Harmful choices

After some weeks thinking about it I finally decided myself to put it on paper. I guess it is not an easy decision to make by iRacing, but maybe it is not the proper one, in my humble opinion of course. We have been playing thousand of games during the last two decades or more using same method to present data, everything in the same package, launcher, data, settings, and game itself. Almost none game used a different approach by a lack of possibilities by that time. Console games didn’t have this alternative available until recently with dashboard/OS like systems and even with that, it wasn’t an easy option to integrate. Every studio wants to make their own decision on how player enter game and interact with its very own platform, isolating them to select other games or ways to spent their spare time.

PC market was a little different, and there was some big attempts to substitute lobbies and rooms by web interfaces. Battle.net and Microsoft Zone’s were some of them to control one of the biggest first hits on the multiplayer era, like Diablo, Age of Empires and Starcraft.

Iracing being released in 2008 decided, maybe a long time before, follow a similar path to accelerate and offer more alternative to the usual ‘only in game’ interface. Iracing was offering forums, stats, menus, and chats outside the game, in a non intrusive and multitasking way to interact with the simulator and let the user to control his/her own time through the browser.

iRacing web interface needed a complete revamp by these dates, but the staff make a different and, in my point of view, unintelligent choice. They, maybe thinking in VR headsets, who knows, try to repack the entire experience again as a capped and regular arcade-console game, having a whole desktop in our sight to achieve something we could do with barely a few clicks and half of space before. Now using more CPU and GPU power to show some useless background graphics which will not improve our racing experience at all.

Making a new web to the material design era, or other similar and modern design, it was an easier option, without meaning a big change for anyone it would improve our feeling and bring iRacing into the present with less effort. New User Interface is an unwanted, unasked improvement requiring many man/hours of programming and beta testing, debugging errors, rethinking how to fix something that was already working, a new complete overhaul of a very well known product to shake the community and offer something that its not a novelty, nor include better features, nor it is shinier, nor its nothing to be distinctive and differential in such a competitive world of simracing products.

For me its sounds a one man not sufficiently thoroughly thought decision, a harmful one, a wrong one. Now seems too late now to back out.

2 thoughts on “Harmful choices

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, and agree with your points. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is a good mentality. But technology evolves and whether us old school guys want change or not, evolution waits for no man.

    I’m guessing they are feeling some pressure from upcoming titles such as Project Cars 2, which seems to be generating a lot of interest.
    Many will laugh at toys comment, but I don’t think those people are honestly thinking objectively.
    I know several SIM racers who have been posting content of recent Pcars2 builds, and are going as far as to say the handling physics and tire model is better than Assetto Corsa.

    I like AC, the cars feel genuine, but it’s always lacked the always online multiplayer racing system that iRacing has perfected over the years (well, it’s the most robust one out there, albeit with a few issues).
    Will PCars compete with the years of experience and loyal customer base of iRacing? Probably not, but it’s definitely on Mr Meyer’s mind, that I’m sure of.

    Many will argue that the upcoming introduction of Rally Cross in iRacing is simply a natural progression of all the work they did for the dirt oval series. But I personally believe it’s at least in part to do with Project Cars.

    Pcars2 is also threatening the iRacing system with its own skill, safety based multiplayer system that promises to analyze drivers to match them work drivers if similar levels. Is it as complex as the iRacing system? I’d say no.
    But if it works and there’s always a multiplayer race available, when you’re matched with skilled drivers, it’s a threat. Especially when there’s no subscriptions required. If the new PCars nails this version, it’s a big threat. It’s visually stunning, laser scanned tracks, supposedly very realistic tire model, and who can argue that their live weather system that accurately recreates weather driven track surfaces isn’t at the very least a brilliant concept, regardless of how well it works.
    I mean, you choose a date, time and location of a race where the weather is based on actual real GPS weather information at the real track – that’s tantalizing! If it works, it’s game changing.

    Getting back to the focus of your post, the interface is most certainly something that was done in response to these newer titles. Is it a good idea? Maybe not, but there’s quite obviously motive behind it that’s not got very much to do with anything that’s been requested en mass by iRacers.

    Competition is good, it forces people and companies out of their comfort zones and makes them think about how valuable their customer base is to their very existence. I wonder if sometimes iRacing has been a little guilty of arrogantly resting on their laurels? Just my opinion, I don’t expect everyone to agree. But when you look at some of the new ideas that others are bringing to SIM racing, I don’t think it’s a stretch to at least think objectively.

    I think this is a good thing, and I’m expecting iRacing to continue to respond. Dynamic weather really needs to come. It’s still somewhat amusing to me, that a 24 hour le mans race that represents one of the iRacing calendar events of the year is locked into one time of day. Realistic? Only the most blinkered subjective individual could argue with that. At least in the world I live in, it gets dark at night!
    For the premier subscription based racing SIM to still lag behind in this regard is just lazy. I understand they’re a small development team, but SMS were too, and look what they’re doing.
    IRacing still operates on a platform that’s only using 2 CPU cores, when quad core CPU’s have been around for many years. This essentially hobbles the higher end systems that many of us spend serious $’s on in the pursuit of our hobby.

    Whether Pcars2 ends up being nothing more than more SMS hype (which they have absolutely been guilty of), the possibility of it being a valid competitor is good for all of us.

  2. I think most people fear change, a generalization but ultimately true. The release of the new interface coincided with Spa 24Hr, After a fellow driver had endless issues with his videocard post the new install, I declined the offer to “upgrade” until after the event. There are enough things to worry about in a 24Hr event than whether the screen is going to black out or not.

    I have subsequently been playing with it for a while, it has its ups and downs, as I become more familiar with the system I am sure I will prefer it to the next iteration they release in 3-4 years time. I am unaware of the back-end modifications that could optimize the system, possibly increase FPS rates, reduce memory errors etc etc. I am all for optimization and would give up some functionality to receive a faster smoother experience.

    It is however the comparison with PCars2 that intrigued me. Having both systems and running league races in both, they are very different. As stated I think the physics and “feel” of the cars in iRacing is better, however I would argue the overall experience in PCars, with track conditions changing mid race, running 24hr events (albeit accelerated time frame systems) and enjoying the day night transitions as just good an experience, even though the laws of physics do not apparently hold true all the time!

    Where I feel iRacing truly shines is its PC based following that allows you to race almost at any time of day, all week in a competitive race with other drivers. Having the PCars following broken up into console (PS and XBOX) and PC based applicants dilutes the field of “dedicated” simmers with “gamers”. This tends to lead to races with few people and when there are enough it is often littered with the “gamer” who is out to “have fun” at the peril of your dedicated experience.

    The other area in which iRacing is untouchable currently is the Endurance events it stages all year, the only capable platform currently running this system. These are the main reasons I use both to get the racing “fix.

    So how do you get dedicated racers, gamers, on a smooth platform, with active tracks, changing weather, day night transition, a loyal and vast following, endurance events??

    Well that of course is the BIG question, PCARS2 is trying to move into the iRacing arena by including a number of the above items it was previously omitting, and iRacing, as pointed out is trying to improve its experience the other way. Can one system DO IT ALL?

    The problem with having a system do everything is you end up with a bloated behemoth similar to windows, which the masses use and hate due to its generalized experience that equates to a drone like atmosphere. Those in the “know” tout Linux, ubuntu etc at being more efficient than windows to do certain tasks.

    Then lets discuss the Android and Apple users…. You get my point its very hard to please all the people all of the time and there are certain users who no matter what they come up with, will not change their system for the other. What is certain is that the spirit of competition and the two platforms pushing for innovation over the other will result in a proposed better experience for the end user. If you see how far sims have come in 5 years, can you imagine what we will have 5 years from now?

Leave a Reply