November has been another busy month here at Studio 397, with plenty of activity taking place back at base as we prepare for the run in to the festive season.
The nature of game development means we are constantly balancing our long and short term goals for rFactor 2, strengthening the core software and bringing new features whilst ensuring our content offer remains interesting and fresh for new and existing players alike.
Recapping quickly on November (can you believe it’s over already!?), we’ve certainly had a very enjoyable month checking out the reactions to our brand-new Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps DLC release – one of the tracks our team has been so keen to bring to rFactor 2 in all of its laserscanned glory, and it’s now finally available in for players to enjoy!
rFactor 2 | Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps Steam Store: Click HERE
To celebrate release of this new circuit, we’ve teamed up with the good people over at WTF1 to launch a very special selection of races on the new track. Headlining the action on December 4th will be our WTF1 3H Invitational endurance event for invited esports drivers, and a very nice selection of real world racing legends. Not content with keeping the action to the world of endurance racing, we’ve also lined up an exceptional collection of esport drivers from the community, who have taken the opportunity to qualify for not one, but two support races for the main action. Comprising two short and sharp 25-minute sprints in the Porsche Cup and Tatuus F3, we expect the action to be fast and frantic throughout – with plenty of overtaking and drama sure to unfold.
We are still firming up the full entry list for this special event, so stay tuned to the rFactor 2 social channels for some special guest announcements in the coming days.
rFactor 2 | WTF1 Spa 3 Hours and Support Races: More Details, Click HERE.
Still on the subject of the month of November, we also released a brand-new build update for rFactor 2. As part of that build release we were pleased to introduce our new VR flat desktop mirror mode for Virtual Reality users, something that has been requested by our community quite a lot recently, and also our latest lighting and graphic improvements have made their way into the simulation ahead of further refinements and upgrades scheduled for the coming weeks and months ahead.
As we are closing in on the festive holidays, for gamers this time of year is a wonderful one to snatch up a bargain or two in the many sales that occur during the Christmas period. If you missed out on some goodies during the Halloween Sale last month then worry not, the Steam Autumn Sale is here, and with it comes great discounts on some awesome rFactor 2 content!
Moving forward to the future, namely the festive month that is December, we continue to work hard behind the scenes to deliver some interesting improvements to the way competitions are handled within rFactor 2 – something we expect will really help players access the types of online racing and competitions we know you are keen to experience, but wrapped up in a much more sensible and user-friendly environment than is currently possible with the way the simulation is presently structured.
Last month we spoke briefly about our the competition system beta, and our hopes to get a first pass of the new system in the hands of players before the holiday season kicks into full swing, and then to build on this system in 2021. This very much remains our intention as we slide into December, and initial behind closed door testing seem to indicate the system is working much as anticipated. We’ve run a few races now internally with our Studio 397 staff and identified a few issues that have been quickly resolved, so before we put down our tools and exchange coding for mince pies and sherry we should be in a position to let you all finally get your hands on what will very much be a long and rewarding journey of expanding and improving the way players interact with rFactor 2 in an online environment.
COMPETITION SYSTEM BETA AND 2021 ROADMAP
The primary goal for the first beta is to get a system in place that is easy to use and allows everybody to jump into daily races that are part of competitions. We will support a format where each event in a competition has multiple slots, so you can choose the one(s) that suits your schedule. Standings will be based on a local rating system that compares drivers in all those time slots to figure out who was the best overall.
ROADMAP FOR 2021
So what’s in store after the holidays? Let’s start by saying we will probably revise this roadmap as we go, also based on user feedback as we deploy each update.
Ratings — are probably one of the most anticipated features, and one of the reasons for not having them active right from the start is that we want to test our algorithms on real-world data before publishing anything. Our current philosophy is to have a single rating system that encapsulates both your skill and safety record.
Protests and decisions — are also high on our roadmap list as we will no doubt have situations where an incident will need to be reported and evaluated by our stewards. Our goal here is definitely to let the in-game systems do a lot of the (easy) work here, monitoring when you cut the track or commit other offenses and directly handing out penalties. At the same time we are aware that not everything can be decided by robots.
More competition formats — are things we will probably gradually introduce but as a feature they certainly need to be mentioned on any roadmap. We intend to run our GT championship, various hotlap styles, some completely new formats as well as more “league style” competitions in the system.
Roles and team based driving — will be added to allow multiple drivers to share an “entry”, or car, in a competition. Roles can be defined so teams can also have a manager or race engineer. Other roles are stewards, race control, and cameramen to facilitate broadcasts.
Broadcast integration — is probably another feature that will be gradually introduced, but obviously when broadcasting sessions that belong to a competition, we want to make sure that overlays showing standings, points, participants and calendars accurately reflect the competition they’re a part of.
Offline Championships — will be added once the online part is running smoothly. We will leverage the features we use online to also facilitate offline championships, where you can race against our AI.
These features will take us well into 2021 and we will revise and update them as the year progresses.
As per our November Development Roadmap post, it should be noted that the transition build to our Competition System will also mandate the use of our new UI within rFactor 2. Following the upcoming December update, continued support of the legacy UI within the simulation will come to a close, and any future builds and updates to rFactor 2 will only occur on the new default branch of the sim. We appreciate that for many players this will bring with it a number of changes to how you are used to experiencing rFactor 2, however we remain confident that the latest iterations of the ‘new’ UI will provide players with a much more streamlined and enjoyable experience, with many benefits to using rFactor 2 both now and more importantly in the future as we continue to make strides towards ongoing development of the title.
Closer to release we will be publishing a much more detailed guide on the benefits (and known issues) with the new UI and Competition System, and we strongly advise players to migrate to the UI sooner rather than later in order to become comfortable with the layout and features presented, and to help us with feedback as we drive towards maximising the potential of the system.
So, why should you be excited about the new UI, both now and in the future? Apart from the fact the whole UI system is based on technology that allows us to add, change and improve features over time – something that wasn’t possible with the current integration, we’ve also worked hard to ensure that anything you’ve become used to with the current UI has at the very least been transported to the new design, as well as plenty of new features and improvements that will only be expanded upon in the weeks, months and years ahead.
To give you a brief idea about some of the advantages of the soon to be default ‘new UI’ (we are really going to have to find a new way of describing it soon…), we’ve put together a brief list of some of the benefits of the new system – however keep in mind we will be updating and improving this over time, so this list is far from final and any community feedback about useability and features are always welcomed…
- Trackmap now included on monitor screen with live position data of drivers.
- Camera control buttons added in replay screen and monitor.
- Added full screen replay ticker on top.
- Driver selection in replay screen and monitor.
- Statistics and best lap times/sectors.
- Track selection trackmap icons drawn from track data (no need to include icons).
- Car selection list fully transparent icons.
- Race Monitor screen.
- Graph showing race progression.
- Trackmap data on monitor page.
- Integrated Competition System.
- Tuning menu that contains material editor.
- Flat VR mirror screen.
- Triple screen widget in the UI.
- Dedicated front page news section and forum feed.
- Integrated matchmaker and favourites shortcut.
- More intuitive summary overview pages in both general settings and setup screen.
- All admin controls now available as UI controls, (avoids having to use command line if you don’t want to).
Turning our attention to the world of playable content, we’ve been around quite a while in the sim racing genre now, and in that time we are pleased to have amassed an impressive collection of licenced cars and tracks for rFactor 2 (with plenty more on the way), and as we continue to bring new things to the title, alongside our ongoing development of the graphics engine, it often means we need to revisit our older releases and bring them up to the same standards as our more recently developed cars and tracks.
Of late we’ve given the refresh treatment to both Silverstone and more recently the Nürburgring track and its various configurations, and now we are delighted to confirm the next two venues on the list to be brought in line with the current standards are the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Portland International Raceway.
Both of these American circuits are under review at the moment by the track team here at Studio 397, with Indianapolis set to be updated to the latest PBR graphics and materials, whilst Portland is due to be given a patch to fix and tweak some key areas within the circuit – both updates of which we plan to deploy within the month of December as we look to breathe new life into these great circuits within rFactor 2. As well as these improvements, we are also onto the final stages of testing for a further Nurburgring patch, bringing back those missing curbstones and a few other small tweaks and changes that should improve things nicely.
Moving on to cars, last month we showed you some WIP preview shots of the Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype we’ve been working on at the studio. In order to bring the very best possible level of detail and simulation to this potent prototype racer, we have been working very closely with the JDC-Miller MotorSports team over in the United States. Having access and support from one of the top endurance racing outfits in the IMSA WeatherTec Sportscar Championship, a unit that ran a two-car programme in the top American endurance racing series no less, has been an incredibly exciting experience for us at the studio, and no doubt has helped our development team to recreate one of our most detailed and realistic cars yet for rFactor 2. Currently the Cadillac DPi-V.R is undergoing that all important track testing on the virtual tarmac within the simulation, and I’m sure you will agree with us when we say the digital recreation looks just as stunning as the car in real life – we can’t wait to let you get your hands on this one in the not too distant future.
rFactor 2 | Endurance Bundle DLC Steam Store: Click HERE
Also on the subject of cars, next month will also see a brand-new vehicle and style of racing arrive in rFactor 2. Over the last few months we’ve been working closely with DTM champion Mike Rockenfeller to bring to life in rFactor 2 a unique concept – a high performance, tin top electric racing car that produces incredible amounts of power through its four-wheel-drive system, yet offers up an exciting and often rather spectacular driving experience. The car has been dubbed the RCCO eX_ZERO_2020, and will be released as DLC within rFactor 2 during December.
What makes this car rather unique is the fact it will only exist within the sim, but despite having no real world counterpart this is by no means a fantasy piece of content. Several months ago we were presented with an initial spec to develop the car, and using real world parameters and physics the RCCO eX_ZERO_2020 was born – with behaviour and characteristics exactly like those that would be displayed should this crazy machine ever make it out into the real world.
Having been heavily guided in the design and realisation of this project by Mike Rockenfeller and his team, we’ve found the experience of building the RCCO eX_ZERO_2020 exceptionally enjoyable at the studio, and while the car is certainly something rather different that the normal selection of machinery we develop for the simulation, we feel confident that our drivers will very much enjoy trying to tame this 1000hp beast! Intended for use in some interesting upcoming esports competitions by the RCCO team, as well as providing a very different (and dare we say it, brave) experience for our rFactor 2 players, this is certainly a departure from our usual content style here at rFactor 2!
While we are talking about esports competitions, you may have seen a few messages on the rFactor 2 social channels in recent weeks about the upcoming Sim Formula Europe series taking place next January, well, the second running of this annual competition is starting to kick into gear, and aside from the fantastic racing the series is sure to produce, we’ve got quite the selection of sim racing hardware to giveaway to competitors too…
Returning for the third year in a row, Sim Formula Europe is back once again for players to come together and race for the opportunity to win some incredible prizes. With 60 drivers set to move forward from the hotlap qualifications to semi-final race events, we should see plenty of action out on the circuit as esports stars new and established look to fight for the opportunity to win a percentage of our 10,000 EU prize pool, and some exceptional hardware from SimTag, SimLab, Heusinkveld Engineering and Cooler Master. The hotlap qualifications are set to run from December 3rd – 13th. Stay tuned to the rFactor 2 website and social media channels in the coming days for details on how to get involved yourself and be in with a chance of taking home some fantastic prizes.
That about covers everything we can talk about for this month, onwards to December and the festive season as living rooms around the world get turned into a sea of festive lights and strange stuffed toys of fat guys in red suits and scarily menacing reindeers in coats and hats – stay safe everyone, and see you all again next month!