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Panthera Free

Discussion in 'Racer' started by Cosmo°, Mar 31, 2016.

  1. The folks at Cruden recently announced Panthera Free on their website, to be released following the Automotive Testing Expo in Stuttgart (May 31 to June 2). You can find the official info here:


    Due to a lack of communication from Ruud' side, I'm not sure what this means for Racer and the future of our content creation processes. Some of us have repeatedly tried to get in touch with them over the last year or so, without hearing back. When I visited the Expo last year, I briefly talked with Edwin de Vries (Senior Modelling & Simulation Engineer at Cruden) about where Racer was heading at the time and he had hinted at the possibility of a "re-branding" of Racer towards the Panthera brand. It seems this is now taking place.

    Interpreting the press release, it looks like the physics engine might change from what we're currently using in free Racer. It's not clear to me whether what they refer to as CSVM Lite is the familiar platform or something different for us to work with.

    I'm not sure yet if I can make it to the Expo this year, in order to talk to people at the Cruden booth in person. In any case, it would be really helpful to finally get some line of communication going with them again.
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  2. Interesting.

    It sounds like they've kinda made Racer Pro and Free Racer into one thing, Panthera, and then made the Free version a 'lite' version of Panthera, rather than an entirely different version as it was before.

    That probably streamlines things lots for Cruden. And it also likely makes life easier as the Free users at universities and the like will all be able to collaborate together better as they'll share the same Free version we do.

    It sounds positive any way.

    I just hope that graphics have been left nice and open and customisable, and they have been advanced a little bit more since we last saw them too.

    Also things like audio/multiplayer improvements would be nice too.

    Given we've had 2 years since any major updates and sound/gfx updates did seem apparent (albeit buggy in our test versions), I'm hopefully for something pretty nice here :D

    Fingers crossed!

    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. Their new website looks nice too :D

    But 'about us' doesn't work/exist :(

    A few pics of things I've not seen before too.

    The Range Rover picture + track looks great!

    Last edited: Mar 31, 2016
  4. Color me: Giddy with anticipation!
    • Haha Haha x 1
  5. Ruud

    RACER Developer

    It's been a long time indeed. Panthera is the name of a framework to do simulations really, so the idea is a bit broader than 'just' Racer. This 'Panthera Free' edition is focused on automotive though, and you'll recognize most of it as looking like Racer.
    CSVM stands for 'Cruden Simulink Vehicle Model' and we use that as a basis for professional vehicle (physics) models which customers can adjust to their liking and specialisms. CSVM Lite is a lighter version of that which is included with 'Panthera Free'. The physics engine inside Panthera is the same (Newton) though.

    The word 'Panthera' here stands more for the integration of the rendering/audio/controls and the vehicle model (CSVM Lite), combining into a workflow. The rendering etc is very much like Racer, and the internal vehicle model is still there like before, but is not really the focus for this version.
    Audio-wise there is some support for FMod Studio, which allows audio designers to have more freedom and using FMod Studio instead of having to do everything in the car.ini file.

    Most efforts these days go into the framework, so integration of external models (mostly through Simulink, but this opens up portals to 3rd party vehicle simulations such as CarMaker), scripting, generalizing for simulation in general (not automotive). The idea is let engineering people be able to develop their vehicle model inside the Panthera visualization framework.
  6. Hey Ruud thanks for the details!

    It'll be interesting to see CSVM Lite's capabilities.

    I'm assuming it must be at least as good/flexible as the old Racer internal vehicle model, so we should be able to do better simulation of automotive vehicles.

    Audio updates sound good.

    How much has the graphical rendering changed?

    I'm excited by the idea of static HDR envmap cubes (with blurred mips) for environmental rendering/lighting, alongside the current HDR live envmap we use for car rendering/reflections.
    I'm assuming that the water reflection shader will work in this version, which will be exciting for 'wet' roads and race courses.


  7. Thanks for the response Ruud, it's appreciated :) There are still a few bigger points that are unclear to me, maybe you can answer them:

    Is Panthera Free going to replace what we know as Racer so far? In other words, will development of Racer stop at v0.9.0 RC10?

    What can you tell us about potentially significant changes to the workflow in our content creation process when dealing with Panthera Free compared to Racer?

    What about current content, file formats, syntax and such - what kind of adjustements can we expect to get existing projects working in Panthera Free?

    Will the documentation be ready in time with the release of Panthera Free so that we know how to set things up, have guidelines for new content creation and such, where there are differences to what we know from Racer?

    What do you expect the development process for Panthera Free to look like? Is there still going to be continous updating?

    Tied into the previous question, how will you be handling our feedback, bug reports and such in the future? Is it still welcome?

    I'm certainly looking forward to what Panthera Free will bring us and I hope to see you around more often :)
  8. I'm not sure I can wait about 50 days to find out haha.

    Ruud how about a sneak peek :D
    • Like Like x 1
  9. These really are my two biggest questions at the moment. If Racer will stop development, and Panthera Free will take over? Or will Panthera Free be run under the Racer name?

    My other curiosity is how hard will it be to take a Racer vehicle, and make it work in Panthera Free? What about being able to set up controllers?
  10. My main thought is what Panthera Free 'single channel' limit means?

    I think mostly we'll be able to swap cars across to the new version fairly ok. Not great, a bit like pre-CG > CG days... but really cars do need updating with time.

    Racer sorely needs some scratch made cars built to todays best standards if possible. Sounds like a job for Mr Whippy to finish his Z4 at long last :D

  11. <edit> Disregard. Not available 'til June 2-ish. I thought because the download link was there...well...you know. (I only clicked "Get Messages" in my email app about twenty times)
    Has anyone succeeded in getting this software? upload_2016-5-4_18-14-34.png
    Last edited: May 4, 2016
  12. Alexander Knoll

    Alexander Knoll

    no dl...but i got the mail.
    i had to answer 10 questions and the most i'm not realy able to answer...at the end there was a link, but i got a 404...

    Ruud, can you please help? THX

  13. Alexander Knoll

    Alexander Knoll

    little update...
    I got a next Mail from Claire Dumbreck, the free Version is not available before June 1st.
    If they are ready, i get a new Mail...

  14. This level of anticipation is raising my expectations way beyond what we'll probably get hehe :D

    • Like Like x 1
  15. Alexander Knoll

    Alexander Knoll

    oh, i hope we get alot ^^
  16. Seems like I can make the trip and visit Cruden at the Expo on Tuesday to see what I can find out. If you have any questions not already mentioned here, post them before then and I'll pass them on.
    • Like Like x 1
    I wonder if it will run natively in Linux or will I need to keep using Wine, if indeed it will even work in Wine.
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
  18. Only 4 days to go now.

    It'll soon be here :)
  19. Some initial comments after my chat with Edwin today:

    First of all, I got a small metal box containing a USB stick with the current version of Panthera Free, as well as a leaflet that points to the documentation. I haven't gotten around to installing anything yet, but spent around two hours going through everything Edwin and I could think of at the Expo. The online release version might come a little later, as during our talk and going through the files, Edwin was taking notes for fixes and additional features that will be vital for proper use.

    Now, Cruden aren't keen on letting the Racer name be dropped entirely just yet, so we will probably see Panthera Free and Racer in parallel for quite some time. However, since they are both non-commercial offers, there probably won't be any further development on Racer. That's not much of a problem from what I can see so far, because Panthera Free supports Racer content without any adjustments required. It also still allows Cg and non-Cg content to be played, so it might be able to unify the community in that regard some more as well.

    What that means is that the folder structure and file types and syntax is very much carried over and there's no relearning required on that end. Car.ini, car.shd, views.ini, *.crv files and controller support - it's all familiar.

    The big additional feature is the support of Simulink models, which are communicating with Panthera Free via ePhyse. There's an additional car_ephyse.ini file for the extra parameters that are handled with this. As usual, naming conventions across multiple platforms aren't always consistent, but Cruden are welcoming feedback on any confusing variable names and that is something that might be changed over time. I mention this specific detail, because during our look through the demo files, both Edwin and I noticed potential trouble spots already. These only apply to the Simulink models however, so existing Racer content isn't affected.

    For now, the new scripting language of choice will be Lua. As an example, the frontend/session manager that comes with Panthera Free is written in Lua as well. I can see potential for some of the convenience options that have been mentioned over the years, such as easy colour choice, to be implemented more uniformly this way.

    The current version of Panthera Free comes with a single track, a skidpad of sorts, a generic sedan that is using the classic Racer model, as well as a Formula Student racer which is showcasing the Simulink type.

    As I've mentioned above, Cruden encourage feedback and plan on setting up a forum where support queries can be handled more efficiently. I'm assuming this is primarily going to be through the community, rather than Cruden staff. In any case, Cruden are keen to get communication going again.

    Development of Panthera Free will be continuous, with new versions likely to be released yearly. Since the target customers now include universities and the likes, bringing out updates monthly or irregularly wouldn't be particularly welcome, so the cycle is going to be longer than what used to be the case in the old days of Racer.

    The new audio features haven't been included in the current release version yet, but will be once things have settled down following public availability.

    Sadly, support for multi-screen, and potentially certain widescreen resolutions is currently considered a feature that Cruden sees more in the professional area, meaning it's not included in Panthera Free but might be a paid option.

    Similarly, at the moment there is no support for multiplayer, which I was very disappointed by. I mentioned this to Edwin of course and we'll see if there's going to be an option for the community in the future.

    Overall, I would say that the compatibility with existing content being there is the most important part and we should be able to transition smoothly over to Panthera Free, encouraging Cruden to do the same and get a clean system going for the future. As long as the communication channels stay open, I'm sure we can work out any quirks and find ways to include necessary features, all in time.
  20. It all sounds very promising.

    I'm weary of the updates will be once yearly, there is a much higher chance of bugs languishing for a year or so before we see fixes.
    Panthera is obviously an opportunity to do things a new way and hopefully a better way too. Fingers crossed we see no obvious bugs in Panthera versions!

    No multiplayer seems like a big missing feature.

    Yes there is a cost to add it and support it that recoups no money from commercial users.

    But if there is value seen in having great content being made to showcase what Panthera is capable of, then a thriving online community of people making and sharing content can provide that.

    It's probably no coincidence that the best years Racer had for content releases and community activity was around 2004 when the multiplayer features worked their best.

    I look forward to your report on what this new version can do Cosmo!

    • Agree Agree x 1