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).