iRaceRoom: Will It Work?

27926695131_4d98f6340e_kWith the 2017 season of sim racing already shaping up to be one hell of a thrill ride, the most shocking piece of news revealed over the holidays comes not from the Bedford, Massachusetts camp responsible for crafting iRacing into the monolithic entity it is today, but from the little Swedish simulator developer known as Sector 3 Studios. After several years spent wrestling away RaceRoom Racing Experience from the depths of free-to-play hell, and embarking on a multi-year effort to rebuild the game into something hardcore sim racers could really get behind, the group recently announced rather ambitious plans to implement a robust set of features that on top of fleshing out the underlying gameplay experience, would put R3E on the path to becoming a direct competitor to iRacing. Scheduled races and online series governed by some sort of elaborate ranking system are currently on the horizon, and the revitalized competitive online format of R3E will hopefully come bundled within a free update to the base software rather than an additional package you’ll have to pay for.

In short, after nearly a decade of iRacing dominating the online racing market with absolutely no worthwhile competition to speak of whatsoever, one sim racing crew have embraced the challenge which the David vs. Goliath scenario presents, and will attempt to put something out there themselves to disrupt the established status quo. No doubt about it, the effort is honorable – sim racers need something to shake up what is quickly becoming a very stale scene – but there’s a reason only one team has embarked upon this endeavor and lived to tell the tale; it’s not an easy undertaking.

Yet despite the abundance of high quality cars and tracks currently available within Sector 3’s flagship simulator, as well as the phenomenal driving model that I can say with absolute certainty has directly helped improve my own real world car control skills in amateur racing series, I’m not entirely sure the team can pull it off. In fact, they might have bitten off a little more than they could chew. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – ambition is what moves the genre forward – but it’s also a lot of time down the drain if it goes oh so very wrong.

8lqvvofI’ve been privileged enough to receive press access to RaceRoom Racing Experience – allowing me to drive all the various cars and tracks free of charge as they’re added to the simulator – but I’m not in the business of blatantly omitting flaws to keep my overlords at Sector 3 content. When it comes to online racing – the physical act of joining a server and competing with humans from across the globe – RaceRoom Racing Experience doesn’t always work as intended. In fact, the quality of each online session varies so drastically from one virtual event to the next, a large portion of my screenshot folder is dedicated to fucked up things that I come across playing R3E against other sim racers.rrre-2016-01-26-14-34-18-93Cars warp inside of each other at a rate that isn’t acceptable, which can really be a mess during the first lap chaos when everyone’s under a blanket. The game’s archaic netcode – complete with netcode shunts – rivals that of ToCA Race Driver 2 from 2006, a problem only fixed by racing alongside close friends who’ve all been confirmed to be powered by the highest quality internet package their ISP provides. The game’s free-to-play status allows those curious about sim racing to jump in the fray at little to no cost, yet this has instead worked against the software and spawned a situation where the average online racer is nowhere near capable of keeping their car pointed in the proper direction, let alone keeping up a compelling battle. And while there are indeed a flock of talented drivers which call R3E home, the general instability of the software can cast a dark shadow over the competitive environment. The vehicle dynamics are phenomenal, the force feedback terrific, and the sounds genre-leading, but often times RaceRoom Racing Experience certainly feels as if there are many kinks Sector 3 still need to iron out.

rrre-2016-11-29-15-23-12-63The good news is, the team are aware of these gremlins, and unlike other developers, keep their heads down to endlessly hammer away at the product without starting fights on their official forums, or coasting on a cult of personality. The bad news is that if you’re going to establish a competitive platform within your simulator, you need a few months where everything goes according to plan, and Sector 3 haven’t been so lucky.

  • The most recent Black Friday deal, which saw all the content RaceRoom Racing Experience has to offer at a discounted price, heavily crippled the simulator’s servers. If a few hundred people taking advantage of a holiday discount is enough to bring the online experience to it’s knees, how will R3E hold up when an entire wave of sim racers promptly show up to check out iRacing’s first legitimate competitor?
  • When holding sponsored online competitions through a mix of hot time trial and knockout events on private servers, the team at Sector 3 were forced to lock out non-European residents in fear of online gameplay instability. If these precautions are necessary prior to a simple tournament commencing, with knockout races held for a select handful of individuals at the conclusion of the time trials, how does this same team expect to successfully open the floodgates to a host of sim racers from around the world for many races? They can’t exactly pray only German residents living in close proximity to one another will adopt the structured online format and occupy all the top ranked rooms.
  • A recent build of RaceRoom Racing Experience saw the GT3 class dominated by the outdated Ford GT thanks to an oversight by the Sector 3 squad. Virtually anyone placed on the grid in Ford’s flagship supercar could easily lap a second quicker than the rest of the field, effectively turning GT3 online events into a spec series while content owners waited for a much-needed patch. With car balance playing an integral role in ensuring a fair environment for all sim racers, how can R3E owners be certain these issues will be squashed entirely prior to the online racing system launching, when they have been so prevalent in the past?
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience has rarely seen any top-level online league activity grace its servers, as the game has a well-documented history of being unable to score basic information such as lap times correctly. With some Race2Play events seeing drivers achieve pole position in qualifying by almost thirty sections due to a scoring loop error, and overloaded servers producing situations where the race standings displayed by the game’s heads up display is bugged all to hell, how can we count on Sector 3’s underlying code to consistently calculate race results and performance rankings in the correct fashion?
  • As Sector 3 have opted to simplify car setup options for the time being, neglecting the art of refining tire pressures completely, occasionally exploits pop up which greatly compromise the playing field; at one point in the game’s life span, minimum downforce aerodynamic configurations did not produce the instability it should have, while rumors of extreme toe values as the solution for more speed have circulated within groups dedicated to tearing up the various leaderboards. There hasn’t been much confirmation that Sector 3 have dialed in the current garage options, and with talk of increasing the setup options to a more traditional range of adjustments in the future, it only opens the door for more exploits. This isn’t an enjoyable fix to chase when prizes and points are on the line, as those who know the exploits are even less obligated to turn things over to the developers, primarily to retain their advantage online.

31536024115_5d76486ec8_kThe key theme I’m trying to convey, is that RaceRoom Racing Experience – while providing a fantastic driving model when we speak in car-meets-track terms – isn’t exactly a stable game ready for the big leagues both literally and figuratively. You’ve got to walk before you can run, and run before you can sprint. Turning this game into some sort of valid alternative to iRacing is something I’m personally excited for because the core vehicle dynamics are satisfactory, but it’s a very big mountain to climb to make it all work without major issues. Part of the reason iRacing were able to come out swinging was because their prior release, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, was one hundred percent finished and polished as a piece of software. RaceRoom, on the other hand, is still evolving as a product; the core package hasn’t yet been dialed into perfection, and a stable online experience during periods of increased traffic isn’t even guaranteed. That’s a bit suspect if you’re trying to launch some sort of alternative to iRacing.

So with this announcement, Sector 3 have essentially been tasked with getting more right in one update than they ever have before throughout the past four or five years spent working on R3E. If successful, it’ll be the break they’ve been looking for. Yet if the endeavor crashes and burns, unable to provide a steady experience from the word go, that’s a lot of research, time, and resources up in smoke.

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Reader Submission #127 – Black Friday Ruined R3E

cywssvkw8aawy_lFor the dedicated fans of Sector 3’s free-to-play simulator RaceRoom Racing Experience, late November traditionally marks a frenzy of increased activity within the game’s online servers. Thanks to the Swedish development team adopting the practice of heavily discounting every piece of content available for the title, keeping in line with Black Friday festivities celebrated by North American-based developers, those on the fence when it comes to diving head first into the spiritual successor to GTR 3 are able to indulge without any sort of substantial hit to their wallets.

The cost to add the complete collection of RaceRoom Racing Experience content to your library is temporarily reduced from a couple hundred dollars, to around the cost of a standard PlayStation 4 disc – a much easier pill to swallow for those of us who still remember the days when you could find GTR 2 on the shelves of Best Buy. Now it’s not all sunshine and lollipops – there are still obviously some major flaws with the game, such as the outright inability to set tire pressures – but the point I’m trying to make is that a whole bunch of sim racers pull the trigger on RaceRoom Racing Experience if they haven’t already when November rolls around.

That is, however, until the wave of new customers wreak havoc on the game’s online servers. Today’s Reader Submission comes from an anonymous subscriber of Reddit’s simracing community, outlining the complete disaster that has been R3E’s 2016 Black Friday sale. Despite the fact that we receive press access to the game and have effectively been given every piece of content R3E has to offer, free of charge, it’s our duty to cover this story.


rrre-2016-11-29-15-22-16-85Good afternoon, PRC.net. Just wanted to start things off by saying you’ve got a great thing going, and I love how it makes some people go batshit crazy over simple facts about their beloved games, like some religious cult. Now I can sort of understand how Jim Jones could get his followers to follow him in death back in 1978.

I just wanted to report that RaceRoom Racing Experience is absolutely unplayable online right now after the latest patch. Many people, myself included, went all in on their Black Friday sale and bought content like crazy. I actually went out and bought their PRO PACK bundle, which gives you 100% content ownership for a fixed rate. But guess what? We can’t play with our new toys online, because the servers won’t work.

rrre-2016-11-29-15-23-12-63I have played RaceRoom for a good two years without major problems and lately it is the only sim I’m playing. Great force feedback, nice feeling cars, good amount of content and decently populated servers online. So I know how good this game can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. But I had a race with you a couple of days ago, and I think you could see the problems for yourself: massive ping rates, disappearing cars, intrusive stuttering, and framerate drops to the point where the game isn’t playable.

What bugs me and others is the complete silence from the developers at Sector3 Studios. Are they working on a fix, or have they gone completely underground?


rrre-2016-11-29-15-27-14-78Thanks for pushing me to cover this story and get away from the madness that’s occurred in our comments section over the past few days. I personally enjoy RaceRoom Racing Experience, and hopefully Jean-Francois won’t crucify me for mentioning to our readers that we occasionally shoot the shit over Facebook, but you’re absolutely goddamn right – R3E is a bloody mess right now, and I’ve included a few screenshots of the races you’ve alluded to throughout the article as proof that shit is going seriously haywire.

rrre-2016-11-29-16-16-26-28This game is utterly solid online when it works as it should, but I tried to enter a couple of servers over the weekend at my own leisure, only to leave prematurely in outright disgust. As you mentioned, cars were warping everywhere, framerate issues popped up when this has usually been the most stable application on my PC, and collision detection woes were off the charts – some guy in a Corvette was the victim of a lag shunt from me even though on my screen, I was nowhere near him. It was so brutal I actually retired from the GT3 event at Spa despite nursing a hefty lead after lap one, as the heads up display reported me to be residing in fourth place, trailing an alleged doppelganger of myself that was said to be 0.000 seconds ahead, with last three drivers incorrectly reported as first, second, and third.

Jean-Francois immediately asked to look at my log files once I notified him of my experience, indicating they’re more than aware of the situation unfolding on their servers, but I can’t answer anything on behalf of the team considering I don’t actually work for Sector 3, regardless of what the inevitable trolls in the comments section claim. I assume they’re not happy that a slight increase in server traffic warranted such disastrous results, but that’s unfortunately the price they have paid for relying on R3E’s bizarre free-to-play model, as opposed to a classic offline format.

Even though our relationship with Sector 3 is quite good, I have to warn our readers that it’s probably best to stay away from RaceRoom Racing Experience until these problems are completely eradicated, so do your best to stay informed and keep monitoring the official message boards until you see a unanimous consensus from active users that everything has been taken care of. Make no mistake, I was genuinely mad at what I saw out my virtual windshield over the past weekend, especially since I’ve enjoyed many exciting online races within R3E prior to the Black Friday update and subsequent influx of new users that their servers obviously can’t handle. Here’s to hoping the next major Sector 3 release will put this ludicrous always-online bullshit six feet under, because I really don’t want to deal with online servers that chaotic ever again.

This Forum Troll Might Have a Point…

r3e-57490b5247392The competitive scene surrounding Sector 3’s RaceRoom Racing Experience can be a bit difficult to comprehend. With not a whole lot of people flocking to the title thanks to intrusive micro-transactions which serve to quickly segregate the userbase, and online servers that aren’t always stable enough to host lengthy private league races, the game’s primary source of competition are instead numerous themed hotlap events conducted by Sector 3 Studios themselves. The 2016 calendar year has seen Sector 3 partner up with none other than legendary manufacturer Mercedes-AMG to conduct a season-long championship mirroring the real-world DTM schedule – complete with a proper knockout stage at the end – yet even the lowly forum trolls are calling the credibility of the entire series into question.

The problem is, there isn’t any proof; only theories and speculation.

As someone who actively invests a portion of their free time into RaceRoom Racing Experience and the various leaderboard challenges which Sector 3 conduct for the community, I sometimes do feel that the overall winner did not earn their victory in a legitimate fashion. Now I’m not a horrible driver by any means; usually I find myself competing for the top spot in any competition I enter, so I’m not implying that any track where I’m not the fastest, it’s because the other guy cheated. I don’t mind bringing home a second or third place finish if the gap between myself and the leaders is just a few tenths or hundredths – that’s the thrill of racing after all.

But I have to be completely honest with our readers: on some occasions, the guy in first is just too fast. R3E lets you view the ghost car of any other driver on the leaderboard, and there have been moments where I’m left in disbelief at what the silhouette in front of me is doing. My line may be right, but his car may accelerate just a fraction of a second quicker than mine. In another sector, my throttle rhythm may be superior to his, but the line that was deemed “legal” on his lap triggered a track limit violation on mine. And unfortunately, sometimes the name I’m chasing is one that has been expelled from a prominent online series for – you guessed it – cheating. It calls a lot of things into question.

14633200_10205972776038994_6595143742384074766_oRaceRoom Racing Experience is a racing simulator that has traditionally suffered from many hidden exploits throughout it’s lifespan, and this is something we’ve covered every once in a while here on PRC.net. Currently, in the GT3 class, the Bentley Continental and Ford GT are simply miles ahead of the pack when it comes to raw performance, and selecting any other car available in the roster means you’ll be battling for third place while drivers in either of the aforementioned cars walk away from the field. Earlier this year, we drew attention to a setup exploit which allowed minimum downforce configurations to be used with no detrimental effects to your car’s handling (which was eventually rectified in an update), and back in January I discovered you could wall-ride without any sort of lap invalidation penalty during Sector 3’s DTM Winter Cup. I’ve recently been informed that crazy toe values are all the rage within dedicated hot lapping circles, and run-off areas at tracks such as Hockenheim and the Red Bull Ring can routinely be exploited via liberal interpretations of track limits. At one point, there was even a transponder error that caused complete meltdowns of the scoring functionality in online lobbies. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy my time with this game, but there’s a pretty substantial list of stuff that affects R3E on a competitive level, and a new exploit comes up on average every couple of months.

It’s certainly tough to label any of this stuff as outright cheating – considering there are no working RAM hacks or third party programs involved that we’re aware of – but if you’re an average sim racer entering these competitions and driving in a completely honest fashion, I can confirm there’s only so far you can move up the ladder before hitting a metaphorical brick wall. In my opinion, these little quips do indeed tamper what is otherwise an enjoyable competitive environment.

low_key-visual_1920x1080_enNow, onto the main story. The prize for placing well in the Mercedes-backed competition is some sort of elaborate driving school trip, where you get to do much more than just rip around some parking lot in a passenger car. From what I’m able to deduce based on the promotional material, you’re basically given one of the high-end AMG performance driving school packages as a reward for your in-game accomplishments; what would be a life-changing experience for any dedicated sim racer. Yet as I’ve mentioned above, participants in this season-long competition are starting to hit the metaphorical brick wall between honest lap times and quirky R3E tricks as the season comes to a close; discovering the front-runners are clicking off laps that are nothing short of ridiculous.

Sector 3 forum member stuffwinner has tried to put this problem into words, but at this point it’s tough to deduce whether he’s merely trolling the user base after having a bit too much to drink, or if his nonsensical diversions exhibit remnants of validity. SW writes that “any lap time under the 1:32 range at Hockenheim is theoretically not possible”, and preposterously claims he is “without question the best driver in North America” – but in the process brings up an interesting point: How does a developer know when a blisteringly quick world record is valid, and when it’s the result of clever cheating? Sure, there are strict track boundary rules that are uniformly enforced, and the application has been written in a way to detect external tampering, but if the game does not detect any foul play, yet an impossible lap time is achieved, isn’t there reason to believe the lap is still the result of cheating?¬†

This same problem arose on the iRacing platform many years ago. A certain young Australian race car driver who had been competing in the NASCAR K&N East Series had discovered a program which allowed him to manually manipulate the weather conditions and produce a twelve second lap time around Bristol Motor Speedway, when in reality the Sprint Cup Series entries have gone no faster than a 14.572. iRacing’s anti-cheat software did not detect the random access memory hack, therefore allowing his lap to stand as the unofficial track record, but everyone knew damn well that something was up. They can even be heard discussing the tool in the above video.

stuffwinner fails to elaborate on this concept, and instead notifies Sector 3 Studios that he has contacted Mercedes-AMG directly to complain about their major online competition.

2He may not be as endearing as Ivan the WRC 5 shill, and he’s certainly not as hypocritical as the $43,000 man from SimRacingDesign, but stuffwinner’s alleged former friendship with US Presidential Candidate Donald J. Trump via Valve’s Steam platform makes him a fantastic addition to our growing crop of nutty sim racers which populate our message boards.

3What I find fascinating about this personality, is that he has actually managed to draw attention to an important conversation piece despite his otherwise completely insane rants. RaceRoom Racing Experience has traditionally been subjected to interesting exploits on a consistent basis, and it’s honestly not wrong given how much is on the line with this Mercedes competition to question the validity of the current front-runners. When I used to show up on both Race2Play¬†and public servers alike in R3E with my minimum downforce aero configuration, I was frequently accused of cheating because my car was just that much faster compared to the competition. No, I wasn’t technically cheating, but there was indeed some dishonesty at play; I discovered an issue with the game that I could benefit from and destabilize the playing field. If you’re conducting an online season with such high-profile prizes at stake, it’s important as a developer to ensure all of this stuff is eradicated. As I’ve already stated in this article, even the lowly forum trolls are realizing driving in an honest fashion can only get you so far, so I’d say stuffwinner’s claims are worth looking into at the very least.

It’s just a shame the dude is positively nuts and can’t convey this effectively.

22178803789_49aece612c_kOf course, there’s a chance that the eight individuals who will be crowned winners at the end of the competition haven’t actually done anything wrong, and their Mercedes-Benz AMG Driving Academy prize will be 100% justified. However, given R3E’s rocky history of exploits and other miscellaneous things you could do to gain an advantage on your opponents – sometimes accidentally – there’s a very legitimate chance the drivers up front might not deserve to be there.

Unfortunately, there is no concrete proof of any foul play. If there are any secret RAM Hacks being distributed among the top group of drivers, or a magic adjustment has been found that destroys the competition, they most certainly won’t turn them over or even speak about them; a pricey driving school trip is on the line. As a result, we may never know if stuffwinner’s crazy ramblings are the product of an undisclosed mental illness, or the tin-foil hat conspiracy theories will be confirmed later on down the line in a manner akin to the NSA scandal in the United States.

 

The SimBin Story Hints at a Bigger Development

raceroom-unreal-engineThe North American timezone means we’re most certainly late to the party on this one, but for those who are maybe just rolling in from work, SimBin is set to be resurrected from the grave. No, this is not a drill. Sector 3’s CEO Chris Speed has announced plans to partner with the restored classic brand led by Allan Speed for a multi-platform release sometime in the future; indicating the days of RaceRoom Racing Experience and it’s god-awful reliance on micro-transactions are officially numbered.

The upcoming title – which is so early in development it probably doesn’t even have a name yet – will most certainly make use of the Unreal Engine as demonstrated in the screenshot above, as well as focus on a complete package experience resembling a spiritual successor to Race Pro for the Xbox 360. Yes, I’m aware Race Pro wasn’t the most well-received racing game to hit the mass market audience and it’s probably a bad idea to bring it up in the first place, but with Atari’s hands nowhere near the new project, as well as a developer/publisher combination fully committed to developing a brand new simulator for the hardcore guys to enjoy, this is basically the GTR 3 we’ve been waiting for.

It just took one hell of a long time to get there.

rrre-2016-04-03-15-58-24-66There are still warts to be found within RaceRoom Racing Experience – such as the complete lack of adjustable tire pressures – but I believe this is a step in the right direction for the genre of sim racing as a whole. We needed someone out there to sit down and build a game sim racers would enjoy; one which didn’t weaponize fanboys, rip people off and segregate the userbase with constant DLC packages, or force customers to wait on patch after patch just for basic functionalities to be implemented. I think that on paper, there is genuine potential for Race Pro 2 provided the team at Sector 3 can really sit down and analyze the biggest complaints users have made in regards to R3E. Hell, there are people out there already asking for a boxed copy of R3E as it stands right now, so it’s not like the team is too far off what many would like to see from a future project.

But there’s a key tidbit which makes this story much more interesting than it appears at first glance. Yes, it’s cool that the SimBin name has been restored and immediately been put to use; equivalent to the Winnipeg Jets name returning to the National Hockey League after two decades spent in hibernation. The mere mention of Mathais Lauda supposedly aiding with the develop is a highly questionable decision on the part of VirtualR.net and other pro-Slightly Mad Studios outlets which chose to cover this story. If you google Mathais Lauda and simply follow a couple of links around, it actually spells trouble behind the scenes for Slightly Mad Studios.

01LinkedIn lists Mathais Lauda as the vice president of Lauda Interactive – a video game company which specializes in racing games – and a driver for the Aston Martin factory team in the World Endurance Championship. So this guy isn’t a lone wolf randomly agreeing to help out with the development of a new game; he’s got his own video game studio that’s actually named after him. But who are Lauda Interactive as a developer? We’ve never heard of them before.

03According to SGP Business, they are a small video game developer based in Singapore. This is important, as the head of Slightly Mad Studios himself, Ian Bell, moved to Singapore around the same time the SGP Business page for Lauda Interactive was last updated.

Your next logical question should be: Do they have a homepage?

Of course they do. And Lauda Interactive claim World of Speed is their primary project. You know, the game that Slightly Mad Studios announced would be developed alongside Project CARS, yet has mysteriously failed to materialize in any fashion, and users on the official forums have more or less accepted the fact that this game will not be coming out at all.

02This is where things get interesting. The more you dig around for Lauda Interactive staff member profiles on LinkedIn, you end up discovering that key personnel within the company were once longtime staff members of Slightly Mad Studios. CEO of Lauda Interactive Michele Pes left the team which brought us Project CARS right around the time post-release support for pCars had began to wind down.

04I find all of this very perplexing, and possibly a much bigger story than a new incarnation of SimBin aiding with the development of Sector 3’s next racing simulator. Here you have a group of employees who were once heavily involved with Slightly Mad Studios suddenly creating a studio nobody’s ever heard of with Lauda as their “mascot”, and flying under the radar for several months before announcing plans to assist a rival developer with the creation of their new game, despite their online presence advertising World of Speed – a project spearheaded by the company Lauda Interactive staff members all recently left.

Is this all just an elaborate way to announce World of Speed is no more? Or has there been a mass exodus of Slightly Mad Studios staff members that we haven’t found out about until today?

120% AI – A Visual Tour

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For the readers who have stuck around PRC.net for the long haul, the lot of you are well aware that I’m primarily an online racer. After I came to the realization that modern racing simulator developers probably won’t ever manage to nail the behavior of AI drivers on par with what was seen in old Papyrus simulators, I basically stopped playing offline altogether in favor of organized races in both private leagues, as well as online services such as Race2Play. It’s just a lot more fun and rewarding to drive against human opponents, rather than bots whom suffer from “that one corner” syndrome as Empty Box has so kindly dubbed it. But not every online race is satisfying. Aliens indeed exist, yet commands from their mothership prohibit them from participating in events around the clock, so it’s not uncommon to see certain races turn into rather lopsided affairs.

A few weekends ago, I showed up to a GT3 race in RaceRoom Racing Experience where only eight of the thirteen total registrants managed to make it to the grid, and after Reinhard Berger choked away the lead mere minutes into the race, I drove the final twenty six laps in solitude. An easy way to pad my statistics, yes, but as a competitor, races like that aren’t very enjoyable. Now I’ve heard that RaceRoom Racing Experience offers the best offline racing on the market, so in an effort to make up for that godawful online event from a while back, I put my faith in the sim racing community’s gossip and began my Single Player adventure.

I really shouldn’t have done that.

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For my night of offline racing bliss, and to give R3E’s single player component a proper shakedown, I kept the configuration settings uniform across every track. I’d be driving Kelvin van der Linde’s #1 Audi R8 as seen in the recently released 2015 ADAC GT Masters pack. The race length would be set to eight minutes, I’d be placed eighth on the grid, and I’d jack the AI difficulty all the way up to 120%. Yes, I can already hear some of you bitching at the monitor as you read this – it’s never a good idea to run an isiMotor sim at maximum AI strength because it fucks up all kinds of shit – but unfortunately, an AI level of 120 is literally what I need. In a practice session at a track I’m familiar with, such as Sears Point or Zandvoort, they’re a tenth of a second slower than myself. I’m not trying to brag here, I just need to point out that I’m not intentionally on a quest to break the game.

But that’s what happened anyways, because this is sim racing in 2016.

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We begin our journey at Sears Point, where the pack of AI cars would brake check each other with such a frequency, I was able to pass basically everybody (save for the front row) only a few hundred feet after the start/finish line. By comparison, I have gotten my ass handed to me on standing starts by the boys at Realish Racing every other weekend dating back to January. In the shot above, I’m a gear or two higher than the cars directly around me.

RRRE 2016-05-02 19-32-39-46.jpg

The AI couldn’t handle Turn 10. I restarted the Sears Point race roughly three or four times to document all possible flaws once I realized this wouldn’t be a fun night, and this gentle right-hand corner absolutely perplexed them. Cars would violently whip from side to side on entry, spin out, and stack up the field, even if nobody was around them.

RRRE 2016-05-02 19-33-32-05.jpg

Our AI brothers could jump rumble strips at an alarming frequency, with virtually no tangible effect on their cars’ performance. This sucks when you’re chasing someone down, as there are corners where it’s simply not possible to catch them.

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But of course, karma is not just reserved for human competitors, oh no. Our boy in the Callaway Corvette GT3 entry made a beeline for the immovable objects disguised as tire barriers in Turn 11, and got his ass stuck in the process.

RRRE 2016-05-02 19-38-49-65.jpg

So I restart the race, and the AI cars go from curb hopping, to simply not caring about track limits. I know I catch a lot of shit for my liberal interpretations of racing surface boundaries, but there’s a difference between using up every last inch of tarmac, and driving on the fucking dead grass.

RRRE 2016-05-02 19-39-24-93.jpg

I didn’t have to care much in the long run, as something like two seconds later, the BMW Z4 leading our little pack decided to plow into another set of immovable tire barriers, which destroyed basically the entire field.

RRRE 2016-05-02 19-39-46-28.jpg

Well, to be fair, it was half the field. The other half, consisting mostly of backmarkers, were taken out in a Turn 1 wreck caused by simultaneous self-spins. Look, I enjoyed the random scripted crashes in the original Race Driver: Grid, but we’re looking at a situation where 30 seconds into the race, something like 80% of the cars are destroyed.

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So I guess it’s time to move on to a new track, a location where GT3 cars are known to race. It’s entirely possible that the AI line was not optimized for the GT3 cars at Sears Point in RaceRoom, so the logical fix to these woes would be to take them to a location such as Zandvoort.

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Again, the AI is driving on the fucking grass, and the simplified physics engine taking over allows them to continue pushing with no loss in traction. Honestly, this behavior is similar to what’s seen in Project CARS, where the AI cars go wherever they damn well please.

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But can they take a simple curb? Of course not, so it was on to the next track.

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I took my group of virtual lab rats to the chicane layout of Mid-Ohio. To be fair, we actually made it through the first lap relatively clean, and it was looking to be a decent race until we approached the chicane for the second time. The BMW Z4 in second place, as well as the Audi R8 rounding out the top three, spun in sync and destroyed the pack behind them – which was all of us. Next.

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This is lap one, turn one, of the first race at Laguna Seca. The AI driver in the black & gold Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 cut across the sand in the manner displayed by countless bots above, and spun in front of the pack, essentially taking the bottom half of the field out of contention less than fifteen seconds into the race.

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And lastly, this magnificent trio of self-spins by AI cars occurred at what the 2002 FIA GT Championship program dubs as Turn Four on the Oschersleben circuit. These spins were so violent and so sudden, that I drove into the orange Audi R8 at full speed moments after this shot was taken.

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I’m not sure where I fucked up. All I tried to do was take the community’s advice and run a few offline races in RaceRoom Racing Experience to make up for a lack of any decent online action over the past little bit. For my efforts, I received nothing but pain and suffering. The exact artificial intelligence sim racers claim is the best in the genre will literally drive straight into solid fucking tire barriers, spin in the gentlest of corners, brake check each other when accelerating away from the grid, and drive on the grass with no penalty to their performance. Is my shit broken, or is this another case of delusional sim racers pretending massive artificial intelligence issues are nothing to worry about?