The Importance of Modding in Sim Racing

Why do people mod their racing games? Why go through the arduous tasks involved with creating a piece of software? And how does history fit into all this? Let’s explore the breath that keeps sim racing alive and evolving.

The Obvious: Modding Brings Content​

When talking about different sim racing games, what examples will be brought up? One definite mainstay is Assetto Corsa. Released in December 2014, it’s fair to say this piece of software is by far not the newest. But amongst sim racing titles, it keeps ranking at the top of the steam charts. How?

The simple reason is mods. If there were no metric ton of content available at one’s fingertips, Assetto Corsa would be struggling heavily for players. There are other sims with better graphics, physics, and user experience but the vast amount of content alone that dedicated modelers and programmers have provided the community is breathtaking. Almost as breathtaking as racing your 60s Formula 1 car around the Südschleife, but I digress.

The amount of available racetracks and vehicles one can race remains a top reason why people bother with the ever-aging Assetto Corsa, amongst others.

The Beautiful: Modding Improves Visuals​

The graphics of titles like Assetto Corsa Competizione or the upcoming Rennsport leave us in awe. However, staying with the example of old Assetto Corsa, did you know it can look almost as good as the newer contenders?

Just add a few mods and you can have it all! Next-gen graphics, updated textures, rain, night. All are available. All thanks to the dedicated work of a few individuals.

Mods can make the digital Nordschleife look more like the green hell it is. Driving through the night. Rain comes in. You need to pit, but you are only at Flugplatz. Sweat drops start forming on your forehead. Will I make this lap? – you ask yourself. You brake heavily for the Mutkurve.
Suddenly it clears up. Just a small shower? As you continue driving on, you decide not to pit and stay on slicks.

Currently, this exhilarating experience would only be available thanks to the modders.

The Meaningful: Modding Digitalizes History​

Have you ever heard of the Opel Rennbahn? The former German oval course which hosted racing in between the wars? If you have, that’s probably thanks to the beautiful mod available for Assetto Corsa.

But this German track is by far not the only example of a racing venue forgotten to time. There are hundreds of circuits all around the world you have never seen. Researching on various websites regarding historic race tracks even allows you to realize there are examples of which we have completely forgotten the layout already. In some cases, even the location is unknown. And judging by the fact that motorsport has only started about 130 years ago, it’s sad to see we are already forgetting about some of it.

Not only circuits may suffer this fate, but who knows how many of the early 1900s car manufacturers pioneering the sport suffer a similar fate? Not only the classics but modern vehicles too, lack digital representation! While everyone keeps talking about the Porsches, the Ferraris, and the Corvettes smaller marques are left out in the cold. In a perfect world, every circuit and every vehicle would have a digital form available.

The Powerful: What WE Can Create​

In this sense, every digital recreation of a circuit or a vehicle helps preserve the legacy of motorsports as a whole. And here’s the best thing: Everyone can become part of this.

Tools to work on modding can be 100% free to use. Meaning everyone with a computer can do their part to digitalise a more obscure part of motorsport. The only requirement is determination. It’s simple to start any project but seeing one through is admirable.

So, if you want to help the worldwide community of sim racers, get a 3D-design tool like Blender, learn it and work away on your project. And don’t forget to share!

Thanks​

Let this post be a letter of thanks to every modder out there. Thank you for doing your best to enhance the experiences of users around the globe! Thank you for enabling us to relive the history of racing! And thank you for preserving history!

Are you a modder? Have you ever tried modding for sim racing titles? Or are there any exceptional people out there you would like to thank for their mods? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!
About author
Julian Strasser
Motorsports and Maker-stuff enthusiast. Part time jack-of-all-trades. Owner of tracc.eu, where I publish articles and blog posts, and the attached racing community on Simracing.GP

Comments

I love mods. Yes there are poorly made ones, but hey, don't have to use em :)

For us consumers it mostly has advantages, for developers I can see it can be a double edged sword.
+ I keeps live in titles and thus more sales in the long run.
+ A portion of your customers will be more invested in your product.
- Who needs to buy extra DLC if 'everything you want' can be had for free.
- It can compete against your newer titles.
+ It can bring people over to your new product due to great experiences with past products.
- It can bring content to your product that is below the minimum standards you would like it to be associated with.
+ It can bring content on par or better than the main product.
- There's limits on how much you can support it officially due to licensing.
- I guess it could take extra development recourses to support it properly/more extensively?

I don't know. Just give me more mods & tools!
 
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abecede
Staff
Premium
Yep. Modded content by talented members of the community is exactly why old games - especially AC - are still not only relevant, but preferred by some people. I own ACC, AMS2, PC2, rF2 and AC, and the only sim I really like is the good old Assetto Corsa.

And folks, when you see some donation / paypal link on a content creators page, send at least some of them a few bucks for a coffee / favourite beverage.

Donations are a direct sign of appreciation, and doesn't it feel nice to show someone your appreciation? And it's even nicer to receive it :)
 
I think rFactor deserves much of the credit for being so open to modding. Assetto Corsa is based on that game of course, hence its own ease of modding. Being a newer game seems to have helped AC, as well as (assumed) better marketing and a good choice of cars/tracks, but there's also the matter of difficulty. Based on my own rF experience, and assuming AC is similar, the game strikes a good balance between being realistic/detailed, while still having a low enough barrier to entry to allow hobbyists to make their mark.
 
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Assetto Corsa is the game i spend most hours in my gaming life. Would it be possible without modding? NO!
Without a doubt it would still appear somewhere top in my most played arcade or sim-racing games i ever played but with it`s mod abbility it outclass just ANY game i ever played.
And i still play any kind of games since nearly 40 years.

To answer the questions: No i am not a modder, but i use modding for nearly any game i play if good mods are available.
Over a decade ago i`ve modded some faces for Pro Evolution Soccer series some time long, so i know something about the time every serious modder has to invest.

Would i like to thank any special people for their mods? If i wanted be fair i must thank just too many of the guys. I don`t want to list all the guys, just not to forget some "of my favorite modders"

But i want to pick out a guy, who`s work is maybe flying a bit under the rader. He is not bringing the hottest cars, tracks, total overhauls ... but for me his work is just as important as the works mentioned.
It´s kevin63 i want to thank once again. He provided ton´s of great AI and PIT Lines (and other improvements) for AC and made several tracks enjoy- or even useable again.
 
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I think rFactor deserves much of the credit for being so open to modding. Assetto Corsa is based on that game of course, hence its own ease of modding. Being a newer game seems to have helped AC, as well as (assumed) better marketing and a good choice of cars/tracks, but there's also the matter of difficulty. Based on my own rF experience, and assuming AC is similar, the game strikes a good balance between being realistic/detailed, while still having a low enough barrier to entry to allow hobbyists to make their mark.
Yes rFactor definitly deserves credit. For me also it`s like an "mental predecessor" to Assetto Corsa Like a godfather of sim-racing modding.
 
Thank you for this article. Yes, modding can be a critical component of sim success. And in ways that are beyond just historic content. Although that said, we're in a spot today where there are still many people alive who can comment and describe exactly how a track or car behaved back in the 50's,60's,70's etc. They can remember a very specific bump at Brands Hatch that affected how you set a car going into a turn or the way Group C cars ran very stiff over curbs and how turbo power modulated through the drivetrain. Much like the way we're in a window where we can digitize old photos to preserve them forever, we can do the same with our historic content before we lose the precious memories and assets that accurately detail racing legacies.

And of course, with modding, we can sidestep the unwieldly process of licensing that keeps grids half full of manufacturers or allows us to showcase how tracks actually look and behave. Modding is really great for all of this.
 
Gevatter
Premium
Maybe it's my ever advancing age or the fact that I've been doing the modding thing for many years now (as a user, not a modder), but I've become somewhat of two minds about modding.

On one hands, modding opens up the gates to content you'd never ever see in a sim otherwise. I'd never be able to race 1930's Grand Prix cars or (probably) early 2000s Le Mans Prototypes or even Lego Hotrods. There are also many many race tracks I love driving I'd never even know existed without mods, like Bikernieki. If you can keep up with the who is who in the modding scene of a game, you can mostly be sure to avoid the really bad stuff. I probably wouldn't have 2600+ hours in AC for nothing.

On the other hands, I currently have close to 1700 hours in AMS2 without mods. My main issue with mods is that not everything that is interesting is of the good stuff, sometimes thos things are more mediocre or even bad. Maybe still functional for hotlapping, but breaking down when it comes to AI racing for example. That's when the faffing about starts, and that can be fun for some time but I've grown somewhat tired of it. Mods from different sources can lead to quite big gaps in quality between content, even between mods and stock content. In a non-moddable sim, if they aren't currently in the process of revamping stuff, there usually is a very consistent level of quality for all content. If that level is up to everybody's expectations is another discussion of course. This constant quality gives me the opportunity to just load a track and know it works without having to build a mental list of cars and/or tracks that don't play nice.
 
R
Premium
100% necessary. OEM licensing being what it is, there isn't a single Jaguar in AC--difficult to have a full field of vintage sports cars otherwise. Likewise, real liveries help tremendously with immersion.

I am so thankful when I look in the AC "What are you working on thread?" and see the full early Formula 1 fields (minus the 250F) being taken on by a single modder.

I have to admit being a glass half empty person--always wanting to complete a grid or a racing series with the requisite circuits.

Given the racing video game--er, sim--market, historic subjects will always be a side note for developers, an Easter egg here and there. Modders supply the passion and put in more time than an hourly worker or salaried employee ever could or would.

Cheers and support for the modders!

Game developers--please use but don't abuse modders. Deliver the best core sim you can but hopefully leave room for expansion by dedicated customers.
 
Actually, the only sim that I'm playing is AMS2 and just gave away my 150GB "lightly" modded installation of Assetto Corsa... but not after count 920 hours of it (only 301 with Reiza's game). The third most played game on my Steam account, right after 971h of Civilization V and 963h of XCOM 2... that are two games that had a huge replayability bonus because of mods... the same as the 712h of Skyrim... 678h of Rimworld... 582h of Fallout 4 (that is not even that good as a game)... and... well, you understood.

And the game that I'm playing the most recently is Tale of Two Wastelands, that is a mod that fuses Fallout 3 and New Vegas and deliver some major gameplay changes to both, making it an amazing experience.

Mods can be more than 80% of a game experience... sometimes it makes a completely new game. Is a mistake to a gamedev don't support modders.
 
Nitro McClean
Premium
The best thing about modding for me is building a track based on everything you can find on the internet about that track, do a few laps on it and then visit the track in real life. If you've been there "virtually" before, being there for the first time in real life is a very special feeling, especially if you built the virtual circuit yourself. Then you have looked at it very carefully. Of course you then discover that you have not copied many details correctly. But while you're there, you can take a lot of photos yourself and use them again to improve the details. Only to discover a year later that a lot has changed on the circuit. It keeps you busy.
 
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The bright side is wonderful. On the dark side, mods can hijack a game and bring chaos.

Bitter truth. So few guys loves digital creations for what it truly gives, treats it poorly, don't put effort and time to adapt, and act like they own it, because they have it installed. And by digital creations I mean both- mods themselves, and platforms which allow modding.

Eventually modding will become obsolete due to diminishing appreciation, rising quality standards, and diminishing modding support as it spoils planned obsolescence and makes programs less immune to abuse.
 
Without modding there would be a lot fewer people interested in sim racing!
When I drive it is exclusively in mods, the excellent F1 71, 75, 58, 67, 96, 97 mods for AMS1 to name but a few, and the plethora of amazing historic cars and tracks in AC.
Without modding I wouldn't be able to experience any of that, we would be at the mercy of developers for the content available. Which would mean more emphasis on GT3s at Spa for example, and modern series that are of no interest to me. If I wanted to simulate 1998 F1, I'd have to play Grand Prix 3 on an old XP computer. :D
 
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Thanks modders for so much fun I had, eg: Transit & Alto.
Thanks to you, devs can focus on physics & laser tracks, more than on selling recycled cars year after year.
 
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