New Company Name, Same Horrid NASCAR Game

So the NASCAR license did change hands. Sort of.

The downfall of NASCAR games started with an European shovelware publisher known as Eutechnyx acquiring the right’s to America’s most prominent auto racing series, a bizarre decision considering the team’s lack of any reasonable proximity to the reference material, as well as NASCAR’s non-existent popularity across the Atlantic ocean. After a predictable string of horrible releases that quite frankly embarrassed both casual and hardcore NASCAR fans alike, key staff members jumped ship from the eternal dumpster fire responsible for Ride to Hell: Retribution and Auto Club Revolution, promptly rebranded themselves as Dusenberry-Martin Interactive, promised a substantial increase in the overall quality of future products, yet slapped NASCAR fans in the face by re-releasing NASCAR ’14 with an updated driver roster, calling it NASCAR ’15, and still crediting development of the game to Eutechnyx, at least according to Wikipedia.

With critical reception consistently falling below 50% with each yearly release, Dusenberry-Martin Interactive then hastily went out and recruited Monster Games, developers of the critically acclaimed NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona over a decade ago on significantly different hardware – supposedly giving them just six months to slap a game together. The result was a complete disaster; NASCAR Heat Evolution used engine sounds and car performance attributes from 2000, did not feature caution flags in online play, and in the end was a product so horribly unfinished, you’re unable to crash out and retire from a race. I have been sent over the catchfence at Daytona, only to head into the pits and regain the lead eighteen laps later. I’ve tried several times to enjoy Heat Evolution for what it is – a lighthearted NASCAR games with authentic liveries and tracks – and it’s just not possible. I always find myself heading back to the EA Sports offerings of the early 2000’s.

Unfortunately, what I’m about to write is not a poor April Fool’s joke. Once again, key staff members have jumped ship from the eternal dumpster fire responsible for NASCAR The Game: 2013 and NASCAR Heat Evolution, and rebranded themselves as 704 Games. Under the new moniker, a sequel to NASCAR Heat Evolution will be released this fall – the sequel to a game where the car is sent barrel-rolling if you do so much as brush the wall.

Seething rage does not begin to describe how I feel about this announcement; what appears to be largely the same group of individuals responsible for the officially licensed NASCAR abominations dating back to 2011 have basically taken to re-naming their company every couple of years to continue churning out garbage NASCAR products under the guise of “next year’s game will be different, we promise, see, we have a new company name and a totally different mentality”, a line of games no fans have ever been satisfied with and openly blast on the game’s official subreddit by comparing it to games released a decade ago – which has sinced moved to a new subreddit to reflect the change in the company’s name.

There is no long-winded rant to follow this news. This is silly, and it needs to stop. The NASCAR license needed to change hands, and this wasn’t the way to do it. Obviously I can’t sit here and label these guys as scam artists or anything, but as a consumer, what I’m seeing is the same company changing their name every few years to retain the license through what I assume must be some sort of loophole, only to push out horrid video games that upset fans and tarnish the image of the brand. NASCAR console games used to be absolutely awesome time-killers with compelling on-track action and an insane amount of shit to do after the festivities in victory lane – unfortunately, this is now no longer the case. Don’t give these guys your money for the sequel to Heat Evolution, and maybe NASCAR will figure it out for themselves that shit needs to change.

It used to be so much better; there’s really no reason for NASCAR games to go backwards despite extreme advances in technology.

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Advocating for Stagnance

Once again, the sim racing community displays their bizarre mentality which prohibits the genre from moving forward.

While racing simulators can be a traditionally dull affair, devoid of life, fancy progression systems, and interesting diversions aside from the sterile on-track experience, the men and women at Codemasters are making an effort to change that with the upcoming DiRT 4. With a portion of the team – who have grown quite large since acquiring a major slice of Evolution Studios – working hard to make the simulation physics even more realistic than the sideforce-heavy driving model in 2015’s DiRT Rally, another part of the gang are hell-bent on crafting a compelling campaign experience to go along with the ruthless rally driving sim racers are eagerly anticipating to get their hands on this summer.

Codemasters’ latest blog update details the in-depth Team Management feature which will be available in DiRT 4, adding elements not seen since 2007’s Race Driver GRID into the core gameplay experience. Not only do we anticipate DiRT 4 to be the most realistic and authentic off-road sim ever created, but users will also be able to acquire crew & staff members, sign sponsors, design their liveries with a large roster of in-game templates (akin to the original GRID), buy & sell cars, as well as develop facilities to upgrade your vehicle at a quicker rate. You’re no longer just a rally driver; you’re running your own rally team. The giant inflatable Monster Energy cans and avant garde menus of past titles that shot you right into the action will now be replaced by a comprehensive meta-game that will serve to compliment what you accomplish behind the wheel, and sure, some people will have more money than they know what to do with only a few days into owning the game, but the existence of such management features greatly helps to flesh out the world of DiRT 4.

However, this hasn’t sat well with some sim racers.

Codemasters are going above and beyond with DiRT 4, introducing several elements which serve to substantially lengthen the longevity of the game and give some sort of underlying purpose to your on-track activity, and sim racers are actively saying they would rather have a mundane simulator devoid of life and meaning. While mainstream sports games such as FIFA, NBA 2K, and Madden are praised for their pseudo Twitter feeds, extensive visual customization, financial negotiations, in-game radio shows, and even cutscenes to enhance the immersion factor, a racing game developer attempting to add genre-appropriate elements like managing a pit crew, signing sponsors, designing a livery, and keeping an eye on your finances, have been scoffed at by snobbish sim racers, who would seemingly prefer these games to be permanently stuck in 1998.

It’s a very confusing phenomenon, to say the least. In terms of raw staff size, Codemasters may possibly be the single biggest racing game developer thanks to their recent acquisition of the staff from Evolution Studios, so it’s not like the simulation elements are being cut from DiRT 4 in favor of the management meta-games – it’s merely the icing on the cake of an already impressive package thanks to a random stage generator, 50 vehicles, and three distinct racing disciplines. Yet sim racers are actively voicing that they don’t care for these features in the slightest.

It’s extremely ironic how hardcore auto racing fans, who obsess over real-world silly season sponsor announcements, draft up fantasy liveries for their favorite drivers, and use sim racing as a way to live out their childhood dreams of running a race team with their friends, actively dismiss a solid attempt by a developer to include these elements in their newest game; instead crying that these features aren’t welcome.

This is proof that the sim racing community is absolutely off the rails, and I pray to God that developers are selective in what community feedback they choose to take into account; sim racers are whining that a developer went above and beyond to create a well-rounded experience from the paddock to the podium, instead implying the genre should remain stagnant. Thank you, Codemasters, for making a very tangible effort to create a compelling experience both on and off the track. Please don’t listen to these clowns, you’re on the right track with DiRT 4.

Doing It Right: How Sim Racing Can Improve as an eSport

While the Visa Vegas eRace, Eurogamer Assetto Corsa Championship, and the iRacing World Grand Prix Series may be known as the absolute pinnacle of competitive online sim racing, virtual auto racing as an eSport simply hasn’t taken off in the slightest. Despite hundreds of thousands of viewers tuning in to watch world class Counter Strike or League of Legends matches, what’s arguably the most difficult and skill-based genre of video games existing on the planet – hardcore racing simulators – are struggling to reel in any sort of audience whatsoever. Attempt after attempt is made to thrust sim racing into the eSports spotlight alongside much larger titles, but regardless of who exactly is behind the organization of it all, and the simulator chosen to hold the specific competition in question, the end result is always the same; nobody cares who wins, the on-track product is unexciting, the commentators far too enthusiastic for the event, technical issues destroy the flow of the broadcast, and barely anybody tuned in to begin with. League of Legends matches are occasionally covered by ESPN, but sim racing events draw a crowd on par with high school volleyball matches – and that’s pulling from a worldwide audience?

So how do we fix this?

Let’s throw some ideas out there.

And we’ll start by talking about the broadcast crew. Right now, the biggest problem is commentators either go all out and pretend online races are these ultra-serious life changing epiphanies in a desperate attempt to build a portfolio for some kind of real life commentating gig, or it’s absurdly obvious that the commentary crew is sitting in a dark basement waiting for mommy to cook them some hot pockets – and I think on an iRacing stream this actually happened once, where one guy freaked on his roommate for busting into the room during a broadcast.

The commentators need to approach the event with the mentality that it’s an organized event with a big prize on the line, but at the end of the day remember it’s also just a video game where some guys are turning laps in their pyjamas and they can be free to joke around, use slang, and call the action as if they’re genuinely just happy to hang out and watch a race. Two guys who are fantastic at maintaining this balance are Shaun Cole and Ian Plasch – the former being the personality behind The SimPit, whereas the latter is a popular iRacing streamer with his own fanbase. Personally I love listening to Shaun as he really gets that it’s just a fun hobby at the end of the day, whereas Ian is still young enough to appeal to the younger, eSports centric audience.

The reason I suggest to stay away from serious-minded commentators, is that occasionally things can and do go wrong during the on-track action, and it creates a really poor suspension of disbelief effect. Deep monologues discussing alternate race strategies do not go well with cars glitching into the track surface and shooting off into the stratosphere, followed by commentators awkwardly trying to decide if they should explain the game suffered a technical issue, or pretend there was a sudden “mechanical failure” – as they’ve done in the past with iRacing server failures. A laid-back, casual voiceover is a much more acceptable pair for the random carnage sim racing sometimes provides.

Next, let’s talk about the competitors themselves. I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this one, but let’s go there anyways. No matter how many huge eSport racing events are held, one thing has never changed – the drivers are boring, lifeless personalities. I’m sorry guys, the majority of sim events I watch, it’s a flock of faceless Europpean forklift drivers. You have to captivate your viewers, establish heroes and villans – which in turn allows the audience to either identify, support, or root against the numerous drivers on the grid – and that simply isn’t happening in the genre at the moment, so nobody is even caring who wins these competitions. Go watch the Visa vegas eRace again, it’s ten guys who all sound the same, look like they just finished their shift at some obscure Finnish warehouse, and were told to quickly get into this weird Firesuit to pretend they’re real race car drivers. Sorry, no, this is silly. Unfortunately if you want to grow sim racing as an eSport, you’ve got to move away from “the best sim racers in the world”, because as a viewer they have the personality of an Ikea dining set.

Look at the biggest personalities in the YouTube realm: BlackPanthaa, EmptyBox, SlapTrain, xMattyG, tiametmarduk, Yorkie065… all of these people alone have exponentially more viewers than the iRacing World Grand Prix Series. Round them all up and put them into a Championship with a few top-caliber drivers such as Bono Huis and Greger Huttu. As a viewer, I now want to watch SlapTrain get the shit kicked out of him and piss myself at the various fanbases for each sim racing YouTuber fighting in the chat after a wreck, which means the story of Greger Huttu winning his 19th championship or whatever is supported by equally compelling sub-plots. Right now, there is no drama, because nobody cares if Ray Alfalla wins 1, 5, 10, or 20 races in iRacing because he’s literally some dude from Cuba who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. However, there are 1.4 million people subscribed to SlapTrain, and 51,000 people subscribed to EmptyBox. A whole bunch of those people are going to show up to see them rub fenders.

Imagine if every single Formula One driver on the 2017 grid was Kimi Raikkonen. Twenty-two Kimi’s all giving one sentence interviews in simple English does not make for good television, and when you’re trying to grow sim racing as an eSport, it does not indicate to potential sponsors or those on the fence that they should tune in next week as well. That’s what outsiders see sim racing as right now. That needs to change.

So the idea would be to go out and get all of the prominent YouTube personalities, and mix them in with a flock of very talented sim racers, to sort of balance out the grid with a pack of drivers who can run at the front and set an example of “this is what top level sim racing looks like.” The personalities give people a reason to cheer for their favorite YouTuber, and at the end of the day the series still has credibility thanks to the cluster of guys running at the front.

Now the next topic to address is the officiating, and this is one of the most important parts of the whole series – it has to be FUN for all involved. Look, thanks to my connections to certain people within the world of iRacing, as well as some of the individuals who have sent me screenshots of the internal iRacing World Championship forums over the past few months, it’s time to let you all in on something that isn’t much of a secret to the top ranked drivers on the service – Shannon Whitmore is a power-tripping asshole. The eSport series officially sanctioned by NASCAR and sponsored by a major automotive brand is basically one guy in a private section of the iRacing forums ruling the championship with an iron fist, and it would be absolute chaos if I could run wild with the print screen key and post it all on PRC. Some of the participants in the iRacing series are under twenty years old, really just kids who happen to kick ass at a NASCAR video game, and yet the head steward power-trips like a middle school teacher unsatisfied with the fact he’s on his third career choice. It’s absolutely, one hundred percent not warranted.

Thankfully, older iRacing members can act as role models or support systems for the younger sim racers, but holy mother of God, the stuff I’ve seen is insane. You CANNOT treat your sim racers like this as a steward. Officials have to remember that this is a GAME and eSports competitiors are just here to have fun and compete for a bunch of money, because they happen to be absurdly good at driving fake cars. If the competitors aren’t having fun, the on-track product will suffer.

So what cars, and what tracks? Formula One, NASCAR, and IndyCar are suffering from dwindling crowds in recent years because people have lost the passion they once had for it, so why are organizers believing that Virtual NASCAR or Virtual Formula One will catch on to some extent? Nah man, change it up. I’m not saying GT3 cars at Bristol Motor Speedway is a good idea, but the rumors about NASCAR going to Circuit of the Americas, or IndyCar going to the Daytona Infield Road Course, now’s the time to try it – this gives viewers a reason to tune in as it’s something unique that the real world of auto racing isn’t giving them. And if the event goes well, congratulations, you can now show IndyCar that an event at the Daytona Infield track went well, you had all these viewers, and the real thing just might be every bit as compelling.

There’s also the option of developers creating a special eSports-centric race car to level the playing field and prevent any one driver or team from dominating and turning the race into a snoozer; look at Gran Turismo 6’s Red Bull X1, for example (but maybe not as extreme). Send a car like that to the Nurburgring Nordschleife in the rain, or if a game allows for it, Spa in the snow with special snow tires. Why shouldn’t the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series head to the Nurburgring? Nobody can get hurt, and it’s still within the realm of possibilities; let’s do it.

Lastly, let’s talk about the reward, and the inevitable follow-up. Sorry mates, I don’t care if some pasty white dude from Europe wins 250k USD. Sure, the Visa Vegas eRace put up a huge prize, but what is the winner going to do with the money, hookers and blow? We don’t know, only a few of us ever found out thanks to keeping up with obscure sim racing news websites, and that’s lame. Even with iRacing, they put up $10,000 for a championship win, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Three time NASCAR Peak Anti-Freeze champion Ray Alfalla was interviewed by Shaun Cole of The SimPit a few months ago, and it eventually came out that the multiple iRacing championships he’d attained hadn’t led to much of anything.

This isn’t exciting for the viewers. If nothing is on the line aside from a novelty cheque that’ll go towards copious amounts of takeout and an escort or two, nobody cares about a sim racer having his life changed by a five figure prize pool.

So let’s throw ’em in a race car. Organizers of an upcoming eSports series need to track down an amateur team willing to give a complete rookie a shot, and throughout the season have one of the team members come into the commentary booth as a third booth personality to evaluate the drivers from a racing ettiquette standpoint – and this means everything from throttle application, line choice, respect for other drivers, strategy… the whole nine yards. Whoever wins the championship receives a test day with said amateur team (so we’re talking Formula 4 or Clio Cup here), and that too is broadcast live as the final episode of the online broadcast – you spend all these races rooting for a guy, and the end payoff is seeing the guy you cheered for strap his ass into a modest race car and try his hands at the real deal. If he passes the test, he’s got a ride, and if he fails the test because he’s too fat to fit in the seat OR the skills just didn’t transfer over in the manner he intended, he walks home with $20,000 in prize money.

Provided the resources are directed into the proper areas which are lacking, sim racing can take off as an eSport, but right now organizers seem to be throwing multiple piles of shit at a wall and hoping it sticks. Unfortunately, it’s not – 22 virtual Kimi Raikkonen’s are parading around a circuit, and giving viewers zero reasons to tune into each broadcast. The ideas I’ve outlined above are ways to try and turn it into something more, but they’re just that – ideas. Maybe somebody will be crazy enough to try them.

Has iRacing Missed their Marketing Target?

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen the sudden influx of iRacing shill pieces lately, published on a multitude of outlets from AutoWeek to NESN, often implying that drivers are getting picked up by major racing teams for simply using the service and being good at sim racing. While it’s nice to see iRacing actually trying to market themselves in a broad fashion compared to the past where they relied primarily on word of mouth, there’s still one major problem with their approach: iRacing do very little to cater to the road racing side of the experience – all of the advertising is directed primarily towards oval drivers and oval cars in oval series.

No wonder the costs of subscription and content suddenly went up as well.

iRacing recently announced a partnership with Kasey Kahne to be all over his Sprint Car, as it competes on the Craftsman World of Outlaws Series tour, they’re continuing with Ty Majeski into the NASCAR Xfinity Series, they’re on Clint Bowyer’s dirt late model, yet there is absolutely nothing to represent the other 50% of the service. The biggest market in auto racing, with mass world-wide appeal, is something iRacing has worked very hard to make lots of content for, and yet they seem to have no interest in actually going out and attracting that audience, at least from the public viewpoint – instead focusing everything on a very segregated series from the rest of the world, with both declining numbers in track attendance and TV ratings.

Oops.

At this point, they are just doubling down on a market that has the most local appeal to them, but yet almost any oval racing fan or driver I’ve talked to already knows about iRacing, they don’t seem to be gaining anything from advertising to local short tracks, and then of those who are reached by the marketing campaigns, how many local racers look at it once, complain about the paywall that most people don’t bother to look past, and never take a second, more in-depth look?

Yes, you can get a three month trial for free with certain promotions, or free cars on top of the base subscription package, but you are advertising to people who most likely don’t have a wheel, and they’ll be forced to spend upwards of $200 or borrow one from a friend – who most likely already has an iRacing account himself to go along with said wheel – and in that case has already done the free advertising for you himself, again making your investment pointless. It just seems like money being thrown into a market they have already tapped, and the gains are now at a point where they’re just not going to match the investment.

Any oval racing fan already knows about iRacing, and on top of that, most of them have already made the choice to sign up for it or not. It’s all a bit silly at this point; double down on the oval advertising when there’s an entirely separate discipline of auto racing they’re ignoring, despite building an abundance of content for. I appreciate the fact that they are giving back to local racing… sort of… but they’re at a point where they’re trying to grow the service by preaching to the choir.

The other major flaw with iRacing’s marketing department that I’d like to discuss in this entry, is how they push their software as the “original eSport racing game,” or sometimes just as “the original eSport,” though I think that tagline was quickly rectified. Here is a place where I feel iRacing seem to have no idea what the eSport audience actually is, and their claims show just how little they know about the eSport landscape itself. First of all, the very beginnings of what we now know as eSports can be traced back to either the Nintendo World Championships in the late 1980’s, or the mass appeal of online Quake or Counter-Strike matches from the late 1990’s – and even then some of the older folks among us will override our claims with Pac-Man challenges in the early 1980’s that local taverns or arcades held, all of which were well before iRacing started handing out $10,000 prizes for their championship wins starting in 2010. In terms of being the first eSport racing game, that tagline is also incorrect; Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo both beat it to the punch by a significant margin, with Forza’s Showdown and GT’s Academy.

Another major part of the story iRacing marketing has seemingly omitted is the fact that every large eSport which they’re aspiring to be, has a massive userbase in the millions, mostly due to being free-to-play games or one time $60 purchases, all of which are designed with mass customer appeal in mind. iRacing can barely maintain 3,000 people online at once without servers crashing and the staff blaming it on a DDoS attack (when it’s really just iRacers mashing F5), yet they somehow think they are equal to League of Legends, reeling in 200,000 viewers for a TSM regular season match. Oh please, I don’t know if it’s just pure arrogance from the small team in Bedford, maybe being sent a blank cheque from John Henry gives them that kind of ego, but the fact is iRacing seem to have completely missed the mark, not only on WHO they are targeting, but what that target even represents.

One element all “simulator” games seem to have missed, is that if you are going to build an eSport, you first need the userbase to support said eSport, and massive paywalls are not going to get you the audience needed to support the marketing world that surrounds the current state of eSports. The only racing game with the potential to attain a decent eSport following has been Gran Turismo, offering a full private racing school followed by a legitimate Nissan contract, just for buying a $60 game. Forcing people to pay upwards of $400 in the cost of in-game content alone, for a chance at making $10,000 – a portion of which is taxed by the US government – seems laughable in comparison.

Games like League of Legends make almost nothing from the average player, but they compensate for this via optional in-game microtransactions that are mostly cosmetic changes to existing gameplay elements. This allows them to actually make way more money and massively increase their audience than they would ever make from a simple $60 purchase or a monthly subscription fee without being pay to win, or pay to play. How many people would play League of Legends if merely competing in lower tier competitive ladders generated a three figure credit card bill? Not many, and iRacing doesn’t appear to understand this. If iRacing were to drastically reduce the costs of the service, they would actually increase the size of the userbase and generate more revenue from loads of smaller purchases, as has been proven over almost a decade with numerous free-to-play titles.

As usual, sim racing tends to be stuck in the past, refuses to adapt, and we always have another one waiting to take the #1 spot. Sim developers all greedily fight for this small portion of the market, while console users hand over their wallets to companies like Electronic Arts or Slightly Mad Studios, all while complaining that the games aren’t realistic enough, yet scoff at the idea of paying anything over $100 for a sim. Not to mention the massive PC investment or the periphreals needed. Stuff like JJacoby88’s estimated $20,000 USD credit card-maxing sim rig, shouldn’t be praised; it only drives away people on the fence who go “yep, I’m never paying that much money no matter how good it looks”, and crawl back to their consoles.

Sim developers desperately need to realize who their target audience is, stop throwing money at targets they already have acquired, and stop the ridiculous paywalls that drive away any sort of casual audience they need to keep their games alive. Gran Turismo has already proven it’s possible to have both a quality sim with massive appeal that can attract the audience needed to support a full TV series, as well as get a major manufacturer involved in finding talented drivers, and that’s all while paying a much bigger team to work on their game off a simple $60 purchase.

The math speaks for itself, a $60 game multiplied by one million sales nets a greater profit than $600 in subscription and content fees, multiplied by only a thousand hardcore sim racers, and if you create a cosmetic item department, then the whales show up and you get the best of both worlds, all while leaving the casual, low income user unaffected and able to enjoy the full game experience – and thus generation more interest in watching the product they actively use.

That’s how to grow sim racing as an eSport. This stuff has to make sense financially for people on the fence, and right now, iRacing – the company with the best shot currently at establishing themselves as a legitimate eSport – doesn’t.

Another Month Without Custom Lobbies for Console Version of Assetto Corsa

The current generation console version of Assetto Corsa needs no introduction at this point. Horribly un-optimized, and lacking in basic features & functionalities seen in games dating back to the PlayStation 2 era, the popular PC simulator’s jump to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware has been anything but a wise decision for Kunos Simulazioni, with the vast majority of customers exposed to the Italian team’s ineptitude and lack of foresight – traits that PC owners were at least able to sweep under the rug, distracted by an abundance of third party mods to extend the lifespan of the game.

Establishing itself as the peak of the metaphorical mountain of problems and omissions plaguing the console renditions of Assetto Corsa would be the game’s complete lack of custom lobbies. Unlike basically every online racing game ever, which would let you open a private or public lobby under your own rules with the specific cars and tracks you’d selected, Assetto Corsa instead takes an approach reminiscent of modern first-person shooters, and forces sim racers to join already established servers with preset combinations. Obviously, this has not sat well with the userbase – on top of being unable to conduct proper league races and dirty/inexperienced drivers commonly creating mass chaos on the grid, many cars available on the vehicle roster, including DLC cars some had paid extra for, are not available to be driven in online sessions. Given that the game’s artificial intelligence is a bit of a mess, and the Career mode offers the depth of an iPad game, people have every right to be choked.

Customers raised hell upon the launch of the game, as many took to Facebook blasting Kunos Simulazioni for leaving out what is objectively a very basic feature that almost every video game with online functionalities comes bundled with by default. To combat the wave of negativity, the community manager for 505 Games released a very generic statement to try and keep the terrible reception from getting out of hand, but it instead read like a whole lot of hot air – as one forum user puts it, “all I get from that is that they’ve heard the complaints, but aren’t going to do anything about it.”

We hear you! Our biggest priority with the console editions of Assetto Corsa was to release a stable game with great driving. Be rest assured, going forward, we are going to do our very best to take community feedback on board and build upon the foundations we’ve laid.

That was in August of 2016. Yet as the weeks clicked off and it became more and more apparent that the console version of Assetto Corsa was a total disaster compared to its already shaky PC counterpart, a core group of Assetto Corsa fans became very vocal about what the game did well, and said they would be willing to stick around for the long run if Kunos Simulazioni were able to implement custom lobbies, as the raw driving experience was enough to make people dismiss other concerns they had about the quality of the game.

Four months went by – September, October, November, and December – before Kunos Simulazioni actually addressed the topic of custom online lobbies directly, only coming after four months spent pushing out wave after wave of downloadable content package, some of which couldn’t even be used online, as the server rotation had not been updated to include DLC cars. According to the Assetto Corsa community blog published on January 27th of 2017, private lobbies would be coming to the console versions of Assetto Corsa, they were currently in quality assurance testing, and “the finish line is in sight!”

Console owners instead received more downloadable content instead, as well as single player events that should have came bundled with previous DLC packages that Kunos accidentally forgot to include in their respective DLC bundles several months earlier. RaceDepartment estimated a mid-to-late February release for custom lobbies, but to the disappointment of sim racers, Valentine’s Day brought with it more ways to spend money on Assetto Corsa, without any of the promised improvements. February came, February ended, and aside from an increase in DLC, no custom lobbies.

We’re halfway through March, It’s now 195 days after the release of Assetto Corsa for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and a feature that almost the entire community unanimously demanded Kunos Simulazioni to implement into the software from day one, a feature so basic it’s been in almost every online racing game dating back to their inception, is still nowhere to be found. Gaming is such a connected experience in 2017 there’s even a goddamn SHARE button on the controller, but yet Kunos Simulazioni won’t even let you race with your friends in the manner which you desire. Threads on the matter clog up the Console Forums, but at this point they’re acting as comic relief more than anything; the Kunos Simulazioni apologists attacking other users for daring to ask how such a preliminary set of options could be left out of a modern auto racing simulator with such vitriolic responses, you start to wonder if its the staff themselves attacking users under alternate accounts – it’s not like they have the greatest reputation to begin with.

Apparently wanting a product with industry-standard features is akin to kicking and screaming like a child for “not having his toy how he wants it, and when he wants it.” Never in my life have I seen such anti-consumer practices eaten up by a woefully delusional audience; modern passenger vehicles would be slaughtered for not including an air conditioning unit to keep passengers cool, or a radio of any sorts for in-car entertainment, but yet here we’ve got a guy basically saying you’re being a spoiled brat for merely pondering why industry standard online options have been left out of the base product and still have yet to materialize. This is insane, and only goes to show that Kunos are more talented at building a rabid fanbase whom defend their every move, no matter how bizarre or nonsensical they may be, than they are at creating competent auto racing simulators.

Will we ever see custom lobbies in the console version of Assetto Corsa? My prediction is yes, but they will be too little, too late, and people certainly won’t forget about this chaos if there’s a second iteration of the software.