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Featured rFactor 2: The Big Interview (Part 1)

Discussion in 'rFactor 2' started by Paul Jeffrey, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

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    Tatuus_F3_T318_04.jpg
    Welcome to the first part of our massive rFactor 2 interview with Studio 397's Marcel Offermans.


    In the spirit of sharing, we opened up the interview to the community here at RaceDepartment for our readers to ask any questions they feel like having answered by Marcel, and you folks delivered! In the end our interview spans over 26 pages of a MS Word document, so we've cut it down into a 4 part release...

    Without further ado, let's hear from the man himself, Marcel Offermans…

    Studio 397 Interview - Part 1 of 4

    RD: Studio 397 have certainly been busy with new content and improvements these last few months, are you happy with the start to 2019 for the sim?

    MO: Yes, I am. We ended 2018 with the GT3 challengers pack, and everybody at Studio 397 recharged their batteries over the holidays. Then in April we released the Formula E Gen 2 car, with some nice physics engine improvements, followed in May by the Monaco ePrix and a big update of Zandvoort. June saw the first big surprise of the year, with the release of Le Mans and obviously a few days ago we added six free Tatuus cars. There’s a lot of code development and projects going on in the meantime, most of it “invisible” right now, but that’s certainly looking very exciting from where I’m sitting. Also, we can only be happy about the very vibrant community we have. I very much value the feedback we get from people, even what some people perceive as “negative” comments. We learn from those and try to improve going forward.

    RD: Content aside, the actual simulation itself appears to be coming along nicely: What part of the development achieved so far you most pleased about?

    MO: I’m very proud of our new graphics engine. We wrote the DX11 engine from scratch and made an effort to keep it backward compatible with all of our existing content. It enabled us to add VR support, but also to fundamentally improve a lot of things using modern technologies. Our initial goals were modest, but once we started seeing what was possible, we’ve taken on bigger projects within the engine. A current highlight is our car body shader, that allows users to paint a car using up to 6 regions with completely configurable materials that can be different for every livery. Honestly, I don’t think there is any other racing game out there that allows that. And adding new features is what we’re still doing. We have more lighting updates to come, as well as a library of materials and some pretty revolutionary cockpit materials. I think this engine is a key technology for us, and being able to design and optimize each area of it specifically for racing is crucial going forward.

    RD: We hear plenty about the new UI, but it’s probably fair to say it has taken long to realise than initially planned – what is the reason behind the delays encountered so far?

    MO: It has taken a lot longer. The first prototype actually predates Studio 397. When Christopher and I were still working for ISI, there was already some discussion within ISI about creating a new UI. At some point this resulted in a prototype built in Adobe Flash, and I remember writing a long post on the testing forum about the merits of HTML over Flash. Eventually, the prototype was abandoned and the existing UI “cleaned up” a bit, but I never let go of the idea of creating one in HTML. So I got together with Christopher and in our spare time we did a prototype of a new garage (setup) screen. We actually got that to work, but never showed it to anybody. Shortly after, discussions started on the creation of Studio 397, at which point we wrote a new implementation from scratch. Now that’s just a little background story for your amusement, it does not yet answer the question. There were a couple of reasons why we took much longer to finish this project. The first is probably that we in general were a bit too optimistic. The second was The Grand Tour Game, which for us was a huge project, one we had to obviously scale up for and given the tight schedule, that also meant taking away some resources from UI development (and since that was all under strict NDA we could not really share that with our community either). The third was that we underestimated one crucial aspect of the project, namely the way the UI and engine state were intertwined in several places. This is a bit of a technical issue, developers who are familiar with the MVC pattern will probably understand it when I say that part of the M was entangled in the V and C, which made it a lot more difficult to untangle and clean up the code to replace the old UI with the new. We’re almost there now, and I think it’s a pretty exciting development!

    RD: Regarding the UI, S397 obviously have a lot of faith that it will improve the player experience within rFactor 2. What are some of the features you expect to bring to the sim with this new system?

    MO: We know we need this system to be able to evolve the UI in the future, so we now feel we have a solid foundation to build on and that enables us to improve the player experience. We deliberately chose not to make the first iteration of it too different from what people are used to. That said we did implement a bunch of new features, the biggest being the competition system. We also integrated the launcher features into the main UI, including the workshop and item store and if you enter a competition we will automatically install the required content for you. We also intend to listen to user requests, so when we release the first beta version, we will work closely with the community to develop improvements and new features.

    RD: Of course it’s probably impossible to add everything you wish with the first version of the UI, will the first launch be the finished release, or do you plan on adding more functionality over time?

    MO: It is certainly our plan to do that, and what we have now is the basis to do that. An HTML based foundation makes it a lot easier for us to integrate in “the web age”. We probably already have more ideas than we can implement in the next year or two, and that’s not even counting feedback from our community!

    RD: Moving away from the UI, S397 have added plenty of new content and improvements to the sim since taking over but not really touched the physics or force feedback. Will you be reviewing these in future, or are you already pretty happy with how it behaves so far?

    MO: Let me start by saying that I think our physics are already quite good, which is why, so far, we have not prioritized making big changes to them. We did make changes to the tyre model and added support for electric engines and regeneration on braking. That said, there are a few areas where we can certainly still improve, like grip levels in the rain, a more extensive drive train simulation and a few other things we’ll get to later in this interview no doubt. Regarding force feedback, we calculate that based on physics, so there is no separate code development for that. Of course we will add more features going forward, and also look at how we can better optimize our physics engine to run on modern, multi-core systems more efficiently.

    Tatuus_F4_03.jpg

    RD: On the topic of content - recently releases such as the GT3/GTE cars and the various circuits have been of a very high standard. However, the quality of some older content is perhaps not quite at the same level. Will you be revisiting the older content soon, and can you share how you plan to update the older cars and tracks within the title?

    MO: Let me split that question in half, and let’s look at the tracks first. Licensing wise we decided not to do any tracks without a proper license, meaning that those tracks we inherited from ISI that represent real tracks will not get updated anymore. Then there are the 3PA tracks, for which the sources of these tracks are still with “third parties” which means we can’t easily get those updated anymore. Most are part of the “unlicensed” group anyway. So I would say for tracks, if we did not update them already, we’re probably not going to anymore. Then let’s look at cars. In some ways the situation is similar there, in terms of 3PA and unlicensed ones, except that I believe we did update quite a lot of those already for DX11 and the new rain effects. That said, some have really old and low polygon models, so if we really want to upgrade them, it would mean redoing them from scratch. That, unfortunately, does not always make business sense. Now for cars I guess you are also referring to updating physics and/or tyres. That is something we will look at on a case by case basis for the cars we’ve upgraded to DX11. We might still upgrade some of them, but it also depends on if we get more data so we actually have something we can improve on.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Is all content, ISI/3PA/S397-absorbed that has not been updated or fixed by now, going to be left as-is? Be it visual, DX11 compatibility or technical updates since their original release spanning from the Historic Formula cars to modern material such as F-Renault 3.5 2014, Honda Civic BTCC, or even circuits like Mountain Peak or others?

    MO: When we took over, we made a few changes to how we approached content development. We decided to no longer make content without proper licenses unless it was clearly fictional, and for that reason we also changed the 3PA approach, which typically did exactly that. Now with the development of our brand new DX11 engine, we migrated a lot of the original content, and everything we migrated can be found under “Studio 397” in the workshop. For the reasons mentioned above, and a few others, such as having access to the actual sources, licenses almost expiring or in some cases deciding that the content was so old it would have to be completely redone from scratch anyway, we decided not to migrate everything. What is still untouched can be found in the “ISI” workshop still. That said, there are a few things in there that we are still considering upgrading, so I won’t go on record stating that everything in there will remain as is.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Is encryption of everything here to stay? If so, will you provide updated material so the modders and interested users can have references?

    MO: We typically only encrypt what we have to, but with us licensing more and working with manufacturers and teams, there tends to be more stuff that is considered “sensitive”. We would like to provide a material library to modders, and will probably do so once our DX11 engine developments are complete (or at least up to a point where the instructions on how to use materials won’t change anymore). We might also include a few example models, if that is deemed helpful.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Will there be templates for new driver model and gloves, and will the models be available to modders?

    MO: We have new(er) driver models (including gloves) that we have not yet shared (nor the templates for them). We might still do that. Let me ask you a question back, what specifically are you struggling with when creating your own driver model, because maybe then we can provide better instructions for that?

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Can we expect shifting gears motion for drivers, shifter, sequential and H-pattern, and moving feet for drivers in cars?

    MO: Honestly that is not very high on our list right now. Moving feet could be straightforward, assuming feet are always “glued” to pedals, so we could provide a real-time motion of those. Driver hands are more difficult. As long as they are glued to the wheel, we can render them in a sensible position, but as soon as shifter motions come into play, you inevitably have the problem that you have no clue when the driver will shift (in a manual gearbox) until he actually does the shift, at which point the animation of taking the hand off the wheel and animating the gear change is already severely lagging behind. Now in VR, if people wear devices to track the motion of their hands, we could consider this, but in our experience, even with VR, almost nobody does that currently.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Will content remain Euro-centric or is there a concerted interest to provide North American cars and circuits, or Asian and Pacific content?

    MO: I would say our content largely reflects our user base. That said, we certainly don’t exclusively focus on european cars or tracks. Track wise we released NOLA and Sebring in the US, Hong Kong ePrix, did a substantial update of Longford in Australia and partnered with Reiza to bring you Ibarra (Ecuador), Guapore (Brazil) and VIR (US). If you look at the cars we’ve released you might have a point, a lot of those are from european manufacturers (but again, not all of them). Looking ahead, will we do more non-european content, definitely!

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Will the new UI allow for more details on Matchmaker? That means series, car name and other details, track configuration, etc

    MO: The short answer is “yes”. We decided to start with a matchmaker that, feature wise, is still reasonably close to the existing one but I do expect us to add a lot more details on running servers in the future.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - Is there work to develop hybrid technology support and features such as push to pass, to support recent W.I.P. mods and the 2014 Indycar?

    MO: For both of our Formula E cars we developed electric engines and regeneration under braking and we’ve always said we’ll develop hybrid technology when we are building a car that needs it. I know that’s not a very satisfying answer if you are a modder looking to build such a car, but my best advice is to wait until we’ve built a car with the features you need.

    Tatuus_PM-18_02.jpg

    RD: (question from @GPL) - How is the office setup for the owners/employees who call the Netherlands home? Do you spend time under the same roof or just meet up for beer and food?

    MO: Studio 397 is really a distributed and international company, so in general our team works from their homes. That said, we are part of Luminis, who have several offices in the Netherlands that we can use to work. Our official headquarters is in Apeldoorn, where we share an office with the other colleagues working on various products, such as our cloud technology and educational products.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - What are your favorite car series/era and circuits? This is independent of what may be realistic or feasible for the game

    MO: That really depends a bit on my mood. I guess if I had to name one car series, it would be GTE or the slightly older GT1, where my weapon of choice is the Corvette. I also have fond memories of the 1967 Lotus F1 as featured in Grand Prix Legends, and I would love to play a remake of that game. A third car I would have to mention is the Mazda 787B and if you’ve ever heard it you probably know why. Circuits? I absolutely love driving at Le Mans, but also Sebring ranks high on my list and if I may add one fantasy track I’d probably go for a track called Rattlesnake Point.

    RD: (question from @GPL) - To this day, what is your favorite game in the racing genre - any subcategory - in PC or consoles?

    MO: In general I have very fond memories of a lot of racing games, so I’m struggling a bit to pick a favorite here. Then it dawned on me that one of those classics literally had an intro by The Cardigans that made me pick it over all the other great games. Gran Turismo 2. Honestly I could probably nominate that whole series, but I especially played the early ones.

    RD: (question from @FeltHat) – Any chance of adding SuperTrucks to the sim (how predictable!!)

    MO: So far we have not looked at licensing those. They would definitely require their own specific tracks too, which means we’re looking at not just doing the cars. Typically we try to estimate the popularity of anything we license as we obviously need to at least recover those costs. I’m not ruling anything out, but it has not reached the top of our list yet.

    RD: (question from @mr Sw1tchblade) - With implementation of the new material system inside cockpits, do you have plans to make better, closer to RL cockpit models for current DLC cars (endurance, and both gt3s).

    MO: When we talk about improving the materials for cockpits, you should take that quite literally. We are going to try to make those look more realistic. Cockpits are complicated environments, reflecting light and their surroundings in interesting and complicated ways, which is why we are looking at materials specifically for this situation. So this is a separate effort from trying to add more functional instruments to existing car cockpits (or fixing other visual bugs).

    Tatuus_FT-50_03.jpg

    RD: (question from @UnixRoot) – Nordschleife was announced at the Sim Racing Expo – how is development progressing at the studio? When can we expect release?

    MO: I’m very happy with its progress. It’s a huge track and we certainly bumped into a few problems along the way. We got going a bit later than we had hoped because of some technical issues with the scan and its processing, and getting all the exact pieces of graffiti in the right place corresponding to the scan also turned out to be a bigger task than we had anticipated, but I can report that the track already is in the hands of our testers, which means we probably have roughly a month of development and testing time left. Once we’re done, we need to get the results formally approved too, so that’s the last “unknown” we always have.

    RD: (question from @erba72) - Already some modern endurance cars are in the game with LMP2 and GTE. But a lot are missing like the Ligier, Aston Martin Vantage, Ferrari 488 GTE and LMP1's. And with Le Mans coming up, it's gonna spice the things up! So any chance to see more of these cars to fill the grid?

    MO: We certainly have not stopped licensing new content, cars and tracks, so you can certainly expect a few more of these cars. The exception being LMP1 class cars, which we decided not to license and focus on the upcoming hypercar class that will replace it.

    RD: (question from @Darren Byrne) – Are there any changes for the multiplayer upcoming?

    MO: That’s a very broad question. I guess the biggest change is the new competition system, aimed at making it easier for people to jump into races and compete. I believe that will change the way everybody plays online, and it will nicely augment the many leagues that are already out there.

    RD: (question from @pocisk) - It's always great to get another legendary and iconic track to race, but what about some (official) tools for endurance races like track limits and penalties editor or even simple TV style / live replay system for (even more exciting) live coverages from rF2? This could be helpful especially for 12 / 24h events.

    MO: We will come with an official overlay, and we’ve been prototyping things with various leagues. You will also be able to create your own. Track limits you can already edit, when you create the track, but perhaps we should try to better educate modders on how to do that. I’m not sure what a penalty editor is. We already have commands to hand out penalties, and to remove them again, which give race control some options. What specifically are you looking for?

    RD: (question from @tlsmikey) - Looking at AMS2 moving to the Madness Engine, ACC moving forward with UE4 and iRacing making some updates to include HDR/DX11/particles to their engine....where do you see the future of your graphics engine headed? Are you still committed to updating and improving the engine or do you feel it is still competitive with the pending releases coming in 2019?

    MO: We are committed to the continuous improvement of our own engine. There are many bigger and smaller things we still want to improve and we regularly sit down together to determine our roadmap for the upcoming months. Our goal is still to evolve our DX11 engine to ensure it remains suitable for the wildly different configurations people use, from triple screens to VR to all kinds of single screens. Visually we are aiming for a realistic look. No color grading or over the top post effects, we are a simulation and the graphics engine should reflect that.

    Tatuus_FT-50_02.jpg

    RD: (question from @CoZi) - As we heard in recent roadmaps that you are improving the aesthetics of car interior/cockpits; Are you thinking on including slip meters and night lightning in the cockpit as part of the improvements?

    MO: Slip meters are not part of the improvements we are doing as part of the material system upgrades, but night lighting and reflections in general are. I’m not saying we’re not looking at slip meters though, that’s a different task.

    RD: (question from @CoZi) - Second question is are you looking to work on various aspects such as clutch wear, gearbox temperature, better traction control systems, etc..

    MO: We recently already included a better traction control system (not the driving aid), but those other things are on our wish list. Some we will definitely consider when we look at drivetrain improvements.

    RD: (question from @Jamilton) - Are there any lesser known cars or circuits you would like to get the licence for to add to the sim?

    MO: Yes. I can disclose that we are certainly chasing a few lesser known cars and tracks. Now if we end up building those depends on many things. For lesser known content we will usually try to get a license for cheap or free, but we still need to consider the build (and possibly laser scan) costs. I think the Tatuus pack of cars is an excellent example.



    That's it for the first part of our new interview, stay tuned to RaceDepartment for part 2 very soon!

    rFactor 2 is a PC exclusive racing sim from Studio 397 - Available now.

    Check out the rFactor 2 sub forum here at RaceDepartment for the latest news and discussion regarding this excellent sim. Like your racing hard and fair? Join in with our rFactor 2 Racing Club for all your eSport racing fun! Oh, don't forget we like mods to, with our own rFactor 2 Modding Forum for you to enjoy!

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    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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  2. BrainsBush

    BrainsBush

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    What a nice read. Thx!! Great questions from you and us the community and good open responses from Marcel (as always). Looking forward to part 2,3,4 and obviously the rF2 updates which makes the sim even better and better.
     
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  3. tlsmikey

    tlsmikey

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    Good questions. I'm not sure what to make of this one.

    MO: We are committed to the continuous improvement of our own engine. There are many bigger and smaller things we still want to improve and we regularly sit down together to determine our roadmap for the upcoming months. Our goal is still to evolve our DX11 engine to ensure it remains suitable for the wildly different configurations people use, from triple screens to VR to all kinds of single screens. Visually we are aiming for a realistic look. No color grading or over the top post effects, we are a simulation and the graphics engine should reflect that.

    I feel like rF2 has always been a bit behind in terms of graphics and I can't figure out if they are happy with that state or if they really want to improve it. Reading the response, I get the impression that they don't feel the other sims have realistic looks....which I disagree with completely.

    rF2 does take some pretty pictures at times, but the in-game graphics leave a lot to be desired.
     
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  4. Will Mazeo

    Will Mazeo
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    IMO the PBR shaders on cars already look better than some other sims, more natural, but we need to see a full PBR track for the cars to fit it better, right now looks like they are photoshoped into the scene. They do need to work on lights and particle system tho
     
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  5. Anomalistics

    Anomalistics

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    Very disappointed to receive confirmation that LMP1 is not being licensed until the hypercar era. That means we have to rely on URD for a few more years.

    I would have loved to see Audi, Porsche and Toyota in RF2. Also hoping one of these interviews will go into detail about the AI. It is due some attention now before iRacing!
     
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  6. pcraenme

    pcraenme
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    Good idea to split the interview up in four parts. Would have been a too long read otherwise and now we have something more to look forward to.:D Thank you @Paul Jeffrey and @Marcel Offermans.:thumbsup:
     
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  7. MarcG

    MarcG
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    Good read over a nice cuppa tea that, FOUR Parts though?! Poor Marcel wading through that lot of questions :D
     
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  8. FeltHat

    FeltHat
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    heart broken :confused:
     
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  9. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

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    For me personally I'm finding many of the more "graphically impressive" sims to have that slightly over the top look to them. Not sure how to describe it other than saying some of them feel like they look a bit more impressive than real life! Too many bells and whistles.

    I'm super impressed with the improvements in rF2 graphically, and for me at least, I think if they maintain their design style, but keep improving, I think that would be awesome.

    Great example for me is the AMS 2 stuff. OK so its early in development yet, but the look of it feels much more natural and real than PCARS 2 that shares the same engine, so that's probably the sort of thing we will see with rF2. Better quality graphics, but with a much more earthly and gritty feel.

    Or I could be talking complete and utter garbage!
     
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  10. pcraenme

    pcraenme
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    Totally agree. E.g. driving my own car I have never seen lens flares, so why would you need to see these in a sim? Maybe only in a replay because that would be viewing the race through a camera and that’s when you can have lens flares. And yes, these lens flares can be turned of most of the time, but why are they even there?
     
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  11. Hocician

    Hocician

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    @Marcel Offermans
    Thank you for staying with your engine!!! Its exactly as you subscribed - it is a simulation and it should look like a simulation! I love the RF2 engine so much and dont like all these bling bling crap UE Stuff and so on!
    Thx for that - made my day!
     
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  12. mister dog

    mister dog

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    I can't keep them apart almost (visually) :D

    Looking forward to this game receiving overall improvements in the next years. It really is a rough diamond that was almost abandoned, but then someone decided to not let it go to waste and start polishing it up again. :thumbsup:
     
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  13. Jason Mullin

    Jason Mullin

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    Come on @Paul Jeffrey at least make the read long enough to get down one beer! I have half a beer left now what am I supposed to do?
    I'll make @Marcel Offermans a deal. I'll do one pushup for every question answered in this 4 part interview without stopping, unlike Shaun Cole.
     
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  14. Nick Gregory

    Nick Gregory
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    If any of the old ISI cars is updated, I want it to be the Boxmaster.
     
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  15. Deleted member 909406

    Deleted member 909406

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    Even Paul made his choice. RF2 engine uncompetitive.
    I hope all this has long been understood.
     
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  16. Will Mazeo

    Will Mazeo
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    And the same guy try to do the same :poop: once again...
     
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  17. Deleted member 909406

    Deleted member 909406

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    Such as you in vain ignore my opinion ... very vain ...
     
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  18. MarcG

    MarcG
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    I couldn't agree with you more on this subject Mr Jeffrey, for me RF2 looks a lot more "real" than some other sims that I've raced recently. Still some improvements to be made of course (nothing is perfectly "real" visually in any sim), but as it is I get more feel of realism from RF2 than others.
     
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  19. mantasisg

    mantasisg

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    I have totally opposite view. rF2 looks rather pretty realtime from cockpit while driving (even though wish it would be even better), but as for taking pictures and viewing replays it is not as good.

    rF2 totally deserves to be able to say that they simulate not only physical physics, but also visual physics aka graphics. As you play in some occasions this sim looks stunningly real, it is not always, but it is rather often, there are some occasions when you are at a part of track which is modeled really well, and rF2 sky and lighting physics just works brilliantly.

    In AC I have struggled to make a single colour for a car so much, perhaps I have spent at least 50hours in a span of few years, only trying to make colour look as best as possible in all ways, and I just ended up with making compromises over and over again, finally I got reduced by some people when I released it because I chose to reduce Fresnel effect (reflectivity), just to win more true colour... Few years of work was reduced to the matter of less reflectivity...

    In rF2 I was able to get the colour rather true without too much trying, and it just looks so well in almost all cases. And I have not even tried the new materials for car paint yet, I have few doubts about them though, I think they are much better for cars with liveries, but the old material might be better for simple colour cars, I don't know.
     
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  20. numbersevenhull

    numbersevenhull
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    I agree, certainly with new content it can be a bonny looking drive. However lots of the improvements have really been piecemeal, drips and drops over time. I'd like S397 to do a proper visual quality of life update where they update lots of the niggles all at once, so that for me would be smoke and off road particles, skybox, drivers hands, arms, bodies (not good in VR), shadow draw options, track marshals, polish the hud design, generic sound effects (such as suspension, kerbs, tyres, off tracks, impacts), and mirrors. That would have a massive impact in eradicating all the less than spectacular rough edges that make a bad first impression that many people don't appear able to get over.

    Good read though, looking forward to the rest, 24 pages haha, RD's first ever endurance interview
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2019
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