Situational awareness

Extracted from Sector3Studios forums, this is a valuable and personal view about situational awareness tools available in the current simracing titles. Let’s check what was situational awareness first. From wikipedia: 

“Situational awareness or situation awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event. It is also a field of study concerned with understanding of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or riding a bicycle.”

Situational Awareness when driving is crucial, especially when in a high traffic environment. For those us without triple monitor setups, it can be very difficult to know where exactly other cars in relation to yours when you’re going two wide down a corner. There’s a few things you can do to help, so I’d like to point out a few different ways to tackle it.

Some of these aids are a bit artificial, but personally I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, especially considering maintaining SA is so much more difficult in a game versus real life. If you ask me, these are tools to give parity with real life.

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iRacing does this very well, and very naturally, through both its spotter system and a very large and wide angle virtual mirror. Between the two of them, it’s nearly impossible to not know if a car is nearby. The mirror is so large and wide enough that usually you can tell if a car is right next to you. If a car is next to you but doesn’t show up on the mirror (as is the case in this screenshot), then your spotter will usually catch them and you can make a quick glance to the right. As a side benefit, the spotter also really helps with immersion and makes you feel as if you’re racing on a team.

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Another game that does this fantastically is Assetto Corsa with its Helicorsa app. It has a few different configurations so that it doesn’t look so artificial, but either way this little thing is so effective and foolproof that I honestly think every game should include some version of it. I love racing with it, because with it and my single limited FOV screen I can comfortably and safely drive in traffic at speed. It benefits everybody involved.

Yes, I understand that in real life you don’t have a radar screen showing you cars, but this is one of those situations where I think gameplay comes first and at the very least this should be an option that is enabled by default. That way, the majority of pick up players in online races are now suddenly much more aware than they were before, without having to be schooled or personally invested in the practice of safe racing. Like I mentioned before, there are much less intrusive configurations of this app if you don’t want to go all the way.

Assetto Corsa also has arrows that appear on the edges of the screen to signify that a car is there. A few other games do that and it’s decently effective, but I find it hard to read.

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I’m a big fan of games with mechanics that make good situational awareness easy. It’s something that benefits everybody and makes for cleaner racing all round. While I don’t expect for R3E to adopt something as dramatic as a Helicorsa (even though I would 100% support it), I think at the very least the virtual mirrors need to be made much larger and with a wider field of view. R3E’s virtual mirror is really tiny and has a prohibitively narrow FOV.

As you read, every title has its own method to work with this disadvantage, but it the end, it is up to you to handle and process this kind of information.

“Situation awareness involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity to understand how information, events, and one’s own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future. One with an adept sense of situation awareness generally has a high degree of knowledge with respect to inputs and outputs of a system, an innate “feel” for situations, people, and events that play out because of variables the subject can control. Lacking or inadequate situation awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error.”

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