NHRA Countdown to the Championship is still the undisputed king of Drag Racing Sims

Originally appearing on VirtualR.net in the winter of 2013, I wrote this piece on NHRA: Countdown to the Championship out of sheer boredom.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 15-54-35-50Drag Racing is a lot like baseball. Unless you’ve sat in the stands for six hours in the scorching heat, waiting for your favorite class to pull to the lanes and obsessing over statistics in the meantime, you’ll never really get it. It’s not something that everyone can sit down and enjoy watching, yet it has the most active grassroots-level participation out of all motorsports in North America. And there is no such thing as a casual drag racing fan, someone who can only jump into conversations when the names “Schumacher” or “Force” are mentioned. It’s a form of motorsport that begs you to come out to the track, not just to see who wins, but also to take in the atmosphere and immerse yourself in the culture and traditions that have been over fifty years in the making.

Because of all this, like baseball games, drag racing games are quite hard to recommend to people who don’t wear their Scott Geoffrion shirt proudly on casual Fridays. After all, what’s so hard about hitting the gas pedal for five seconds?

When it’s done right, a lot.

The same basic developer team from NHRA 2007 has been happily working with the National Hot Rod Association since the late 1990’s, when under the ValuSoft brand, they produced three PC drag racing games that gathered a niche following among fans and drivers alike. These games, the original NHRA Drag Racing series, were low on system requirements and featured a robust online mode that put many other racing titles at the time to shame. Couple that with in-depth tuning options, changing track conditions, support for custom liveries, and you had a recipe for a large cult following.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 15-48-09-43In 2005, the dev team was absorbed by THQ and renamed Lucky Chicken Games. Their first drag racing title for the Playstation 2 (eventually ported to the PC) was a buggy mess, but unlike most developer teams, they actively took to the fan forums to ask what needed improvement. By the time 2007 rolled around, the real-life NHRA restructured their points system to essentially copy what NASCAR was doing with incorporating a playoff format into the final few events, and THQ announced that a new drag racing game would be released at the midway point in the season.

We were all very happy once we got our hands on it.

This is not a game where you can simply do the tutorials and be dominating the AI on the hardest difficulty within a few hours. This is a game that requires you to understand the little nuances in drag racing to be successful, or even qualify to race on Sunday. This is the only game I’ve ever played where, if you fail to qualify in the top 16, you get to sit and watch on race day.

If this becomes a habit, career mode doesn’t last long.

This was not a game developed by guys who kind of know about cars and have a degree in computer programming. This was a game made by drag racing fans, for drag racing enthusiasts. No details were left out to make it more accessible, and you are never trying to chase some sort of XP goal to level up your character.

Exhaust changes in thickness and color based on your exact fuel mixture. The racing groove varies from run to run, with catastrophic failure ready to send your car barrel rolling down the track if you do so much as move slightly towards the wall. Repeatedly getting on and off the throttle to combat unwanted wheel spin can explode your engine in one of fifty different ways, all of which are presented to you after the run in the dreaded “expenses” sheet. The length of your burnout and time spent idling at the starting line reduces the weight of your car based on how much fuel was burned up. A detailed weather and environment report dictates how much power your engine will produce, and how much your tires will grip at certain parts of the track. Six different pages of setup options let you adjust anything from clutch weight, to blower overdrive, to spark plug compression, and even the exact moment your fuel mix changes.

tunesAnd if you need even more data and numbers to worry about, there’s an entire MoTec-style plugin built into the instant replay feature. That is, if you didn’t get enough information from the results screen giving you an entire rundown of your incremental times and speeds.

It’s a lot to comprehend, and pressing the what does this adjustment mean? button only throws paragraph upon paragraph of information at you. Suddenly, just making the show on Sunday becomes a lot less tangible as you contemplate no less than thirty different adjustments to make before night falls on the track, creating conditions optimal for setting track records. If you don’t run a personal best time, three other drivers probably will.

Keep in mind, this is a PS2 game about driving cars in a straight line for four to six seconds. It also got ported to the Playstation Portable if you just had to play drag racing when taking a shit.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 15-48-43-80None of these insane little details would be of any use if the actual driving was less than stellar. While I can’t speak from experience when it comes to driving these rolling bombs, Lucky Chicken managed to make driving an eight thousand horsepower Top Fuel dragster a rather convincing experience. Pro Stock Bikes require pinpoint accurate shifts and bang-on setups to advance through rounds. Pro Stock Cars lack any downforce whatsoever and spin wildly out of control the moment you even think about going out of the groove – just like the real thing. The short wheelbase of a Funny Car can send you into the wall if you lose traction more than a second into a run, and Top Fuel Dragsters are easy to keep in a straight line yet need insanely unstable engine setups to even be competitive, leading to a lot of fireworks and destroyed engine parts if you get it wrong.

Relying on the auto-tune button will always land you two tenths of a second off pace, meaning you’re going to eventually have to get your hands dirty if you want to win rounds instead of getting obliterated by the AI.

It’s a racing game where your engine explodes at the hit of the throttle for the entire first week you attempt to play it. But, little by little, things start to make sense. You start to understand that you can’t smoke out the crowd on every burnout because it damages your engine. You develop a “baseline” setup that gets you down the track and lets you “play on Sunday” a few times a season. You learn what weather conditions allow you to go balls-out on the fuel mixture settings, and you learn what tracks are simply impossible to run consistently at because they’re on the side of a goddamn mountain. You start to get a feel for how the AI drivers behave, and which drivers can occasionally make mistakes, opening the door for you to go a few rounds and work your way up the standings.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 15-58-53-37And then, just as you think you’ve got it down and qualified for your second race in a row, Tony Schumacher knocks you out in the first round of eliminations and resets the national ET record in the process.

Playstation 2-era graphics aside, the sensation of making it down the track in one piece and posting a respectable time, is rivaled only by running a clean stage in Richard Burns Rally, or nailing a lap of the Nurburgring in rFactor. The cheesy motion blur effects and lifeless trackside environments become petty complaints when you blow past the final timing block with the headers fully lit.

There is no fancy rags-to-riches story to be found in NHRA 2007, it’s all about the racing itself. You get your standard match race and single event modes, but the real beauty of the game is progressing through career mode. At first, it may seem like a dull text adventure, with nothing but brief screens detailing your first sponsor contract and introducing your first crew chief, but it soon gives way to an open-ended quest to become a champion in a relatively new (at the time) points system.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 16-03-29-03The AI leaves little room for error, sponsor contracts are hard to fulfill, and unless you’ve spent a fair bit of time learning the basics of tuning your preferred car, you’ll lose an incredible amount of money blowing up in every way imaginable. If you simply can’t get it together for even a few events in a row, your funds evaporate into thin air and it’s game over. Just like the real thing.

If, on the other hand, you do manage to survive the initial learning curve, career mode is a simplified but a relatively accurate portrayal of professional drag racing. You can hire and fire crew chiefs, who give different tuning advice based on their own individual skills. You’ll have the option of several different teams to drive for, all of which provide you with real world sponsors on the side of your car. The goal is simple: Win the championship as many times as you can.

That’s not an easy task when you take into account how well the AI drivers reflect their real world counterparts. Tony Schumacher wins nearly every event, often sharing the podium with other dominant drivers such as Doug Kalitta and Larry Dixon. This isn’t a case of NASCAR Heat syndrome, where one driver was hard-coded to be better than the rest; this is really how it was in the 2007 season. The Summit Pro Stock cars clean up the points chase no matter how many seasons you do in Pro Stock, John Force wins championship after championship in Funny Car, and Antron Brown dominates Pro Stock Bike if you choose to venture over there. And not only did the devs manage to snag licenses for over a full field’s worth of competitors in each of the four classes, even the back markers behave surprisingly realistic. You’ll never see underfunded drivers like Bob Gilbertson or rookie Ashley Force smash track records, and Brandon Bernstein is prone to completely missing the setup at some tracks during summer events. It feels as if spending time watching NHRA events at three in the morning on ESPN2 have paid off, because their in-game behavior is spot on.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 15-49-51-94Unfortunately, this is a Playstation 2 game. Tracks just aren’t that detailed, some are missing entirely (but replaced with realistic alternatives), and you could only do so much with certain sound effects on Sony’s old hardware. Even playing it through a surround sound system on two entirely different setups, there was nothing spectacular about it aside from the initial punch in the gut you felt at the hit of the throttle. On a positive note, the game is detailed where it counts. The different sound and smoke effects have been modeled accurately to properly portray a wide variety of engine failures or malfunctions, and asphalt textures give a clear indication of where the racing groove lies. Parachutes dance around in convincing fashion, smoke pours out of one side of the exhaust if you’re about to lose a cylinder, and header flame height and brightness directly relate to your exact fuel mixture. The sacrifices in graphical fidelity are understandable when you realize how many little details have been faithfully recreated in the virtual world.

But the one glaring flaw with NHRA 2007 is the subject matter itself. No matter how realistic or challenging the title may be, it still focuses on a niche motorsport that competes with (and often loses to) Women’s Gymnastics for airtime on ESPN2. It’s right up there alongside Richard Burns Rally and Grand Prix Legends in terms of difficulty and realism, but the sad fact is that very few people will want to play a game where they race for all of four seconds, only to spend the next five minutes figuring out how NOT to send the blower into outer space.

PPSSPPWindows64 2015-06-24 16-02-52-00For some of us who have been going to the track ever since we were four years old, this kind of obsessive trial-and-error racing game sat comfortably on our video game shelf among the several generic modern military shooters of yesteryear. Since then, companies have put out more and more of these “fad” games, shamelessly making their own versions of Call of Duty or Guitar Hero, hoping to get a piece of the pie.

Meanwhile, we’ve still never gotten a next-gen update of NHRA 2007. And that sucks, because it was awesome. As demonstrated above, the game runs relatively well on a PSP emulator with the graphics cranked up, but it’s clearly outdated. Will we ever get another modern drag racing sim?

Probably not.

R3E Will Be Free This Weekend

5ad5ec8fcd0575b24fb95c61d153929fCan’t ignore free. Probably the greatest marketing idea these guys have come up with so far, as the Free-To-Play pricing model scares off all but the most hardcore of racing sim fans who want to own everything Steam has to offer. Book Friday off from work because Sector 3 are essentially giving you an entire racing sim for free, and it’s a damn good one.

Be sure to grab our killer baseline setup before you hit the track.


Top 4 Things iRacing Fanboys Got Wrong When Trying to Shit on Us

Today we experienced a very large increase in site traffic due to Jere Seppala of GlacierTV linking our article detailing our surprise ban from the popular online racing sim, iRacing.com. Jere agreed with the majority of the article but could not understand the hostile reaction from 99% of iRacing members, who attempted to discredit the lengthy article just because it was me. Jere’s comments, hacked up from multiple posts to save space, can be viewed here:

jereJere backs up our original article on the Camaro stating that “street stock @ charlotte is a really bad combo”, and “[the] article is pretty accurate (tire model + rookie’s cancer mentality). Jere is a long-time iRacing member who contributes to the community in a big way by helping with broadcasting some of iRacing’s biggest leagues; he’d be the first to know what iRacing’s shortcomings are.

However, what followed were some pretty outlandish accusations and stories, turning the comments section of the article into a warzone between iRacing fanboys and PretendRaceCars.net readers. I personally don’t believe in moderation as it goes against the ideology of this site, so the best way to deal with all of these creative stories is to simply just confront the four most repeated comments with facts and get on with ourselves.

iRacingSim 2012-09-20 21-59-24-51#4 . Only five people visit PretendRaceCars.net

This isn’t something repeated by just iRacing fanboys, so it’s time to set the record straight. One commenter used a traffic estimation website to take an educated guess at the number of monthly viewers we receive. The site spit out a number of 9,600 views in the past month, and he was pretty certain that this number was accurate:


traffic est

Unfortunately for him, WordPress has a Sim City-like statistics screen that you can access at any time.

viewsAlright, onto the next one:

ayy#3 – PRC affiliated drivers were causing problems in the Rookie Series Races

We got a variety of comments of this sort, most of which claimed you were annoying people and spamming the chat. We ran almost 30 races over the past three weeks. Not once were we ever told to shut the fuck up, nor did anyone draw any attention to anything we’d type in the chat box aside from the regular banter, and the entire room, not just us, did their fair share of shit-talking.

Once we all realized iRacing’s Rookie Series was equivalent to the casual environment of Xbox Live, we adjusted our demeanor accordingly. In one race, some guy from Brooklyn described how he’d spent a few years in prison for stabbing a kid. Another race, some clown kept trying to poke his nose under me, totally fine with dog fighting for third place on lap four instead of running down the leaders and giving both of us a shot to win at the end of the race. Anytime I tried to physically force my car in front of his, followed by typing into chat “stay in line so we can catch the leaders”, I was called a fucking asshole and the dude threatened to report me for blocking.

Keep in mind that you can report people for swearing, in case you missed the irony.

As we encountered many of the same drivers, race after race, most made threats that they were going to intentionally wreck me, and as you can see in the shot above, one of them tried to move me, failed, tried again, succeeded, and then called me a bitch and blamed me for the accident despite his car clearly being on the apron in a spot where it shouldn’t be.

As we described in the original article:

[iRacing] surrounds [rookies] with other drivers who will cuss at you for shit that sometimes doesn’t even make sense and drive as if they were never given a chance to wheel mom’s sedan around the block.

My most sincere apologies to not taking iRacing as a super serious racing simulation when half of the room are childishly arguing with each other as if we’re on Xbox Live, and making all of my chat macros instructions on how to bake chocolate chip cookies. Grease the baking pan.

Any aggressive driving towards us was met with equally aggressive retaliation, but that’s to be expected when half the field can’t drive and the other half hates you because you’ve won the last five races.

iRacingSim64 2013-04-14 22-26-31-07#2 – James has a insane vendetta against iRacing

Not only did we post a dedicated article encouraging readers to take advantage of a promotional offer and try iRacing for free, we praised how the Street Stock drove at USA Speedway and that’s what prompted a group of us to create rookie-only accounts; so we could enjoy driving the car at our own pace. Additionally, in a review I wrote for RaceDepartment on iRacing back in the summer of 2013, I praised multiple aspects of the online racing simulation, from the sheer abundance of oval racing cars included, the photorealistic graphics that did not rely on any fancy post processing effects, to the unmatched online structure. Sure sounds like an insane vendetta.

How about when five of us sat down for an entire Sunday and collaborated on a 2500 word article breaking down both the positives and negatives of iRacing’s slowest oval racing car? Do these points sound like someone with an insane vendetta?

  • We openly advertised a promo code that would potentially bring more people into their sim.
  • We clearly stated our previous credentials that adequately backed up our opinions.
  • We explained, to our European readers, what a Street Stock is.
  • We praised the car’s handling at USA Speedway and admitted we enjoyed how the car drove.
  • We explained how to drive the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

All five of us spent a solid chunk of the afternoon describing the negative experiences we had with the car, and putting those thoughts into written words:

  • We went into detail about how and why the draft model isn’t realistic, and why it affected the racing in a negative way.
  • We went into detail about the game’s tire model and how it affected the racing in a negative way.
  • We went into detail about the new adjustments made to the tire model, even noting the exact lap the tires exhibited odd behavior.
  • We conducted an experiment to see if turning off force feedback made you faster – and it did.

All of these screenshots directly correlated with what was talked about in the article, to back up some of our more absurd claims. For instance, here’s the “one-groove, can’t pass” racing we’re talking about:iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 15-26-36-64

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 12-28-58-73Here’s the guy I talked about wanting to dump me and report me for blocking for position 3 on lap 4. In fact, in the shot, you can actually see him trying to poke his nose under me as the leaders I mentioned pull away in front of us:

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 12-27-37-60Here’s the guy who lagged into Mike and wrecked himself:iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 13-27-10-00And here’s Mike dumping him after he slowed up and waited for Mike to come around again.

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 13-28-34-59And here are three stereotypical rookie series wrecks that we talked about several times throughout the article.iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 12-34-25-56

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 12-30-39-51

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 13-32-41-79And onto our last point…

iRacingSim64 2013-03-09 03-50-20-85#1 – James was perma-banned from iRacing years ago, and this ban was NOT because his article ripped on the physics, but because he was using a secondary account to evade a ban

Oh boy. B. Americano got the story right in the comments section, but I’ll tell my side of things.

Straight up, I did some artwork for a YouTube vlogger (you can still buy the shirts HERE) and ran where you’re regularly supposed to put your surname on the Sprint Cup cars. Retarded paint schemes aren’t uncommon on iRacing, and I went a few weeks without anybody noticing. And when I say retarded paint schemes aren’t uncommon, here’s something I saw watching my buddy’s stream a while back.

1424541349583Anyways, the story goes that it was a late night race at Las Vegas in March of 2013 with a ton of high ranked drivers, most notably Bryon Daley and Ray Alfalla, who’s name you’ve probably heard at one point. Daley and Alfalla tangled with a few laps to go, and I won the race. As I was someone who primarily raced only the K&N Series car and had basically turned into the Frank Kimmel of iRacing, this was a pretty huge deal.

The next morning, I found out my account had been suspended for two months. A friend of mine linked me to Ray’s facebook page with a photo of the exact moment the two leaders got together. In the comments section, a handful of people agreed to protest me.

winThe reason I was given was “having an inappropriate paint scheme” – and here’s the thing – iRacing’s rules don’t state anything about inappropriate liveries, as you use a third party program that has no official ties with iRacing to download custom skins. If someone found the text across the roof offensive, they could simply delete my car file and I would show up as whatever livery I painted using iRacing’s in-game paint shop editor, with preset bases and sponsor configurations all pre-approved by iRacing. The program itself discourages adult and/or offensive car liveries, yet does not outright disallow them. A report function is included within the program, but had never been used on any of my cars, including some of the more obnoxious ones:

GBJIn short, I was parked for something iRacing can’t actually park you for, because a few people they liked complained. And this is where the story differs. iRacing fanboys believe I was permanently banned for a multitude of reasons in March of 2013, never to return.

Here’s me winning at Texas in April of 2013:

iRacingSim64 2013-04-14 22-29-35-55Here’s Timmy Hill spinning in front of me a few weeks later, complete with my special Talladega livery:

iRacingSim64 2013-05-02 21-03-40-02Here’s me testing out the brand new Super Late Model during the first ever official SLM race at New Smyrna, in February of 2014:

iRacingSim64 2014-01-27 23-04-05-15Here’s me making a rare start in the NASCAR Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge Series, also in early 2014.

iRacingSim64 2014-02-16 13-13-13-69Oh, and here’s a GT3 video I made where half the field wrecks during the first lap, uploaded on March 1st, 2015.

I was never permanently banned, and only raced sporadically over the past two years simply due to the fact that better games have come along. Assetto Corsa came out in late 2013 and took the world by storm, I got big into organized rFactor racing during the summer of 2014, which carried into the winter and eventually transferred over to Game Stock Car Extreme.

There was no ban being evaded, because I wasn’t banned in the first place. Both myself and several PRC affiliated drivers were able to run 25+ races over the span of three weeks on an alternate account with zero issues. In fact, Chris of PRC had even contacted iRacing support to get his in-game name changed, removing the 2 at the end of his surname and replacing it with his middle initial – indicating iRacing knew full well what we were doing and didn’t have a problem with it.

Yet, within two hours of a lengthy article popping up on the iRacing forums that implied the expensive racing sim was anything but perfect, I’m suspiciously receiving a 403 error and getting notified that my account has been suspended, with no email indicating what exactly happened. Hmm…

Seems fishy, considering the last time I wrote a lengthy article on iRacing breaking down the entire game, listing it’s positives and negatives, Tony Gardner tried to get me kicked off the staff of the website I was writing for:


I guess Dale Jr has a crazy vendetta, too?


And finally, to answer some Finnish guy’s question of when the new thread about the article would get removed:


It was removed shortly after this post, so twelve hours:


Reader Submission #11 – To Live and Die in the UI

Today’s Reader Submission comes from Steve Smith, author of the highly sought after Grand Prix Legends strategy guide and

GTPMy first racing sim was Dave Kaemmer’s “Indy 500” (I had
been addicted to computer simulations since Bruce Artwick’s pinball
game and to auto racing since I was knee-high to a 60-spoke Borrani)
and I believed that I must have set a new world record when I turned
a 242-mph lap of the Brickyard…so I wrote to Mr. Kaemmer to boast
about it. Not so fast, he said. Someone had gone even faster, I was
informed, by using a trick that I hadn’t thought of (although Jim Hall
had, some 30 years earlier; the ‘trick’ is in current use 25 years later,
now known as the “DRS Zone”): flattening the wing on the straights;
raising it in the turns.

My letter resulted in a correspondence with the developer (the
late, much-lamented Papyrus), a ‘road test’ of the game for my old
alma mater, Car and Driver (of which I had been the Editor-in-Chief in
the Sixties), an offer from Papyrus to join a small group of outsiders
comprising the beta team of “Grand Prix Legends” (Doug Arnao,
Alison Hine, Achim Trensz and John Wallace), an assignment to
write the strategy guide (“Four-Wheel Drift”) that shipped with the
game, and a minor involvement in “NASCAR Legends” (I seemed to
be the only dude they knew who had actually driven Riverside).

Now, in the subsequent century, I’m still at it (remaining on my
hard drive: Assetto Corsa, Project CARS, Game Stock Car Extreme
and rFactor 2… after shit-canning DIRT Rally).

Like many in the sim ’community,’ I joined Slightly Mad
Studio’s crowd-funding scheme for PC when that star-crossed
venture heaved into view four years ago. At first, I was an ardent
supporter and an enthusiastic participant, firing off a blizzard of
modest suggestions that I hoped would be helpful.

As the birthing process dragged on (and on and on), the PC
players (by which, I mean Windows users, not the “Project CARS”
players) seemed to get discouraged because nobody was listening to
them. They were soon replaced by hoards of clueless console players
whose sheer volume buried any intelligent exchange of information
(the triumph of the lowest common denominator), and whose main
complaint seemed to be that SMS had gotten wrong the color of the
Armco at Brünnchen.

My main concern, then and now, was the user interface,
visually and physically. Why, I wondered, if the game had presets
for my Fanatec wheel and pedals, should I have to struggle with 13
additional settings before it felt anything like it should? And the
menu design, which seemed to have emerged without a thought as to
legibility (the fonts seemed to have been chosen for their ethereal
sans-serif beauty rather than EZ-Read clarity) and usability. Early
on, I recommended Ed Tufte’s classic book on the subject (“The
Visual Display of Quantitative Information”), a suggestion which
was cheerfully ignored.

And nobody seemed to have counted the number of keystrokes
and/or mouse clicks to move from one task to another (or measured
the real estate that the cursor has to move between tasks). Or why
the setup menu requires eight pages to display the information
presented in just two pages in, say, GSCE’s efficient setup menu.
(The issue here isn’t insufficient room; there are acres of empty space
in PC’s UI.)

As my mentor, Doug Arnao, pointed out a generation ago, the
single most important element in setting up a car is not your laptime
(which is subject to a few dozen variables), but the temperature
across your tires’ treads. In the real world (I’ve done my share of r/w
racing; I have a 3rd-place trophy for a Trans-Am race in the Porsche
911 that I shared with Bert Everett), what you do in practice is run a
few laps at what you hope is qually speed, come in and measure the
temps at the outer, middle and inner tread. If the outer tread is
hotter than the inner, you add negative camber (and the opposite if
the inner is hotter). There is no way you can do this in the pits in PC.

The other huge fault in the UI is the lack of an X-Y graph (like
almost every other sim since the beginning of time) for choosing the
ratios for your gear stack. All PC gives you are the raw numbers,
which are impossible to visualize unless you are a particular kind of
idiot savant. With a simple X-Y graph, you can immediately see
which gears are too long and which are too short. And their relationship
to each other. But apparently something this easy, this obvious,
didn’t look ‘cool’ to SMS’s art directors, so we’re left to guesstimate
what’s best for the transmission. Or embark on the long-winded
process of cut-and-try.

When there was no reaction to any of this, I began to suspect
that SMS never had any intention of listening to the army of ‘early
access’ players they had created. Or maybe that the ‘investors’ were
so loud and boisterous that the developers, overwhelmed, simply
clapped their collective hands over their collective ears, put their
heads down, and got on with the business of getting the game out the
door. I drifted away from the forums, figuring whatever will be, will
be, and awaited what used to be called the “shrink wrap.”

Nonetheless, when the game finally launched, I (and many,
many others) was horrified to see how lame the final result actually
was. Is. The UI faults pale in comparison with the game’s other
shortcomings (too well pawed-over to repeat here). Yet it seems
impossible that four years of work by a staff of 140, eighty thousand
kibitzers and thirty million dollars couldn’t have created something
much, much better. (Papyrus made GPL—still miraculously going
strong—with a fraction of the resources, in a quarter the time). Time
will tell if PC has the staying power to sustain its initial (commercial
of not critical) success. Maybe the console fanboys will continue to
be entranced… although I can’t see why they would prefer Project
CARS over Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, which are professionally
finished products.

That’s my take. I could be wrong…but I don’t think so.

See you at the races.

gplm71 2013-12-22 00-27-59-66Wow.

One guy I used to race with a whole bunch always used to praise the gospel of inner/middle/outer tire temperatures, and I remember him saying something about this fabled Grand Prix Legends strategy guide that broke the process down for him, but I wasn’t aware the guy behind the guide was once the editor in-chief for Car & Driver Magazine, was on the beta team for Grand Prix Legends, and also raced Trans-Am back in the glory days. It’s crazy someone with such a long list of credentials found their way to an alleged hate blog and took the time to submit their own story, but that’s exactly what makes PretendRaceCars.net so unique.

Grand Prix Legends has always felt like driving on ice for me, but I’ve been particularly impressed with the third party content released for it. I’m not a fan of the default 1967 F1 cars, but both the Can-Am cars, as well as the European Prototypes drive fairly well given the limitations of the now ancient game engine. Even better, I got to check out the historic Edmonton Speedway that my family grew up drag racing at, and it was cool to run laps while my uncle pointed out landmarks and told stories of a place that was demolished 30 years ago to make way for housing developments. Previously, I was only given glimpses of the track in when it was billed as Big Sky Raceway located in Montana.

I fully agree with what you’ve written about Project CARS – there is absolutely no way 80,000 investors would all come to the same conclusion on the game’s direction, so in my opinion Slightly Mad Studios simply built a shiny version of Race 07 and gave the illusion that WMD members were helping with the title. It’s comparable to giving a small child plastic toys to harmlessly bang around while their father works on a home improvement project. There are still some shining moments with the game; the twitter feed in career mode is the right feature to steal from EA’s Madden NFL games, I personally had no problems with the game’s default force feedback, and the Radical was a blast to drive around the Nordschleife, but the rest of the game was drowning in a sea of bugs and bad design choices consistent with the other products Slightly Mad Studios have released.

I agree that the setup menu is atrocious. I’m not sure how Slightly Mad Studios could look at all these other fantastic racing sims that have beautiful, intuitive setup screens, and then go in the totally opposite direction. I’m a scrub who only adjusts the final drive when building a setup, so my main gripe is, as you said, eight fucking pages when every other title can fit everything into just two. This also applies to other needlessly complicated portions of the user interface, such as selecting a car or configuring the game’s extensive force feedback settings.

Will Project CARS keep the attention of console racers? Probably not. Forza Motorsport 6 is on the way, and the Xbox One will have a brand new Logitech racing wheel to go along with it. Gran Turismo 7 will inevitably land on the Playstation 4, and I think that should be the nail in the coffin for Project CARS on that system. The game Slightly Mad Studios tried to build isn’t all that bad, but you can’t release a game with that many bugs in 2015, and then openly attack anyone who dares to draw attention to the numerous issues.

iRacing Wasn’t Fond Of Our Street Stock Article

iRacingSim64 2015-06-21 13-32-41-79Yesterday, we ran a 2500+ word article that detailed our time spent in iRacing’s Rookie Street Stock Series using the three month free trial promo code. Myself, Chris, Sal, Mike, and Vince spent a couple weeks messing around with the entry level car as a way to try out the alleged improvements to the new tire model without having to spend money and renew our subscriptions. The article was not meant to be a slam piece, but a detailed look at the current version of the popular racing sim from a handful of sim racers with the credentials to back it up on track.

And it most certainly wasn’t worth our time. In short:

iRacing’s clearly built in some scripted tire wear with the current build. As of this writing, we’ve done ten races at Charlotte. In all ten races, in turn four of lap sixteen, it’s almost as if a switch is flipped on the entire field and the car becomes noticeably loose. While we didn’t exactly have a problem with this sudden change in handling, it was not uncommon to see a large portion of the pack completely lose it, all at once as if the game magically turned on tire wear at the exact same time for everybody.  At this point in the race, you still can’t pass anybody, nor can you get a proper run on anybody, but at least the car is sort of enjoyable to drive for the final two minutes of the race.

Yet this is not the end of strange physics oddities. In one race, Sal’s force feedack inexplicably turned off without warning while on the pace lap. For reasons even he struggles to comprehend, his car miraculously found two tenths of a second, and he proceeded to run down the leaders after starting mid-pack, eventually winning the race. Wanting to replicate this, Mike turned down the force feedback on his own wheel and attempted a qualifying session, and he improved his personal best time by a tenth of a second – a big deal on a track where there is no need to lift off the throttle.

iRacing believes the best way to ease newcomers into the daunting sim is to place them into a car that is almost mathematically crafted to exhibit all of iRacing’s biggest flaws – you can’t draft properly, can’t get runs on anybody, can’t pass anybody, can’t run multiple groves, the tires are scripted to become shit at precisely 16 & 3/4 laps, and then surround them with other drivers who will cuss at you for shit that sometimes doesn’t even make sense and drive as if they were never given a chance to wheel mom’s sedan around the block. Better yet, in the same breath they will advertise a yearly subscription price of $90 and then expect you to spend $15 anytime you want to check out a new track or car.

These claims were backed up by one commenter, who experienced the exact same tire model issues and force feedback discrepancies:

Untitled-2As I do with many articles from this site, I drop links to them amongst people who will be interested to read them. Assetto Corsa articles get linked in the Assetto Corsa Forums, pCars articles get linked in the pCars subreddit, and anything else interesting gets linked in the Sim Racing subreddit. As most iRacers spectate bottom split rookie series for the sheer entertainment value, they would have no problem reading through an article written on the fabled series, and I created a thread linking to the Street Stock article around 10am.

Wanting to check the comments on the forum post, I was instead greeted with the traditional “You’ve been banned!” screen:

ir1At first I figured I must have been protested by someone in a previous race because Rookie Races can get pretty hectic as we described in yesterday’s article. iRacing always sends you e-mail notifications if someone has filed a complaint against you, and upon checking my e-mail, there were none to be found, just a generic iRacing.com survey.

noon6Vince sent me a screencap of my account details on the iRacing member forums, showing that I had exactly zero posts. They deleted the thread linking to the article.

Untitled-8This is pretty fantastic. Again, this wasn’t a slam-piece article designed to rip on iRacing; we sat down for an entire day talking about our experiences and crafted a lengthy article that described both the positives and negatives of iRacing – in particular it’s entry level class.

  • We openly advertised a promo code that would potentially bring more people into their sim.
  • We clearly stated our previous credentials that adequately backed up our opinions.
  • We praised the car’s handling at USA Speedway and admitted we enjoyed how the car drove.
  • We explained, to our European readers, what a Street Stock is.
  • We described some of the instances of bad driving we experienced from other opponents.
  • We described the personalities you could expect to compete against in a Rookie Series race.
  • We explained how to drive the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
  • We went into detail about how and why the draft model isn’t realistic, and why it affected the racing in a negative way.
  • We went into detail about the game’s tire model and how it affected the racing in a negative way.
  • We went into detail about the new adjustments made to the tire model, even noting the exact lap the tires exhibited odd behavior.
  • We conducted an experiment to see if turning off force feedback made you faster – and it did.
  • We gave several examples where the competition around us were cunts to us, backing up our stories with both video as well as fancy screenshots.
  • We gave a direct example of how your average iRacing member handles on-track incidents.
  • We then summarized why the overall experience was unsatisfactory.

According to iRacing, this is all worthy of a ban without explanation.

iRacingSim64 2014-02-16 13-15-24-12