November 29, 2011
We’re thrilled to announce that today sees the launch of the Simraceway public beta. As with any beta, it’s important to emphasize that we’re not rolling out a shiny, finished game at this point. Instead, we’re asking for your help as we chart a new and exciting course for the racing game genre.
We’ve set a high bar for ourselves and we know it won’t be easy. If it was, someone else would have done it by now! However in the four years we’ve spent considering what it will take to shake up the racing game, uniting the entire racing audience—from players of titles like Forza and Gran Turismo to hard-core sim racers to real-world professional drivers—with a single title, we have reached one simple conclusion: software is only part of the equation. An holistic approach, which looks at every aspect of the experience, is required.
Here’s a brief summary of the traditional racing game issues and the ways in which we are intending to tackle them.
Racing Game Problems
You see, while the core gameplay is obviously a vital element of any game, we believe developers have for too long failed to address other important issues that can make or break the entire experience. In some cases, they’ve been hamstrung by circumstances beyond their control such as platform limitations (graphics, disc space) and finite production cycles that prevent them from being able to constantly update their content and features to keep up with the real world. However it’s also fair to say that many other problems have simply been overlooked and ignored.
There’s the provision of an affordable and easy-to-use racing-specific controller, for a start. One that solves the “interface problem” that has plagued the genre since its inception. As things stand, players are basically faced with two choices: to either pay out $300+ for a decent wheel-and-pedal set which is difficult to set up, store and transport, or make do with using a joypad that is patently not fit for purpose when playing a driving game.
The net result is that the vast majority of players end up maneuvering highly-complex pieces of virtual machinery around the track using binary controls. This is obviously a less-than-ideal situation which, we believe, not only robs millions of drivers of one of the core experiences of the genre, but also makes realistic driving impossible. After all, how many of us would feel confident driving a real car with “all-or-nothing” controls for braking and acceleration?
Then there’s the question of creating a skill matching system that actually does what its name suggests: accurately matches player skills. Since the dawn of multiplayer racing, players have been forced to endure the demoralizing and all-too-frequent mismatches brought about by poor-quality matchmaking software that dumps drivers of widely varying abilities onto the same starting grid.
It goes without saying that nobody enjoys being humiliated on the track, and if we’re honest, we’d all have to admit that winning isn’t much more fun when rivals are mere dots in a rearview mirror. It’s so obvious that real-world racing is at its most exciting when cars are vying for position and we realized quickly that if we wanted to keep players of all abilities coming back to our tracks time and again, we’d need to recreate this excitement online with every competitor constantly battling for every inch of track. Some games try to solve this using AI competitors but we just don’t think that brings the same feeling of exhilaration and fulfillment, so solving this issue was another of our priorities.
That brings me on to the elements of Simraceway that we have already announced. For those of you who haven’t been following our progress, allow me to quickly describe each one of these features and provide an idea of how they fit together to solve the problems I’ve mentioned above.
Being an online PC title, Simraceway is not only able to sidestep the platform- and production cycle-related restrictions I mentioned above, it can also utilize this flexibility to deploy new features and content in real-time, allowing it to become the living, breathing, virtual reflection of the real world of motor racing that we believe is currently missing from the genre.
To ensure the game is always well positioned to make the most of this agility, we’ve hired a team of professional drivers to work on our driving physics and invested in our very own permanent real-world racing facility, the Simraceway Performance Driving Center.
This powerful combination of world-class racing experience—which includes five IndyCar Series titles, four Indianapolis 500 victories, and two Le Mans wins—and a ready-made test environment (if there’s another racing game whose physics staff are on the track over 180 days a year with access to more than 70 vehicles ranging from Audi R8s and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Xs to Formula 3 cars, I don’t know of it!) provides us with a continuous R&D feedback loop which we can use to constantly improve the physics models of each of our cars and ensure that Simraceway is able to stay in tune with the real world of motor racing and auto culture.
Further exploiting its position as a constantly-evolving racing platform, Simraceway will also be able to offer an ever-expanding range of licensed content, including laser-scanned tracks and virtual recreations of the latest big-brand road and race cars. What’s more, each car will be available for players to purchase and download using a transparent pricing mechanism that reflects its real-world value (essentially, its USD market price divided by 100,000).
After the game’s launch, our virtual production lines will produce a steady stream of fresh content for our players to download from a collection that currently includes over 60 real-world tracks and more than 600 current and historic cars. As we agree even more licenses and build up an unparalleled simulation library of motorsport history, our aim is for Simraceway to evolve into the ultimate “iTunes for racing”, offering every model of car that has ever graced a real-world track.
In order to solve the “interface problem” I mentioned above, we’ve also co-developed our own high-performance, low-cost racing controller with the help of respected peripherals maker SteelSeries. We believe it will finally bring total control within reach of all players and open up a whole new driving world to those who have become resigned to the limitations of joy pads. We’re really excited about what we’ve produced and we think you’re going to like it too when it launches shortly!
We’ve also taken it upon ourselves to solve the final problem I mentioned above, producing a revolutionary skill-matching system that fully understands driving skill. Capable of measuring it at the highest possible fidelity (the per-frame level), it can also accurately match each player to ensure competitive driving for every driver every time they hit the starting grid. We truly believe that our creation will transform online racing and, as a result, we should be seeing a lot more racing and a lot less chasing on Simraceway tracks!
Having covered each of the ways in which we are addressing the traditional racing game’s major flaws, it’s important to reiterate that not all the benefits of our innovative solutions will be felt immediately. However with a little more time—and with your help—we hope this beta launch will signal an important second leg of Simraceway’s journey.
Before I move on to what is and isn’t included in today’s build, I would first like to thank all the people who have helped us get the game to where it is today.
To our drivers, Dario Franchitti, the late, great, and much-missed Dan Wheldon and our other, as yet unannounced, pro racer: we thank you for sharing your unbelievable expertise, giving freely of your time and, above all, we thank you for believing in our project—we hope that we have repaid your generosity, at least in part, by adequately reflecting your immense knowledge and talents in our game.
To the manufacturers who have entrusted their automotive heritage to us: we trust that our recreations of your awesome creations will do them full justice. And to everyone else whose hard work has helped us close in on producing a racing game to be truly proud of, we thank you for your endeavor and patience.
So let’s get onto what you can expect from today’s Simraceway beta…
As time goes by, we will also be adding laser-scanned real-world tracks, full-size recreations of real-world racing series, the opportunity to purchase Simraceway’s new-and-exclusive racing controller, the chance to race for a range of exciting virtual and real-world prizes including track days at the Simraceway Performance Driving Center at Infineon Raceway and, of course, the world debut of our revolutionary skill quantification and matching service.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy playing Simraceway as much as we are enjoying developing it and we thank you in advance for helping us out in these early stages.
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