GRID: Autosport and League Play -- A Preview by Robert Wadddell www.racedepartment.com The GRID series has never really been about league play nor designed with that in mind, although I'm sure some have attempted to make GRID leagues work. Why is this you ask? My guess is that there are three main factors that contribute to this (and I admit up front that I have only fully explored the series since GRID2) -- 1. The "arcade" nature of the game, especially the handling model; 2. The inability to fully round out and customize long races (and not the GRID definition, but real league play standards here, which equal an hour or longer), especially considering pits are always closed and the damage model was visually oriented; and 3. The lack of car choices and track options that league racers want...and the ability to access them from the jump in multiplayer. I'll attempt to address each of these concerns in order, but please bear in mind that there is much we still don't know about GRID: Autosport. Most of this article will include what is already known, but some may include speculation based on the tone and tenor of Codemasters' releases regarding the direction of Autosport. First, while Codemasters admits that their aim is still not to create the best SIM racer out there (and their idea of SIM racing is sometimes a bit strange, as they refer to Forza and Grand Tourismo as benchmark SIM racers in some of their articles). However, the handling model of GRID2 (described as "drifty" or "unconnected" by some) is exactly why we have GRID: Autosport. Codemasters was so taken aback by the negative reaction of the players of GRID2 that they decided to swing the pendulum more toward the SIM side re: handling than they ever have before in a GID series. ("On release of GRID 2, I think it’s fair to say that through listening to you guys and a after a substantial amount of reflection, we hadn’t quite achieved everything we set out to do....and you’ll really notice the difference, we think, from GRID 2. For GRID Autosport we’ve gone back to a more authentic handling style. It’s definitely not a full simulation – we want it to be authentic, not clinical – but it’s more towards that end of the spectrum than before. If anything, we believe the handling is actually one or two steps further towards simulation than Race Driver: GRID, to give you an idea."). So, how do they propose to do this, you ask? I suspect that they will take a page out of F1 for the open wheel cars and apply their new handling model to the touring and endurance cars but with an interesting twist. For those of you who have played F1 2013, you may remember discussing "falloff under-steer" as a serious problem. Well, Codemasters recognized this ("We want to change the way then grip falls away as you approach the slip angle and as wheelspin occurs. We’ve traditionally had quite a ‘cliff’ here, with grip falling away very quickly. Based on some of the observations of our community playing the game, we decided that if there was a slightly more gradual falloff you’d have the chance to correct mistakes and more room to push to the limit with each car....[o]pen Wheel cars and some of the American Muscle cars, need a complete rethink with this new model."). This new handling philosophy, described as 60% SIM and 40% arcade by the Codies, is critical to league play, since real racing is defined by you ability to maintain grip and not your ability to lose it in the correct fashion. Note that the handling of the different classes of cars (Touring, Endurance, Open-Wheel, Tuner and Street) will vary, but all should be tilted back toward SIM, especially the first three). In addition, the race screen is cleaner, there is less drama and hype to start the races (and endurance races even incorporate a rolling start!) and, so far, the menus look cleaner. Also, and very importantly to some, cockpit view is back! There are even two cockpit views -- one sort of a dash cam and the other what amount to be a helmet cam. The beauty of the helmet cam is that you can adjust both the shake and the "look to apex" aspect of the cam with a slider in 10% increments. If you want to have a peek at how an open wheel car look on track, here you go (it's unclear as to whether the damage is turned off in this run, but it appear so): Second and Third, as any host knows, more options are better and the on0line experience need be as smooth as possible. First, let me simply quote Codemasters in their own words, from one of their articles that talks about THE tool a host would use to configure on-line races: ("Online Custom Cup is the game mode where you get to have your cake and eat it. Here, you can configure an Event to exactly the way you like it, and the rewards will fit the difficulty options you choose. In GRID Autosport, you can even make a Custom Cup pay out more than a Playlist event if you make it tough enough! Here’s a breakdown of the things you can configure in a Custom Cup: Discipline – pick your favourite style of racing. Vehicle Class – the type of vehicles you want to drive. Race Type – the available Race Types will depend on what Discipline and Vehicles you’ve picked. Number of Events – create a mini-championship up to five Events long. AI – choose whether or not to add AI opponents to the session, which will fill any available slots on the grid. The difficulty of the AI can be changed as well. Tracks – choose the track, route, lighting conditions and race length for each Event. Upgrades, Tuning and Assists – can be disabled individually to level the playing field. Manual Only – turn this on if you want everyone to use manual transmission. Cockpit Cam Only – can be enabled for an ultra-hardcore experience. Pre- and Post-race timers – can be made longer or shorter to suit your preferences. Collisions – can be turned off if you don’t want vehicles to collide with each other. Grid Order – provides a range of options for how you want the grid to be ordered at the start of each race. Damage – can be set to Full or Visual Only. In Visual Only, your car will still crumple in a crash, but it won’t develop any mechanical defects. Flashbacks – the number of Online Flashbacks that are allowed per race can be set here. Depending on the settings you pick, there is a difficulty modifier which increases or decreases. Therefore a race with Damage and Collisions enabled, for example, will pay out more than one with the same settings disabled. If you normally race with assists enabled, they will temporarily be overridden while you are in a session that restricts them, but you will be rewarded appropriately while you are in that session. When you leave the session, your preferences will be reinstated again. Online Custom Cup allows you to experiment and combine GRID Autosport’s content in new ways. Online Custom Cup allows you to experiment and combine GRID Autosport’s content in new ways. If you want to race cars from the Street Discipline on regular circuits, you can do that here. Likewise, if you want to drive Open-Wheel vehicles around city circuits for example, that is also possible in Custom Cup. As the host of a Custom Cup, it’s up to you to make a fun racing experience for your fellow racers."). What could potentially be very interesting and new for on-line racers is the ability to upgrade and repair their "baby" just like real racers do, depending on the amount of money they win in any given event. This is accomplished through a system whereby a player purchases a car (with in game cash) and has to maintain it due to damage it receives not only from on track incidents, but from normal wear and tear ("Careless drivers will find that their car doesn’t quite perform as well as it did in previous races if they keep smashing it up. Small fractions of damage will get carried over as Wear & Tear, which you’ll need to repair in order to keep your cars performing at peak condition."). GRID: Autosport has adopted a Forza-like approach to obtaining cars, but, unlike Forza, has also given players the option to drive any car he or she wants, although there are advantages to "owning" your own: ("Until your car collection is big enough, you’ll have to rely on Loan Cars to enter races where you don’t own an eligible vehicle. Cars are not XP-locked in GRID Autosport, all you need is the in-game Cash to buy them. In the mean time, you can loan any car you want. This means that if your friend has bought a very expensive Hypercar, you’ll still be able to race with them by borrowing a car from the same class....So why would I ever want to buy a car? I hear you ask; well, remember that only vehicles that you’ve bought can level-up and unlock Tuning Packs, Upgrades, repairs, cosmetic customisations and bonus rewards. You’ll be able to compete with a loaned car, but if you really want to stand out and have an edge over your opponents, you’ll need to buy one of your own."). On-line lobbies max out at 12 players and, as mentioned before, there is no ability to pit, but you can spin this in a positive way: the series' that GRID: Autosport focuses on (GP3, GT3, Touring Series Races, etc.) typically are pit-less sprint races anyway. And the game will discourage races from becoming a free-for-all ("To encourage clean racing, we’ve made improvements to the Impact Rating and Off Track Penalty systems based on feedback we gathered from GRID 2. Players that gain an advantage by running off-track (which includes both cutting the apex and deliberately running wide to exploit run-off areas) will be slowed down and turned into a ghost so that they can’t block the track.) My understanding from the forums is that your car will remain a ghost to other cars that do not have a reasonable chance to anticipate the corner cutting penalty and the penalty itself will NOT be given unless all four wheels are off track and vary the severity depending on the egregiousness of the cut. Also, the slowdown will be more gradual so as not to interrupt the race as much. So what about damage? Since you can't pit, this is a real concern. probably the biggest for the league racer. In an ideal world, you would be able to repair your car, but also in the real world, it's impossible to repair anything but bodywork damage on the fly. So how does the damage model work? After this ominous warning ("the impact of mechanical damage in the game is much more severe than in previous GRID titles and will change your strategy when it comes to racing.) the Codies go on to explain: ("Motorsport puts tremendous stresses on cars, so wear and tear is a new feature that we’ve introduced for GRID Autosport – as you race over time, various parts will gradually lose performance through general use. For instance, gearbox damage will build up every time you change gear, while over-revving and shifting at the wrong time, (primarily in manual gears), will cause the gearbox to accrue damage more quickly. Once the gearbox is damaged, shift times will start to increase and a failure to address your driving style will cause a damaged gearbox to eventually start to skip gears. Brakes will also be affected. Repetitive high speed, late braking will eventually cause your brakes to fade quicker than if you use a more gradual approach.) and ("Our collision based damage model only affects the areas of the car that are damaged through collisions with other cars and objects. By the very nature of these collisions, the results are also much more severe and will hamper the performance of the car significantly. Collision based damage can be broken down into three main areas. Wheels Damage to the wheels will cause the steering to become misaligned and as a result will make the car pull to the side. While you’ll be able to feel the car’s steering being affected, you’ll also be able to see the wheels buckle visually. Furthermore, with enough damage the tyres will eventually puncture, which will then lead to a tyre blowout. Engine There are 4 components to engine damage; Radiator – This will cause the engine to overheat Turbo – A damaged turbo will cause the engine to lose power Exhaust – Damage to the exhaust will see a small amount of power loss, however if it falls off there is significant power loss Engine – a damaged engine will have a big reduction in performance Engine damage is also linked to both your acceleration and top speed. Performance is linked to any damage made to the engine components. Damage to the engine will also change the sound it produces, and in some cases you’ll begin to notice smoke emanating from under the bonnet. Suspension As the player damages their suspension the car will become less precise and visually the car will exhibit a lot more roll. The damage towards suspension will also affect the car’s springs and damper values. Suspension damage is a brand new feature for GRID Autosport and we’re looking forward to seeing it in action once the game launches this summer.") Another unique feature that is related to damage is that, unlike other games, your pit engineer talks to you at your request, giving you information relative to your race: ("A key new feature we have added is the Team Radio system; at any point during a race you can now request information from your engineer at the touch of a button. This means you can pay full attention to the action on track but still have easy access to standings and car health updates as and when you want it.") One final comment about multiplayer. Tire wear is a factor in the endurance races. Your tires will wear at a rate that is equal for everyone, so players who are better able to manage their tires, either through their driving style or intentionally holding back, will be rewarded toward the end of the race. If you want a good overview on all of this and the articles from which I quote and refer go here: http://blog.codemasters.com/grid/05/grid-autosport-the-story-so-far/ Confirmed cars: Touring Cars Cat C Touring Cars (WTCC) Chevrolet Cruze Touring Car BMW 320 Touring Car Focus ST Touring Car Honda Civic Touring Car Super Utes Ford Racing Ute Holden VE Commodore Ute Cat B (DTM) Audi RS 5 (Cat B Special) Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG (Cat B Special) Super Tourers (V8 Supercars) Ford Falcon FG Holden VF Commodore Cat A Touring Cars (Brazil Touring Series) Peugeot 408 SCB ADC Presteza-14 Classic Mini Cup Mini Miglia Mini Cup Mini John Cooper Works Challege Classic Touring Car Cup Ford Sierra RS 500 Cosworth Group A Nissan 1991 (R32) Skyline GT-R Group A Open Wheel Dallara F312 (GP3) Indycar Aerial Atom V8 Endurance AUDI R8 LMS Ultra Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Aston Martin N24 V12 Zagato McLaren 12C GT3 Nissan 2008 (R35) GT-R Nismo GT500 Honda HSV-010 GT Lola B12/80 Shelby Cobra “Daytona” Coupe Ford GT40 MK1 Mazda 787B Street Audi RS5 Coupe Mercedes Benz C63 AMG BMW M3 E92 Mini John Cooper Works Ford Focus Volkswagen Golf R Honda Integra Subaru BRZ BMW 1M Coupe Class Unconfirmed Super GT 500 Nissan GTR Mazda RX7 Pagani Zonda Revolución Audi RS5 GT Mercedes Benz SLS AMG Black Koenigsegg Agera R Jupiter Eagleray Mk5 Mercedes C63 AMG V12 Biturbo Mercedes SL65 AMG Black Honda HSV-010 GT500 Confirmed Tracks: Circuits: Hockenheim Sepang Jarama Yas Marina Brands Hatch Bathurst Mount Panorama Circuit Mont-Tremblant Circuit of the Americas Autodromo Do Algarve Indianapolis Okutama Red Bull Ring Autosport Raceway Spa Francorchamps Intercity Istanbul Park Street Tracks: Chicago Dubai San Francisco Paris Washington Detroit Stadium Barcelona Here's hoping that league play will truly reach an enjoyable state in GRID: Autosport -- the last last-gen console racer that potentially could be suitable for league and SIM oriented players.