SimHQ has spoken with Gjon Camaj and Tim Wheatley about rFactor 2 and what is to come in the next few months.
Doug: Gjon and Tim, how would you characterize where rFactor 2 is in development at the moment?
Gjon: rF2 is in heavy development, there is always something new in the works. In general this is no different since rFactor was conceived a decade ago. You could pretty much pick any day over the past ten years and the development effort would look about the same. It’s a different model then what most software developers face. Anyone on our team can decide to create a new feature. We have a great group of friends in our internal test team and forums that provide advice. We debate with them and then among ourselves until we settle on a direction.
We are fortunate in that we aren’t obligated to a predefined design or schedule. This allows us to refine things at our own pace, involve the community, and have a quality of life not typically found in many software development organizations. This of course makes it difficult to predict when certain features will be ready for public release, hence we don’t make those types of announcements.
Doug: What areas do you believe you’ve achieved your goals envisioned when we last spoke back in 2010?
Gjon: I was absolutely correct when I said we wouldn’t release in 2010!
Doug: How is the development team addressing by priority the multitude of announced features that are functional, but not complete or have known problems?
Gjon: Recently we have refined some of our procedures. We now have someone making a final decision whether a feature ships or is held. Previously it was largely up to the developer and whether he wanted to get that feature in the hands of the public, either for feedback or to get reports on it. Since we knew another build would soon follow, it seemed reasonable but now recognize that it caused too much confusion. To further help with releases we asked one of the members on our testing team to revamp our testing methods, so our developers can get a better prioritized list of issues facing our community.
This past year has been one of consolidation as well as pushing features further. We recognize we’ll need to set aside a time period to go back and button up some things that are lesser priorities right now.
Doug: Is the intent to complete what has already been announced before expanding further into other new features that may not have been announced?
Gjon: It’s a balancing act so our focus shifts between both, but the changes outlined above will affect this.
Doug: There was some question if rFactor 2 was far enough in development to warrant a release. It was explained as evolving, so is there a benchmark point you would consider it complete, and start focusing on new features (…or even rFactor 3)?
Gjon: We knew that development of rFactor 2 would continue for many years. As a very small development team we need the feedback from the community along the way as well as the steady revenue it provides.
We understood this process and product isn’t for everyone. We tried to emphasize this (and still do on our purchase page) when we decided to first release rFactor 2. We also took steps to have a very liberal return policy. I wish this was true of other products I’ve purchased recently.
Although I love seeing what’s under the hood of a product, sometimes I just want something in a pretty package that’s easy to use. We understand that and do try and button things up once its achieved a base level of functionality. As the product continues to mature, more time will be put into refining what is already there.
Doug: Do you have regrets about not going with the Steam purchase and distribution system?
Gjon: There are no regrets because Steam is still an option and always will be, it just hasn’t made it to the top of anyone’s list yet. I don’t think we would ever give up our own system completely, the margins are substantially higher and the flexibility is great.
Doug: When a new build is released, sometimes it is advised to use the update capability in the Launcher, and sometimes it is recommended a clean install be performed. What is the threshold point to do an Update verses a clean installation?
Gjon: When one is required, that is the threshold. Actually, it’s quite rare. Our goal is that the update system (either automatically through the launcher or a lite download) be the only way updates are done. For the most part, it’s very rare that we make a change that requires a complete reinstall.
What typically happens instead is that some complications come up for certain configurations so that its easier to recommend doing a fresh install. I do one about once every three months, but I’m particularly rough with my system.
We provide a Lite version. I usually use this to “refresh” the core elements installing right on top of my current build.
Doug: What problems remain in the updating from an older build to a newer one?
Gjon: Hmmm, I don’t really run into any, so its hard to say.
Doug: Is there any plan to make the Mod Manager more user-friendly so older component versions are recognized when a newer version is installed?
Gjon: There haven’t been any discussions about this recently.
Doug: What features are being worked on right now to get them fully functional?
Gjon: We have done some fundamental brain surgery on a number of systems. The underlying networking and communication systems have been strengthened, and now provide us a better base to do things like automatically downloading needed components.
We are currently unraveling nearly a decade of UI (user interface) and control code. This is an ugly mess but was long overdue.
We are undertaking a major revamp of our Race Rules code especially with regards to oval track racing. This will allow us to better implement both current and the never ending changes to race rules. Since we try and cover nearly any type of racing, this ends up being a big task. As part of this strategy, we are trying to see how much can be pushed onto the plug-in system. This way updates can be made independent of builds and leagues can create their own introducing limitless options.
Doug: Can we expect the revamped stock car rules to be released around the same time or concurrently as Stock Car 2014? If we get the cars but not the rules, we’ll have the same problems encountered with other oval track content released.As promising as NSC 2006 was, we were limited to good late model stock car racing until leagues developed their many plug-ins.
Gjon: Yes, our goal is to have the whole package come out together.
On the physics side of things, we are improving RealRoad™ features and refining contact patch computation. These enhancements will make an already deep experience even richer. Because of this we are also in discussion with various mod groups about how better to give them access to this system.
Doug: On that topic, how is RealRoad doing? Could we get a progress update on it?
Gjon: Comments from the community have been accumulating for some time concerning this feature. There was a decent effort made recently and an ongoing one now that should end up in the next build or two. Right now it could be considered fully functional, but we’re not done yet…
Doug: Are there any plans to overhaul the user interface look and feel?
Gjon: This system is one of our last to be completely overhauled. We are looking into it right now but it’s still unclear which direction we will take.
Doug: Let’s face it; the packaging system has been one of the most controversial areas in rFactor 2. What are your current thoughts about the packaging and will we see any major revisions to the system in the next few months?
Gjon: Yes it was. One of the biggest drawbacks was the inability to quickly create races with any set of cars and tracks – requiring them all to be referenced. It’s now possible to bypass this using the unstable release version that is now available.
Hosts will be able to setup a schedule of races, with any content, and only the content being used is referenced. This allows a secure race join with all the benefits of the packaging system still in-place, even if they do not have the content installed in the following race the host selected.
The requirement that mods be registered was removed some time ago as a first step.
Doug: While the weather engine is working, it tends to be as unpredictable as… the weather. Does it have a place in the update line of things to be done, or is it a lower priority while other things mentioned in this interview get resolved first? Can you tell us if the feature set for the weather is complete? Right now the weather is divided into 5 varied sub-sections, but there is actually the information inside the .wet file to do more variance and settings.
Gjon: Updates to the weather system is not currently on our priority list. Like with many of our systems, accessing the files directly can give you control of things not available through the UI. We do this for people that need more control or because there is still development and testing to be done.
Doug: The tires for some major genres of racing – such as LMPs – are just not available and it has hindered car development. While there is little doubt in the potential of the tires, there are concerns in the community if it is worth it since they are so complex to build and have been delayed. Can you advise when there will be a complete set of tires available?
Gjon: Not sure there will ever be a complete set given the vast variety, and ever-changing enhancements, being made in the real world. We are, however, having active discussions on this very point and are producing a spreadsheet to allow calculations to be quickly made in the same way our physics engineer does it. We also have examples of tires in the Dev Corner, and will update those when time permits. So basically people will be able to pull tires off the shelf to start with and then refine them over time if needed. We are also looking at how to add more “simple” adjustments/multipliers to existing tires, which will allow these pre-built tires to be used in a wider range of situations. However, we are trying to simulate real tires and guide the community into making high-quality mods; it will never be like anybody can punch in a couple of numbers to create realistic behavior from scratch.
Doug: Next, let’s talk about some wishful content for rFactor 2 cars. What can you tell us is still planned and what is actively being worked on?
Gjon: Planned cars in the pipeline include the classic Indianapolis cars mentioned here, and the Gurney Eagle’s, the F1 Toleman, the 2003 Bentley Speed 8, the Mercedes Benz 300 SLR and W196, first mentioned here. There is also plans for the Nissan GT500. We are actively working on an unannounced car, the 1991 Nissan NSX / NSX-R as well as the previously announced Stock Car 2014, and the Shelby 427 Cobra. I’m driving the AC 427 now, and it’s a handful. I would expect it to be one of the next few cars released, although there is still some refining and testing to be done. Here are a few more new screens of the Cobra. Click each image for the original screenshot.
Shelby 427 Cobra
Shelby 427 Cobra
Shelby 427 Cobra
Shelby 427 Cobra
Shelby 427 Cobra
We hope that once our stock car is available it should be a solid basis for modders to create many other similarly constructed cars. We are working with outside developers to bring new content to rF2 and are always interested in talking to others about this possibility.
There’s some interesting stuff coming before the Holidays this year.
Doug: Since SimHQ Motorsports is so active in endurance racing, news on cars for that genre peak our interest. We know that URD is developing LMPs that have already been announced by VEC for their Season 7 series, and today Enduracers announced their plans for their rFactor 2 LMP and GT add-on. Can we expect a heightened priority for endurance racing cars from ISI for rFactor 2?
Gjon: Yes, once some of the things we are currently working on get released, we’ll be able to work on more endurance racing priorities.
Doug: Going back to Stock Car 2014, it has been announced that it is being developed and Tim has published a few images already. What else can you tell us about it?
Gjon: Yes, this type of racing is being worked on. We have some models and tracks, just need more work on the rules as mentioned earlier in the interview. Here are a few more new Stock Car 2014 screenshots.
Stock Car 2014
Stock Car 2014
Stock Car 2014
Stock Car 2014
Doug: Will it follow the original National Stock Car of rFactor released way back in 2006? People forget NSC was the springboard for every successful stock car racing league and mod developed for rFactor.
Gjon: That hasn’t been decided yet but is certainly a possibility.
Doug: You mentioned the rules are being optimized for oval track racing. Like rFactor, rFactor 2’s rules are based on road racing so many issues with the Pace Car (Safety Car), scoring, penalties, for oval track racing. So much so that stock car leagues had to create their own plugin(s) to work around the problems. It would sure be better if stock car leagues could get the changes direct from ISI development.
Gjon: Yes, that is an important effort now. We have had some internal testers step up and take on the challenge of working on this system with us. Given their passion for the sport, I’m excited to see it continue to come together.
Doug: Beyond the stock car rules, I think anyone who has tried to run a “full flags” IndyCar race at Indy know the problems well with the oval track rules. The work on the Dallara and Indy track is so well done, but the rules problems just tarnish the terrific work. Can we expect to see some help for IndyCar oval track rules?
Gjon: We will revisit the Indy car, and the rules work now will play a part in what is missing there. It’s coming, hopefully at around the same time as we re-work the Indy car with the full set of data we now have.
Whenever we work on any aspect of the sim, we always try to think about how it could be used in other areas. Even if it isn’t something we plan directly, we try and allow flexibility in all we do so that others can use their talents and creativity to extend things further.
Doug: Off-road racing trucks and buggies had a big following in rFactor 1, and you’ve mentioned before that a dirt surface was something you really wanted to do. The experimental release of the Interceptor Quad was on a dirt surface. Should we expect more soon?
Gjon: I would love to pursue this area of racing immediately, but now the dance card is all filled in. With such a limited team, it would be a mistake to try to do too much at once. However, we would be more than happy to work with any interested group to start laying the ground work for this type of racing in the future.