GTR 3 Announced for the Third Time

gtr-3-by-simbin-02No, this is not a drill – we hope, anyway. The fine folks over at RaceDepartment have teamed up with the newest incarnation of SimBim Studios UK to help reveal their current project to the world of sim racing in front of the audience who would love to hear something like this the most. Set for a multi-platform release across the Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4 sometime in 2018, the long-awaited third entry in the hardcore sports car simulator franchise, GTR 3, is confirmed to be in development.


gtr6Initially announced as an Xbox 360 racing game during the spring of 2006 before quietly being cancelled, and then again as a purpose-built PC simulator in late 2011 prior to the underlying software drastically being re-branded into a free-to-play racer known as RaceRoom Racing Experience, Chris Speed of SimBin Studios UK claims the goal with GTR 3 is to push out a top level sports car experience that caters to both casual fans and hardcore sim racers, citing Codemasters’ excellent F1 2016 as inspiration for the project, but leaving sim racers largely in the dark regarding what they should expect on launch day. While we know the title will be powered by the Unreal 4 engine and feature an impressive boost in visual fidelity compared to Sector 3’s current work, key elements such as official series licenses, a potential roster of cars and tracks, or what progression elements the game may contain to keep people engaged have not been made public. All we know is that it will be a quasi-mass market simulator akin to what DiRT Rally or Assetto Corsa have been sold as.

To calm the fears of those who outright refuse to tolerate the intrusive micro-transactions seen in RaceRoom Racing Experience, Speed has confirmed GTR 3 will at the very least ship as a standalone product in the traditional sense, which does not require the use of funny money nor the acquisition of an extensive downloadable content platter to indulge in what GTR 3 will offer to sim racers; a throwback to the days of when video games were sold as complete products.

751818-931477_20060908_003Am I excited? Certainly so.

GTR 2, released in 2006 by a very different team operating under the name of SimBin Studios – currently flying as Slightly Mad Studios of Project CARS fame – was really the last complete racing simulator we were sold prior to certain trends within the industry locking even the most obscure developers in a stranglehold. Coming in just a year prior to the ridiculous downloadable content frenzy spearheaded by juggernaut console franchises, and long before simulators simply threw a random assortment of cars at the customer and said “entertain yourself”, GTR 2 marked the very end of sim racing’s golden age, where competent developers took aim at one specific series in particular, and busted their collective asses to build a highly accurate rendition of whatever they’d acquired the license to – no matter how unfamiliar it was to the general public. While not without its faults, GTR2 absolutely nailed every last element of the FIA GT Championship because SimBin as a developer were focused on creating the very best FIA GT experience possible – the quality of the title engrossing sim racers in a series most of them had never heard of prior to their purchase.

In an era where developers rush to acquire any licenses they possibly can, and spit out games that are merely physics sandboxes with semi-functional racing elements tacked on almost as an afterthought, it’s absolutely fantastic to see a sim racing developer return to a very focused and concrete theme behind their product. Part of Sector 3’s biggest struggle when working on RaceRoom Racing Experience for the PC is that different pieces of content pull them in different directions; sometimes they’re working on the modern DTM cars, other builds focus around the GT3 machinery, and sometimes Steam downloads an update and greets you with a surprise that a car you loved driving now resides in an entirely different class. A product such as GTR3 allows a company to sit down and say “let’s focus on building the best possible sports car game we can make with the technology we have available”, as opposed to being pulled in eight different directions by eight different pieces of content.

And not only have Sector 3 struggled with this problem; iRacing, Automobilista, Project CARS, and Assetto Corsa all suffer from being a “jack of all trades” simulator, yet a master of none. Assetto Corsa features many modern Prototypes, but no Circuit de la Sarthe nor the ability to race at night. Project CARS features two different eras of stock car racing, but no ovals in sight. It’s really quite silly, and the impression I’ve gotten from the initial announcement is that GTR3 slaps this ideology straight in the face. As a result, I expect the overall quality and theme of the game will greatly benefit from a very centralized focus.

866967-945729_20080424_002However, some sim racers are already claiming the sky to be falling, as Chris Speed’s description of a sports car simulator that appeals to both the hardcore crowd as well as a mass market audience have some sim racers believing this game will be neutered beyond recognition in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. I find this to be an exceptionally strange fear. GTR2’s way of appealing to casual racers was by creating a separate tutorial mode that taught the basics of driving a race car – something which everyone could use a bit of brushing up on every now and then – and lumping sets of driving aids into three distinct categories that could be toggled in a dedicated Realism  menu to produce the driving experience of your choice. Most people of the hardcore obviously set this shit to Simulation and never touched it again, but lesser settings were definitely there and in no way sacrificed the integrity of the simulation in favor of the casual audience.

Hell, both NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, and even the almighty Grand Prix Legends, offered entire alternative physics models for people who found the ideal variant of the game far too difficult for what their preliminary set of skills could cope with, and those are two titles which most of the sim racing community agree to be the most difficult home simulators ever released to the general public. Did the arcade handling models see stuff like Grand Prix Legends tossed aside by sim racing snobs for not being hardcore enough? Nope.

Image result for GTR2 realism settings

I think a lot of people expected me to tear the GTR3 announcement apart, but in reality, this is the exact kind of game the sim racing genre needs – a throwback to a much better time. With Sector 3, Kunos Simulazioni, and even iRacing sitting around and churning out games that just sort of throw random cars and tracks at the user in a stale and uninspiring physics playground, it’ll be a nice change of pace to have a game on the market that really attempts to build an atmosphere and sense of identity around one core racing series that is reproduced to perfection. It sucks that we won’t see this game in a completed state until 2018 at the very earliest, but at least someone in the genre has finally smartened up and figured out that you can’t just keep endlessly fine-tuning your own sandbox simulator to try and compete with everyone else’s nearly-identical sandbox simulator.


Inclusion of Silverstone Masks Underwhelming R3E Build – *Updated with AI Impressions*

rrre-2017-01-25-13-27-15-69Don’t look over there, look over here!  The January 2017 update of RaceRoom Racing Experience deployed a few short hours ago after a brief period of routine server maintenance, and other than the free-to-play racing simulator finally receiving a long awaited circuit in Silverstone International Raceway, there are certainly more negatives than positives to discuss this afternoon. For a game that’s looking to implement some sort of organized online racing service comparable to iRacing in the near future, Sector 3 have a mammoth amount of work to do in order to properly prepare for what lies ahead with R3E.

Yes, there’s now a beautiful rendition of Great Britain’s most iconic purpose built auto racing facility for R3E owners to purchase, and you’re now able to execute pit stops entirely by yourself – without the computer ever taking control of your car – but these are immediately forgotten about once you hit the track. Silverstone is already found in every other modern racing simulator on the market, and a whole host of these games dating back to the days of MS-DOS have allowed you to drive the car in pit lane and stop in your respective pit stall for a set of four racing slicks with complete independence. With this latest update, Sector 3 are essentially playing catch-up. Once you realize that you’re celebrating the ability to do things you were once able to do in simulators released decades ago, the magic of Steam downloading a sizeable update for R3E is lost.

Don’t get me wrong, R3E’s rendition of Silverstone is fantastic and a worthwhile addition to the game compared to all of the obscure Swedish tracks Sector 3 recently announced, but there are many fantastic versions of Silverstone floating around in the wild. And there are still many problems with R3E that should have taken precedence over the release of a new track.

rrre-2017-01-25-13-25-38-24Traditionally when I compose pieces like these for any number of racing simulators, I typically head online for a race or two, save the replay, and spend a couple of minutes poking around with the free roam camera so our readers have a collection of pretty pictures to look at. It’s incredibly hard for me to do that here. R3E currently suffers from a problem where if any user retires from a race prior to its completion, they don’t show up for the duration of the replay. This never used to be an issue until a build or two ago. Sector 3 still haven’t fixed this, meaning several key players from a battle that occurred early on in a GT3 session at Silverstone are nonexistent in my replay file. It’s pretty hilarious watching myself and the guy in the Corvette give space to our imaginary friend in the Mercedes SLS AMG for the opening laps, not to mention a cluster cars randomly scattering in turn one to avoid a wreck you can’t actually see.

For leagues using R3E as a competitive platform, this is a deal breaker. As an administrator or steward, how do you go back and analyze footage of an incident, when there’s a chance the car that caused the incident won’t appear in the replay unless they finished the race prior to disconnecting from the server? Oops.

rrre-2017-01-25-13-28-29-22Now we get to the fun stuff.

Around this same time last year, RaceRoom Racing Experience featured a setup exploit that let you run the lowest downforce configuration possible in every GT3 car on the roster, without any obvious detrimental effects to your performance. Basically, you could set the rear wing to a value of 1 (out of a possible 20), and utterly stomp the field with free top end speed, when in theory the car should have been a deathtrap and nearly undrivable in all but the slowest of corners on the race track. I used this exploit to my advantage for a few races before reporting it to Sector 3, and it was supposedly rectified by March of 2016.

I don’t think they’ve fixed it, or if they have, it hasn’t been on every car. Just for a giggle, I dropped the rear wing to the minimum value of my McLaren 12c before an online GT3 event of Silverstone, primarily to see how much I could get away with considering Silvestone features three very long high speed sections where low downforce would greatly benefit your car’s performance. I also ran the qualifying session with a full load of fuel, because I was so incomprehensibly lazy, I couldn’t be bothered with creating a separate qualifying setup.

rrre-2017-01-25-12-54-11-44Rather than the rear end trying to loop around on most corners of the circuit, the 12c I’d chosen was fairly neutral with a tad bit of understeer if I got the throttle application point wrong. And not only was I murdering people in the high speed sections, nobody else in the session stood a chance when it came to the overall lap times. The current leaderboard record holder, Thomas Schmidt, was over a second off pace. Keep in mind, I was also running a full tank of fuel, whereas Tomas was noticeably faster in qualifying than he was in practice – indicating he devised a proper sprint trim setup. I ran just two laps in qualifying, and parked it for the rest of the twenty minute session.

rrre-2017-01-25-12-54-18-42Personally, I would prefer if Sector 3 released a hotfix that locked the rear wing setting for all GT3 cars at a uniform value, as your average person isn’t going to discover the low downforce exploit, therefore spending countless laps trying to fine tune the rear wing setting when they simply don’t need to. In order to level the playing field and make online races at least somewhat competitive for the time being, the rear wing should be a fixed value until Sector 3 can figure out what’s causing this problem. I love winning races by a large margin, but it’s a lot more fun when it relies on driver skill rather than discovering something in the garage area that most wouldn’t consider. And it would be really shitty if this was still around with skill points on the line, or whatever Sector 3 are planning to do with their organized online racing structure.

rrre-2017-01-25-13-19-24-57There are other little niggles, as well. The online server browser has been redesigned as well, though it’s not without its problems. Visually it’s a step up from the primarily text-based format, but there’s no option to permanently hide restricted servers by default, meaning you’re forced to click the button every single time you enter the multiplayer screen. And though there’s a nice picture detailing each circuit being used in the lobby, the cars available are now written in a smaller font. Look, I don’t care that the name of the room is FERAL CIRCUS, I want to know which classes of cars I can drive. That’s the important part. Don’t hide it off to the side.

rrre-2017-01-25-14-44-10-43Like I said, it’s a very underwhelming update for RaceRoom Racing Experience that fails to fix the important stuff, while adding a circuit that all the other games already have, and a feature that should have been in there from the start. I’m not happy that the low downforce garbage is still present – as it compromises the level playing field – and it’s lame how replays still fail to include drivers who disconnect prematurely, especially as this is a relatively new glitch that wasn’t present in the past. Stuff like this just makes me extremely skeptical that Sector 3 can pull off releasing an online racing service intended to directly compete with iRacing. You’ve got to walk before you can run, and they’re still struggling with the walking part.

rrre-2017-01-25-17-16-28-93EDIT: Now since a lot of you have been rightfully asking about the artificial intelligence improvements Sector 3 have bundled with the latest build, the least I can do is talk about them for a bit, as many use this title for their go-to single player racing experience (no pun intended). According to the patch notes, Sector 3 have attempted to breath new life into the AI by giving them a basic set of dynamic behavior traits, and on paper what they’ve tried to introduce sounds fairly impressive. No longer are the AI running on rails at a set pace, they’re generally aware that they’re driving a high performance race car in a competitive environment, against other drivers trying with the same common goal – win the race. That’s a good thing for owners of R3E.

  • Introduced “Stress factor” for AI. AI’s can now be pushed into making mistakes when under pressure. Likelihood of those mistakes increases from being chased and from collisions.
  • Improved AI awareness of opponents on their sides.
  • When two AI’s are side by side reaching a braking point, one will brake 3% earlier and the other 2% later, depending on longitudinal position and relative speeds

The bad thing is, these new lines of code don’t produce the results we’re all looking for on the race track. In short, while the additional logic implementations look nice in a forum post outlining what you can expect from the January 25th update, the AI basically ram into each other at a rate that makes racing offline exceptionally frustrating. As you can see in the shot above, one AI car is straight up turning into another only a hundred feet or so after the start finish line. It’s a pain in the ass to navigate through, because they never seem to let up.

rrre-2017-01-25-17-28-08-79I’m racing on an AI strength of 117, and the computer opponents are basically trying to kill each other at any given moment. Here at the Slovakia ring, you can see two sets of cars playing chicken with one another; the group on the right side playing bumper cars with each other before we’ve even made it to the first corner. It’s utterly silly to watch in motion, and it almost always results in a cluster of cars slamming into one another. Don’t get me wrong, I love trading paint with people online, but it’s all contextual. This isn’t something you do right at the drop of the green flag – it’s the result of several minutes fighting for position, and yet in R3E’s single player component, the AI drives like we’re in Destruction Derby from the moment the lights go out.

rrre-2017-01-25-17-30-20-22The quality of racing varies greatly from track to track, so while some of you may be lucky to find yourself enjoying an acceptable battle against the AI, some tracks are borderline useless. Sonoma Raceway and the Slovakia Ring produce some phenomenal clusters throughout lap one, while the brand new Silverstone Raceway fares much better, aside from AI cars randomly applying the brake pedal long after any significant event has occurred in front of them. It’s very Assetto Corsa-ish in that the AI sometimes piss themselves for no identifiable reason, and you can make up a few spots here or there due to their sheer incompetence.

Portimao, one of my favorite tracks in R3E, is sadly a complete clusterfuck when racing against a field of bots. AI cars occupying the inside line going into turn one routinely misjudge the turn-in point on corner entry, notice they’ve made a mistake, counter-steer to bail themselves out, and shoot across the track into oncoming cars whom are going much faster than they are. I’ve tried to capture the moment of impact in the shot below, but it’s to the point where multiple cars are causing a wreck, one after the other. The silver Mustang took out the SLS, and the blue Z4 took out the black Camaro.

rrre-2017-01-25-17-38-39-55As I kept restarting the race to see what else would happen, it was basically just a matter of watching the same three or four AI cars plow into each other with reckless abandon, sometimes in places that nobody should possibly place their car entering turn one at Portimao. I mean, seriously, these guys are a solid thirty feet away from the proper racing line.

rrre-2017-01-25-17-39-54-52I would love to say that the artificial intelligence in this game is a massive step forward with Sector 3’s upgrades to their behavior, but I can’t. Yes, there are some tracks where the AI are partially tolerable aside from micro-braking. Venture past that, and they have no problem playing bumper cars with one another. Sure, if you only drive one or two tracks in the game, and they happen to be locations not adversely affected by the changes in AI driver logic, your experience will most certainly vary. However, in about thirty minutes of mucking around within R3E’s single player mode, all I saw was carnage. In Automobilista – a simulator inspired by the same underlying engine – I can deal with the odd AI car or two nudging each other out of the way, but R3E jacks things up to eleven. It’s an all-out battlefield, and very rarely does their aggressiveness make sense given each on-track situation.

Back to the drawing board.

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.

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, 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 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.