Death Race 2000: The Leading Simulator’s Lack of Realism

indycar-daytonaFor a service that advertises such a realistic online racing experience to outsiders; one which demands customers to hand over their credit card for each individual car and track after already paying a hefty base subscription fee compared to other games in the hopes of receiving something leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, iRacing’s weekly track selection certainly serves to contradict the entire purpose of the simulator – and I’m surprised this issue hasn’t received more coverage.

So let’s talk about it.

Those of you who haven’t bitten the bullet and adamantly refuse to sign up for the mammoth online sim racing entity known as iRacing for any number of reasons may be unaware of a problem hidden away from the public eye, though for dedicated sim racers who place realism above all else, it’s certainly been a difficult pill to swallow during their time subscribed to iRacing. While there are indeed a plethora of relevant laser-scanned auto racing facilities available on the iRacing service for both North American stock cars, as well as traditional circuit-based cars, the manner in which the service operates doesn’t adequately make use of the entire circuit roster.

iRacing itself runs as a massive virtual sanctioning body which conducts twelve-week service-wide championships that anybody with a subscription can participate, in which every race for a given week is held at one specific track, which in theory leads to a situation where you can compete in just a single event, or as many as you want based on how much free time you have, in an effort to increase the number of points you come away with at the end of the week. It’s like flex scheduling on an enormous scale, partially aided by the fact that there’s an alleged userbase of 60,000 members spread across the multiple series. So even if you can’t race with your Tuesday night regulars that you’ve come to recognize over the past month because your kid has some shitty dance recital, you can pop on Wednesday morning, run a race at the same track, and still score points for the championship – or just for fun, if you don’t give a fuck about the overall standings.

Now most of the time, this format works as intended; sim racers are given a whopping seven days to learn a track and participate in multiple thrilling races with a field of opponents who also have come to learn the circuit over several sessions of sim racing. Yet because the iRacing userbase itself has seen a tangible shift over a number of years from hardcore drivers who want the utmost of realism from the software, to an all-encompassing “big driving game feel” as if it were the PC’s answer to a mass-market title such as Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo, the iRacing staff have adjusted the schedule accordingly.

untitled-3What this means, is that for seven straight days, iRacing have sent the Dallara DW12 IndyCar to Daytona International Speedway, a track in which neither the Verizon IndyCar Series, nor any other major American open wheel racing championship in the history of the country, have ever held a race at. Official, ranked races that count towards the service-wide IndyCar championship on iRacing and are part of the vanilla competitive experience all IndyCar fans are forced to partake in if they desire to drive the Dallara DW12 within the service against live human opponents, are currently being held at a track that would simultaneously kill multiple drivers in real life were an accident to occur at race speeds, and causes nothing but carnage and frustration within iRacing’s servers.

This is supposedly the ultra-hardcore experience you receive when paying an arm and a leg for iRacing.

And it’s been going on for far too long. Looking back several years to the spring of 2013, iRacing experimented with sending the Dallara IW05 to Talladega Superspeedway – an even more absurd circuit than tackling Daytona in these cars – and the results were obviously disastarous. Everyone voiced unanimous disapproval over seeing this circuit on the schedule, and the racing was insufferable. Not only has the Verizon IndyCar Series never once mentioned trips to Daytona or Talladega were in the preliminary planning stages because these cars obviously weren’t designed for superspeedways of this nature, the racing itself saw cars run in tight packs, only for 85% of the field to be completely decimated less than three laps into each race.

Regardless, iRacing kept putting these events on the schedule, totally contradicting the hardcore mentality fueling the simulator.

Now, it’s one thing for a league organizer in any simulator to put an odd-ball track on the schedule to keep drivers on their toes, as it’s the beauty of sim racing – you can go out and do shit that wouldn’t be possible in real life thanks to scheduling conflicts and miscellaneous organization problems. However, iRacing have promoted themselves since their inception as this ultra-realistic racing simulator with heavy penalties for crashing or even basic contact, and for several years they’ve held ranked events that aren’t just frustrating for the end user due to how much carnage follows after the green flag is dropped, they’re completely unrealistic and don’t even appeal to IndyCar fans. They’re wide open crash-fests designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator – the same Xbox Live kids people signed up for iRacing to avoid.

iRacing’s bipolar approach to realism isn’t just specific to the handful of different virtual IndyCar Series operating within the service, either. When the simulator first introduced the highly prestigious Monza circuit to customers for purchase, the unused Monza Oval – which hasn’t been maintained nor seen any competition action in around fifty years and is obviously unsafe for any kind of meaningful modern auto racing event – was thrown into the package as a bonus layout – which is fine, I’m personally not against developers throwing bullshit goodies into the mix.

However, the retired Monza oval was promptly placed on the schedule for all major oval racing series available in iRacing, which lead to a complete clusterfuck when people actually tried to race on it competitively; TeamRitter’s video below showcases a field of trucks unable to complete a single lap before the horrid racing surface mixed with a lack of concrete barriers detonated a tactical nuke within the middle of the field. Some have speculated Monza was haphazardly placed on all prominent iRacing oval calendars to try and shake even more money out of a crowd who otherwise wouldn’t care for a road racing circuit release by forcing them to buy it just to race for the week, and in this instance, I tend to agree. No reasonable sim racer wanting an enjoyable, hardcore experience from their software of choice would send NASCAR trucks to an oval that hasn’t been raced nor maintained in fifty years.

So for a game to sit there and proclaim they’re this ultimate be-all end-all solution for sim racing, only to treat paying customers expecting a hardcore experience as if they’re on Xbox Live and messing around with stupid car/track combinations in ToCA Race Driver 3, it really speaks volumes about the direction iRacing is heading in. It’s as if they used the hardcore crowd to get the brand off the ground, but years later have no problem catering to the lowest common denominator by essentially conducting races you’re forced to take part in if you want to play iRacing at fantasy combinations that don’t even occur in real life… Which sort of defeats the whole point of the simulator aspect they’ve been pushing for several years.

And I could stop there, but I won’t.

nick4You’ll often hear of iRacing conducting these marquee events that bring the entire service together for a weekend of racing outside the traditional roster of races you can enter each day, such as the 24 Hours of Daytona or 24 Hours of Le Mans, but what isn’t so front and center are the technological shortcomings that make these races a bit goofy to participate in when you’ve actually hit the track.

And I’m not talking about the constant server outages.

First, and probably the most hilarious aspect of these endurance racing events, is that iRacing does not feature any sort of 24 hour weather or lighting cycle, meaning those who enter these events are subjected to running the entire 24 hour event in either daylight or midnight conditions. While a large challenge of endurance racing in real life is watching the track transform from a vibrant auto racing circuit to a mystifying battle against treacherous shadows and lack of visibility, this element simply doesn’t exist in iRacing. There are no moments where you’re at Sebring, Le Mans, or Daytona taking in some sort of virtual sunset or sunrise, nor are you discussing among your teammates who happens to be the best driver in a low visibility environment. You’re driving in a horrendously static environment, one which iRacing themselves, as well as their broadcast partners, are careful not to mention.

Codemasters’ Race Driver: GRID, released in 2007 and designed to be this goofy little arcade racer with licensed cars and tracks, featured a full day/night cycle for the Le Mans 24 Hours event in the game’s career mode, but a hardcore auto racing simulator can’t do the same? Oh please.

cwrhes2weaaqozzThe service also dictates the cars you’re allowed to drive as well. While iRacing features a serviceable roster of GT3 machinery, the game’s hard-coded five car model limit means sim racers who have fallen in love with a particular race car may not even have that vehicle at their disposal during these races. The underlying software has been written to accept no more than five unique car models in-game, which while fine for oval racing – as not once in the past two decades has NASCAR featured more than four distinct manufacturers on track – obviously causes problems when it comes to multi-class sports car endurance racing. iRacers who had paid money for either the Ford or RUF GT3 entries found themselves shit out of luck and forced to buy yet another GT3 car just to participate in the event, simply because of iRacing’s shortcomings.

drivethruThe last element I’d like to touch on this evening would be iRacing’s complete inability to conduct even a semi-realistic pit stop procedure within their simulator. Executing a successful pitstop is one of the most challenging parts of modern auto racing, as you’re tasked with maintaining a very specific speed while navigating through an entire pack of cars bobbing and weaving between their respective crew members, who are busy scurrying around each car with a surprising amount of athleticism and precision. It’s fucking nuts to watch both on TV and in person, as one wrong move by any individual occupying pit road during a round of stops can lead to someone being sent to the hospital, or even under the most ideal of circumstances, has the potential to drastically change the outcome of a race.

This challenge is non-existent in iRacing. Upon entering pit road, everybody’s collision detection is temporarily turned off, meaning you’re free to roam the strip of asphalt as you’d please, driving through as many cars as you’d like both en route to your stall, as well as during the exit process. Basically what this means is that upon your virtual crew ripping out the jack from underneath the car, iRacers can just mat the throttle and drive straight through the cars ahead of them as if they don’t exist. So while you can at least drive your car onto pit road manually, and skid into the stall like the real deal, you’re not even asked to avoid the 39 other cars on pit road – which is like, the entire challenge of pit stops in the first place.

pits-lolololThis is pretty embarrassing when it occurs on top iRacing broadcasts, as the hosts will dedicate painfully out-of-place monologues to shill for how realistic the simulator is, only for all the participants to drive through each other during the first round of pit stops. I’ve noticed that in certain Peak Anti-Freeze Series broadcasts, cameras were strategically placed by the crew to avoid actually seeing this goofiness play out on screen, but in doing so, it just makes iRacing look extremely dishonest more than anything. Here you’re advertising this hardcore simulator that’s officially sanctioned by NASCAR, but the cars are literally driving inside of each other during pit stops, and with the ability to fly anywhere on the race track for a shot, you’re instead intentionally obfuscating an entire stretch of asphalt so the audience – as well as potential customers – don’t see this.

You’d think this would be down to technological limitations, but the last piece of software released by the team at iRacing prior to embarking on their mythical online only journey – NASCAR Racing 2003 Season – had contact between cars enabled on pit road, and you were just supposed to deal with it like a normal driver would.

Fourteen years and several million dollars later, this strategic element is now missing entirely from iRacing, and the team actively try to hide it on important broadcasts with “artistic” pit entry/exit cameras that curiously omit the entire pitstop process.

nr2003-2016-03-13-11-38-17-004Obviously I think a lot of iRacers will be quick to jump to the game’s defense, again labelling me as some irrational autist who started PretendRaceCars.net solely to rip on iRacing, but you can’t really deny what’s being presented here. You’ve got this company going out and charging people exponentially more than any other simulator on the market and justifying it by saying it’s the most advanced racing sim in the world, but then forcing customers to drive in ridiculous events which aren’t even close to being realistic, such as sending the trucks to Monza or IndyCars to Talladega, conducting 24 hour races without a 24 hour day/night cycle, and allowing people to drive through each other on pit road despite their last game doing the exact opposite.

Okay, if iRacing was like, a $60 game, a lot of this can be forgiven. DiRT 2 let you take hill climb cars to rally cross tracks, in the Eutechnyx games, you can’t even control your own car on pit road; the game does it for you, and Forza Motorsport 6 doesn’t have time progression either; like iRacing, you just sort of pick whether you want to race during the day, or at night. It’s fine, it’s $60, and the three aforementioned games aren’t trying to do anything special.

But this is iRacing, a game where just existing on the service for a month is something like $12 USD, and each and every piece of content is another $11.95 USD, meaning just to compete for twelve weeks in one class of car (of which there are MANY), it starts getting pretty fucking retarded from a financial standpoint if you want to explore what the video game has to offer. And they justify this by saying it’s this elusive hardcore experience, an option for when you’ve exhausted what all other simulators offer. And that’s fine for them to do that, it’s their marketing campaign after all, but as you can see above, they’re not actually delivering on that front. Hardcore sim racing isn’t sending the trucks to Monza of all places for twenty laps, nor is it throwing modern IndyCars on Daytona and letting everyone wreck the shit out of each other. This sounds like something you’d do with your buddies on Xbox Live at the end of the night for a laugh. And hardcore certainly isn’t locking people out of their favorite car because the software can’t handle it, nor is it allowing people to drive through each other during pit stops – that’s just laziness.

So for a service that advertises itself as the most hardcore sim racing experience available, why does all of the evidence point to the contrary?

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The Use of Real Names… Has it Worked?

hovercraftUnless you’ve been living under a metaphorical rock these past few days, or intentionally ignore any sim racing news related to iRacing, the team from Bedford, Massachusetts have unveiled their first major teaser trailer for dirt oval racing, the service’s newest motorsports discipline to be released for subscribers later this year. While these cars may not cater to the European sim racing audience in the slightest, and in recent times the real life equivalents have rarely manage to land cable television deals, the absolute insanity that is Saturday night short track racing creates a spectacle unlike any other, mixing the bottled chaos of NASCAR racing with the challenges of a dynamic racing surface typically seen in rally cross.

Oh, and the horsepower figures have received an enormous boost as well, with top level Sprint Cars sending nearly a thousand horsepower to the rear tires despite weighing only 623 kilograms. It’s all sort of absurd.

Obviously, iRacing have pushed out select promotional bits to compliment the progress they’re making on dirt oval racing behind the scenes, so you’d think I’d eventually talk about those here on PRC.net to kick off the weekend. Now, indeed I have the option of ripping on them for uploading a trailer without bothering to get the track mesh aligned so the cars sit on the ground properly, and I can also sit here and laugh at the irony of paid iRacing staff members mindlessly praising the experience in a fluff piece like the drones they are, but instead I’d like to address a topic that our boy Chris mentioned to me in passing a short while ago.

Though I love dirt oval racing, on select occasions I have walked out of events at Castrol Raceway prior to the checkered flag dropping because the on-track product was absolutely atrocious to sit through as a spectator. Events involving Sprint Cars, Dirt Late Models, or any number of support classes have a very real tendency to descend into absolute carnage at any given moment; sometimes the result of just one driver making a bad choice behind the wheel. Dirt oval racing is the closest form of real life auto racing that resembles a public lobby in Forza Motorsport 6 or Assetto Corsa.

I cannot possibly see how this will go over all that well on the iRacing service.

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Since its very inception, iRacing has required all members to register for the service under their real name as an additional form of on-track accountability. Rather than showing up to each session and driving against a pack of users with names such as xXStonerSnip4r420Xx and Ernhardt_Died_LOL before promptly junking the field and shouting inane garbage over the voice chat functionality, iRacing’s goal with forcing members to use their real names was to create an environment that genuinely felt as if there were real people in the virtual cars alongside you, in an effort to establish a base level of respect among the field of competitors.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t done shit to improve the on-track experience.

13613174_10204769089586074_417343082503003427_oIt may be too anecdotal for some expecting an intelligent argument on this front, but very rarely during my time on the service have I seen a competitive environment coming close to what iRacing has advertised to the outside world. My most active years on the service were back in 2012 and 2013 – years where the service was big, but still in a “growing” phase of – and most of what I saw out my virtual front windshield was really no better or worse than what a group of talented drivers on Xbox Live could produce in, say, a private DiRT 2 lobby. This is fine if you’ve purchased DiRT 2 used from Blockbuster at a discounted price, but not if you’re paying several hundred dollars for the pinnacle of sim racing.

22499475033_ea8643518a_hDuring the peak of my iRacing “career” (God that sounds awful to say), I managed to attain an iRating of 5000 points at a period when this number genuinely meant something within the community – so before you start screaming “that number is shit”, factor in a little something called ELO inflation over a period of four or five years. To sim racers who aren’t familiar with how iRacing operates, attaining this iRating would place me in the highest skill level split of each oval event I entered on the service, supposedly pitting me against the best sim racers in the world. In fact, a lot of the personalities iRacing currently parade around as part of their Peak Anti-Freeze Series, I’ve raced against and beaten.

Or gotten wrecked by.

iracingsim-2012-08-29-19-22-49-43These races were typically complete shitshows of the highest order. Let me make this incredibly clear, the use of real names did precisely nothing to clean up the otherwise horrid online racing standards. Drivers would intentionally not play iRacing for an entire week just to avoid the inevitable clusterfuck that was a restrictor plate race at Daytona or Talladega. Events at longer tracks such as Indianapolis, Pocono, or Michigan would be infuriating to participate in, as hyper-aggressive drivers would spin someone out for fifteenth place on lap three, forcing the entire field to ride around under caution for ten minutes segments at a time, only for a completely different pair of drivers to do the exact same thing when we went back to green flag racing.

pheonix-4This was against what the ELO system claimed to be the absolute best drivers iRacing had to offer. Though a lot of my acquaintances poke fun at me for doing so, there’s a reason I made the choice to spend a lot of my time in iRacing prowling the lesser-known K&N series, which made use of an outdated NASCAR Busch series car. In every race across the most prominent oval classes, there was nothing to distinguish the experience from an Xbox Live public lobby, even against the best sim racers in the world.

15974943_10205936155121983_2093911108776708163_oWhile you’d think the aggression would be toned down in lower split events, as inexperienced sim racers were more prone to giving up spots and racing in a much calmer manner simply to make it to the end in one piece, sim racing YouTube personality Joe Nathan notes the exact opposite – mentioning a race at Auto Club speedway where a major crash would occur on average, every eight laps, and nearly half of the ninety-minute online ordeal was spent following a pace car. All of this occurred on one of the widest tracks on the NASCAR calendar, which offers six entire lanes (if not more) to position your race car.

nathanThe reality is that the use of real names has done nothing to clean up the overall racing experience on the iRacing service. The overwhelming majority of sim racers currently subscribed to iRacing still drive like complete fucking retards in series where setups are purposely designed to be as noob-friendly as possible, the cars generate the most amount of downforce ever by a NASCAR Monster Energy Series race car in the history of the sport, and on circuits where there can be a good thirty lateral feet between you and another racer when completing a pass. Making everyone register for a service under the name they’ve given to their credit card company obviously hasn’t done shit.

So what has it done?

autismiRacing has now given all of the closet autistic man-children within the sim racing community – the ones who will report your Facebook pictures for porn after an on-track incident, write songs about you, or call your employer in an effort to get you fired for shitposting on the forums – full access to your personal details at a moments notice. Fantastic.

It’s no secret that our comments section here at PretendRaceCars.net can be full of complete nutters on a daily basis – indicating a portion of the sim racing community have serious mental issues – but the key thing is that these people are relatively harmless if everybody’s posting as anonymous or under a semi-bullshit username. The most one of these users can do in our neck of the woods is click the reply button and call you an asshole in some sort of delusional rant that everybody else will get a kick out of and forget about an hour later, which really isn’t a big deal. This isn’t the case on iRacing, as the service essentially gives these people who otherwise lurk in the shadows as harmless PRC trolls, unprecedented access to information that’s incredibly dangerous for the wrong person to have. A lot of people probably wonder why the three of us write under bullshit call-signs here instead of our real names, and a good portion of the reasoning is to keep this select group of mentally unstable sim racers who will go through the effort to fuck shit up at an arms length – right where they should be.

Yet on iRacing, these motherfuckers are free to find you at a moments notice, and it’s not like you have a choice on how these people will treat you.

w1200_h678_fmaxNow, let’s re-visit the underlying theme of this post; dirt oval racing. Regardless of the class currently on the track, dirt oval events can descend into complete brawls with a field of professional drivers with decades of auto racing experience. Even if, by some act of God, iRacing manage to absolutely nail the loose surface physics they’ve been working on for the better part of a year, there are zero guarantees their hardcore American users will enjoy it. Despite advertising a highly competitive and respectful online environment, requiring all members to sign up under their real names for an added level of accountability, the absolute one hundred percent truth is that this has done nothing to clean up the sub-par driving standards on the iRacing service.

Dirt oval racing, at least in real life, requires the utmost of respect towards other drivers, as some classes even prohibit the use of a rear view mirror. If iRacers cannot go more than eight laps without crashing at a NASCAR circuit that is six lanes wide, piloting cars generating the most downforce ever recorded in the history of the sport, how in God’s name are they going to hold their composure behind the wheel of a car generating almost a thousand horsepower yet weighs only six hundred kilos, and is intended to be driven sideways?

4059d8cffd732cd1f97168fca2183a35This is why dirt oval racing simply won’t work on the iRacing service, and will instead be a gigantic waste of time and resources when all is said and done. The entire discipline revolves around on-track respect and working as a unit to put on a clean race, and on iRacing, those are two concepts that have been completely lost on the community despite the staff’s best efforts to foster that kind of environment.

 

Reader Submission #136 – Picking Up iRacing’s Slack

2What if I told you there’s a way to unfuck some of iRacing’s most blatant shortcomings? That’s the theme of today’s Reader Submission here at PRC.net, as an anonymous member of the service’s private Winstel Cup Series – a championship created to re-live the glory years of NASCAR’s fourth generation body style – has written to us explaining how the group of drivers were once under the spell of iRacing’s disastrous driving model, only to successfully experiment with key variables in the garage menu to produce an on-track product superior to the vanilla iRacing experience.

The result has been nothing short of spectacular; to this cluster of sim racers attempting to re-create Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fantastic string of seasons flying under the Budweiser banner, iRacing has finally lived up to the enormous subscription and content costs the brand asks its users to continuously fork over each year. But it wasn’t without some work that really shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place, and today, we get to learn how they pulled it off.


3jpgHey PRC, I’ve decided to write this article for you guys because I feel like the community should know about what we’ve found within the iRacing software that makes it significantly better than the default game most of the users play.

I’m involved in a league called the Winstel Cup Series, which runs the K&N Pro Series car at large speedways to sort of emulate early 2000’s top level NASCAR events. On paper, this probably sounds like a surefire disaster, as iRacing tries this same kind of combination in the official mock K&N series every user can access by default provided they have the appropriate license level, but there’s a reason behind why these events are so brutal. Most of the fixed setups iRacing uses for this low-level series are above 53% cross weight, which makes the car handle like a dump truck. Usually, you have no front tires after about ten laps, and the car plows into the wall. This creates a nightmarish situation for anyone looking to have a good time from the car, and it gives drivers who have no clue what they’re doing, far too much confidence.

After our first season in the league, we switched to much looser setups that rewarded raw driving talent, and to our surprise, the average number of cautions each event dropped from a hefty six, to just three. The trickier setups also created much better racing, with the average amount of leaders and lead changes seeing a tangible increase as well.

We also discovered that tire wear within the iRacing software accelerates dramatically with hotter weather. In some cases, it’s downright unrealistic, completely contradicting the service’s goal of a highly accurate simulation. At the season 2 finale in Atlanta, in which we ran weather conditions of 90 degrees and clear sky,  we saw lap times drop off by three whole seconds in just ten laps. This is incredibly unrealistic, especially because iRacing’s scan of Atlanta Motor Speedway is from 2006, due to what the track logos are.

However, with this tire wear, we actually generated proper multi-groove racing. Atlanta, Charlotte, and Rockingham all lent themselves to a racing environment where every lane worked at both ends of the track, and during the closing laps at Atlanta, we had seven cars battling for the lead; everybody being able to use their own groove. However, four out of the seven cars still chose the bottom line, proving iRacing’s new surface model works, but not as well as they would like it to.

The next thing I’d like to address is the iRacing draft model. It’s broken to no end, and there are several problems that we could not fix to what we’d like, as it’s a problem with the sim itself. Some of these include side-drafting speeding the host car up instead of slowing it, and the last car in line falling out of the pack no matter how much draft there is. These problems can be reduced with the changes we’ve made, but they’re absolutely ridiculous in the context of a simulator. First, we put a 2.90 final drive gear in the car, which helped the racing tremendously. It seemed to be more like the 2001 NASCAR restrictor plate package than anything else, and we were able to have a good race, rather than the single file events iRacing usually puts on at Daytona and Talladega. Secondly, we added 250 kilos of weight penalty, which helped the last car in line not lose the draft as easily. We also kept the weather at 90 degrees and clear, which wore out the tires to about a second of fall-off, making the outside the dominant line during these races, and thus more realistic.

What we have done proves iRacing can be what iRacing promotes itself as, but it’s an oddity and takes a lot of work to make it right. You’re much better off picking up a sim like ARCA Sim Racing if you want something out of the box that works as intended, and makes it easy to find a league. However, I didn’t write this just to bash iRacing, it’s still the best sim racing service in the world, it just needs a lot of fine tuning.


urlThis sort of falls in line with what I’ve heard about iRacing’s atrocious default setups. Because of how many updates each car goes through, and how many cars there are on the service in total, plus all the different tracks which sometimes require alternative configurations, there’s simply not enough time for the staff members to create solid baseline setups for every single car to ship with every new build. The setups iRacing do churn out are often rudimentary configurations just to get new drivers around the track without spinning, occasionally carrying over from a previous build even if certain cars have received fundamental changes under the hood.

It’s very frustrating to deal with as an end user, as you’d think there would be some effort made to point people in the right direction – especially with how complex the garage area can be regardless of any mechanical experience you may have under your belt. And as a large majority of the popular oval racing series on iRacing rely on fixed setups rather than the ability to adjust your car in the garage area, only a fraction of iRacing members get to see the true power of the software.

I’m unsure why iRacing would intentionally cripple themselves in this department, and instead ship out god-awful baseline setups that are borderline retarded in a competitive setting ,when even their own users are figuring out how to work with the software, not against it. Their entire marketing gimmick is aimed at a hardcore audience who want something more demanding than literally every other racing game every made in the history of home computers, and people are paying top dollar (plus VAT) to say “I’m an elite sim racer.” So with such an influx of so-called hardcore sim racers who in theory should know their way around a pretend race car enough already to wheel a proper setup, why are they instead bundling the cars with configurations that are legitimately detrimental to the racing experience?

This is too stupid to be intentional; you seriously can’t tell me a bunch of guys in a private league somehow figured out how to make the on-track experience infinitely better, but then again, we’ve seen time and time again with iRacing staff that some of them don’t know what they’re doing, and are merely there as a reward for their time spent with NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.

Wheeling It: The Theories Behind Exploiting Force Feedback

16472989_10208194146706819_3054346279305608142_nWith so much misinformation and rumors floating around on the forums regarding how you should set your force feedback and wheel rotation settings, I wanted take a bit of time today to clear up some misconceptions about modern force feedback wheels and what they’re trying to convey to the end user, as well as breakdown what top teams are doing with wheel settings in the iRacing world. It’s certainly not the kind of information that makes its way out into the general public, as configuring your equipment in a very specific way can produce a greatly tangible performance advantage out on the virtual track.

Now, I have to make our readers very clear, most of my various tips and insights will be predominantly be pulled from iRacing, because I’ve spent the most time on it, and it’s also the most competitive sim racing platform currently available. But hey, who doesn’t want a leg up on the competition? Immersion and realism doesn’t pad your iRating.

niswc-12-daytona-4Working with some of the biggest and best teams in iRacing for the past five years, I’ve heard all kinds of different wheel settings to try and combat the faults in the iRacing software or just to find an exploitative advantage. One thing I can say with one hundred percent confidence is that no one wheel setting will give you a massive advantage over the competition – everyone has their own style – however, some adjustments do help make it easier to find that extra speed, or save the car in a sim that is notoriously hard to save cars in without dealing with a massive tank slapper.

Let’s start with the most common and effective setting of the two that I’ve used personally, and what I know many of the top iRacers are using,  as they seem to fall into two camps. The first can be described as a very non-linear setting that seems to provide more feel, while making saving the car extremely easy but effectively having a larger ratio in the middle when you need to be smooth on the wheel.

This consists of running whatever wheel you have at anywhere from 200 to 540 degrees in your external profiler application, and then setting the in-game rotation at 1080 or more. What this does is give you a very smooth rotation through the center, and then ramps the steering ratio exponentially towards the edge of the wheel, so you are at full lock way faster then you should be based on your center ratio. To simplify, it allows you to run, say,  a ratio of 16:1 in the middle to really nail your steering inputs, but then when you’re forced to go hand over hand to save the car, the sensitivity is jacked skyward.

gen6-screenshot-3The other most common setting is just running 900 to 1080 degrees depending on wheel and running 1:1 with the sim. The debate then comes to running force feedback or not. At 900 degrees, a centering spring is a big no no, as there is way too much rotation to be fighting a centering spring all the way through the corner, especially if you are trying to counter steer at all. However Some of the fastest sim racers on the service, including my own driver Ryan Luza, run a completely dead wheel with zero feedback of any kind. The rest such as myself run a slightly non linear profiler setting such as 105-110% primarily to get rid of the massive deadzone, and give a slightly faster response time on Logitech wheels, with zero other effects and no damping.

iracing-phoenix-crashAll of this is a fine place to start, and many people out there run any combination of these settings, but of all the teams I’ve worked with, these were the most common and used by the best drivers on the service, yet a lot of it comes down to hardware as well.

Belt driven wheels such as the Thrustmaster T series wheels or the Fanatec stuff that has been hit or miss on reliability, have become the new norm for anyone wanting to run force feedback in the way it was intended, as it provides a much smoother and faster response to what you are seeing in front of you; whereas the non linear ramping settings, or non-FFB drivers tend to all be Logitech users. However, belt driven wheels aren’t worth the extra money if you aren’t going to use the force feedback they were designed to excel at, so don’t bother if you are a dead wheel kinda guy.

The other option is DD wheels such as the Accuforce or OSW, or perhaps a Heusinkveld option in the future. James here at PRC has been very outspoken against DD wheels, purely for price reasons, but the fact is they are the best wheels available for your sim racing “experience”, however, I can tell you right now that other then a few road pro drivers, none of the top iRacers are using them. The benefit just isn’t there at the moment for the price, the current belt driven wheels have more then enough bang for the current big market simulators, and it clearly isn’t a must have for speed if almost none of the top drivers in the highest competition sim aren’t using them. If you do have the expendable cash to afford the luxury then by all means go ahead, you are essentially future proofing your sim rig for when the direct drive wheels can be utilized better, or you can crank to wrist-breaking levels of FFB when you want to make a trip to the hospital for a day off work. I just personally wouldn’t recommend them at this point, as they aren’t necessary to be competitive, especially if you have a tight budget .

richmond2-1500The other consideration with wheels is both your simulator of choice, and the speed between that simulator and the wheel; almost all the major sims are using a different force feedback system from one another, and they all run on different physics engines at different frequencies. The speed your wheel receives information from the software is very important, as is the quality of the information. iRacing uses the slowest rate out of all the major sims that I know of, but yet every sim claims they are the best at the information they send to your wheel. So I’ll just focus on the speed to your hand and try to generalize the variables.

The most important element to care about is how fast your wheel reacts to what you’re seeing from your virtual car on screen if you are choosing to enable force feedback at all. This is why belt driven wheels have become so much more popular in sim racing because, they don’t necessarily make you a faster driver; they make it easier to be consistent and catch mistakes due the response speed of these modern belt driven wheels. You could have the strongest direct drive wheel in the world, but if the response time is slow none of it matters.Logitech G series wheels are notorious slow and haven’t improved the technology much at all since the Driving Force GT. This may be the reason many of us have gone to exploiting non-linear setups or simply turning off the force feedback completely – our wheels are just too out-dated. This is also why certain sims feel better with certain wheels, it all has to do with the frequency the sim puts out, and the quality of the information that is being sent. The fact that many people with older wheels in iRacing simply start clipping at very small amounts of force feedback that the Logitech wheels seemingly can’t handle in 2017 starts to muddy what information you do get, and why simply turning it off and driving visually seems to help a lot of people as it would with any sim that the wheel can’t handle.

Hopefully this will help many of you in trying to dial in your wheel settings so you can get the proper sim experience you are looking for, and maybe even gain time for a lot of you; I know among the top iRacing divisions a bunch of people keep wheel setting close to their chests, but if you look hard enough the information is indeed out there, and keep in my mind that no magic setting will help you, but that consistency is key. Don’t change something just for the sake of changing it unless you plan on spending the time to stick with it and get used to it before you see any results.

 

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.