This evening, after another extremely busy and exciting day at the virtual office, I had dinner, walked my dog, and finally sat down behind my desk. I put on some music to start writing the roadmap update for this month.
My mind started to wander. Four years ago this month I was in the middle of writing some code to extend the Steam integration of rFactor 2 when all of a sudden Gjon popped up on Skype to start a discussion that quickly transformed into an opportunity I simply had to take. Many interesting discussions followed as we worked towards founding a new company to continue the development of a racing simulation that I spent many hours driving, racing strangers that became close friends. One of the probably less important tasks on my checklist back then was to come up with a name for this new company. If you’ve ever gone through such a process, you probably know it’s not easy to find a name that is still available as a domain. We finally settled on the somewhat cryptic Studio 397, a hint at our desire to one day bring the iconic track of Le Mans to the simulation. For those of you not aware of the meaning of the number, it is the record number of laps driven during the 24 hour race.
Speeding along the virtual Mulsanne Straight, my mind wanders again as I think about the many stories that are attached to each of the tracks we’ve built over the years. Sunset bend, where we fielded a sister car with Robin Frijns and Dries van den Elzen, who wanted to experience first hand what it would be like to drive a 12 hour endurance race in a professional simulator. An old tool called Ring trainer for Grand Prix Legends introduced me to many unique spots of which Karussel is probably one of the best known. One weekend we drove a 24 hour race there only to learn at the finish that due to some technical issue we had to drive the whole race again the next weekend. Tarzan corner and its dunes where the place where I first met two people whom I now have the pleasure to work with. At the time they were both working on other projects, but our common love for simracing brought us together there. Over sixteen years ago, with some friends we founded Simracing for Holland, taking the iconic livery from Jan Lammers’ Racing for Holland. We are still racing today and the many people that raced with us over the years are on our blocked livery as a tribute.
As you’ve by now no doubt figured out, this roadmap is a bit different from the ones we regularly bring you at the end of the month. So are the current times obviously, where we should all stay in touch with our friends and loved ones, and support them wherever that is needed. With the whole motorsport world sitting at home, it is great to see all this attention on simracing. It pleasantly messes with our plans, and we are all grateful about that. You’ve seen us in the All-Star battles, where many current drivers and legends from the past enjoy themselves racing each other on equal terms. I personally thoroughly enjoyed watching for example Jan Magnussen and Jenson Button racing each other hard and fairly. I was also impressed by the Formula E drivers getting together and showing their skills on the narrow streets of Hong Kong. But apart from these global events, we also did a race on a regional dutch channel, racing a fictional track through the streets of Maastricht, broadcast by a local TV station that did an awesome job to draw in a large and diverse audience on TV and internet. And judging from the talks we are having now, we will create many more great stories in the weeks to come.
Earlier this month, the news that Stefano Casillo left Kunos to start a new adventure surprised a lot of people. It’s a bold move, but I believe he is following his passion and developing new software that soon might surprise a brand new audience. Or maybe we will all see him rock at Pinkpop next year?
So what’s cooking at our Studio? As I mentioned, a lot of our plans have been shuffled and re-arranged. Our track team finished Portland, but it won’t be released until we’ve finished our extensive lighting pass and released a new build. In the mean time they are working on two brand new tracks, as well as a few updates to our existing ones. Our car team completed a brand new car that we currently can’t release as its release was planned to coincide with the real car, and that has been delayed. Here too we moved on to the next car, which unfortunately we can’t announce just yet, but it’s a unique opportunity for our Studio. Our developers have been testing our new overlay system, making tweaks to ensure it can be properly customized. We also fixed a few long standing issues with our package management system, which delayed the pending update of the new UI. Development on the lighting system is now in a phase where artists and developers are iterating over many of the improvements to create the proper balance for each. We are also fixing some smaller bugs and discussing physics improvements. Our esports team is already looking ahead at future seasons for our GT series, planning the next race for BMW as well as streamlining our broadcast setups.
The hard thing right now is to predict what will happen next. Extrapolating based on the last weeks we can only say that we probably don’t know. As a good friend said to me, we need to be prepared for pleasant surprises, and on that note I wish everybody a healthy future, stay safe and look out for each other!