Modding Spotlight | 10 Questions for Ben Aubry

Let’s get to know better the man behind superb mods like the Catherhams Seven, Roadster, Super Sprint and Academy (to name just a few) and the Singer Porsche 911.

Going by the alias of Ben O’Bro, Ben is a beloved member of the RD community. If you don’t know him, maybe because you don’t go often to the sub-forums where he is most active in, you might ask yourself why.

Well, let me tell you that Ben is an incredibly genuine and enthusiastic person, radiating a sparkling joy in each and every interaction you get to have with him. Not just that, but he is also very supportive towards beginners in the ‘modding’ field, providing suggestions, help, resources.

The cars he has so far released to the community are the amazing Singer Porsche 911 and many variants of the exotic and sporty Caterham. Now, it would be unfair of course not to quote those that have actually contributed in the development of these vehicles, and they have been rightfully quoted in the article. After chatting with Ben however, I once again got the feeling that every project he works on is something like a part of his own personality. Colorful, dynamic, leaving a unique impression, like a sunset on a Caribbean island…

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Hi Ben, would you like to give us a briefly presentation of yourself? Who is Ben Aubry?

Hi, I am 35 years old, I like lemon pies and the smell of rain in the summer. I was born in France; I hated pretty much every bit of school and couldn't wait to become independent and live the dream of getting a driving license and escape. It went pretty well on that aspect, after getting my diploma I left France to move to Cyprus. Saved some money, while riding an old bicycle everyday till I could buy my first car. Which turned out to be a yellow 1995 Caterham Super Sprint in perfect condition. I drove 15.000 miles on the island over the few years I was there (yes, I had the family Peugeot 206 in France, but does it really count).

I do 3D for architecture, helping client visualize their project before it's built. I've also done a bit of photography, mostly as a hobby. I've started racing with a Microsoft steering wheel without FFB, on GTR1, I remember the sound of the Lister Storm echoing in the corridor outside my dorm room, and how I would train on Spa over and over. Then GTR2, GT Legends... all the way to AC.

Now I live in France, cross the border every day to work in Switzerland, own a couple of Caterhams, hike in the alps, do a lot of 3D at home, drive in the alps, do a bit more 3D at home.. And most importantly, before anyone asks, I use L'Arbre Vert to wash my dishes, which is good both for your skin and the environment.

How was the nickname Ben O’Bro born?

In my early days of the internet and other local network games, we had to pick nicknames, to sound cooler than we actually were. Having played Starcraft, I chose Norad, like one of the battleships if I remember correctly, and that stayed for few years.

Long story short, later down the line, I wanted to apply to jobs in the US, and as it turns out, the Norad is an actual military base there, which made my nickname and website URL sound a bit inappropriate and unrelated to the 3D community!

Aubry is a pretty common name (no offense dad) and I have a fair few homonym around the world. Still in the quest for originality, I chose a nickname that wasn't taken anywhere, and something a bit closer to my real name, so 10 years later, was it inspired by Coen's movie O'Brother, I'm not completely sure to be honest, but voila! O'Bro was born, and my siblings did enjoy it so that they sometimes use it too! My dad is slowly starting to accept it :)

How would you define yourself in three words, and why would you choose those specific three?

Oh boy. I haven't done a job interview in so long, I forgot about those questions!
Funny, strong, and French?

Ok I’ll be serious for a minute, I would say straightforward, sometimes not to my best advantage since I can also be impatient at times. I tend to speak my mind pretty easily. In the work place as well as with my family or among friends. I don't like unspoken things and I find it easier to just say things, so I guess that goes with honesty. Everything seems much simpler once each party has said what they had in mind. That makes for a better ground to move forward. If it's easy to say the bad, people often forget to express the good. Which might make me the only person rating 5 stars my local post office for their ability to remain calm and patient with most folks. They say compliments can go a long way. If they're sincere and righteous that is.
In the same aspect, I’d say self-questioning. Which is required to live in a world where our bellybutton isn't the center of the universe, and how your behavior should reflect who you are, as well as respect your neighbor. It also helps in my personal quest for fairness.
Downside being that it can sometimes lead me in perpetual questioning, not able to be satisfied.

Well, I certainly didn't expect that to turn into a philosophy debate, that was my minute of seriousness, let's move on!​

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Which cars would you store in your dream garage if it was though made of only four car spots?


It would be easy to pick from the posters of my childhood, 288 GTO, 959, Countach... But I can also see the tastes changing over the years, as my tiny driving experience grow and I can grasp a bit better what it's really about (certainly a very personal view).

Old cars seem to retain my attention more each year, they are much simpler, yet capricious and can get tricky to drive, but revolving around the very basic things that make driving a fun and exalting experience. I'm enjoying the feelings of the road, and how the car will behave and give me the feedback on the steering wheel, how the tyres will grip (or won't), how the mass will shift, all the above with little to no assistance, vibrations, roaring and no need for a lot of power to be enjoyed. Just the lightness of that era.

So, I’ll pick 4 cars to be realistic and what I hope/dream to actually have in my garage someday.
It's safe to assume there would be a Caterham... since it's already there hibernating under its blanket. It's been such an incredible machine to drive around, cross countries and mountains, even with what appears to be a permanent hearing loss, I’d probably do it all over again anyways (ok maybe just with some earplugs this time...). And to anyone who has the chance, do try a Seven at least once in your lifetime.

An old 911, a 964 or 993, rwd and naturally aspirated. (Could it even be a Singer?) The 911 shape is such a timeless icon... 240Z, as I’m restoring a rusty 280Z with a friend, even compromising his own projects (merci Nico :D).
With money I would go to MZR Roadsports in the UK and build myself the perfect Z.

Last but not least? A touch of modernity and comfort with a 2010-era F-Type. Probably 6 cylinders to keep a bit of lightness. And voila, as happy as a man can be!

What do you do when you feel like you need to relax?


A nap on the field behind my house! When the cows aren't in.
That has probably been the nicest thing during lockdown. The real escape and the sound of nature, and not even a flight from Geneva Airport.

I must confess I spend a lot of time in front of the computer, and I guess it doesn't really count as relaxing, as much as I enjoy those activities, movie, 3D, gaming etc. it's not really mind soothing, isn't it?

So proper relaxing would be through sport. Mostly rock climbing, in order to completely empty my mind and focus on problem solving in front of the rock, very much outside my comfort zone.
Alternatively, renting a house for a long weekend with friends, and escape said screens to play board games, cook, drink and enjoy a bit of country side. Which all became even more precious this past year.

What is it that you enjoy about modding?


I've been doing 3D for more than 15 years now, and I remember doing skins for the first GTR, that was my first modding I guess. It took me such a long time to connect the fact that I was doing 3D with the possibility of modding content.

Assetto Corsa, and the guides and tutorials flourishing around the internet gave me the confidence to believe that it wouldn't be so complex. Proved me wrong!
I had the 3D I started and never finished from my first Caterham, now sold, and I wanted to try and recreate in game what I was experiencing on the windy roads back then.
What a satisfaction to see the car I used to own, modeled into a game, and being able to actually drive the thing... months later, having the sound as well, and thanks to the hard work of JackCY, having a coherent and believable physics, the car was alive!

That first mod was a very new thing for me. Creating content outside of work, and it proved to be very addictive. There's a satisfaction in imagining how things will be, trying to plan it, model it and bring it to life in the game. And once it's finally ready, sharing with the community, seeing how it's received, enjoyed, and the fuel it becomes for even more created content thanks to the talented people making YouTube videos etc. is very rewarding!

I also find fulfillment in helping others. I'm trying to answer in the question thread when I can, listed the modding tips, started to share few props I made for tracks, that I hope to complete and improve slowly but surely.​

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Your Portfolio lists Singer Porsches, Caterham, you have been working on a Datsun and now you are in the process of creating a track, an open road map set on Union Island. I don’t think it is a stretch to say you enjoy exotic, original content. What do you find attractive in these unique projects?


You now know half of those I have in the garage, which does help the creating process. Although for the record, the state of the Datsun at the moment doesn't allow for photogrammetry, so I left the mod on the side for when the car will be sanded and primed, to make for a nice blueprint to finally create the car in 3D.

The common point between them I’d say is creating something new, that isn't available anywhere.
There was only one Caterham in AC before I started mine, and very little in the other games in general. The Singer wasn't existing in any video games back then, and the level of craftsmanship of the car was a real challenge to replicate in all its beauty.

There's also something very addictive in putting to good use all those years of experience I have in 3D to make something new. The world of gaming has very different rules, most of them I don't have in my line of work. In a way it's also giving me new challenges and how to solve them.
The feedback from the community is also important, as well as the time spent by many other modders to help each other, and has been encouraging me to continue when sometimes the motivation wasn't there.

Now with Union Island, I hope to come up with something new again and that people can have fun together online, or a nice cruising drive for a change of scenery.
I really enjoyed browsing street view (when available), pictures, satellite imagery, anything really, trying to get the mood, the details, type of architecture, textures, greenery etc. I’ve spent so many hours for LA Canyons doing that, and now for Union, that I feel as if I’ve been there!

Which has been your favorite project to work on so far?


The typical answer: they all have been interesting in their own way!
But seriously, they really were. As the previous question states, they were all unique.

The Caterham was the introduction to modding, and the occasion to meet and work with JackCY. As well as recreate something I could measure and copy from real life.

The Singer was a different exercise, and teaming up with Arch this time. Very exciting to work on such an exclusive car. The work of Art (I mean Arch) really made the car shine and the feedback from the community has been overwhelming. The kind words from Maz, CEO at Singer Vehicle Design, was the cherry on top, surreal and amazing of him to take time to write here on the forum!

LA Canyons, which started out just by offering to make a bridge to help John (phoenix77) for his track, turned out to be an epic journey with him, still going with Pacific Coast Highway. A ton of different assets and work was done for this. I spent time doing small tutorial video to try and share my experience with him, and I also learnt from what he discovered on his own modding journey, so it's really been a nice exchange. All of which led me to my tiny island.

Union Island is yet a new experience of creating a whole track all by myself, I’m already more than 200hours in and counting... but actually I’m not counting, it's such a fun activity to create a world of my own, because this time, for the first time I'm taking a lot of liberty, and I really can't wait to share it with the community (as for its ETA, probably somewhere near summer for a 0.9 something version. I'm taking my time, and trying to fight my impatience! But to help the waiting, I’ve done a little map of the island, it’s not GTA6, but should offer a sense of freedom I hope!).

And the winner is... the Caterham. You can say by the numerous versions done already... and as the work on the physics is still going. It also helped me meet amazing people both in France and in the UK. Then the lockdown last year was the opportunity for a lot of real-life racers in UK to gather and race with my mods on CaterhamRacers, which gave me invaluable feedback and appreciation, I’ve also helped a lot of them recreate their livery for the occasion. Really amazing folks, and I’d like to thank them for that!

What do you feel is currently missing in the simracing community?


I am probably the least reliable person for that question!
Of course, I’m doing mods so I’m concerned in a way, but in the meantime, I’ve also stopped racing almost completely. I find the 3D aspect more interesting than actually plugin my Thrustmaster (Which can probably tell you I’m not the best track modder in that sense! As much that I wasn’t a very good driver either). I had the most fun racing online with you guys here in RaceDepartment, I remember an epic race with 908 vs GT40 on Monza ‘66. It's not really something missing, just nice souvenirs. A true politician never answers the question!

If you want an opinion of someone not racing anymore, but because that's how I felt back then, it's the lack of league accepting that simracing shouldn't only be about racing GT3 at midday with perfect conditions and zero damage. Real life racing shows that some random events can change the course of the race and create the unexpected.

Oh, and something else! A new 1nsane game would be a blast... not really a “sim” but hey, what a fun game with friends. Alternatively, add capture the flag for Wreckfest for the time being and I’ll be fine.​

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Developers appear to be choosing to progressively drop modding support for their titles for a number of reasons, as time goes by. Do you think it is a good choice? What does modding represent for you?


The choice of dropping mod support is probably due to tighter deadlines, and budget, so I can totally understand that. But I’d say it's a very good thing if a game offers modding. The devs do have a limited time to work on a title after all and they will never manage to please everyone. If they leave it open for modding, they can then indirectly rely on a whole community to bring even more than what the original title has to offer. This way the title may become the new platform for modding, just like AC now, and just like rFactor before that. You can even have a genius mind behind like Ilja (x4fab) and his team with their incredible work on the Shader Patch to put a new youth to the game.

In a personal level, like I said, I almost don't play anymore, so the modding has become my main source of “playing” in a way. So, I sincerely do hope modding remains as part of future racing games! As I’d love very much to adapt LA Canyons and Union on a newer, more permissive game engine!

We’ve come to the end of our interview; it was such a good time! Do you have any final remarks?


Thanks to the staff for your hard work at RaceDepartment, keeping up our treasured website, trying to improve things on your own time, and giving us the chance to gather with like-minded folks! I'm glad for supporting for few years now, it's been well deserved.

I'm looking forward for the next interviews, it adds a very human level, and there's many modders I’d like to read about. Few years ago, I thought it would be a cool idea to organize a RaceDepartment gathering, BBQ and beers, most likely in UK where most people seem to come from, maybe even in Bram’s garden or something :D

I'd also like to thank my parents, because we probably don't thank them enough :)
And see you soon on a tropical island (I don’t mean the UK), you're all invited!​
--

Now, as hinted by Ben, an amazing teaser he was kind enough to provide to the community in anticipation of his next work! Once again, I’d like to thank him for taking the time to chat with us, giving us the opportunity to know him better, and for such an incredible gift he provided us too!
Ad Maiora, Ben!

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Click here to download all the cool mods of Ben O'Bro
About author
Davide Nativo
Petrolhead and Simracer, passionate since the cradle about cars, motorsports and simracing. I read a lot, and I love to share what I've learned with others!

Comments

Such interviews with mod'ers are a brilliant move, imo. These make for very interesting reading indeed. Of course, top mod'ers may be employed by studios at some point so, I imagine timing may matter.

I'd love to see some interviews involving sound mods as well. ;)

Great job RD. :thumbsup:
 
Thank you @Davide Nativo for those interview and the excellent questions.
A real pleasure to discover who @Ben O'Bro is behind his work.
I have enjoyed the Caterham(s), the Singer and LA Canyons extensively, the talent and passion on those projects are shinning on so many aspects.
We are so fortunate that you decided to share those with all of us. Looking forward for more since, from your comments, you are still enjoying the creative process. Thank you.
 
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I can't wait to see more of these interviews and generally articles about modding. Since I've started playing on PC, mods have always been significant part of gaming (sim racing included). It's good to see that main platform for high quality mods is adressing people behind them directly.
 
Ben was an excellent choice to feature in this this series of interviews - well done @Davide Nativo !

I'd like to think that we are 'AC friends', and you seem like the kind of person I would enjoy having as a friend 'in real life'. It was great to read more about you, your interests and background. I definitely see you as one of AC's 'good guys' - always ready to offer friendly advice, happy to share knowledge and even track assets.

So many great mods, yet so little ego. I can't wait to add another Ben O'Bro classic to my AC folder! Cheers Ben.
 
Thank you again Davide.

Your first two of these are like you're delving into my psyche, the amount of laps I've started of Alfie's tracks with the Singer, I don't care to remember. Mainly, 'cause I haven't finished many, if any. And yet, I keep going back.

I have, of course, finished many laps of shorter/simpler tracks, in all the Cats and Singer models. So, a huge thank you to Ben too.
 
An awesome interview with an awesome dude! If there's an award for the coolest, most chilled, helpful member of the community, I think Ben wins it! :)

All Ben's creations are absolutely superb quality, as I think that's all he knows...
Union is going to be an amazing tropical paradise cruise location whenever it's ready, I can see the cinematic videos already!
Tropical shirt included in every download? :D

Working with Ben on LA Canyons, and when time allows... Pacific Coast, has been an absolute blast!
Cheers dude, here's to the onward journey!

Not sure I'll ever be able to thank Ben enough for all his time, patience and expertise.
The O'Bro rocks!
 

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