In the latest addition to our series of interviews with the big hitters from the world of sim racing, RaceDepartment recently sat down with developers of the world renowned rFactor and rFactor 2 racing simulators to discuss the future of the rFactor 2, new content and what highly sought after enhancements fans can expect in future.
Founded in 1992, Image Space Incorporated (ISI) is a well respected software developer specializing in the fields of computer game development, “man-in-the-loop” simulator architectures, computer image generation, and entertainment systems integration.
ISI has a well established, and highly skilled development team, with both artists and programmers dedicated to the design and development of cost-effective, high quality software and computer products.
With experience in the latest hardware and software systems, ISI offers rapid time-to-market and real-time performance for a variety of gaming and simulation applications. A creative flair, robust technology, and in-depth knowledge of the gaming industry gives ISI the technical and creative edge required in today’s highly competitive market.
As rFactor 2 continues to go from strength to strength in recent months RaceDepartment thought this to be the ideal time to sit down with the team and discus their premium simulator, rFactor 2.
RD: Hello, many thanks for the opportunity to have a chat with you today. It’s a great pleasure for me to talk today about one of my personal favourite race simulations on the market, rFactor 2. As I usually do I would like to open up this little Q&A by asking you to introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do over at ISI?
TW: I’m Tim Wheatley and my primary role at ISI is the commercial licensing of our products. This is for companies who want to promote their brand at a trade show, or new companies setting up sim centers where they charge for access to their hardware.
RD: Thank you. So it’s now customary in these Q&A’s to start off with some light questions about those behind the scenes and get to know a bit about who is involved in creating the sims we love. First things first, what car do you drive on a day to day basis at home and why?
TW: Toyota RAV4, because it was cheap and fits my wife, kids and dogs. Maybe one day I’ll just answer “because I wanted it” – but not today!
RD: A controversial one here - who’s the quickest virtual driver at ISI?
TW: Right now I’d say Christopher Elliott, but we’re going to say that’s because he gets the most track time...
RD: Back to the world of pixels, what would you consider your favourite racing / road car is to drive outside of rFactor / rFactor 2?
TW: I don’t have a lot of time to run sims (even our own), but I like low downforce historics, so I’ve had rare fun with the 1960’s cars in other sims. There is a fair bit of nostalgia for me in firing up a Lotus 49 in iRacing, but I prefer period tracks when I can get them, and it’s nice to see some sims doing a great job with those.
RD: When not sampling the world of the virtual racing car do you play any other type of game? What’s on your computer at the moment that you tend to gravitate towards in any free time you might have ?
TW: I’ve always enjoyed space games alongside racing sims, I’m using Elite: Dangerous whenever I need to escape real life for a bit! I don’t have a lot of time to play anything else.
RD: ISI have a stellar reputation in the sim racing (and real world racing) industry with titles like rFactor, rFactor 2 and rFactor PRO in recent years but still run a relatively tight ship over in the good old US of A, how many people do you have working on rFactor 2 at ISI currently?
TW: Most projects work under external contractors hired to do specific content, but the core team of full-time software engineers (who aren’t building cars or tracks) is four. We have two full-time car guys, two full-time track guys, plus contractors working with them. We’re a pretty compact organization.
RD: Obviously you provide simulation software for a number of racing teams simulators in the real world, what sort of feedback do you receive from the professional drivers when they sample the consumer version of the game and how do they compare it to their real life race cars?
TW: Most of what they will try in the retail version has been built by a third party, often without access to the car or data. Good third-party content and first-party items get good feedback.
RD: Along a similar line, does real life driver feedback get incorporated into the sim, and if so how useful has that been in developing the physics and feel of the game?
TW: Driver feedback is really only used on a final pass for any content we produce in-house. Our physics engine allows us to input real values and get real results from that, so provided our data is good, the cars should always feel pretty accurate before anyone drives it.
RD: What do you consider to be your greatest / most proud achievement so far in the life rFactor 1 and rFactor 2 and why?
TW: We broke new ground on a lot of features that once implemented by other engines and studios will move sim racing forward as a whole; RealRoad rubber build-up being probably the most useful for the genre.
Plus, even though we are an extremely small team, we are proud to continue to support our products and the community around them for many years. Too many products seem to be abandoned if they do not achieve a huge critical following, and that’s not our philosophy.
RD: The (fairly) recent inclusion of a triple screen tool in game has been a dramatic improvement to the immersion level for 3 screen users of the title, do you plan to create a more ‘user friendly’ version of this imbedded in the main game UI?
TW: If and/or when we have time. The implementation and function is obviously more important to us.
RD: Talking of the visual side of things, many people were disappointed to see the Consumer Unit Oculus Rift not supporting DX9 games (such as rF & rF2). Is this a concern to you as VR seems to possibly be the future for sim racing, and more to the point do you anticipate rF2 moving away from DX9 going forwards? Additionally I hear rumours of dropping Windows 8 support, does that mean DX 12?
TW: I think Microsoft have already dropped Windows 8 support (last month, I believe), as they’re trying to push everyone to Windows 10. The VR APIs have frankly been way too fluid for us to seriously look at, and I doubt we’ll look again at native support until after devices are in the hands of the public for a few months. Their changes in specification have obviously left things behind that we rely upon at this time.
RD: Sorry, I've got to push you on this one... could you share with us some indication of timeframe when users could realistically expect to see the move from DX9?
TW: Not able to give a timeline, or even a confirmation we’ll see that in rFactor 2 – and obviously this affects the VR answer previously. It also could be argued that modders now have a stable platform to create for, it might not be beneficial to mess with them.
RD: Still with Virtual Reality, now that users can fully view and engage with their surroundings using VR headsets, will more details and higher resolution gauges and cockpits for ISI content vehicles make an appearance in future builds do you think?
TW: We update older cars as best we can, but aren’t going to devote much time to extremely old content for minimal returns. Most newer cars shouldn’t need much of an update in this area.
RD: rFactor 2 is the platform of choice for many major leagues around the globe, specifically using the endurance features within the game and making the most of real weather / day to night transition functionality. With regards to how weather is implemented in game, does the team at ISI have plans to implement things such as rain drops on windshields (physics based rendering) / aquaplaning / puddle formation etc?
TW: We’re actually looking at this again now. We haven’t decided on what features will get dropped or pushed, and which should be implemented in short order.
RD: On a similar topic, in dry conditions can we expect to see some kind of dirt/marble pick up on tires?
TW: We’re unlikely to implement that in rFactor 2, you’ll just have to deal with the existing drop in grip on those surfaces.
RD: Keeping to the theme of endurance racing and features for a moment if I may, have the team considered the possibility to limit the set of tires available for a race weekend (endurance this is a big thing as well as F1 and many other series) and the possibility of saving part worn tyres in the garage for use in further sessions / later race stints?
TW: No, but I think we now output the tire data in the replay and plugins to allow leagues to easily track tire usage. While we can now store tire data (resume from replay does), we don’t foresee allowing them to be saved and reused within existing sessions.
RD: Again another endurance type question (although relevant, sadly, for Formula One too) – Hybrid/KERS/Brake Recovery simulation in game. Yes this is a murky and challenging area to simulate I would imagine but could add a lot to the immersion aspect of several major racing series. Does ISI plan to have this in game in future builds and if so how far along the path of develop are you at present?
TW: We’re in talks for a 2016 GP car as I speak, so we need to look at this at some point, probably when we build an updated FISI and/or GP car.
RD: Staying with the theme of cars and car features, could we maybe expect to see the ability to adjust onboard TC steps as onboard engine mapping or onboard differential Settings in future builds? The current TC settings are more a driver aid than in car setting and can sometimes feel a bit obtrusive when driving at the limit.
TW: Probably not. It’ll most likely continue to work as it does now.
RD: Moving away from this topic now for a little while and getting on to in game content for a bit, ISI have released a number of US centric Oval content of late, how big of a change in thinking was that to get it into the sim and working correctly with all the nuances involved in oval racing physics and rulesets?
TW: We’re still working on the rules, they’re incredibly complex from a design standpoint. The sheer number of variables for what appears a simple rule is just mind blowing.
RD: Are you happy with how it’s gone, the fan reaction seems very positive so far and the steady stream of 3PA oval / roval tracks has been very impressive
TW: Would like to see more of the rF1 stock car leagues moving over sometime soon. If leagues want to work with us to arrange bulk purchase deals, they should contact us.
RD: Speaking of tracks, its been a long while since the last “major” official track release, can you share with us some highlights of what tracks fans might expect to see in the coming year?
TW: Our track team spend their time helping the 3PA guys and working on their own projects. I think ISITrackTeam on Twitter does a petty good job of teasing upcoming content, whether that is their “rising sun” updates, or Toban (which is probably next).
RD: Same question , this time related to upcoming car content. We heard many months ago about a proposed Super GT car and more recently the Daytona Prototype, how are things progressing with these?
TW: As always with cars it seems, we’re waiting on data. Teams have two seasons: Winter vacation and racing season. We have quite a few cars at a similar state, so once data starts to come in we’ll have a good batch of releases (including those you mention).
RD: Does the team have any inclination to include further historic content, possibly a playmate to the sublime BT20 Grand Prix car in future?
TW: We have some licensed, but they’ve simply never made it to the top of the stack yet. As a historics fan, this pains me greatly! We’d welcome inquiries from mod groups interested in working on licensed content.
RD: Of course many old historic cars use the classic h pattern gearbox and heal and toe technique, how does the team intend to penalise those who use paddle shift and no clutch to prevent laptime advantage against drivers using an h pattern configuration?
TW: We still have plans to release an updated drivetrain model.
RD: The Third Party Affiliate Scheme (3PA) seems like it’s been a huge success for ISI since its inception, how does this work? Do you approach people or do they have to apply to ISI with a finished product?
TW: Either way. Usually we have a track model we are offered by a studio using our engine, we then find someone to work on bringing that track up to spec. In a few cases people have come to us with near completed content of varying quality and we’ve helped them to complete it.
RD: Will ISI be looking into the possibility for enhanced rF2 support to run more than 40 cars on the grid during an online event? Of course that has been seen already but in practice it has shown that running more than 40 cars online regularly leads to issues such as stuttering/connection loss and other critical issues?
TW: Nothing stopping you from running more than 40 cars. If you have issues I’d look into how plugins being used cope with the data, or how the server load is.
RD: Also on the topic of multiplayer / player to player interaction could we have a little insight into the developer’s thoughts about a robust player ranking system similar to the system we see in titles like iRacing?
TW: You won’t see a feature like that from us, but we obviously would and have supported any organization wishing to develop their own version. Our plugin system can be used for many features like this that instead of charging a subscription for, we want to see people able to do for themselves – if they want.
I think you’ll see a public launch of a few sites over the next few months.
RD: Regarding match maker, is this side of the sim due for further support and polish and could be expect more features in the theme of things like Chat, Iobby, filters, and a working matchmaker Iist where you can see how many people are online including Steam and non Steam clients?
TW: Yes, we’ve been looking at this lately (within the past two weeks).
RD: The damage model in rF2 is more restrained than some other titles at present, would it be possible, and is it considered on the teams to do list, to add features around suspension damage i.e when riding curbs / going off road in a violent way cause noticeable damage to your cars suspension and do plans exist to create a more sophisticated damage model in general?
TW: It might be something we look at in the future, but not sure what will/won’t be seen in rFactor 2.
RD: rFactor 2 has been in development for a number of years now and continues to be improved and developed with each new build released by the team. Do you at ISI have a development timeframe for this title, basically how much longer do you expect to support rFactor 2 before retiring development and looking to move onto rFactor 3 and/or other projects?
TW: Internal planning and discussion on another title (not rF3) has taken place, but rF2 is still our focus product at this time.
RD: If money and other blockers were no issue, which Marques would you ideally like to see licensed in the sim?
TW: All those tracks who are used to being paid by Sony and Microsoft for console titles, unable to comprehend what a niche sim racing title even is, and why their budgets differ. Though I’d focus more on racing cars than road cars, the same applies.
RD: Rumour has it that the exclusive Porsche licence comes up for renewal soon, any chance of seeing some of the German sports and racing cars in future for rF2?
TW: Not if they sit themselves behind an agency who’re more interested in their fees than promoting the brand they’re licensing.
RD: Almost finished now… so do you guys want to tell us anything else that we haven’t already covered so far in this interview? This is a chance to speak directly to our many thousands of readers here at RaceDepartment.com who follow with interest the development of rFactor.
TW: I guess the biggest recent event is Steam, and we are pretty happy with how well the transition to Steam has gone. We encourage people to look into the Workshop as we continue to find new ways to make it a bigger part of rF2!
RD: Now comes that time where I ask you to think up an imaginative way to say no without hurting my feelings….. An unapologetic attempt to secure a RaceDepartment exclusive piece of news! Anything you want to share with our many readers that aren’t already widely known in the sim community?
TW: We are looking into possibility of paid mods as part of rF2. I’ve mentioned this a few times but it’s getting serious now. There’s no reason someone shouldn’t be able to give the community what it wants when developers aren’t able to.
Big thanks go out to Tim at Image Space Incorporated for kindly taking time out of a busy schedule and answering our questions here today. Visit the rFactor 2 section of RaceDepartment for all the latest news regarding this sim.
rFactor 2 is available to buy now on the Steam platform or as a standalone edition direct from the ISI website.
Enjoyed our interview? What do you think of rFactor 2? How does the game perform in your opinion? Let us know in the comments section below!
Last edited by a moderator: