V8’s are coming to Automation!
Hands up who knows what I am talking about? Of course, I refer to the new game in development over at Camshaft software: Automation. Presenting a detailed car industry simulation, Automation is proving quite addictive in its early stages, where no industry is yet possible; for now, we just have an engine builder, and it’s a lot more fun than I ever imagined.
Many will be excited by the potential for this “car tycoon” game in the form of the industry simulation, and building up your own car brand to be a world beater. Creating a world leading supermini or luxury sedan has never really been my thing, but putting the thing together does fascinate me, and the early engine builder demo had me locked right in when a proposal was put forth for me to build a high revving, low capacity engine for single-seater racing cars. Studying the laptop screen intensely, as I was, the blonde asked me what I was up to “Oh, just trying to achieve the perfect cam profile”, she left the room promptly.
As the development of Automation moves on there could be more and more of this sort of thing, and the chance, I hope, to develop racing cars from scratch, engine, gearbox, suspension geometry, you name it, but where does it go?
This is where it gets fun, for me. The potential of Automation could well span across more than just the genre it encapsulates, it could become an institution. Let me explain:
The Automation forums are teeming with people who are excited about this game. People who, engineering background or not, enjoy the creative aspect of designing and building cars, whether for the road or the track. Knowledge of the simracing community is not a given but what is reasonably common is that these people would like to be able to try out their creations in some manner of vehicle simulator. Sure, they may just want to pootle around and may not have the desire to be bellicose with competitive spirit, but some hints have suggested that the Automation guys have thought about talking with sim developers for some kind of cross-over of vehicles built within Automation, to a simulator environment.
Quite how far this has or has not gone I do not know, but allow me to dream for a moment…
At present iRacing have world championships for both road and oval side racing. These series, we are given to understand, attract the fastest simracers in the world, competing every few weeks to be crowned at the end of the season and receive a nice big cheque. One of these series is based on a Formula One car, that being the accepted pinnacle of road racing.
But F1 racing, in real life, is not like this, it is not a championship where everyone drives a Williams Toyota FW31, but rather a team based sport where technical endeavour has always been a driving factor. Sure, great drivers make it to F1, but they do not always make it to great cars. The true spirit of F1 racing, from the earliest days of pre-war Grands Prix, to the modern era, is about a team of people pulling together to create a car from the ground up. They may buy in brakes from AP or Brembo, or sparkplugs from Champion, but the main basis of the chassis is made in-house, and in some cases the engines are built in the same factory.
So, for simracing, we have driver championships, but how about replicating this team spirit? If a deal were struck between developers, what is to stop teams of people getting together to develop cars to race? With differing aerodynamics and suspension design, built within fairly loose criteria (Give it 50 years for the rule book to hit the 200 page point!) defining dimensions and engine rules, and then let those teams hire top simracers to race their creations in a serious bid at a virtual F1 series.
With a common in-game economy there could even be dedicated engine builders, for off the shelf units to be picked up by teams, or even custom chassis design consultation from engineers. All of which leading to a point where your driver runs your creation on track for the first time, races it competitively and scores points for both constructors and the driver championships.
Where this gets even more exciting, would be a collaboration with the developers at iGPManager, which could bolt in and provide a web-based race interface for the team managers to use during races, to decide on fuel strategy and pit stops. Leaving the driving to the driver.
Feeder Formula could help drivers develop, at the same time team owners build up their skills by running in spec F3 or GP2 series, with off the shelf chassis being allied to engines built by Automationeers keen to build the strongest low-capacity engine they can muster, building up their coffers by supplying engines to teams, with the hope that one day they will have the funds to build engines for the F1 series.
But hang on, what is this, three developers, talking to each other? Making a collaborative MMO styled game that offers a potential interest point for budding engineers, strategists as well as quick drivers? Where a team of like-minded, if differently skilled people get together to truly achieve something special in a virtual environment, could it happen?
I believe it could, and at the same time it could create a merging of communities to create a genuine virtual motorsport industry, with teams eventually pulling in real world sponsors, broadcasting deals, and teams of people building bonds across the globe based around victory in a genuine virtual team sport.
Over to you developers.