With what may seem on the surface to be a radical departure from previous titles, SimBin’s RaceRoom Racing Experience is set to re-define the genre. Rather than go ‘head to head’ with titles such as iRacing or SimRaceWay, SimBin’s RaceRoom Racing Experience seeks to be a flexible racing game that can satisfy the needs and wants of end users whether they be the desires of a typical weekend sim racer or the more demanding needs of the high level professional racing team.
RAVSim posed a few questions to Diego Sartori at SimBin about their newest title in an attempt to get a closer look behind the scenes of what promises to be, at the very least, a not too subtle departure from existing racing sim content and delivery systems.
What sets RaceRoom apart from the competition; there are other F2P titles, and much of the content appears elsewhere; why would people choose R3E over other titles?
Diego Sartori: First and foremost I would like to think that our way of doing racing games differs from how the competition does their games. The differences are subtle and they shape the gaming experience into that of a SimBin title.
The RaceRoom franchise as a whole can and will offer a far broader set of experiences compared to the competition. We are working with, the manufacturers, the teams and the organizations towards a goal of bringing a racing experience directly to their audiences, wherever they are.
We provide a racing experience that can be enjoyed at home but we also bring that very same racing experience out to car shows and racing events so the fans of racing and racing teams or manufacturers can try to drive the cars present at the given event.
There are two sides to RaceRoom Racing Experience, one is the gaming experience the player has when playing the game, and the other is how the game and the portal can work as a marketing/promotion tool for our partners and members of the real life racing and automotive scene.
We are still in open beta and there are still a lot of game and portal features to come that will make the game feel more like a game and at the same time add some of the much needed social aspects to the portal.
Has R3E been shaped by the success of other F2P titles, or forced down that route by the conditions of the market?
Diego Sartori: RaceRoom Racing Experience is SimBin’s take on the F2P genre.We refer to it as Free2Race and we took that route due to the synergies that we have and want to have across the many different RaceRoom branded products/experiences we have on offer.
We needed creative freedom and the ability to act and react to changing demands from our partners and of course our core audience. F2P on PC gives us the needed creative freedom and it allows us to quickly create special versions of the game for our partners and the users attending the partner’s shows and/or events.
Do you feel R3E is moving the simracing genre forward? If so, what new technology or features does it bring to the party?
Diego Sartori: I don’t think it is fair to suggest that RaceRoom Racing Experience is driving the simulation genre forward, or, for that matter, the simracing scene. The priority goal of the game and the portal is to appeal to fans of real racing and racing games.
We have not forgotten about the more hardcore racing game fans, or for that matter the simracers, their time will come too and there will be modes, features and elements within RaceRoom Racing Experience that will cater to this part of our audience too.
We are a small, privately owned company and our internal bandwidth limits the number and size of tasks that we can take on at any given time and we have to prioritize the general parts of the game and the portal first and then spread our attention to the niche parts of the RaceRoom Racing Experience thereafter.
Who is R3E targeted at? Is it a watered down sim aiming to be accessible for all gamers, or an unabashed no compromise simulation for experienced simracers?
Diego Sartori: RaceRoom Racing Experience is a racing game, period.
Not a simulation, not an arcade game, not a simracing game purely for simracers, it is a racing game for fans of real racing and racing games in general.
What we try to do is imitate real racing rather than simulate real racing. There are some elements that we can imitate well and there are some that we simply cannot imitate at all, for example, the fear of getting hurt in a crash, fear of losing your job as a driver or fear of bankrupting the team by destroying their car, these are emotions that we cannot evoke nor imitate, but tire wear, tire heating, optimizing the performance of a car relative to track – you will be driving as well as making the car match your driving style, this we can and do imitate.
Anyone that has heard the game in action can testify to the game doing a great job of imitating the sound scheme of the race cars featured by the game and from a visual standpoint I would like to think that we are doing a pretty good job too, so all in all I think it is fair to say that by driving the cars in RaceRoom Racing Experience will get you pretty close to what it would be like to sit behind the wheel of a race car in real life.
We try to find a balance where we imitate the most important aspects of racing and the racing scene while still keeping it a racing game.
What are the biggest advances, technology wise, over the previous, ISI powered Simbin titles?
Diego Sartori: Our new renderer has clearly improved the visuals of our game and that shows in screenshot comparisons between RaceRoom Racing Experience and our earlier titles and I think that is where players familiar with our earlier titles will notice the biggest differences and improvements.
There is also the menu system that marks a change in how we present our games and the content within it. The new menu system and the portal aspects of interacting with the game is a new a fresh approach we think.
Basically all parts of the game have been improved or optimized. One of the more noticeable updates to the game apart from the rendering engine and the menu system is the new sound engine that allows us to create super immersive sound schemes for the cars.
We have made changes to the physics and to how the game handles controller input, driving cameras, and will soon be adding some small updates and additional options to that part of these parts of the game.
Changes have also been made to the core of the game engine to improve performance on low and mid end PC’s, as well as making sure the game takes better advantage of multi core CPU’s.
The improvements to the sound engine are also carried into replays.Watching replays now looks and sounds comparable to the experience you had while actually driving the car.
There are more brand new features for replays that are yet to be announced but I think I can safely say that these will add a new layer to the social aspects of the game and it is something we really look forward to share with our audience.
As mentioned earlier we are still in open beta and some systems and features are still undergoing tweaks and refinements and these will be implemented incrementally as we get them to the state we feel they should be in.
Does R3E mark a new design direction for Simbin as a whole, or just a new direction for this title in isolation? If not, can we expect future titles in the “classic” mould with AI and single player championship focus?
Diego Sartori: I cannot explain in detail with regards to why single race, championship and multiplayer are not there for our to audience to enjoy already, but I can say that it was never the intention to leave these components out of the RaceRoom Racing Experience, we are working hard to complete these parts of the game so that we can share them with you all.
I think that was the short answer to your question, but just to be clear, RaceRoom Racing Experience will be a complete game with all the game modes and features one has come to expect from a SimBin title.
In addition to the game becoming a “complete” game we are also working hard to add more elements to the portal, these focused on the social aspects such as user to user interaction as well as adding support for further in-portal content sharing.
Which titles in the marketplace do you see R3E competing with directly?
Diego Sartori: As with most SimBin titles RaceRoom Racing Experience does not really compare with other racing games as such and therefore it also does compete directly with anything else out there. When that is said it is clear to anyone that we are competing on several fronts still.
First and foremost we are competing with anything else that has cars and tracks in it, our audience share a passion for racing and/or cars so naturally anything with a car in it is competition. In addition, we have to respect that with today’s economy the purchasing power or willingness is not the same as it was some years back and therefore a big release within any genre can be seen as competition.
To be perfectly honest I would much rather say that we look for inspiration, not competition, when we look at what our colleagues have released within the racing game genre and at the same time we hope that that there are elements or parts of our game that might inspire new ideas for their upcoming projects.
The worst thing that could happen to our relatively small genre is that we stagnate and resist innovation, as a genre we have to impress and appeal to a broad market if we want to have any hope of growing because with growth come opportunities for us and our colleagues to deliver diversity and the possibility to bring out titles that features less known racing series or less known racing disciplines, something I am sure any racing game fan would want.
What advances have been worked on in the new physics engine? Is it a development of the old engine, or all-new from the ground up? What separates the new engine from past titles?
Diego Sartori: It is development of the existing physics engine.
There are new elements to physics, but mostly this is about us using the engine slightly differently.
We have changed the way the tires are modeled so that we allow for more control of the car on the limit of grip. We have also changed the logic to tire wear and heating so that these work more intuitively as well as correcting a few buggy aspects of tire heating and tire wear.
We have made changes to the mechanical damage so that gear boxes and engines can suffer from abuse as well as damage, and we are currently working on some elements to engine, gearbox and differential code in order to further improve the audio aspects of the game.
We have also changed the turbo/compressor logic so that we have proper code support for when the turbo is spooling up rather than faking it.
We have also worked on the four wheel drive support, something we have to admit we did not do a good job of in earlier games. So now we have proper support for controlling the distribution of power between all four wheels as well as allowing the user to work with these settings as part of the car setup interface.
Can you give us some insight into how the tire model has been defined, does it utilise a traditional model, similar to past SimBin titles, or is there any new, groundbreaking technology in there to excite the tire buffs of this world?
Diego Sartori: Nothing new and groundbreaking, but a different approach to working with the tires. Since GTR we have been making improvements and\or changes to the code, but nothing as complex as a complete rewrite of the underlying code.
For RaceRoom Racing Experience we wanted responsive cars but we had to avoid them becoming nervous cars and that has been a challenge and there is still work being done to further improve on certain aspects of the tires, how well we do more or less dictates when and if these latest changes will make it into the game.
How tightly defined is the surface modelling of tracks in R3E? Without laser scanning how do you feel your tracks weigh up against the opposition’s efforts? Have there been any challenges when it comes to integrating the tire model into the track surface model?
Diego Sartori: I actually think our tracks can hold their own against the same tracks featured by other racing game studios, we have different approaches yes, we might have different priorities in terms of what parts of the track that has to be accurate but in general I think the standard of the tracks is extremely high, as is the level of accuracy.
Regardless of you laser scanning a track or you using traditional referencing work together with your CAD data you will always end up with a snapshot of the track on that day or during that weekend and it will only remain accurate until the next resurfacing or for that matter curb stone update or maintenance work. For small bumps and undulations in the track even a strong winter or heavy rains can cause changes, so I personally do not think that one method has a clear advantage over the other in terms of realism.
With regards to challenges I can mention that we have had some issues with the curbs and the new render in combination with the way we do tires, some of these issues are already solved but some still remains and these are being worked on and once we are done these changes will be added to the game.
What level of mechanical simulation is happening in the cars of R3E under the hood? Is brake temperature and wear modelled? Drivetrain and gearbox simulations? etc.
Diego Sartori: In earlier games we did feature brake temps, brake wear and of course brake fade and failure but this was very hard for the player to understand, let alone appreciate, so we stopped doing that some titles back and it has not been added to RaceRoom Racing Experience, yet.
Most other important aspects of the car elements are running within the physics engine, that includes the engine, weight of the engine, location of the engine, inertia of an engine as well as how the engine is aspirated.
Parts like the wheel hubs, the unsprung weight of the suspension, the actual suspension design and of course the properties of each design are handled by the physics engine.
The ISI engine is great for our type of racing game and because of that we rarely find a need to make drastic changes, for the most part we just find new and better ways of using this extremely powerful and comprehensive physics engine.
RAVSim would like to extend their thanks and gratitude to all of the hardworking folks at SimBin for taking the time to answer our questions.