As well as the issue of accurate skill matching, which we mused on earlier, another massive challenge to anyone looking to produce a truly top-notch online racing game is the ‘controller conundrum’.
You see, somewhere along the line we’ve somehow convinced ourselves (possibly with a little help from the console platforms) that it’s OK to use joypads for racing games—and the vast majority of users continue to do just that.
Well we’re here to tell you it’s not OK!
Look at it this way: if someone were to design the first racing game today, do we really think anyone would agree that a digital joypad—one that only allows you to set throttle and brakes to two positions: on and off—would be a fitting controller? After all, if real cars had similar ‘all-or-nothing’ controls, we’d all be using public transport by now!
Of course there is a notable alternative to joypads. But steering-wheel-and-pedal-sets are not only complicated to set up, they take up a lot of space and, above all, they’re downright expensive! A good set is $200+ (G27…yes please!), $300+ if you want something really nice (Fanatec GT3RS…yes, yes, yes!) or $500+ if you’re looking for the best of the best (Thrustmaster T500…oohhhh!).
So that left us asking a fundamental question: how can we ensure Simraceway players who don’t see wheel-and-pedal-sets as a viable alternative to joypads get the most out of the game? It felt like there should be an option somewhere in the chasm between $30 pads with no serious control and all-singing,-all-dancing wheels that retail for over ten times that price.
The answer was to join up with leading gaming peripherals maker SteelSeries and create a whole new kind of steering wheel—one that has the control fidelity of a high-end wheel but comes in a more convenient package in terms of size, portability, and price.
SteelSeries are a company with an incredible range of competitive gaming products, including pro FPS gamer keyboards, custom-made World of Warcraft mice, and their now-legendary headsets, so we find it both humbling and flattering that they saw our vision for the online racing space and wanted to partner up to create a new form of racing controller.
It’s not every day that you get to make your own video game and it’s definitely not every day that you get to create a steering wheel to interface with it. “Awesomely exciting” is the only way for us to describe this partnership.
We look forward to letting you know a little more about this project and partnership as we move forward in the coming months.