Monthly Archives: January 2013

Arcade vs Simulation – What does it all really mean?

Let’s start out with two points:-

For the basis of this discussion, Dictionary.com defines ‘simulation’ as: –
The representation of the behaviour or characteristics of one system through the use of another system, especially a computer program designed for the purpose.

It defines ‘arcade’ as:-
An establishment, public area, etc., containing games of a mechanical and electronic type, as pinball and video games, that can be played by a customer for a fee.

I would say with a fair amount of certainty that the sim-racing community does not use these definitions when labelling racing games under one of these two categories. So how do sim-racers see the difference? Well you can only find out by asking, so I did. Here are only a few responses…

A simulation is a game with physics that only focuses on, and lets me do things, I could do in reality (within the margin of possibility). An arcade racer is the opposite. It focuses and lets me do things I could never do in the real world.”

“The correct term is real-time simulation. What this means for me is an environment where a computational loop is created with the user interacts without artificial delay with regards to inputs and outputs. For a racing simulation this means the driver gets visual, audible and tactile feedback as they would in the real world. It also means his inputs, manipulation of mechanical controls, are delivered to the simulation without artificial delay.
An arcade racer can be a real time simulation, but most people use it to mean how the inputs are derived and the computations used to create the outputs; visual, sound, forces and motions. Right now the depth of computation in the field of vehicle dynamics is such that it cannot all be used in real time.

As a result any real time simulation uses some approximation is “arcade”, therefore all products on the market are arcade. On the other hand since we know there must be some approximation, we can instead define arcade as the methods used to approximate the dynamics of the system. If these methods done bear any resemblance to their non-real time counterparts, then they are arcade.

This becomes more cosmetic. If we use a button to approximate an analogue device like a handbrake, the simulation may calculate the physical system and its effects on the tires its attached to, or it might prevent certain tires from rotating after a predefined delay.

The results to the reset of the system may be identical in nearly every case, but one sounds bogus, while the other sounds divine.

So it ends up coming down to ones tolerance for how in depth each physical system is modelled.”

“Both can be challenging and fun, but arcade games tend to have an easier learning curve. It can be challenging, but allows either a casual gamer or a novice to jump in and be quick while a true sim requires practice and has a steeper learning curve. A true sim is going be a game that you can’t just jump in and go fast and win. An arcade game is a bit of a level playing field.”

“As a huge car fan, I find what a simulation offers is as close to driving how a real car feels. Something I feel an arcade game just can’t do no matter how good they say it is. A simulation makes you feel everything you can and as you should. Say you’re getting ready for a race and you need to make a setup. You drive maybe 10-15 laps to see what the car is telling you. Then you have to change one thing at a time and go back out and see if it’s better and so on and so forth. Now in an arcade game you do not have to do this.
For example, say you are at Monaco and you already know that the game you’re playing has this track in it. The car will have default setups that load as the track does. So you end up with a car that will stick like glue when in real life no car ever does. This is what kills it for me. You only need to look on YouTube at the arcade games videos posted to see what I am saying.

So my point is that it’s all that info you feel as a sim racer that you just don’t get with an arcade game and, in my opinion, that’s the point of sim racing.

It’s the feeling that you are driving it. Not just pressing buttons. Knowing to look for the limit in the car and to try and push to that limit on every lap.
In an arcade game there never seems to be that limit.”

4 viewpoints there from 4 different sim-racers. I think we can say that the viewpoints, while they are varied, pretty much boil down to a simulation being more challenging and feeling more like the real world. I think that is a fair assessment. One of the sim-racers even goes so far as to say that, to an extent, all racing sims are arcade because you cannot simulate everything in real time and there has to be approximations. Which opinion do you agree with? Do you have one of your own? Post it! Let SimTorque know!

My own personal opinion is that a lot of games that follow the dictionary definition of ‘simulation’ are labelled ‘arcade’ by many people in the community.

So is an ‘arcade’ game simply one that has not lived up to your expectations of what the car should feel like? It hasn’t simulated it well enough? Or is it just because you don’t like the way it handles?

I don’t believe that racing games of today can be simply labelled one or the other. To that end, the term ‘simcade’ is now being flouted around. A term that I personally hate the sound of and even its implication. That a game can be a mixture of arcade and simulation. Well… that’s a bit vague isn’t it? Let’s take Shift 2 for example and let’s put that in the ‘simcade’ box. Does everyone agree on what parts are sim and what parts are arcade? Probably not. In which case, what value does the ‘simcade’ term really have?
I would argue that Shift 2, DIRT 3 and Test Drive Ferrari (to name but 3) are simulations. Why? Because they meet the dictionary definition of what a simulator is. They take something from the real world and represent that interpretation in a virtual format.

How WELL do they simulate? All 3 of those game titles simulate car racing. Of that I believe there can be no doubt. The issue is to what degree. What degree of accuracy or precision. Does Shift 2 simulate motor racing as well as iRacing or NetKar Pro? Does DIRT3 simulate rallying as well as Richard Burns Rally?

Another question when trying to label these titles is, are the terms ‘fun’ and ‘challenging’ mutually exclusive? Can you have both? Is the difference that arcade games are just fun while sims are challenging? But can an arcade game be challenging? Can a sim be fun? I think the answer to all those questions is yes. So where does that leave us now?

Let’s focus on ‘arcade’ for a moment. Where did this term come from? It has to stem from the games you would find in the games arcades of the 1970’s and 80’s. Video arcades where you would see the likes of Pac-Man, OutRun, Pole Position, Defenda, Galaga etc. etc.

Are we actually saying that games like Shift 2, DIRT 3, and some would say Project CARS would be something you would expect to see in a video game arcade? If so, take my money!!

Arcade seems such and archaic term. So old-fashioned. It stems from gaming that was decades ago.

If we look at other genres of gaming such as first person shooters, what labelling is given to COD:BO2, Battlefield 3, Far Cry 3, ARMA-II etc. Are they arcade or simulation? Neither? If neither then why does sim-racing have this labelling system?
I suspect sim-racers needed a say of sorting out the wheat from the chaff. The good from the bad. They either like it or dislike it and so the two labels are born. Oh they may not like certain sims too but sometimes when the majority is against you, you can’t just label it arcade because you don’t like the physics.

Project CARS is being labelled as all three right now from what I have read. But how can this be? It can’t be all three.

Well, it’s just down to preference and opinion again isn’t it? Sim-racers have a pre-defined conception of what they expect. When they try out a game, if those expectations aren’t met then they question of the games credibility as a sim is called into question.

Labelling Project CARS while it’s in a pre-alpha stage with around 1 year to go in development is a bit unfair. It’s almost as if it’s final judgement is being given now and forever shall it remain so. We can pass our opinion on the current state of car physics with the knowledge that it is still being developed.

Maybe as rFactor 2 has been released also in an unfinished form but with good physics, it is expected that Project CARS should be too. A sort of a “do the physics first then sort out the rest later” attitude. SMS may not work that way. Of course, as it is in a development stage, people want to air their opinions of it in the hope that enough voices will steer SMS into fixing any perceived flaws. Hopefully the airing of those opinions are done on the SMS forum where they will be heard.

Sim-racers are desperate for that perfect sim. One that delivers graphics, sounds, immersion and above all, accurate and real feeling physics.

They see the stunning screenshots from Project CARS and would love that to the ‘the one’. The general feeling seems to be that physics, at the moment at least, is falling short for them. Possibly that is mainly down to lack of communication from the road/tyres (which could be down to FFB) and some not so realistic behaviour on turn in, almost like a centre pivot point. The disappointment of the physics not yet being up to par as far as they need it to be results in Project CARS getting the amount of feedback that it does. Some just want to hate on it because they feel is has not delivered and never will. Others don’t like it how it is at the moment but are optimistic about it because there is another year of development to go.

They see rFactor with good physics and some great new features but lacking in graphics. At least compared to Project CARS. So rF2 gets slated for its graphics.

rF2 can’t just bolt on a new graphics engine any more than Project CARS can bolt on another physics engine (so to speak).

So is it just physics that determines ‘arcade’ or ‘sim’? NetKarPro is hailed as a sim, if not THE sim because of its physics. This is despite that its graphics aren’t as good as F1 2012 which is classed by the community as…well what is it? Not a hardcore simulation, that much is for sure.

On another top sim-racing site I have seen this point made… as rFactor is mod based and is classed as a simulator, what happens when a mod is released with really crappy physics. Is it still a simulator or is it now arcade?

Words to that effect. Well, that’s a very interesting point. But what is the answer? I’d be interested to hear your views on that one J

Maybe mods should be classified as ‘arcade’ or ‘sim’.

For me, I would like to see the end of this term ‘arcade’. We need something new, something more in line with the decade we’re living in. I would suggest something bland like ‘non-sim’, ‘semi-sim’ and ‘pure sim’ as the three categories. But that’s a little arrogant isn’t it? It assumes that every racing game ever made should be a simulator – for us – which, remember, according to the dictionary definition, it is. And you can’t really criticise a racing game for not being a pure simulation if it was never written as one (CM F1-2012).


Advertisements

The Pro’s and the Con’s – What is it that makes a good racing sim ?

Oh yes, I realise what a can of worms this is. The question of what is it that makes a good sim ?
Is there a single answer to this ? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes. I think the answer can easily be found when you ask yourself, what do rFactor fans get out of rfactor that non- rF fans don’t ? Same for Race07, iRacing, RBR, NetKar Pro etc. Not everybody likes these sims or has them as their favourites but does that make them bad ?
Not at all. They obviously have their reasons for not liking or preferring a particular sim. Likely it’s preference of physics. But it can be any number of things such as FFB, sounds, graphics, immersion etc. Everyone has differing opinions on the sims we use today and we should be thankful for that. It would be pretty boring if everyone thought the same. Opinions, by their very definition, cannot be wrong. If I say. for example, that RACE07 is my favourite sim, it cannot be wrong. I am not stating that it factually IS the best one, because how do you even begin to quantify that ? It is simply that that it suits me better so I may consider it the best one for me. Maybe because I prefer the way the cars behave, the content or even that the online experience. But what is it that makes it my favourite ? Well what makes rFactor someone else’s favourite ? Graphics ? Physics ? Online racing ?. I am going to hazard a guess and say it’s probably the enjoyment you get from it. You certainly aren’t going to favour a sim that you don’t enjoy. It may well be that the physics or the graphics or the sounds that give you that enjoyment. But it is this emotion you get back from driving it that makes it a winner. At least that’s how it is for me.
I was playing a sim today, which I can say with certainty, doesn’t have the best graphics out there, possibly not the most accurate physics (I`ll come back to this shortly). I got to thinking while I was lapping the circuit, that there are sims out there that may out-do this one in certain areas, but the enjoyment I am getting from this right now not only counterbalances that, but supercedes it. I don’t care what colour corner markers or kerbs are or if every elevation change is modelled to within a few inches. I don’t care that much if the sounds are a little off. If the immersion is there and the believability is there, then the enjoyment will come.

That is not to say that sim makers or mod makers should not strive for believability and accuracy, because that is really what we all want. But it has to be enjoyable. There is another sim out there who’s physics are lauded in the sim-racing world. Yet I could never find enjoyment from it. It just didn’t suit me. Is it a good racing sim ? I guess it must be if it makes so many sim racers delight over it. But sadly myself and this sim never got on. But now I am at the risk of contradicting myself. Can I say that enjoyment is the key to a good sim and in the same breath say a sim I never enjoyed is still a good one ?
I think the only way I can answer that is to acknowledge that the sim in question was just not a good one for me. It’s like going to the cinema to see a movie and 90% of the audience applaud it at the end and you sit there disappointed. Bad movie ? Clearly not, you just didn’t get out of it what you expected or what your wanted. It just wasn’t your thing perhaps.

I have never in my sim-racing life been one of those people with the mentality that you have to dislike sim A if you like sim B. For example, I wouldn’t hate iRacing if I liked rFactor or vice versa. I have never found that attitude productive or reasonable. The term ‘fanboys’ seems to lend itself to accusing someone of favouring one sim over another as though the 2 sims have to be seen as rivals. It’s a juvenile term by it’s very nature. I would say the majority of sim-racers, who know there are slim pickings in our niche community, don’t have such an attitude. I regularly play 4-5 different sims and like them all on their own merits. Sure out of the 4 or 5, one of them logically has the worst graphics. Another may have the worst physics (of that bunch that is). But they still get played and enjoyed.

2013 is about to provide us with some new offerings. You would hope these could be embraced with open arms because they are fresh, new and fill the void we have had for long enough. rFactor 2 (ISI), Project CARS (SMS), Assetto Corsa (Kunos) and RaceRoom Racing Experience (R3E – Simbin) all destined to arrive this year at various stages and in various phases of completion.
The sim-racing community are a notoriously hard to please bunch and the sim makers are all too aware of this. They are also aware of the impossibility of pleasing everyone, especially such a strongly opinionated crowd as we seem to be a part of. So they either develop things their way based on their previous success or get the end user involved. rFactor 2 and particularly Project CARS are doing this. You buy either or both of these two titles while they are in development and through their respective forums you get the chance to voice your opinion and if other voices echo yours – or not – you may influence the end result in your favour. Arguably better than being given a final package, moaning at the end result and saying it’s not what you wanted or expected. Worse still if you followed the development, didn’t voice an opinion and then moaned later.
There is no guarantees your opinion will change anything of course, they can’t appease everyone, but it’s better than no voice at all. The biggest difference between these two sims at the moment seems to be the pace of development which is favouring SMS by a country mile.

Now, about those ‘most accurate physics’ I said I would be getting back to. I used that term instead of ‘best’ physics. Best is an opinion and ‘most accurate’ requires factual data to make that determination. So an individual saying iRacing has the best physics doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most accurate. It is of course his own opinion. The vast majority of sim-racers will not have driven the real life counterparts of the cars they virtually drive. That doesn’t mean they can’t make an educated best guess as to how they think the car should feel to be believable. After all, believability is what it’s all about even if you have to fudge the numbers to get there.
NetKar Pro is widely claimed to have the some of the most accurate physics. Putting the right numbers in and getting the right behaviour back is all down to the physics engine is it not ? But NetKar Pro does provide a very good amount of believability in its physics so it is fair to assume they could be accurate. At least as accurate as you can get while sitting in a stationary seat at home (not all of us have motion rigs). Because of NetKar’s claim to fame, it is assumed that Assetto Corsa, written by the same makers, will follow suit. So it is no surprise that this sim is probably the most eagerly anticipated of them all.

So what are the Pro’s and Con’s of the upcoming sims ? Well I can only voice my opinion along with general chatter I pick up on sim forums and news sites.
Feel free to disagree with any of the below which I remind you is purely based on what we know as of now. I welcome your feedback, especially if you think I`ve missed something or am totally wrong in something that isn’t an opinion.

rFactor 2 by ISI
Pro’s:-

Physics / FFB / AI
Mod-friendly,
Cool features such as tyre deformation, real road, future ability to save and continue from a replay (a point of contention no doubt).
Day/Night/Weather transitions.

Cons:-

Slow development
Improved but still dated graphics likely due to slow development time.
Slightly clumsy UI and mod management system (like forcing tracks to be downloaded to play a mod)
More complexity for potential modders to deal with.

Project CARS by SMS
Pro’s:-

Graphics – Enough said.
Physics – just doing enough now to stay out of the “It’s Shift 3” argument. Can hopefully only improve
Day/Night/Weather transitions.

Cons:-

Physics/FFB – not quite there yet. Lack of feeling ‘connected’ to the road. Some cars feel centre-pivoted in corners at slower speeds.
Sounds – nice and loud, but terrible on some TV replays giving a stuttering effect.
UI looks and hopefully is unfinished. (e.g. Being taken back to main menu instead of a sub menu when configuring your controller), setup saving is a little awkwardly handled (like Shift 2 was).
Modability

Assetto Corsa by Kunos Simulazioni
Pro’s:-

Graphics quality seems to be better than rF2 (and should be with DX11) but not as mouth drooling as Project CARS
Physics expected to be of a high standard
Net code expected to be good.

Cons:-

It’s not out yet !
Sounds need to galactically improve on its predecessor. Not much to go on so far..

RaceRoom Racing Experience by Simbin
Pro’s:-

It’s FREE !
Graphics seem at least on par with RACE07 series – no bad thing.
Going by recent videos, car sounds seem to be very enticing !
More content still to come.

Cons:-

I don’t think physics are quite what you would get from RACE07 but they are fun.
Needs more content but still early days

Making a good sim is one thing, making one to please everyone is never going to happen.
So we can either:-
– simply dismiss or criticise those that do not live up to our expectations
– stick to the ones we do like even though they won’t be perfect either, we can participate in the development programs and maybe help an upcoming sims evolution
– we can sit back and not participate in such projects
– or we can be a little bit flexible in the knowledge that they all won’t please us and that’s how it goes.

Not every racing game is obliged to be a sim or should be made with the so called ‘hardcore’ sim-racer in mind. Sometimes our expectations can be arguably too high and when those expectations aren’t met, there can only be disappointment at the end of that road. We’re all itching for that perfect sim that has it all, but is that a realistic goal or just a dream ?
Enjoy your sim-racing for what it gives you back and why criticise someone who gets something good back from a different sim to you ?
We’re all in this community together and we’re about to get a bumper crop. Bring ’em all on !!

 

Free mods vs pay mods

ImageThere have been some recent rumblings surrounding the thought of whether paying for mods (add-ons) is a right way to go.  To that end I would say it can be an alternative way to go but not the only one. It doesn’t have to mean the end of free modding as both free and pay mods can exist in parallel.  There are some who will remain against the idea of receiving payment for their work and insist their work is down to their own passion for our hobby.  A most noble gesture indeed.

But there are others who may think that all of their hard work requires some form of remuneration for all the hours they put in.  Why should it all be expected or even demanded to be free ?  Donation options on modding websites have been popular but that is not a sign they are fruitful or rewarding.  I myself have experience of this from another website of mine that has had a donation option on it for many years now.  In that time I have received one donation from a very kind individual who was grateful for what my website offered him.

Those that demand modding should remain free, what are we to make of this objection ?  Are they spoiled in this internet age where you can just about download anything you want without having to pay for it ?  Do they truly believe, as some say, that it will destroy or fracture the community, or are they just exercising a flair for the dramatic ?
The Flight Sim community has existed, and continues to do so, with free stuff and payware stuff.  I suspect however that unlike with airline companies, motorsport companies will not turn such a blind eye to trademarks, copyrights and licences being infringed upon.
There are two ways I can see that you can offer your work as payware but both must have 1 strict set of rules.  The first way is to sell your work on your own modding website if you have one. The second way is to do it through a mean whereby another website will manage this for you.  Such a system is being proposed by MAK-Corp, a group who are already no stranger to controversy, so a system like this where opinion will be staunchly divided, makes them an easy target for the opposition.

Whichever way the modder decides to sell his wares, there must be a set of rules governing both if this is to be workable.  The biggest rule is that the modder and/or mod management website must completely ensure that none of the content infringe and copyright, patent, trademark or licensing laws.  This is paramount because failure to do this could have consequences that the sim-racingcommunity or the modder would not want to invite.
Lawsuits or at least cease and desist threats are a very likely scenario.  Is modelling your car to look very similar and calling it a Ferarro enough ? I don’t know.  These things need to be researched.

The advantage to paid mods is that one would naturally expect quality in return. But not because of the thought of “well I’m paying for it so it better be good”.  More likely the author or group would know that it if isn’t decent quality, it won’t sell and all the hard work in order to attain some remuneration will be for nothing.  So really the onus is on the mod maker to give the end user quality content or risk a low to no return.
The mods themselves must also be fairly priced because, lets face it, it is all too easy for one rogue buyer to put the mod somewhere for free for others to re-download without buying it.  I think if the fees are reasonable and the quality is good, there may be less chance of this. But the mod maker must understand these risks before taking the plunge.

Will it divide or damage the community ?  Well it will sure divide opinion but you always have the choice not to buy. Some will insist the mods should stay free and the modders are either not entitled to be paid for their work or should only do it for the passion and not the payment.  Modders may see it from another side, that they put in a lot of their own free time and modding is likely to become more of a challenge if rfactor 2 is anything to go by, and maybe it is about time they were paid a little for the time they put in.
To that I say, fair enough.  It is not unreasonable to want to be paid for work.  It is how the world works after all so why should modders be any different.
Being paid for your work should encourage quality, may even encourage new modders or old ones to come out of the woodwork.  There is a dip in mods these days and if the incentive of a financial return can help light that spark then I say go for it, but go for it by respecting all the legal sides.  After all, fantasy cars will likely have authentic skins added on for free afterwards by some anonymous party, no doubt.

Will Assetto Corsa cause the demise of rFactor 2 ?

ImageBoth Assetto Corsa (Kunoz Simulazioni) and rFactor 2 (Image Space Incorporated) both have a lot of similarities right now.  Both come from a successful predecessor (where their success has been for different reasons), both will be moddable and most importantly at this stage, both are incomplete.

rFactor 2 however is already available to the public in beta form where it’s users get to buy the product and go along for the ride, quite literally, as the game develops to it’s eventual first non beta release. Note I do not specify the word ‘final’ because it is not the intention of ISI to stop working on rFactor 2 when version 1.0 goes out of the door. It is intended to be an ongoing progress consisting of further updates and add-ons.

Assetto Corsa is also in development but is not available to the public as of yet. Although a preview release is expected in the very near future containing what is expected to be 1 car and 1 track.  Details are a little sketchy at this point as Kunos and co remain very tight lipped.

In terms of popularity, Assetto Corsa (AC) seems to be whipping up more of a storm than its rival despite rFactor 2 (rF2) users not having tried it.  Could this be because AC brings with it high expectations ?  If so, this can only be put down to the quality of its predecessor NetKar Pro.  Note I avoided saying ‘popularity’.  I think if it were a popularity contest, putting NetKar Pro against rFactor 1 would not be a fair fight. rFactor 1’s modding capability sees to that.
NetKar Pro, in the eyes of the sim-racing community excelled in its interpretation of car physics.
Many believe they were the best of it’s day and may remain so to this day.  Although Netkar Pro was let down in other areas such as lack of content variety in terms of amount of cars and tracks.
Fans did however find ways to add content such as extra tracks to the sim.
Assetto Corsa, looks to change all of that by offering the very feature that rFactor drew strength from – moddability.
AC is expected to have top notch physics and force feedback (ffb) as it’s predecessor did, better graphics and sounds (another area where NetKar was woefully lacking) and good multiplayer as enjoyed by users of NetKar.
So to top all of that off with the ability to mod and you have a set of ingredients to make a sim-racer drool and something which has the potential to hurt the popularity of rFactor 2.

Why would rFactor 2 suffer though ?  ISI have been working on this title for a long time, many would say too long, as a release was expected quite some time ago.  Progress is slow and the current beta release has many people disappointed.  Graphics were expected to have made a bigger leap, something which AC looks to have the edge on over rf2. Physics are generally considered to be very good along with the FFB (probably depending on which wheel you have). But are physics/ffb enough ? Features such as visual tyre-deformation, track surface evolution which affects grip as time goes on, dynamic weather etc. are all great features.  Modding again will be the core aspect of rFactor 2 as it’s mere structure depends on it.  But have ISI made the modding features a little too complex ?  Will the modders get the most out of it and how steep exactly is the learning curve ?  Feedback from anyone who has experience with rF2 modding would be greatly appreciated.

Assetto Corsa is Kunos. Kunos has respect in the community and the sim community expects, in fact almost demands, that he delivers what sim racers want.  They demand it because they know if anyone can give them what they want, it is Kunos.  DirectX11 graphics, hopefully sounds and great physics.  Couple that with the new modding feature and you have a direct thread to rfactor 2.  If the modding techniques are simpler how many modders will switch from rfactor 2 to AC leaving rF2 fans in the lurch.  How many modders will create their mod for both platforms ?  Lets not forget they work for free and on no set timetable.
Maybe modders will relish the thought to mod for a Kunos title.  Should ISI be worried ?   I would say so simply because work on rF2 started so long ago that they are stuck with what they have. An awkward UI, clumsy mod management, graphics that are not considered to have progressed enough for a 2013 title.  And is their modding system too complex for comfort ?

It is normal for expectations to be high in the sim community and voices will not be quelled if those expectations are not met.  Come up short and you’ll get to know about it.  So, will AC come up short as many believe rF2 has in some areas ?   If it doesn’t, and Kunos pulls off what sim racers are looking for, rFactor 2 may not enjoy anywhere near the modding and lifespan of it’s predecessor.  Many will stay true to rF2 and many more will want to enjoy both sims.  As it should be too, because limit yourself to and either/or situation ?

I guess we will know a lot more very soon after the initial AC beta/demo/preview release is out.