s totally okay for them to push out a product that damages a user’s files at random.

With this kind of apologetic attitude from their diehard fans even in the face of monumental software gremlins, what incentive would they have in the future to polish their product in the slightest?

stef1

Honest Reviews are No Longer Tolerated

With each passing day, members of the sim racing community continuously manage to upstage themselves when it comes to sheer, unrestricted stupidity – and even by PRC standards, this one is exceptionally spectacular. On this day in sim racing, we’ve reached an especially disastrous milestone – one in which sim racers are now openly attacking YouTube personalities for uploading honest reviews of expensive hardware. It’s no longer enough for companies to persuade individuals with a popular YouTube channel into publishing dishonest reviews of their products in exchange for undisclosed perks; we’ve now swung in the complete opposite direction and created a scenario where everyday sim racers are openly stating they do not appreciate honest reviews of a product they want to learn about, and potentially purchase.

Back in September of 2016, Will Marsh – fronting the independent hobbyist website SimRacingPaddock – uploaded an eighteen minute review of Fanatec’s CSL Elite Wheel Base, as well as their P1 Rim. Though the hardware was supplied by Fanatec themselves as a complimentary review copy, Marsh refused to take the safe approach when it comes to establishing a long-term relationship with any sim racing hardware company, and gave a very fair and thorough assessment of each product. While he had mostly positive things to say about the CSL Elite Wheel Base, the P1 rim suffered immense criticism for being cheaply made; constructed primarily via plastic parts that Will believed would struggle to withstand any sort of long-term duress that sim racing endurance events are known for.

I’m not in the market for a new toy steering wheel at the moment, but by the end of the video I came away feeling pretty informed about the hit-or-miss quality some of my buddies have told me about Fanatec in private, and I appreciated that despite Will essentially being gifted a brand new toy steering wheel to review on his show, he had no problem jeopardizing his relationship with Fanatec to talk about their product in an honest fashion, letting sim racers know exactly what was wrong with it in great detail. In fact, by the end of the video, Will can be seen examining the P1 Rim with several close up shots to accurately convey just how much of the wheel is plastic hidden by metal trim – something that a lot of sim racers would by and large want to be made aware of before purchasing the product.

Not everyone shared this same sentiment, however.

commentWhether it be an elaborate piece of satire, or an online meltdown fueled by a spectrum disorder and an unhealthy obsession with Fanatec products, a user by the name of TooStrongkGamers armed himself with a virtual pitchfork and immediately went to town on SimRacingPaddock, claiming Will’s extensive eighteen minute review on a couple of pieces of Fanatec gear wasn’t a review at all, but instead “ripping on it hard as fuck.” TSG promptly shifts into overdrive before Will even has a chance to respond, leaving several more comments telling Will to kill himself, that the wheel will hold up perfectly fine as long as he doesn’t masturbate with it, and Will shouldn’t be complaining about the price of Fanatec products considering he’s too poor to afford them anyway.

I sat down and watched the entirety of Will’s review just to be sure I didn’t miss anything that would have sent this user into a rage, and I’m still unsure of what set him off. Will’s only complaint about the Fanatec CSL Elite Base was that it constantly booted up in Xbox One mode by default and he was always forced to change it, whereas his issues with the P1 rim centered primarily around a poor build quality that doesn’t justify the asking price – a factor that didn’t even affect him personally (as the hardware was sent to him by Fanatec), but he was gracious enough to include that aspect for other sim racers who do have to pay for it.

To his credit, Will tried his best to reply in a somewhat professional manner, but TSG wasn’t having any of it.

untitled-2Yes, it’s just one guy being a fucking sperg, but for a lot of upstart sim racing content creators who are just getting off the ground with whatever they’re making, this is exactly the kind of behavior that will turn them away from the community for good. If you can’t even publish a genuinely honest review on your indie YouTube channel without some guy losing his shit at you in the comments section for some perceived wrongdoing thanks to his own mental gymnastics, what incentive would anyone have to keep giving back to the scene? Unless you already have some sort of tangible following, why would you willingly contribute to a community this hostile? Here you have a random sim racer utterly convinced that an honest eighteen minute review of a product where both the positives and negatives are addressed is somehow “just ripping on it” before telling the creator of the review to kill himself, and this is only a day after we told you about an Assetto Corsa forum member trying to say you somehow have no right to ask for the ability to select the car of your choice in an online session.

It’s as if the whole climate of viral marketing has conditioned the simpletons among us to now outright reject any content that isn’t blatant advertising, which is a scary thought when you consider how the sim racing community might look twenty four months into the future if these people aren’t promptly put in their place. Unless you have especially thick skin to deal with the head cases that will ruthlessly attack you for an honest review, YouTube review shows and individual personalities will gradually morph into sim racers trying to remain as politically correct as possible at any given time to avoid upsetting people who shouldn’t be anywhere near social media in the first place.

And that’s pretty shitty, because in a genre with so much hardware and software flying around for consumers to purchase, we need more people to tell it like it is in the face of Fanatec and Vesaro showering personalities with review gear, not less. These people aren’t going to stick around for long if they’re met with such immense hostility.