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Project Sim Racer: Part 2 - Let's Go Racing!

by Erik Jacobs
 

When we left Project Sim Racer in Part 1, we had just finished constructing our cockpit and outfitting it with controls from Logitech. Now it is time to get to gaming! I mean driving! I mean driving in the games! OK, whatever!

In this segment we will evaluate two extremely popular simulators: iRacing and rFactor 2. These are fairly thorough/in-depth looks at these titles, but both of them offer so much content, customization, and options that I found it hard to narrow the focus! 

Note: The photos in this article are screenshots from the games captured running in windowed mode at 1280x1024, unless they are browser photos. Both titles would run at the full resolution of the Predator X34 (3440x1440). Do not mistake the quality of the screenshots directly for the quality of either title. Both simulators have stunnning graphics and tons of options to tune the graphical detail to your liking / system's capabilities. Click the photos for links to the full-er resolution versions.

 

First up: rFactor 2

rFactor 2 is the next release in the rFactor series, originally created by Image Space Incorporated (ISI). Late in 2016, ISI formed a strategic partnership with Luminis to accelerate the development of the simulator. This partnership involved the creation of a new corporate entity, Studio 397.

Studio 397 has been very forthcoming with information about the future of rFactor 2. While many people are familiar with the traditional software grind of having to buy a new title every few years, rFactor 2 has something slightly different going on in relation to its recent transition to using Steam as the distribution platform.

Studio 397 has embarked on an ambitious development plan which they are very public about on their news page. While many companies would consider the upgrade of the core graphics runtime to be part of a new release with a new purchase required, Studio 397’s use of Steam and their new business model means that this will simply show up one day as a regular update when users log into their Steam client. Major and minor updates are simply automatically pulled down by Steam and are available for use once ready.

Another benefit to the use of Steam as a distribution platform is that Studio 397 can make it easier to release additional vehicles, tracks, and enhancements to the game. These are not being offered as pay-for DLC, but are actually delivered through a Steam feature called the Steam Workshop. When Studio 397 releases a new track, like they just did with NOLA Motorsports Park, or new vehicles, like the USF2000, Nissan GT500, and even the Brabham BT44B, it simply appears in the Workshop, and, with the click of a button, can be added to the game.

As a fan of open source and open architectures, rFactor 2 continues where rFactor left off, providing a rich system for modifications and for user-developed contributions to the game. If you have the skills and want to tackle 3D modeling and programming, you can make your own cars, tracks, or other modifications to the game. Then, you can upload them to the Steam Workshop for everyone to consume.

Because of the openness of the simulator, there are quite a lot of forums with sections dedicated to rFactor 2. These also serve as interesting places to find cars, tracks and plugins. Studio-397 also operates their own forum where many contributors post their things.

Examples of “user-contributed” content include:

  • Road America, Barber Motorsports Park (tracks)
  • BMW M6 GT3, V8 Supercars (cars)
  • Track Map Overlay, Customizable Spotter, Lap Delta (plugins that affect the in-game experience).

So, what does it look like? How does it work? Let’s get into it.

 

The title screen is unassuming, but everything starts here.

When the simulator is first fired up in single player mode, you find yourself here at the title screen. Like many driving simulators, from here you can select your track, the track configuration, the vehicle, and some details about the vehicle. You can also choose specific race series, which will then restrict your selection of tracks and vehicles. We’ll get into series later, as it relates to multiplayer.

First, make a vehicle selection.

 

That is a lot of Clio Cup choices.

Depending on the vehicle, various liveries and color selections are offered. And, depending on how the vehicle was created, you can sometimes tweak your selection in the details page.

 

If you have the wherewithal, you can even further customize these to your liking by developing your own skin.

Next, choose a track!

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Comments
Hap
Haplink
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 4:58 PM
You need triple monitors to get the most out of any decent sim. You will be able to see cars beside you way better. Both of these sims are wreckfests more often than not, though most sim racing outside of leagues is that way. You can go from Rookie to an A licence in iRacing in 4-5 weeks easily, you might not like TTs but that's the fastest way to advance. The goal in TT is not to break lap records, it's to be consistent and have zero incidents. Once you're out of D you're buying content if you want to advance, there's no free lunch after that. Sim racing is way more difficult than real racing because you have no body motion sense at all, and that is the "seat of the pants" feel that is so important in real racing. The really fast guys (aliens) don't race a sim like real racing, they do it very differently. Still a lot of fun and wrecking a car is really cheap!
thoraxe
thoraxelink
Wednesday, March 29, 2017 11:49 PM
Triple monitors are coming in a future installment for sure. We are just trying to figure out how we want to do it. I definitely did not prefer the TTs to actual races, and I'm OK with it taking a little longer to advance. I really wanted to do the iRacing Grand Touring Cup this season but unfortunately my schedule meant I was going to miss several of the first weeks of racing. I'll probably still do a few races anyway.

I have not personally struggled as much with the lack of body motion, but there are now simulators that also include linear actuators to move the whole rig. We are hoping to review one in the near future but we are still working with the vendor to try and lock things down.
M.Conte
M.Contelink
Thursday, March 30, 2017 1:41 PM
I'd really suggest an Oculus Rift now over triple monitors. Especially now that they've dropped under $500 retail!
Crousti
Croustilink
Friday, March 31, 2017 6:17 AM
I'd still suggest a 1080p VP or a vive, the rift has some issues since it does not have a positioning system. At first you'd think it would not have any effect, but once you need to look slightly sideway and up so it shows "right in front of you", you will reconsider.

I agree on one thing though, 3 screens is a thing of the past.
thoraxe
thoraxelink
Saturday, April 01, 2017 4:29 AM
I had been considering VR and will still try to test it, but there is a key problem with VR:

It doesn't know what your eyes are looking at, only your head.

Think about driving your real car. If you want to look at your mirror, do you turn your head, or simply look with your eyes? When using VR for sim racing you would need to turn your head to see anything past your peripheral vision. I do not know what the FOV is on a VR setup, but I would assume this might feel a bit awkward in comparison to a 3-monitor setup.

If I'm lucky, I'll get to try both.
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