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Featured The Evolution and Future of Sim Racing

Discussion in 'Other Racing Games' started by Ryan Ogurek, Aug 31, 2014.

  1. Ryan Ogurek

    Ryan Ogurek


    Sim racing as we know it today has come a long way from the ultra-pixelated "simulators" of 1988, and it appears to have turned a corner. So where is it headed?


    Sim racing has always been a small niche. Many people, have had no idea it even exists. It started as small groups making DOS based games to "simulate" driving F1 and Indy cars. Today it has grown into the multi-million dollar productions we have become so passionate about. Despite that, it remains a relatively small niche. Finally, it seems that is beginning to change.

    The 90's brought about the so-called "crossover" games, such as Gran Turismo, but still the hardcore sim community remained hidden in the shadows. However, today the level of quality and realism is reaching an all time high. Combined with the marketing skills of iRacing.com, we are starting to see true racing sims poking into the mainstream. People are finally beginning to realise, it really is more than just a game. New products such as Oculus Rift show great promise in regards to sim racing, which is likely to help it break into view.

    Simulators were at one time used by only the best and wealthiest racing teams and now are becoming increasingly critical to the training of professional race drivers of all types. Now they are beginning to use the very same sims we average Joe's do.

    So what does this mean for sim racing? Obviously, it means more sims, and with larger budgets. It means more integration with the motorsport and automotive industries, but it also means being used for more than just entertainment and training. With the level of realism, physics, and immersion possible these days, the muscle memory created by sim racing is real and applies to real world driving.

    It can and does save lives. Almost every sim racer out there (at least of those who drive in real life) has had a close call at some point while driving, where they know without a doubt the practice they have had sim racing saved their life (or at least their car). Living where I do there is plenty of opportunity to utilize what I have learned about braking and traction, there is so many deer it is quite common to have to dodge them at highway speed. So why shouldn't this be used for everyone?

    One of the biggest reasons it has not been used, at least not on a large scale, is because so many people don't know it exists to the quality it is. The more sim racing breaks into the mainstream, the more this will be recognized. With that recognition, we will see that change.

    We all know, the graphics, sounds, and physics will continue to improve. What is the most amazing is the thought of the possibilities of world wide recognition. Lowered cost, higher availability, and literally the ability to positively affect driver safety around the globe sounds pretty good to me. The future of sim racing looks bright, and I can't wait to see where it goes over the next 20 years.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
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  2. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium

    Great write up Ryan :)

    It's true, SimRacing has come a long way since it's inception. Hopefully it will become more than just the small niche tucked away in a corner in the vast universe of the internet.
    I for one have noticed subtle improvements in my everyday driving after the last year or so in simracing. I'm not saying it's going to save my life if I have an accident, but it's more technical things, like fuel saving techniques and prolonging tyre life by taking smoother lines through street corners.

    It sounds corny, but it 100% genuinely works.
    I reduced my average fuel consumption in real life from 5.2L/100km down to 4.5L/100km in a 1.4L straight 4 engine over the course of a month or so, just by using the same techniques I use in simracing.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2014
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  3. Frederic Schornstein

    Frederic Schornstein
    TXL Racing Premium

    I recently did a driver safety training, which addressed the fun factor as well. Especially on things like skid plate and bringing the car back into line I had a lot less problems than most other participants and by mileage I was the least experienced road car driver (still have my licence since 7 years, so not inexperienced, but there were drivers covering 50.000km per year).
    The great thing is, that racing is basically a continues extreme situation in road driving terms as you are most of the time on the limit of what the car can deliver and you don't do that usually in your road driving. Especially in cases of reaction time and instinctively avoiding situation I feel it helped.

    Once I had a car crossing in front of me at a big junction where I had right of way and there was not a lot of traffic and it is pretty clear there, so you don't expect a car wouldnt see you and it was in the middle of the day. I was going straight and the car incoming wanted to go left (we drive on the right side here). Doing 50km/h I immediately slammed the brakes as soon as I realised the car was starting to turn rather than to stop and wait for me and just managed to stop it. There was no thinking involved I instinctively judged the situation and slammed the brake. Leaving my girlfriend alive and impressed and the driver ahead fairly shocked by his mistake. Of course you can't prove, that I wouldn't have done it without simracing, but it definetely didn't hurt.

    P.S. Nice thing you can do on the road to improve your simracing is at every traffic light try to get your start right. By that I don't mean rush off and waste fuel but the reaction times to the traffic lights:)
  4. The problem will always be, "when is enough, enough"?, simply put, we as racers sitting comfy in our own houses racing people across the world is ever so easy. - we soon get used too, (and in some cases exploit) the realism of sim racing, with every new sim to hit the market we all jump on board and give our valued opinion. - sure at the time it might be the best thing out there...we indeed once again get used to it, but then lets not forget what we replaced it with? does this mean the other is inaccurate? no, it just means we have moved on for something better..

    But how is it better? does this mean that the other is incorrect in its physics model? and if so HOW exactly? because its been taken from real world values... but yet the new one also has taken from real-world values too, Ok so maybe now its turning into a dogfight over minimal adjustments, sure, but its more features that catches our attention surely?.. maybe. can we do X or Y, if NOT then why not, as the other one can..

    How many of us have played the latest craze like AC.. then gone back a several years to like GTR2, and thought this feels like an arcade game now.. - but how many of us whispered, wow this feels like real when it first came out.. but now we just dismiss it..

    10 years to come, evolution will once again grab a hold of us, and we will say the same thing about whats available right here right now. - at the end of the day, its limitations in current hardware that enables the amount of physics data to all work at once is it not? after-all "real-world" data is "real-world" data! nothing changes here.. but yet why does it over so many sims..unless they have all been reading from the wrong spec sheets!...but I doubt that, its all too do with implementation of the data and how we perceive it by being the driver.

    I think we will still see improvements in sim racers, but not by such a Hugh amount, I think more and more will be focus on hardware to simulate the real feeling...the future (imo) is more to do with immersion, getting the player really involved.. so many good sims that bottleneck you into uncomfortable driving camera positions, or terrible navigation, bad sounds etc etc, to me this is not a SIM, its a game still.. your driving someone else vision, but not your own. this is why the game market for this genre is still so cold, because driving is personal, and yet they make a template for you.. it would be nice to have a sim that really YOU can setup exactly how you want it!.. to let you be in control of your own game.

    Its all hearsay from me. a very speculative post, and in no way am I stating facts here, its simply my thoughts out loud on this very subject.

    As you were :)
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  5. I'm not sure sim racing was such a small niche. With the right license and the ability to be driven using a range of widely available controllers, PC racing sims in the mid 90s sold in relatively large numbers. Papyrus's original NASCAR sold over 1 million units and Microprose's Grand Prix 2 sold almost 2 million.

    I'm not sure why the PC racing market declined. The rise of the consoles was a key factor I suspect. Racing games such as Gran Turismo and Forza are flagship titles selling in the multi-millions. I know some of the PC purists tend to dismiss any console title as arcade but I've tried driving these titles with a game-pad and I found them harder to drive than PC sims with a wheel. Racing games whether hard core sim or not just aren't big sellers on PC (though Shift did reach no 4 on the 2009 pirate PC download charts with 2.1 million pirated copies).

    Leaving aside piracy the other factor behind the decline of the PC sim might be the rise of the steering wheel. I drove the early Papy titles and GP2 with a joystick and many used a keyboard. The need for a steering wheel to drive a PC sim must surely be a major hurdle. Most people won't have a wheel when they first try a PC sim and I guess they might find the experience off-putting. Even if they don't, the cost of a steering wheel will put them off.
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  6. Nicely written piece this. And I totally agree with David above.

    One thing for sure in my opinion though, sim racing does not make you a better car driver in real life. I was driving cars long before I was driving GP2 or Indycars at Long Beach. If you were to drive real cars in the real world like you drive in the race sims, the roads would be a mess of death and wreckage, populated by idiots who crash on purpose, ram you at every opportunity and drive way too fast for a given road condition. Why? Because it doesn't hurt in the race sim. There are no consequences.

    I would say that the only driving game ever that possibly could help with real road driving is Test Drive Unlimited. Yes that arcadey non race sim. But in that you were at least to try and drive with some kind of manners and road sense on public roads with other traffic.

    No, Race sims can and do help race drivers get in the groove, but they can not and will not ever be an aid to normal driving on the road. You learn that skill in reality, not behind a desk with a monitor.
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  7. I think PC simracing spent the last 5 years with (a) graphics which were far behind consoles (b) a tendency not to have many licenses for real cars (c) the main focus on multiplayer rather than a single player experience, and maybe also (d) catering to the "sim racing must be hard" crowd skewing realism.

    Particularly (c) is easy for forumites to dismiss because most forumites in places like this only want multiplayer, but it wouldn't surprise me if 90% of people who want to play sims want to do so with a nice structured career mode and good AI rather than having to keep to an online race schedule. Almost anyone who can find the kind of time required to practice and compete in iRacing is already doing so :)

    It seems to me that we are now turning a corner: AC and pCARS are bringing graphics, licenses and career mode with AI to realistic sim engines. They will offer enough to the millions of GT/Forza racers to tempt them into trying out PC sim racing in larger numbers: pCARS on the consoles will no doubt provide a stepping stone to PC racing (gosh, look how much better it is via Rift or triple screens!)

    Of course, anyone who thinks a PC sim will compete with the big names on consoles in sales is deceiving themselves. A multi hundred licensed car list plus the ability to tune them up and race with them is a far richer "gaming" experience than just racing the AI in predefined race cars where the only thing you can do is tweak setup.
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  8. Bram

    Ezekiel 25:17 Staff Premium

    Can't disagree more. The skills gained by racing lots of sims actually saved my life once when I had an exploding tyre on a highway exit driving 160 km/h. Fast reflexes and know what to do to regain control over the car prevented me to end up in the armco.
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  9. Eric Bergeron

    Eric Bergeron

    <<<One thing for sure in my opinion though, sim racing does not make you a better car driver in real life>>>

    I agree, but knowledge does. In my first of Simracing (a long time ago), I really was not good, even though I already drove long in real life. Later, I went back and rediscovered the simrace with GSC2013 and AC .... but I still was not very good. I bought the book "skip barber going faster" and it is learning this book when I really improved my time and safer driving in real life.
  10. Great article.
    Simracing does indeed have a very bright future.
    I have been driving sims from the original GP2 onward.
    That was eighteen years ago.
    Looking back even eight years ago and comparing to what is available now, it's amazing how far we've come.
    As to whether sims can make a better driver; "Sims can make a more aware driver."
    If you know for instance that the correction of a four-wheel drift is to steer into the slide to re-establish traction, while micro-correcting to get the car going in it's intended direction....that's a lesson learned.
    Most people don't have the nerve to intentionally put a car into a four-wheel drift...but it's something they do almost every time they fire up a sim. t's something they'd be more aware of how to correct it if it does happen.
    It's something that can be practiced over and over again, much as airline pilots and us mechanics practice cockpit procedures in sims.
  11. <<<One thing for sure in my opinion though, sim racing does not make you a better car driver in real life>>>
    Another big disagree on that one. I race, almost every weekend, and sim racing is a big part of my training. I win a lot also. I know why I win so often, its the constant neural pathway conditioning that sims provide.
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  12. Kenny Paton

    Kenny Paton
    Staff Premium

    An interesting thread and an enjoyable read. VR will bring greater immersion and as costs for the hardware come down more people will start to use them. I suppose 4K will make the graphics seem even more real. Graphics can only do do much.
    Yes AC and pCars are the graphic leaders, but it's amazing the amount of people who still use and enjoy the older sims GTR2, Race07 etc. The physics may not be "regarded by some" as being cutting edge but since most sim racers/gamers have never driven these cars in RL as long as they handle the way you'd expect then that's enough. "It's up to the software programmers to make sure the cars are as real as possible and feel that way."

    I've edited this adding the words between quotes as I don't think I conveyed what I meant very well in my original post.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2014
  13. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    I am sorry but I have to disagree strongly. My argument is as follows:
    What makes you a safer driver after the basics of learning the highway code is your understanding of what a car does when it reaches its limits. Not because you plan to lap your local supermarket car park in record time but because avoiding an accident relys on it.
    Years of pootling around well within the cars limits and the speed limits does not educate you in this regard at all. My sister in law is a perfect example: I was a passenger with her on an icy road and she mindlessly ploughed through a roundabout with the brakes applied and the wheel turned. (well it worls fine most of the time doesnt it?) well big skid, near miss and an "oh goodness its slippery isnt it".
    Well before racing sims I was a motorcyclist and you have to learn about adhesion and limits and what wet and shiny surfaces do or you crash. Standard road driving doesn't teach you that. Most ppl when they have their first big lose react with blind panic and do the exact opposite of what they should (more brakes, more lock and hope).

    An experienced sim driver has been at and beyond the limit many times in a non life threatening environment and learned to cope. For that reason will more often than not be a better driver.

    Personally I was driving F1 1997 on PS1 a lot. In 1998 had my 1st ever chance to drive a sports car on a race track (Boxster at Eastern Creek) with the owner. 2 laps in I had learned the track and was noted for my speed and offered drives in other cars and asked for tips. "clearly I had done a lot of this type of thing"!!!!!:cool: I was not the one to contradict them.:redface: My sim driving (in a 1997 PS1 title ended up alowing me to drive 911, 911 Turbo, Honda NSX on real tracks. I can tell you it transfers well.

    I have avoided accidents in real life by inches and only had time to think about it afterwards and its due to sim racing.

    Airline pilots are another key example. Where do they learn their craft? In a simulator. They get repeated chances to save the aircraft from deliberately induced peril so that when it happens for real they are experienced.
    The carnage and mayhem is practiced in the virtual to avoid it in the real world. Not promoted for the real world. (lest we see kids cruising LA with guns and stealing cars, well ok they do but not because of the game).

    So no disrepect but I cannot agree.
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  14. Even if graphics improved a lot, the excitment isnt the same unfortunely.
    My vision of simracing future is not so bright....
    Money is starting to have a major role in sim development and im afraid that eventually it will end by killing simracing as we know. Potencialy will follow real racing, something for the rich and for the marketing.
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  15. Good article with valid points. I would like to add the following: The realism in sim-racing is very good, and indeed keeps getting better - the physics of tyre and suspension behaviour are really getting so close to real life. I have sim-raced for several years, and about 20 months ago started attending track days at some local race tracks. First session in the car with an instructor I was asked: "Why are you in the novice class? You have clearly done this before". He laughed when I said this its my very first time on a track, and my only experience is Gran Turismo and other similar sim-game titles. Since then I have spent one day month on a race track and keep getting better at it with some valuable input from pro race drivers and instructors. But this also makes me better back home in the sim-racer. So for one thing – sim-racing really prepared me very well for real life racing. And honestly, real life is almost easier than sim-racing because you have so much more tactile feedback on exactly what is happening around you, and what the car is doing. That's one aspect of real driving/racing that is nearly impossible to simulate or interpret correctly due to the g-forces and physical movements of your body and head. That immersion into virtual reality is still a long way off, and currently very expensive to implement, even a very poor attempt of it. But regardless of that shortcoming, the theory of racing in simulators is very valuable - and a very good example of that is the Nissan GT Academy. The incredible success rate of these Nismo athletes that came from a sim-racing background, and are then placed in a rather short driver development program, and then into the world's greatest racing series are just phenomenal and just proves what simulation can achieve. As for it application in normal-road driving - I am not so sure. Real track driving teaches me the handling of my car and its limits under stress, which in turn taught me some valuable lessons in real life public road situations, but a simulator may not be quite that accurate for a situation like that. I would not bet my life on a sim, but advanced driving lessons rather.
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  16. Well each to their own I say. If you believe playing a sim racing game is like driving a real race car then that's up to you. I won't criticise you for having that train of thought.

    Happy driving folks.
  17. I remember watching Leman some years back and a young lad from England was entered in a car.
    Apparently he had won national championships on GRID. As he was on TV being interviewed about it on a science program
    And used the publicity of being the best in the area to get a real life drive.
    Very rare but could the home PC the breeder of the next generation of champions.
  18. I think sims do make a difference. They teach us to be much more reactive and heightened to changes in the virtual car which only has visual and ffb cues to go from. "If you're seeing it, it is too late," Martin Brundle once famously said. In a sim there is no sense of the feel of the seat which is a massive factor in finding the limit. Because sim racers can find the limit without that hugely important butt cue makes them sharper and more reactive.
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  19. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Well Andy the main thrust of the debate is whether it makes you a better road driver but if it isnt "like driving a real race car" we better get word to the F1 teams and get them to cancel their multi million dollar investments in simulators pronto.;)

    Did you not see the Christian Horner interview about Daniel Ricciardo where he said "we knew he was fast from his performances in the simulator".
    Did you not hear Lewis Hamilton say that Mercedes Benz had some work to do to get its simulator up to the level of McLaren.
    Dont know why they are all wasting their time?

    But then each to his own I wont criticise you for having missed that train of thought.
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  20. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Antony it happened this year again.
    Jan Mardenborough won GT Academy in 2011 on PS3 and held the lead in LMP2 overnight until his team mate broke the car. He has also podiumed twice in GP3 this season including a win at Hockenheim.
    He follows in the footsteps of 2009 winner Lucas Ordonez (Spain) who podiumed at Lemans.

    Race Department member and R Factor multiplayer winner Florian Strauss was Germanys winner this year and has had a class win in Dubai 24 hr and races in the Blancpain Endurance series.
    I watched Florian race in RD RF1 Bathurst race 2 years ago or so in the BMW 635. Now he does it for real.

    So it seems that there is no connection between sims and real racing......yeah Right;)
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2014