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 !!

 

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Posted on January 18, 2013, in Assetto Corsa, General, Project CARS, rFactor, Simbin, Talking point. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I think there is a spilt amongst racers, in general. There are guys who like to drive something with realistic handling (inevitably with a long but steady learning curve) and the guys who prefer racers which are easier to handle (far shorter learning curve).

    Apologies in advance for the heavy lean toward assetto corsa but I’ve tried most of the sims out there and i’ve yet to be let down by Kunos. I currently own netkar pro, ferrari virtual academy, LFS, rfactor, rfactor2, project cars, Richard burns rally, sim raceway, iracing (cancelled after 3 months), wrc3, race room experience, gtr2, gpl… Anyways….

    Until now I don’t think that there has been a racer title that offers the best of both worlds but in a way which pleases both camps in their extreme forms… I.e. the guy that loves NFS shift and the guy that Is a hardcore physics junky and plays netkar. Of course there is a middle ground too, but I will not directly address them here

    Judging by the experiences of the public with assetto corsa, many are saying that they don’t have a tough time keeping their cars on the track. Some might say that this is because the physics are dumbed down, but I think the reason is because the behaviour of the car and subsequent realistic translation into force feedback, combine to make the sim ‘easier’ to drive. Maybe this implies a shorter learning curve than traditional hardcore sims. What I mean by ‘easy’ is simply that the car is predictable because it behaves naturally/correctly I.e. as it would in real life. You don’t see many noobies driving on track days in powerful cars, coming off the track constantly, as once the limits are realised (relatively quickly), the cars handle predictably.

    Thanks to realistic physics with decent tyre models, I think we will see a shift in the focus of beginners learning to drive fast & race… The initial curve will be shorter than usual and will entail learning car handling. The next curve will be learning the tracks and then learning how to compete against others… My argument is that many beginners playing hardcore sims never get past the car handling curve and give up.

    I would argue that there aren’t many sims on the market (if any, including netkar) that achieve this natural feel to their cars. Therefore it’s not been possible for any one sim to attract both arcade & hardcore racers at the same time. I think assetto corsa is as likely as any to capture both these markets and its due to a truly next generation physics engine that only Kunos may be able to implement well – I think the main element that will separate it will be the tyre physics which are notoriously difficult to make realistic

    • This is a very good point and I think you are right. Easy and predictable behaviour are not the same thing.
      I think we are all urgently waiting for the Tech Preview of Assetto Corsa in the hope that our hopes and dreams will be realised. I just hope that peoples expectations don’t outweigh the results because then it turns nasty and judgmental very quickly.

Torque to me..

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