Racing Simulations

Growing up in an 'F1 family' where waking up at 02:00 to watch the races in Japan or Australia seemed normal, it wasn't a bit stretch to find myself playing racing games. Things really started out with Nigel Mansell's World Championship, which although certainly not a simulation, led me onto F1GP on the Commodore Amiga.

After progressing through and spending many years modding the Geoff Crammond Formula One simulations for myself, I started to run IndyCar Racing and NASCAR Racing from Papyrus Racing Games. In 1998 Papyrus released Grand Prix Legends, this had a huge impact on my entire life; I founded a Web site about it, began racing online with it, and it actually led me to where I am today; working for a racing sim developer.

Grand Prix Legends (1998):

Apart from the occasional rFactor mod, I didn't run anything other than iRacing (who I worked for) for a long time. In 2010 I started to work for Image Space Incorporated, deep into development of rFactor 2 at the time. That's all I run these days, I just don't have the time to run anything else!

 

Putting the work in – again?

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Let me take you back in time: It’s 1998 and I just tried a demo version of Grand Prix Legends. I’ve crashed a lot and I’m going to give up for about a month. It’s just too difficult…

I eventually tried the demo again, bought the full game later in the year and it became my first real love in sim racing. But how many didn’t give it another shot? It’s an interesting question!

Those early times with Grand Prix Legends (GPL) were hard. I remember spinning into the wall on the straights and losing control in every way imaginable. Many people gave up and it’s only really those of us who stuck with it that got to experience those early and exciting days.

GPL did have training cars, but nobody used them initially. Everyone thought that they could leap straight into an F1 car with an abundance of power, no downforce and minimal grip from the tires…

Fast forward now to 2010: I just joined ISI and got my hands on an alpha version of rFactor 2. Of course when I joined the company the only historic track was Belgium. This worked out well for me because this was my favorite track in GPL… So what happened?

This happened: High revs – crash (and repeat). Have I forgotten how to drive? What is going on? Why can’t I keep this thing in a straight line? This is hard! Those were my initial thoughts, and then I burst into laughter… It was like I had been transported back in time.

Just like I’d had to with GPL, I had to put the work in. I had to train myself to adapt to these race cars and I began to think about the responses we can expect from people trying them for the first time. We jokingly (with a little truth, of course) say that the historic pack in rF2 needs a disclaimer: “For the love of God, try the F2 and F3 cars first.”

In this day and age, I don’t think it’ll take as long to adapt to the historic cars in rF2 as it took with GPL. We’re all used to a certain amount of realism now. But it’s certainly worth being aware of it the first time you are in the menus and selecting which car to run.

Belgium was the first track created for rFactor 2, so it has had to be updated over time as we have advanced technology. Monaco, on the other hand, was an addition that came with much of that technology in place and this allowed the guys to really go nuts with the level of detail. You can really feel the circuits in a special way when you drive them, but while Spa is a series of straights complimented by the odd tricky section, Monaco is a tricky section and nothing else… Driving an F1 car around there is like taming a wild Bull. There’s so much power and so little space to use it that you have to under-drive the car.

It’s funny because it almost looks less difficult to drive an F1 car on the historic Monaco than the F2 or F3 cars also included in the historics package for rFactor 2. This is completely false though. The fact is it looks easier because you can’t really do certain things in that car, like putting the pedal flat to the floor… When I drive a lap at Monaco in the F1 car I find myself having to under-drive the car more than I could have imagined. If I don’t? I crash.

With that in mind, I decided to do a lap of Monaco in one of the generic Formula 2 cars. This car is quite a bit easier to turn on the throttle and due to that it probably shows off the handling better than I could have while under-driving the F1s. You’ll notice that my style with these cars is to throw the steering in the direction of the turn and then straighten the wheel, which keeps the momentum of turning, while I continue to turn using the throttle. The only other adjustments are usually if I turned too early or need to correct the car. You’ll also notice me fighting the car at times where the road dips or changes, along with into some of the harder braking zones. You’ll see the occasional botched gear shift, too.


Youtube | WMV (755MB) | H264 (1.82MB)

rFactor 2 will have cars from between 1966 and 1969 included in the open beta. Some will be licensed, others will be generic ‘grid fillers’. Of these cars, some will be F1, some F2 and some F3. You can have these cars all on the track at the same time if you want to.

The video above shows clearly that although the F2 car is faster on the straight, the F3 car is as fast – maybe a little faster – in some of the trickier turns. It took me a lap to get on terms where I felt safe passing (I always treat AI as I would a human), even with that straight line advantage.

As always I have to point out that rFactor 2 is not yet completed, so there are things in the video not yet completed. The time of day on the video is the middle (least attractive and atmospheric) of the day, and this affects many of the visuals. There are even things in the video we’re really not happy with, but that will probably still be in the open beta. It is what it is, it shows what it shows. Et cetera. :)

Next up? A video of Spa in the F1… I have no problem hanging the F1 sideways when I have the room to do it. ;)

 
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Tim is British and lives in the United States with his wife and kids.

He works for software developers Image Space Inc. and Studio 397 on their racing simulations, and is a fan of Gaming, Motorsports, and photography.