It has taken many years to get to this point, but according to recent critical reception of the official Valentino Rossi/MotoGP 16 title by Milestone, the Italian team notorious for half-assed quasi-simulators have accomplished the impossible and released an objectively satisfying product. Finally achieving the level of quality early Milestone releases such as Superbike 2001, Valentino Rossi: The Game appears to be something motorcycle fans can genuinely get excited about, and it’s all thanks to the community’s feedback. Today’s Reader Submission from previous PRC.net contributor and Australian SuperKart driver Tyler W. takes a look at what the sim racing scene can learn from this stunning twist of events.
Hey PRC, I thought I’d drop you guys another reader submission since I didn’t have much else on the schedule today. I came across something I doubt any of us would have expected this year, something that will shock pretty much every sim racer who comes to this place on a regular basis: Milestone has made a game that a lot of people seem to like. I’m not kidding.
Currently, Valentino Rossi: The Game is the most well-received game the company has ever released, with Metacritic displaying it at an astonishing 81 out of 100. That’s just a few points lower than Project CARS or Assetto Corsa, and ranked higher than the previous three Codemasters Formula One installments. And if you don’t believe me, the once angry comment section on the MotoGP Video Game Facebook page, a place traditionally filled with bug fixing demands and such, has now become a beacon of praise for Milestone’s efforts. What the hell happened, and how did Milestone go from a mediocre offering with Sebastien Loeb Rally Evo, to such a polished game involving not just bikes, but rally and drift cars as well?
I haven’t personally played it yet, so I can’t accurately give you a thorough simulation value index rating, but I’d like to address something especially important here. If you look at Milestone’s Facebook page, since the game’s announcement Milestone have done something they haven’t done in the past – interact with their customers. Sure, they would say “sorry for your experience” and “we’re working on a fix” with previous iterations of their games, but this time they actually involved some portions of the community. An example was one user pointing out some incorrect textures on the Jerez circuit. Instead of ignoring it, Milestone were right on it and fixed it. They also released gameplay screenshots, bikes included, and responded to comments that concerned previous game bugs and release dates. It seemed like less of a calculated PR move, and more of a genuine attempt to actually listen to their fans.
Now, and I hate to go against what I’m saying, this could be mainly because they might care an extra amount due to the Rossi name being involved, and being passionate Italian MotoGP fans themselves, but think about it – not a lot of people are complaining about a Milestone product for once. So I’m left wondering why that is, and I can only think of one reasonable answer:
People can’t complain about bugs and missing features if there are minimal bugs and minimal missing features
On the contrary, we have Codemasters. Yes, they’ve shown off F1 2016. Yes, it looks like a slight improvement. Yes, career mode is back and the game is now half of what F1 2015 should have been at launch. But communication? Still nothing. Only a few days ago did they release some promotional footage of Daniel Ricciardo and Joyilon Palmer lapping the Baku circuit. Before that, was precisely one Q&A session. Hell, early footage that was shown from their E3 booth was demonstrated by amateurs who have probably never played anything other than Burnout or Mario Kart in their lives. Seriously, they wonder why their fanbase are leaking beta footage, even with NDA’s in effect, and yet the answer is in plain sight: When customers get antsy and frustrated, if they get an opportunity to show some precious gameplay, they’re probably gonna do it.
I may just be rambling at this point, but think about it: DiRT Rally and Valentino Rossi: The Game have used community feedback to guide them in the right path, and it’s worked considering DiRT Rally was labelled by PRC.net as the best sim of 2015, and the Valentino Rossi title is critically speaking the best Milestone product ever. Meanwile, Codemasters, Slightly Mad Studios, and Kunos have repeatedly ignored or selectively filtered feedback for some time now, and it’s shown to not work with F1 2015 being a mess, Project CARS being a buggy and broken mess, and Assetto Corsa looking like it may have a troubled console launch. I for one hope this method now catches on with developers genuinely listening to what people want to buy, and how they can improve the game before release. If Milestone of all people can benefit from this approach, so can others.
Your reasoning as to why both DiRT Rally and Valentino Rossi 16 succeeded is definitely headed in the right direction, but there’s a bit more I can add to it. Not only did Codemasters and Milestone actively seek the community’s feedback when developing both titles, they essentially put the community directly into the drivers seat and treated them as equals. Codemasters and Milestone developers weren’t showing up on the various social media outlets discussing their products solely to belittle, argue, and act in a condescending manner towards their customers – it was quite the opposite.
In fact, I remember back during DiRT Rally’s development, some dude made like a ten minute video explaining how he felt the force feedback effects should evolve from the current version, and Codemasters called his ass up on Skype the next day and proceeded to have a two hour phone call with the guy, just to pick his brain. Meanwhile, if you ventured over to the Project CARS forums at around the same time, it was basically Ian Bell telling people off on a regular basis for pointing out issues with the game, and unfortunately the same environment is now present in several other official forums for other modern racing simulators as well.
Because when you think about it, every sim racing development team actively asks for the community’s feedback. Everybody has their own official forum where your average customer can make a long-winded post about the game, and within a day or so somebody from the development team will show up to have a chat. The main problem arising is that a lot of developers, such as the iRacing team, Kunos, and Slightly Mad Studios, act like an egotistical rock band and throw hissy fits on par with those of Axl Rose during the height of Guns ‘N Roses. They all ask for feedback, but suddenly make excuses to dismiss 90% of what gets posted, only allowing reception from the leftist nu-male cucks to resonate with them. Codemasters, Milestone, and I guess I should throw Sector 3 into this list, aren’t content with letting the brown nosing apologists merely enforce the fantasy world some developers live in.
The quality of the end product speaks volumes, as you mentioned in the submission. DiRT Rally made a whole bunch of people in the community shit their pants, both literally and figuratively. Milestone, a company notorious for entirely forgettable titles, pushed out something that is objectively worth a purchase. And Sector 3 took a Free to Play title that was on almost nobody’s radar, and turned it into something that’s not quite GTR 3, but it’s approaching that point at a rapid pace. Meanwhile, Project CARS became the punchline of many sim racing forum jokes, Assetto Corsa’s console launch is something many are keeping their eyes on partially for the drama, and now that we’ve provided an outlet to express criticism away from fanboys, people aren’t all that thrilled about the physics in iRacing, either.
Unfortunately, you aren’t going to fix ego problems no matter how many bug videos you throw at Ian Bell, no matter how many real world drivers privately bash iRacing, and no matter how many experienced physics modders offer, so the only way to combat the Axl Rose effect is to show your gratitude towards how the other developers are treating their fans, and not put up with any online temper tantrum just because they have Staff under their username.