21 comments on “Simulating the racing

  1. The thing that stands out most here is your concern about sounding too negative. It’s funny since I found reading it very positive! But maybe that’s because I agree with everything you say, really.

    I’ve been an iRacer only for a while now. So that’s the only new title I can talk about. I understand the importance of a good tire model in a driving simulation. But I have started to think that the tough nut that is understanding and simulating tires is an obsession for Kaemmer that he needs to crack. And for this reason iRacing and New Tire Model (NTM) are quite synonymous these days. And not because of the positives of the NTM but the negatives. For most people the NTM is just another tire model. I’m one of those people really.

    I do know and understand that the model he has, or is after, is one where you just type in specifications from a tire and, BAM, you have a “perfect” virtual version of the said tire. Where in other simulations, or in past simulations at least, there’s a lof of trial and error and fudging of factors to make it feel right more than anything. I remember a story or rumour from GTR where one car apparently had rear tire width of 1 meter! True or not, that gives you an idea of how tires were done.

    But getting back to iRacing’s tire model. What most people do feel and understand (how wrong it) is that cold tires are much, much faster than tires at their proper operating temperature. And that’s been an issue with the NTM for many iRacing season (12 weeks).

    It does annoy me a lot that in iRacing you just simply hotlap throught the race. There’s a slight element of tire management. At least with some cars. I’ve not driven it much yet but I think the Ford Falcon V8 Supercar is the one where you have to manage your tires most. In the real world that car is massively “undertired” and tire management is highly important.

    While Kaemmer’s tire model in iRacing is possibly much more sophisticated than anything else out there it begs the guestion: Why is it so important? Or maybe even: Is it really that important? I can see iRacing and more importantly iRacers benefitting much more from many other things. Mechanical wear simulation of car parts. Track surface rubber build up and marbles. Changing weather. Better prediction “net”code to handle the Williams FW31. Better support for road DWC. Best part being that you don’t need a kaemmer to implement those things.

    So is iRacing’s tire model that important? If it is, I can’t see it.

    • It begs the question where do improvements in one area cease to matter when other areas remain underdeveloped? You obviously reach a point where the law of diminishing returns comes into play, and when those returns have relatively small effect but a whole missing feature would have significant impact on proceedings, I think that is when focus should perhaps be broadened, if not shifted.

      The NTM has obviously run into problems along the way, and developments in one area seem to highlight issues in another. The desire to improve the tyre model is something I am pleased to see, and introducing a working physical tyre model is no trivial matter. But a tyre model is only as good as its implementation, and context has a large role to play in this. I’d take an 80% accurate tyre model that gets to work in a range of life-like conditions than a 90% model that only exists within a sterile, homogeneous environment. Afterall, race sims are about simulating racing, not just tyres.

      • What I didn’t think about before is that Kaemmer is obviously wanting to develope a tire model that would work in all “weather conditions” to put it simply. And I can see the many benefits of that in iRacing development in the long run.

        But I think iRacing would really benefit a lot if it would fully focus on its community right now.

        • The thing is, say the tyre model gets to this place, it’s then a long time to introduce weather/dynamic track and all the rest, and it could well be that they create more issues in the tyre model. By the time that’s done, people will probably be demanding a new tyre model again anyway!

          Given the troubles with the tyre model and how long it seems to be taking, I’d be somewhat surprised if it is robust to a number of non-present features. I’d be more than happy to be wrong though.

    • I think that tyres have had too heavy a focus for a few years now, but where that focus has been in place it has highlighted more and more issues with many sim’s core physics engines outside of the tyre space. Many modern sims still run on physics code that originated many years ago and thus fixing such problems can be troublesome. Still, many sims now are progressive titles, so fixes should come in updates.

      • I think everyone should remember the importance of FFB when talking about tires and especially when people complain about lack of grip.

        In rFactor even a car with correctly built suspension geometry and believable tires felt like driving on ice with the stock FFB. It got a lot better when you disable all the canned effects. Still it took RealFeel to really fix that. Also LeoFFB was very good for cars that had bonkers suspension and tires. Because from what I understand it ignored or overrid dynamic values from tires and used its own.

        And now with iRacing the recently implemented linear FFB option made countersteer situations much easier to deal with. And that btw, along with another new FFB setting, came from members of the community, not iRacing.

  2. The other key to note on the “simcade” front is that, if, say, a sim developer works for weeks to implement an amazing brake fade dynamic based on accurate temperature build up, how many people will tick that box in the options screen?

    The interview with Stefano hinted at this. If, as you note, a car has no brakes half a lap around the Nordscheife then is this fun? Well, it means that next time you need to drive differently and be gentler on the brakes to make them last. Many don’t see this, the genre has established around this romantic ideal that everyone can drive 100% all the time. Of course, this romance comes from films about Senna, who were are led to believe did nothing but drive at ten million percent all the time, and the icon that was Colin McRae, who we are led to believe never used a brake pedal in his life.

    That doesn’t make for simulation, alas, and if there is a reality that abusing your car’s brakes or transmission would break it, then a “simulation” should try it’s best to replicate that reality. That’s what simulators are for.

    But, who will play it? A small, hard core audience, more? How many people want to really learn how to drive a racing car properly? Versus how many people want to enjoy the romantic ideal of the 400 foot powerslide and taking victory on the last lap with the car on fire?

    If you’re a developer then you have to work with the time you have when building your sim, and if you are putting in time, via your own passion for driving simulation accuracy, on features that are just going to be “unticked” in the options menu, then is that time well spent? Or would you be better off working on the motion blur gfx?

    I don’t know. But I have found that in all areas of simulation, the most hard core sims, with the most intense levels of vehicle simulation, are borne out of passion and not much else. If the aim is to make a racing title that will sell in numbers larger than just the hard core sim crowd, then that passion inevitably has to be compromised for the purposes of creating a product that can be enjoyed by everyone.

    Personally, I want sims to be as hard core as the processing power of my PC allows, and I look at sims like Silent Hunter, that give you a huge selection of tick boxes to tick or untick on the “realism” front, and it pleases me. But I can understand the logic behind avoiding the development time inherent in putting in features that only 10% of the total audience might use.

  3. As a developer of iGP my opinions in that area are probably biased, so I’ll stick to commenting on racing/driving sims.

    In game development you can’t do all things at once. So initially all sims target good physics in stable, dry conditions. Unfortunately sims have been stuck in this phase of development for about a decade, probably because of the development timescales involved and hardware limitations. But I’m interested in the human side to this story and how limitations in the sim can also handicap driving styles.

    In reality the limit is a moving target, from lap to lap, and even corner to corner, as the track surface changes, conditions change, debris and rubber goes down etc. The drivers that excel in reality are those that know the basic pattern, but instinctively adapt to a variable, sometimes unpredictable limit. Whereas in simulators it’s more about repeating a pattern at a fixed limit, variable only to predictable degrees (e.g. 10kg more fuel = brake X metres earlier).

    In my limited experience of real-world racing, mainly from karting, pattern-repeaters qualify well and can lead from the front in the dry. But they don’t qualify or race as well when any real variables are introduced, such as changing track conditions (e.g. half the track is wet and half dry). They are particularly tricky to race against, often turning in to a competitor overtaking them on the racing line, intent on repeating that familiar pattern. This AI-esque way of driving has its pitfalls in reality, which largely go unchallenged in simulators.

    What room does this leave for driving styles in simulators? I’d say very little, and this is partly why the racing experience can feel incomplete. It overly rewards drivers able to repeat a familiar pattern, and doesn’t reward the sort of instinctive adaptation that makes up at least half of the challenge in reality.

    • Hi Jack. I think you raise some pertinent points there.

      “What room does this leave for driving styles in simulators? I’d say very little, and this is largely why the racing experience can feel incomplete. It overly rewards those able to repeat a familiar pattern, and doesn’t reward the sort of instinctive adaptation that makes up at least half of the challenge in reality.”

      I think this really is a key point in the discussion. It stands to reason that those who can spend more time practising will improve, but too much in-sim performance seems to rely on robot like levels of repetition, with not enough scope for driving based on feeling and perception. Hopefully this is something that will change in time.

      Congratulations on iGP 🙂

      • Yeah, excellent point there, Jack. Very well said and I agree fully.

        And indeed conditions in sim racing aren’t totally static of course. We have fuel and tire wear and heat buildup. But changes these cause to grip and car balance are slow and predictable. I did start to think about tire overheating though. Some people seem to really be in big trouble when they overheat tires. They just can’t manage them once they overheat. The changes in grip and balance are bigger and faster in this case. Which I think is a small proof of what Jack brought up.

        • Hence part of the issue. If people don’t understand how tyres work in race situations then they will drive at 110% all the time and, if the sim carries enouggh realism, overheat their tyres. Without any understanding of how to drive fast without killing the tyres, they will go nowhere, and usually scream about how unrealistic the sim is.

          This is becoming a bigger issue as tyre models get better, many older sims have let people get away with treating their tyres badly/not even paying any attention to them.

          Whenever I have been racing on track in real life, the most important thing, in my mind, are my tyres, and what they are doing, how much grip and slip I had in the last corner, whether they are getting too hot, whether they are not getting up to temperature, etc, etc.

          So racing sims should be about tyres, but will struggle if people don’t understand them. Anyone approaching a decent sim like a Codies game will run into problems.

          tbh, I think it’s a problem that affects all vehicle simulations, not tyres specifically, but understanding. If someone can jump in a helicopter sim, not read the manual, not understand how a helicopter even works, and then spend a week crashing it into a hedge, they won’t want to play it. The simmer and the gamer are different, the simmer will want to learn and work out why the chopper keeps going into the hedge, the gamer will decide to play something else (And optionally post on a forum about how unrealistic it is).

      • I think stating that current sims overly rewards mindless pattern repetitions over adaptations is way off the reality.
        I will give you a simple example, Andre Botcher, incredibly fast iR “alien”. He came in at our booth at Gamescom and drove our F1 car in Assetto Corsa with no pratice time an unknown simulator, on a jumpy bumpy moving platform with wheels and pedals he never tried before.. he was incredibly fast from the first lap.. and I mean, CRAZY fast, I’ve never seen anybody driving like that… he did it on the F1, and then it did it again on a smaller single seater car… not a single mistake, on an unknown car this time.
        That cannot be muscle memory, it is driving in a “reactive” way, adapting to the informations the simulator is giving constantly… and I think current gen sims are doing a very good job at that.

        Of course practice time will make fast drivers faster, but that also apply to every other sport in the world, sim racing exposes a major difference wrt real racing because practice time is virtually free.

        Another element to consider when talking about patterns and muscle memory is that sim racing allow a much finer and repeatable action on the controllers. I can open the throttle at exactly 72% exciting a medium slow corner on a sim, doing that while my car is pulling 2+ G laterally, bouncing and shaking all over the place for grip in a real car however, is a whole different story.. and I won’t even get started on the brakes side, where finding that “sweet spot” is made an art form in a car pulling 3,4,5 G during braking.

        As for the “tyre modeling” thing… I think we’ve reached a point where, as developers, we’re hitting a huge bottleneck with real data availability; not because the data is secret or hard to find, but because what we need it’s mostly unmeasurable.. this is the reason why virtually all the new sims moved away from literature tyre model into custom tyre model… but without data to validate or unvalidate these approaches, it’s all speculation, marketing and fudging anyway.
        10 years ago my forecast for the sim world was about a “convergence” in driving feel, back then, jumping from one sim to another was a patience exercise trying to rebuild the familar patterns and let’s not get started with more arcade games that featured ill custom physics.
        Today we arrived to that convergence, you can jump from GT5, to Forza, to iR and your driving style remains pretty much the same.. there are very few examples of driving “games” that don’t expose a very natural driving style (yah.. codie, I’m looking at you :D) .

        So right now, everybody and their pig can get a decent driving model, what’s next for driving sims? I think the match will be played in those areas where data are either unknown or unreliable.. it’s up the single devs to come up with a solution, and this solution can only come through experience.. driving, feel, drive again, tweak… this is why I just can’t believe my eyes when I see a sim engineer that cant drive on a race track.. it’s just wrong… and yes, there are many out there that can’t.

        • Everybody needs an Aris 😉

          Of course, it isn’t just muscle memory, and there is a reactive element in play. Out of interest, how many laps did Andre Boettcher run in total?

          You’re also right to raise a number of the implicit differences between sim- and real-world racing, since they do have a significant effect that can’t really be separated from the discussion. Cause and affect works both ways in this I imagine.

          • I’ve been on bumpy kart tracks where I’ve struggled to get the power down because my foot keeps bouncing off the throttle pedal! It becomes a force of will to hold it there, which would be easy if I was going full throttle, but you swamp a two stroke getting to full throttle too soon, so you have to modulate the top end of the pedal, which is very tricky when your foot won’t stay still. 🙂

            Of course, FFB isn’t as strong as tyre force can be too. With a relatively cheap FFB wheel a driver can catch a tricky situation in the car which, in real life, might have resulted in too much steering wheel torque to be able to keep hold of the wheel.

            Sim and real will always be different, I wonder how quickly Boettcher would be up to speed in a real single seater. Would be an interesting test (and one i am sure he would be only too happy for someone else to pay for!! 😉 ).

        • I know André very well, he’s in my team! (he says hi :D) He’s a very talented driver and certainly adapted well to the sim, but there are several factors which can explain it. In André’s case, he has driven Race07, iRacing, rFactor, nKP, LFS and more. Picking up new physics isn’t easy, but it won’t be a new experience to him. He is also used to driving in front of an audience and knows the track layout, so all of this will make him more likely than the average person to rise to the challenge.

          On top of that, the car was likely running more downforce than optimal. It won’t be as twitchy or unpredictable as the fastest ‘alien’ setups would be. It’s easier to hit the limit of a setup with too much downforce than it is to hit the limit of the physics. Whenever we put too much downforce on the FW31 in iRacing, it levels the times in our team. When we take it back off the ‘aliens’ leap ahead by half a second. So there’s also a difference between reaching the limit of a comfortable setup or the limit of what is possible, with the former being easier to obtain.

          But the more I thought about it, we’re talking about different things. It’s one thing to get used to a new sim with all of the criteria outlined above, and it’s another to estimate what speed to carry through the puddle on the apex at turn 3 on lap 1 of a race. It’s that instinct which I’m referring to, the kind that took Senna from 4th to 1st in one lap at Donnington, or got Jenson Button to some of his victories. There’s very little room for the expression of that kind of talent in sim racing today.

  4. This article made me think about the Codies argument that their F1 series was intended as a racing simulator rather than a driving sim like iRacing. Their point being that iRacing’s primary aim is to simulate driving an F1 car as accurately as possible and not worry about whether the result when raced is anything like an F1 race. Codies approach is to focus on the racing simulation side with the rules, weather, changing track conditions (like marbles) and “tone down” the physics so you don’t have to be an engineer to set up the car nor an alien to drive a 90 minute race without falling off the track.

    I’m primarily an off-line racer. I tried on-line racing and won my second race. But I won it by staying on the track for just five laps. Others were faster than me but couldn’t keep it on the island. Indeed about half the grid went off at the first corner. So although the sim had reasonably accurate physics, the end result was a “race” which looked nothing like real life race.

      • Well, the obvious answer to me is a sim that can focus on the racing like the F1 games do (and like Crammonds F1 games did so many years back), and focus on the drivign experience and physics.

        I see no reason why both cannot be a priority, online has been given too much focus for for too long, and so many people don’t like to touch it. At the same time, an offline sim needs to be coherent and feel like real life racing, as David says. I wrote about this here: https://vodkadiaries.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/get-off-the-line/

        For Codies to say they focus ont he racing and not the vehicle sim is a bit lame really, because there is no reason both cannot be a focus. if I want to race in a realistic environment, and spend hours working on setup, etc, etc then i should be able to. But if someone wants a less intense simulation experience then give them a bunch of options to tone things down.

        I see no reason why a good sim cannot do both.

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