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It took a pandemic outbreak for real racers to do sim racing, and some titles blew their chance

Amanda

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Apr 19, 2017
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Before I start, I would like to point out that yes, some IRL drivers do sim racing quite often. Nicki Thiim is one example, and even some F1 drivers do it too, Lando Norris being one of them. However, it is the first time we see so many special events happening in sim racing where the majority of drivers are real life drivers. As far as I know, this has never happened before. And it is quite privilege to see it happening.

So what happened?
I'll talk about rFactor 2 on this post, and on Raceroom on another post if I decide to do so. If not, just note that Raceroom invited many IRL drivers to try the game as well. They didn't, however, plan it very well. Not only do we have a global pandemic forcing people to stay at home (and thus using their computers way more than they normally would), but Raceroom allowed a free weekend where everything is free. The result was their servers being overloaded and the special event having many lag events and some streamers crashing because of this. Not only this, but the second race that was supposed to happen (7 laps around the Nordschleife) was called off because technical difficulties.

Now onto the topic at hand.

Admittedly rFactor 2 is my favorite sim. Great physics, moddable, many features that we've been asking for on other titles (rain/dry transition, day/night transition, driver swaps, the whole shebang). However, we still have a lot of basics to cover with it.

Today, Nicki Thiim raced on rFactor 2. It was probably his first time. From the start of the session he was given penalties and he couldn't figure out why. Neither could we, since the stream started with his penalties already in effect and there was nothing on screen besides some weird icon, but who can honestly tell what it's trying to say just by looking at it? Those who have not yet raced on rFactor 2, please try looking at the image bellow and identify the icon and correctly state what it means:

1.JPG


I've been away from rFactor 2 for more than a year since I had to sell my PC, but I do remember there being messages on screen about the penalties, such as these:

2.JPG


However, for some reason the message didn't appear for Nicki. In fact, at 23:10 on the video you can see he accidentally disabled the pit speed limiter. I've done this many times when coming from different sims, because they actually simulate this correctly: you start with the pit limiter off. Clearly he thought the limiter was off (as it should be) and pressed the "pit limiter button" thinking he was turning it on, when in fact he turned it off, which made him speed on the pitlane. Again, no message about what the penalty was and how to serve it.

The result? He got disqualified from the race and he didn't even know why.

What happened next also baffled me.

The race started at around 54:30. At 57:48 you hear the engineer saying "your front tires are cold" proceeded with Nicki laughing and saying "Whhhaat?". That was my exact reaction.

You can see his tires' condition on the image bellow, taken right after he received the message.

3.JPG


I did, in fact, express concern over this matter about one year ago when I noticed a change in how rFactor 2 handles tires temps. Before the change, the whole tire would heat up nice and pink, and it would hold temperature quite well. After the change, the inside of the tire would heat up well, but the middle and outer portion would not. Not only this, but the tire would lose temperature too quickly overall.
Here is an example image where I had pushed the tires pretty hard.

Then, on the second race, he apparently lost FFB and crashed, leaving the game after coming to the pits in reverse (which I thought was HILARIOUS).

Another thing that made my laugh pretty hard was how there was a boxy yellow car on track. I was told this is a temporary car and players should assign a button for "load cars" or whatever if they don't want their immersion broken. Go ahead, you can laugh twice, once for the problem at hand, and another for the "solution".
You can see this in action from 1:32:25 to 1:33:25 on the video.

Studio397 has taken over rFactor 2's development almost 4 years ago. That's as long as some simulators' life span. Yet, we still face design issues not present in simulators much newer than rFactor 2. Assetto Corsa Competizione took a little over 1 year in development before public releases came out, and they did the entire interface from scratch. And the races where real drivers used ACC? Went fine.
It's not hard to see how disappointed Nicki was with rFactor 2, specially where he said "this will be the fastest uninstall in the history of gaming". We had a chance to show what we've got, and we blew it. In the end, the best physics in the industry mean nothing if the end-user experience sucks. The over dependence on HUD's for information, or information that doesn't even get to the player, and bugs that should've been solved years ago, still plague rFactor 2. This is bad enough when our sim is already a "niche product", but it's gotten way worse for rFactor 2's image now that a real-world WEC champion tried it and shat all over it.

My only hope is that this servers as a wake up call. Having the best physics means nothing for the regular user, and it just so happens to mean nothing for real-world racers as well. We've got to get our overall user-experience in a better state. In terms of how polished a game is, AC's user experience is there (they did a race where it went just fine, with David Parel); iRacing's user experience is there (don't need to say anything about this sim); ACC's user experience is there (most are considering this the best sim out there); Raceroom's user experience would be there if it wasn't for a dated graphics engine and the embarrassing server issues we had today; the list goes on.
On rFactor 2's side I could list many, many things that would pile up to make people give up on it, and today's Nicki stream was only a taste of it.
We can do better than this.
 
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Shovas

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As an iRacing member, I had an inside member's view of the disaster after disaster that large, online events were for many years on end. Outsiders may not have been too aware of it but on the iRacing forums members at every level were livid with iRacing for all the bugs and infrastructure issues that came up during big events.

It's been 1 or 2 years since the last big issues and my take away is that if it took iRacing years and millions of dollars to do it, it'll take the same amount of time for other sims to do the same on their own.

I can only hope they band together, pool their resources, and get behind a common solution, like SRS or maybe RD's new Simracing.gp, and build out iRacing-like multiplayer infrastructure.

If they don't get together, I just don't see any single one of them having the resources to go it alone.
 
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ears

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@Amanda I think you made a really thoughtful, insightful post.

As someone who plays rF2 a bit, occasionally online, I feel his pain. Those yellow box cars still surprise me and I can usually be caught falling foul of driving through a red light at the end of the pitlane or some other minor misdemeanour I'm not expecting.

I didn't see any individual drivers' streams, I watched the official TheRace stream which, for the second event, I have to say was very professional and entertaining.

To have Jack Nichols and Jolyon Palmer commentating adds such gravitas, entertainment and polish to the broadcast. Nichols has either extensive experience of sim racing, or he did extensive research beforehand. Or both. But his knowledge and enthusiasm shone through and together with Palmer's insight it made the whole thing feel much more 'real' than any eSports event I've ever watched before.


I've watched a number of eSport racing events in the last week or two, in the wake of the postponment of physical sport.

And an overarching theme in all of them is that the 'big names' - the real racing drivers, ex-drivers, sports people, celebs - are, for the most part, inexperienced. In sim racing in general, and in the platform they're using at any given time.

Ultimately, if these events are really going to take off, draw audiences and entertain, we're going to need closer, more exciting and entertaining racing featuring the names from real world sport that we're familiar with right at the front.

For this to happen, these events really need to stimulate the competitive spirit in the drivers in particular. They need to get through the inexperience. They need to have been hammering rFactor2 - whichever car and track combination - for hours and hours before the event.

They have to want to win. Not just have a bit of fun.

I feel Nicki Thiim's pain. I've felt in in rFactor. But it comes from inexperience. And you're rarely going to be competitive in any form of racing when you're inexperienced. I hope he doesn't uninstall the game. I hope he perseveres, borne from a competitive spirit that for him and all other racing drivers, at the moment, has precious little in the form of an outlet.

It's not just him, it's not just rF2. I just watched the start of a Redline motorsport event on ACC. They had Kelvin van der Linde in there and he qualified close to the front. But he got a drive through at the start, probably due to the picky start procedure ACC has. He made a good start though and was slicing up through the field. But got disqualified on lap 4 for not taking his drive through.


That's terribly disappointing for the organisers, the developers, the competitors and the people watching the stream. One of the biggest names, looking exciting, competitive, and gone by lap 4 due to what you could see as silly rules. But at the same time, rules it doesn't take long to learn if you put a bit of practise in.

Experience.

Professional drivers' experience apart, there are some more things that are going to have to happen, in my opinion, if these eSports races are really going to become a spectacle.

We need better replays. TheRace were almost there, especially with their second event. But the F1 2019 races are still missing them. Even if the game doesn't support it, could they try to find a way to record at least each driver's cockpit view so they can go back through material to pull replays out?

We need some kind of co-ordinated calendar so we can see, at a glance, what's coming up, who's in it and where we can watch it.

And we need to iron out the bugs. The connection issues experienced in the official F1 race by one of potentially the most entertaining drivers - Lando Norris - were extremely disappointing, although it did lead to the novelty 'LandoBot' sequence. They also seem to have a bit of an issue with synchronisation between spectators seeing the lights go out and competitors starting.


Something we all have a lot of at the moment is time. And something not many of us have at all is choice or alternatives.

Where maybe we as spectators would give up on the offerings so far due to game bugs, presentation issues, bugs, connection errors, we have nothing else to go to. So we may just give it another go.

And the racing drivers, who experienced strange interfaces or rules in the sims / games, have a competitive instinct to feed. Whereas in normal times they may think 'this is not for me' and uninstall it, never to return, at the moment they have no other way to feed their competitive instincts. They too, might just stick with it and have another go.

As a bored racing fan, stuck at home looking for live competitive entertainment, I dearly hope so.
 
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Romandevison

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I'm not surprised at the Nicki reaction. When I bought the RF2 and played it for 2 hours... I deleted it. After that, I asked for a refund through Steam, as I was extremely upset to buy such garbage.

A week later, from boredom, I launched the RF2 again. As you understand, I keep playing this game and I really like it.

Why am I saying this? The first impression of RF2, if you have played ACC/RRE/RRE before, is rejection and dislike. It is logically incomprehensible, it has terrible HUD and disgusting basic content. Honestly, I don't believe this game can be saved. With all my love for RF2, I would like to be objective. S397 should change HUD, buy track licenses (popular EU/US for example) and fix bugs that have been around for years. Just look at ACC and their new DLC - look at Steamcharts how many new users have appeared since release.

Things change when you buy DLC and third party mods. I doubt that Nicki will read this, but if that happens, give this game a second chance. ;)

What to do with basic HUD? Nothing, turn it off and buy SimHUD - I see no other alternatives.
 
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Shovas

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I'm not surprised at the Nicki reaction. When I bought the RF2 and played it for 2 hours... I deleted it. After that, I asked for a refund through Steam, as I was extremely upset to buy such garbage.

A week later, from boredom, I launched the RF2 again. As you understand, I keep playing this game and I really like it.
+1 Everybody's first reaction to rF2 these days :)
 

Slapped

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+1 Everybody's first reaction to rF2 these days :)
Unfortunately it's been my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th reaction to rF2. Haven't played it since, and it now languishes in the dusty part of my Steam library, well at least it will do until I need the space for something else.

I honestly don't get why it's so popular. It's confusing as hell, and It takes soooo loooooong to load anything that I visibly age during the process, and yes it's installed on an m.2 PCI SSD. Also the content is extremely thin, and the mods are extremely questionable in terms of quality. I really am baffled as to why this sim and not AC was chosen for these esports events.

Now my gripes are out of the way, I'm really am extremely happy that sim racing e-sports has stepped in for real life motor racing during these testing times. However on of the things that should be done for these events are that automatic penalties are turned off and left to a human race director to administer. Algorithms are unable to judge such things correctly at this moment in time, and should only be used in a single player environment - and only then where they can be turned off.
 

Durge Driven

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I honestly don't get why it's so popular.
Popular :O_o: ..... .that's a mean joke :( >>> :roflmao:

The people like rF2 worry less about the things that bother the majority of other simmers

Like NoGrip banner said:

" It's not the drive ............... but how you get there "
 

Durge Driven

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They should do a charity gig

Have non-stop driving marathon using multi sims

The last man standing wins :devilish: and we could all watch it live ..see them nod off one by one :roflmao:
 
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Shovas

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They should do a charity gig

Have non-stop driving marathon using multi sims

The last man standing wins :devilish: and we could all watch it live ..see them nod off one by one :roflmao:
Huh! Good idea! I wonder if it's ever been done?
 

ears

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Is it possible that the new UI will address a lot of the issues raised here?

I think it's in beta, although I haven't tried it myself yet. I'm happy to wait until it's fully released.
 

Shovas

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Is it possible that the new UI will address a lot of the issues raised here?

I think it's in beta, although I haven't tried it myself yet. I'm happy to wait until it's fully released.
Even if it's doesn't "actually" solve conrete issues, just have a pretty face is half the battle. Ask anyone in marketing.
 
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Shovas

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I honestly don't get why it's so popular. It's confusing as hell, and It takes soooo loooooong to load anything that I visibly age during the process, and yes it's installed on an m.2 PCI SSD. Also the content is extremely thin, and the mods are extremely questionable in terms of quality. I really am baffled as to why this sim and not AC was chosen for these esports events.
But the driving experience...

Second to none in my opinion.

Confusing: Should be dealt with in the next year or so as the UI launches officially and then starts actually implementing improvements versus the current UI. They stated they were just re-implementing the old UI for now in the new tech. Once it's launched they'll improve it.

Slow loading: It's not terrible. I only have SSDs and it takes maybe one minute or two to load the largest tracks (Official Nurbs, Le Mans, etc). iRacing loads are pretty long for me now, too. Enough that I pick up my phone and check stuff while it loads.

Thin Content: The official DLC is worth a purchase if you're a fan and once you have all of that it's a pretty decent spread, I think.

Mod Quality: It's the same as with AC, GTR2, Race 07, etc, you have to sort by rating/downloads and pick the cream of the crop. The tracks and cars I've downloaded this way have been quite impressive, actually.