I wrote some time back in detail on the variance in track conditions that can prevail in on-track sessions in rFactor 2 (here), but that piece only touched on what is probably the biggest new addition to ISI’s new sim, that is, the variance in track grip afforded by cars leaving rubber behind on track. Or, as it is now named “Realroad.”
Build 118 of the rFactor 2 beta inaugurated this name and provided new functionality to manipulate the technology. Pleasing features, but one has to wonder if this is an area where a lack of education led many to turn away from early beta builds.
You see, when things started out with this technology, every time you started a new session, or dived into a quick race, the track was green. As fresh as the driven snow (though slightly more grippy) and lacking in the usual visual cues that many a simracer had come to appreciate. Since the days of Papyrus’ Indycar Racing (which was 1993 for those of you not quite as old and grey as me) we’ve been treated to hints painted on our race tracks in the form of skidmarks. Not dynamic, in those days, but usually enough to tell you that it was about time you stepped off the loud pedal and jumped on the brake pedal before you end up completely crashed and dead.
These cues were very useful. I was running IndyCar Racing at a resolution of 640 by 480, this made corner entries, braking zones, anything at all, largely impossible to make out. Without those black marks it wasn’t that easy to even know there was a corner coming along, not until you’d done seven hundred and nineteen laps and disregarded a term’s worth of homework, anyway.
However, these days racing sims are realised in resolutions higher than the eye can see, with more colours than a Mantis Shrimp can see; so a few missing skidmarks should not mean the end of the world.
What happens with RealRoad is that as one does lap, after lap, after-lap-after-“what happened to October?”-lap the rubber from your virtual tyres departs the carcass and drops itself onto the track. Every skidmark is left behind, and, slowly, but surely, those visual cues arrive based on your own driving. This process, naturally, is accelerated if there are more cars on track, and if there are twenty or so AI cars punting round, the track can be rubbered up within half an hour’s running.
This, pleasingly, is carried on to the next session, and the race. So a suite of Practice – Qualifying – Race will have an ever evolving track throughout. Great stuff, and very consistent with real life; we see it all the time in Formula One that the fastest times in qualifying are always right at the end of the session. Similarly, in NASCAR we hear of the teams working out setups to work best on the track towards the end of the race as reasons why their driver is languishing in the midfield in the early running.
rFactor 2 is still very much in development, and this technology is not perfect yet, but I do wonder how many people who downloaded the early releases spoke out about “no grip” or “slippery tracks” before they had given the track any chance to get any rubber down on it. The early builds, I would say, overdid it a bit. The “green” track was a little bit more like a green track at 5 degrees centigrade on a crisp January morning, scrabbling to get grip on a track that is used once a year. Getting heat into the tyres, as the rubber bedded into the track, felt glorious, and laptimes fell to the tune of four or more seconds.
More recent builds seem to have calmed this down, both in terms of how much grip goes down, and how quickly, but also in its visual representation. There seems to be a gentle change in “green” grip, and less of a huge swing in laptime on a rubbered track. Another new feature is the ability to save the “state” of the track for future use. So you need never have to start out on a slippery, green track again.
What we have here is a truly dynamic simulator. As mentioned in my other article, the track grip levels can vary considerably based on track temperature. In future releases, this can be due to the shadows being cast on track at the given time of day. The vehicle’s engine performance can differ based on the air temperature and humidity levels, and the vehicle’s behaviour will vary based on wind direction and power. So, as well as all this, Realroad gives us another variable and it is a constantly evolving one.
What this means, for the budding simracer, is that setup has to be addressed on nearly every run. Not only might you need to monitor brake and engine temperatures, adjust ducts or radiator openings, but also constantly play with tyre pressures and cambers to find the optimum tyre performance envelope. All of this, at the same time as all the usual adjustments to wings, gear ratios, springs, dampers, roll-bars and whatever else, to find a feeling that suits your driving style.
As a result, one can find oneself in the situation that many a real world club racer finds themselves in over a race weekend, that of “chasing the track.” Sure, sometimes things will be more settled, as is often the case in many online rFactor 2 servers right now, sessions might be at the same time of day, temperature and weather, which can help you find a baseline, then you can fine-tune as the rubber builds up. But all too often, in the real world, you find yourself running practice sessions on a cool morning, only to race in late afternoon a day later. Thus, half of every session could be taken up with short runs where you tickle your pressures and cambers for the given conditions, nudging brake balance gently backwards as the extra grip being found by the rubber on track aids the braking performance at the rear. This doesn’t leave much time to be playing with dampers.
Of course, in simracing we have oodles of track time, more than could ever be imagined by a club racer. Historically, setups become an exercise in working to an optimum point, then saving it, and using it next time you race at the given circuit. In simracing it seems setups get contentious, partly on this basis. Those with less free time decry the setup time that their more time blessed peers can indulge in, and many simracers would say that a good setup makes for what can be the only reason that any other driver could exceed their incredible on-track skills.
The truth in either statement is dubious; many can play with setups for hours on end and not necessarily find any more laptime than they would have done if they had not made any changes. At the same time, a bad driver cannot achieve miracles with setup alone. Nonetheless, we have websites dedicated to setup databases, providing those that choose to avoid this deep and rich aspect of our hobby with a place to save on the “work.”
rFactor 2 is forcing players to re-think this design. Gone are the days of a “perfect” track that never changes, where the sun always shines and ample grip abounds across the whole track surface. Now we have a new challenge, and one that grants us much more realism. This results in an approach that means that those with the time may not get such an advantage, as a baseline can be established in lone-practice sessions that can cover wing, gear and basic suspension settings, but any serious fine tuning of the setup could be a hiding to nothing if you are not certain of the approaching race conditions. As well as this, running alone will not give you the grip on track that you will see in more populated sessions.
To an extent this levels the playing field. It means that, provided not every race is run on the default settings, every driver has to chase the track through the practice sessions, and as long as those sessions are not too long, no-one should arrive on the grid for the race feeling like they have got everything perfect.
Regardless of your feelings about car setups in simracing, they are a feature that has been around for over twenty years, since the very birth of the genre. The products we race in are simulators, and as such are there to replicate the feeling of the real-world vehicle. Many racing simulators have strived to accurately portray what can, or cannot, be adjusted on the fly in the racing vehicles they represent, and in my mind this should be celebrated. But many current simulators do not bring the whole package, they bring a superb simulation of the physics of the vehicle, but no simulation of the environment that the vehicle functions within.
Vehicle simulators are about learning; learning the vehicle being simulated. No flight simmer would jump into a Concorde and expect success without some serious reading and experience, though they may try a Piper Cub with less difficulty and learn their art. The complexity we see in setup between a high-end single-seater and a Renault Clio is reflected in this. Learning the car, and how to make it work best for you, is part of the art of being a good race driver. Maybe Michael Schumacher hasn’t had his hands dirty for a while, but you can rest assured he knows what every part of his Mercedes does when he takes it on track, and he knows how to make it work for him.
At the same time part of the race driver’s art is knowing how to understand a track as it evolves through a race weekend. It’s about time us simracers got the chance to learn a little more.
As interesting and realistic as this sounds, I don’t know if it would be a good thing for sim racing, really. If you race in a weekly league, you might already barely have enough time to learn the track and set up your car for the track, let alone the conditions of the day as well. If I was running a league using this feature, I would “publish” the track conditions in advance, using a saved track, so that everyone knows what they’re in for on the day, and I’d probably rarely start with a green track, but hold events on an already rubbered track.
Why? You could give the drivers more of a surprise to deal with. It’s the same for everyone.
Mostly the time factor. Some of the guys in my league barely have time to turn a lap on the track before race night, let alone have to get comfortable with a dramatically changing track on the day as well. One thing’s for sure though – I wouldn’t make any final judgement until I actually tried it!
Not knowing the track is the same as it being green. If everyone has the same circumstances then it makes no difference really. It’s definitely worth a try.
A small group and I get together occasionally for rF2 sessions. Recently we were running the F2 at Sebring (VLM). We ran practice for an hour and then ten minutes qually. The track was quite gripped as we did a fair few laps. Then we raced. Blah, it was fun, then the server reset and went back to a green track, we skipped right to the start of the next race and we all set off on a green track. What followed was some seriously intense racing. Braking points we’d got quite used to were gone, and we had to reset, but we were all wheel to wheel, it was real “brown trouser” stuff into corners, and really rather fun. It really favoured the more “natural” driver too, over the “proceduralist”. Give it a try.
You are always going to be competing against people who have more time to practice the sim than you do. Changeable track conditions takes away a lot of the benefit of that time, ability to control the car and react to what it does on the track will pay dividends. However, do be aware that this ability is best got through practice … whatever happens, it adds another layer to your required skill set.
If you want your league to give a chance to those who live in the real world, turn on the weather.
I’m one of these drivers who aren’t happy with the novadays sims. Physics sometimes is better, sometimes worse but still the most important thing, in my opinion, isn’t present. Very, very good (still never as real as in reality) tire model. I hope the Realroad feature will be the next step forward in terms of reality. From one side magiority of drivers don’t race in leagues, etc. and they don’t have to (or don’t want to) use all the adding realism features, but companies should think also about this very little group of people who really need realism in the game.
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For me ‘Real Road’ is one of the most important new features in simracing, people rave on about the importance of tire models (and granted it is important), but the realism of the surface that the said tire model interacts with has to be of equal importance! rF2 gets regularly slammed for its graphical finish, but every time I drive rF2 I soon forget that and begin to revel in the FFB and features like real road! I hope they continue in this direction with the sim and hope for more updates soon…
Unfortunately with the current accelerated Realroad most of the driving is done under “ideal” circumstances anyway. Just get a bunch of guys or AI drivers on the track and within half an hour it’s completely rubbered in and there are no changes for the rest of the “weekend”. I can’t see ISI dialling this down so much that the conditions still change in a long race after, say, 90 minutes of practice and 30 minutes of qualifying with 30 cars going round and round (to suit us more hardcore racers) and still feel “fun” for the casual guys in a 15 min practice and 10 lap race. Saving the track state is a step to the right direction, but I still have a bad feeling about this.
A bad feeling? Quite extreme reaction there. 🙂 Well the changes in the latest build mean it is not as quick to rubber up as before. But I suppose it could be even longer. The thing about being able to save the state is, that you can work to a point of a fairly natural groove, not too much, and save it back. With the exception of tracks that are only used once a year, some groove is always there.
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Finally someone picks up on RealRoad! It’s such a big feature and changes the whole sim racing approach, yet it barely got reported. As far as the actual gameplay of sims is concerned, this is even bigger than whatever new tire models someone rolls out or how shiny the latest 3d models are (and I say that as a modeller). It changes everything. Fine-tuning, yes. Rubbering in your starting position, pit box, or the high line on ovals. It’s makes sim racing a whole different affair than what it used to be (i.e. attacking a static environment) and introduces so many dynamics.
The beauty of it is that those dynamics actually put more emphasis on driving skills like your ability to read a track, to make a line work with what you got, to build a setup that has a large enough window of operation that it can deal with different states of the environment.
Excellent article, thank you!
Real road has massive potential unfortunately the physics in RF2 are just not there yet for it to really come into play.
sure the track goes from green to having rubber and more grip , but it barely affects racing once a basic level of rubber is down and is totally negligible compared to things like cold tires at race start.
In terms of how real road affects Car set-ups again it is totally negligible at this point in time ( granted isi are still working on RF2 ) most people running servers tend to run with the same fixed settings and in the end people with lots of time will just make more set-ups for each weather condition.
Dynamic weather if implemented properly with real road in league racing could be awesome but again until basic car physics have real depth on the limmit then its just going to draw more attention to issues with the current physics.
Mind you Real road already makes qualifying more exacting as the track goes from green to having rubber with people progressively laying down faster lap times but once the track is past that base level of rubber any depth is does provide more often than not is hidden by other aspects of how the cars are simulated.
In the end the core issue For most simulators including RF2 is the pore simulation of how cars handle on the limit and until that is resolved things like real road are largely pointless.
I think something like real road would be the most benefit for games like NKP or Game stock car which already have cars that drive in a more realistic way when on the limmit.
Real road + solid cars can only be a good thing.
I’m intrigued to know if you have found the same (with regards to RealRoad) in the latest rF2 build. but, indeed, as you say, as rF2 is still in beta I’d argue it makes a bit more sense to be positive about it than decry it as unnecessary. Anything that adds to a simulation by actually representing the environment being simulated is a worthwhile addition in my book.
GSC, (based on rF1 technology), nKPro, as with all the other sims out there, all have their flaws in physics. None are perfect, but RealRoad, or an equivalent, would add hugely to all of them. Fundamentally not because it changes the way the car behaves, but rather because it adds depth to the racing environment. The very idea that so many sims exist to simulate a car in a static world is absurd, the world is not static, and never has been.
Setups wise, if servers choose to run fixed settings that is up to them. It’s dismissing a huge part of racing vehicle simulation to forego allowing drivers to work on their setups. Given the amount of variables involved, a truly dynamic sim, that perhaps modelled real world weather (as is commonplace in other vehicle simulation) provides a chance for every driver, even those with lots of time, to be thrown a curveball. Levelling the playing field a little, if not completely. There will always be people with more time, there will always be people with more understanding (of setups), and fundamentally, there will always be people that are just very good at it. Setups are a divisive topic, but they have always been part of motorsports simulations and they always should be, the depth of learning that can be gained from understanding setup is part of what simracing is; it’s not just about racing. I can’t see anyone could have the time (or inclination) to make a setup for “each weather condition” when there are potentially hundreds of different combinations of conditions to try.
However, an issue I have noted is of league admins publishing the track conditions ahead of an event, which gives everyone the chance to build their setup around those conditions, which defeats the point. They should keep conditions secret till race day so that those with more time can only work to try to make a setup that will work well in as many differing conditions as possible. This would be more suited to real life. The average club racer does not change setup dramatically from track to track, and I wouldn’t say many simracers really need to either.
Anyway, thanks for the comment, had a bit of a lunchtime rant there.
” a truly dynamic sim, that perhaps modelled real world weather (as is commonplace in other vehicle simulation) provides a chance for every driver, even those with lots of time, to be thrown a curveball. Levelling the playing field a little, if not completely. ”
Well this is the thing the crux is non of the simulators are dynamic enough and as you said even NKP
and GSC have fundamental issues with them evan though aspects of them are way ahead of other simulators.
My main point is that although things like “Real Road” have massive potential and its something I would love to be in all simulators. Until simulators have got the core aspects of tire model and car physics working to a higher standard its like asking someone to swim the channel in a storm before learning how to stay afloat in the kiddie pool.
A good practical example is how wet weather has existed in a couple of simulators and can be amazing especially when it rains mid race and how that effects everything , but in reality due to limitations of tire models pit lane bugs , graphical glitches and pore implementation of how users make pit stop strategy changes on the fly , everyone tends to avoid wet races.
Real road like wet weather can cause some of those problems to arise and unless all the core aspects of the simulation are developed to a high standard then it can add more problems rather than more enjoyment or realism.
I drew attention to NKP and game stock car as those are the only games that allow a reasonable amount of controllable slip whilst on the power and so allow for the driver to actively test a track without to much risk of losing the car totally.
When things like real road or rain work in a game its superb and makes racing more about thinking on the spot rather than on rails memorisation which plagues most of the current simulators.
Real road type systems are certainly the future but unless RF2 is massively improved in its core physics UI and general execution I don’t think its ready for it any time soon.
That is not to undermine the sheer complexity and awesomeness that is found in many of the modern simulators !
In regards to my comments on RF2 that’s based on the most recent builds as of November.
Yes, I see your point. But a lot of this seems to be more your personal feeling in these sims rather than technical analysis. GSC is based on rFactor 1, it is essentially a good mod for rF1, and it is not the only good rF1 based game/mod that provides a usable tyre model the GP79 mod, for one, and Niel’s many cars, lest we forget the recently released P&G mod for GTR2 (Also an rF1 engine game).
The cars in nKPro (and FVA) vary a lot when it comes to “controllable slip” because each car has a different set of tyres on it. The FTarget can be as unforgiving as anything, as the real world F3 car is, comparatively the Vintage Replica can be driven at all manner of angles most of the time.
I don’t think rF2 significantly lacks in this area, and you can see from Pablo here http://goo.gl/jcwIr that controllable slip is perfectly possible with the current rF2 tyre model. The tyre models in rF2, iRacing, pCARS, nKPro all have their foibles. And yes, I am the first and last supporter of nKPro all down the line. But to suggest that any of these sims are not modelling vehicle dynamics to a high standard I think is harsh. They can all improve, but none of them are so bad that I cannot stay on track, and compared to the sims we were running 10-15 years ago, what we have right now is a very good set of simracing options.
Obviously, you are entitled to your opinion, so we’re not at loggerheads here. I just think your wording maybe seems a bit harsh. As I discussed in this piece: http://goo.gl/8oKwC Virtually every real tyre is different, offering different drop-off, lateral load tolerance, etc, etc. This was also discussed in my discussion piece with Aris Vasilakos in AutoSimSport’s 2011 December issue, when discussing “FVA: Adrenaline Pack”. To say a tyre “feels right or wrong” is to ignore that one set of tyres can make a car feel very different to another.
Anyway, nice talking. 🙂
I should add fantastic post on the website in the first place , we need more in-depth contemplative well thought content like this in general keep up the good work !
Thanks. We’ll be keeping the content coming. 😀