Hello dear sim racers! That time of the month is here once again, where we put our collective heads together (socially distanced of course) and have a look at pulling together a neat summary of the month just gone, while casting our virtual gaze further afield to share some insight into the immediate future of our simulation, and the continued workings behind the scenes.
Unbelievably, we’ve pretty much finished the first month of 2021 already, boxed up and put away the festive decorations, started our varied regimes to lose those additional kgs we acquired during the holidays and generally started to get back into the swing of normal life (well, as normal as is possible in the current climate) following the merriment of December.
Here at Studio 397, we’ve had an incredibly busy month of activity with rFactor 2, some of which went well, some slightly less so…
Let’s get this one out of the way right at the very start of the Roadmap. Back in the early days of January we released a new build of rFactor 2 to the public branch of the simulation (6098993), containing a number of fixes and a few nice improvements that we hoped would drive the simulation forward, and act as a base for continued development during January. Despite our best intentions, it quickly became apparent that a some unforeseen issues had crept in with the update, and the following days would generate a number of reports from the community about areas of the build that required our attention.
Keen to rectify these issues and put the new release back on the right track, it quickly became apparent to us that despite deploying follow-up hotfixes, the fundamental issues discovered within the latest build would be significant enough to require a roll back to an earlier version of the sim, allowing us to take further time to investigate and understand what we need to do to improve and stabilise the build. The decision to roll back to an earlier version, with a few smaller updates included, was in the end an easy one to make in order to ensure each of our players enjoyed a stable base on which to play rFactor 2 – but of course this is certainly not a situation we like to see within our simulation, and something that we are working hard to address to ensure a similar situation does not happen again in the future.
Mitigation Plans – Future Builds
With the lessons learned from the build update that swiftly wasn’t, we’ve doubled down on our processes here at the Studio in an effort to avoid similar such situations occurring in the future. Of course, software development is a deep and complex activity that often throws up the unexpected, and we feel we have room to further strengthen our internal processes to reduce the risk of similar scenarios occurring in future updates – coupled with a simplified and streamlined method of issue reporting (more on that later in the roadmap), we expect that the measures put in place now will prove beneficial in the long term development of rFactor 2.
Of these changes, many of which are related to internal processes, one of the most visual changes to the public will be related to the way we release updates in future. When a new build has been created and tested by the internal beta-test team, we will release a “public-beta” branch of rFactor 2 that users can activate. The public beta contains all the proposed changes and improvements, and will run for a period of a week to a month before it is transferred to the stable public build – assuming no major issues are detected. With this new process, our players have the choice of remaining with the main build of rFactor 2, or opting in to try the new updates early – giving us the opportunity to monitor the state of the branch against a wider section of our player base, and ensure we don’t hit upon any unexpected issues that failed to crop up during internal testing. The new process will be applied for our next build update in February, and compliments the improved bug reporting mechanism we plan to launch next month, of which more will be explained a little later in the Roadmap…
Bug Fixing – Now And In The Future
Our plan for the immediate future is to spend considerable development time addressing the most urgent bugs/features based on the community feedback and our internal testing. We’ve spent a lot of time recently checking up on the status of our current coding backlog, and digging into the various communication platforms we host in order to ensure we’ve captured the vast majority of the issues that have been reported by our community here at rFactor 2. A lot of these issues we’ve managed to recreate internally and pass to the development team to investigate, and some of you will have already received direct communication from the team in order to provide further insight into issues where we need additional information in order to understand exactly what you’ve been experiencing, so we can look closer at the problems and put the relevant measures in place to work out the right solutions.
As you can imagine, identifying and working on certain issues often has some level of cross pollination with other aspects of the software, so it isn’t simply a case of “fix A” and move on, but more a process of looking at the individual issue in regard of the wider impact of the overall development of rFactor 2. That said, with a view to opening up a more transparent relationship with our community and giving you all some better insight into the inner workings of the activity here at Studio 397, we’ve noted down in this Roadmap a selection of some key issues / developments we are paying particular attention to in the immediate future:
- Bring back the steering and pedal inputs overlay in the replay viewer.
- Fixing and documenting our anti-aliasing options.
- Bringing back and improving the driver labels showing above cars.
- Fix broken mouse click assignment in UI controls.
- Review and improve the performance of the way the showroom behaves.
- Investigate and fix potential white screen crashes related to controller assignments.
- Add code for informing users around disabled Steam overlay related to shopping cart appearance in Competition System.
- Permanent fix for corrupted car bodies in multiplayer.
- Review and rectify showroom upgrades not showing issue.
- Review and improve day to night transition.
- Look at UI behaviour and performance.
Bug Fixing – New Reporting Process & Overview
While the above list has been put together with the intention of showing our community some of the key areas we are looking into at present, we also felt it would be beneficial to offer a more permanent review tool for our users to review whenever they want a little insight into the status of our development. A simple-to-read front end dashboard, together with a more streamlined and practical reporting procedure is something we think will go a long way towards helping both the studio and the community understand where the most pressing concerns exist within the software at any given time.
Bug Reporting – At present it has become somewhat apparent that reports from the community about existing issues can arrive in many and varied places on the internet, and often without the necessary information required to help us understand and reproduce the problem back at the studio. Not only does this present the potential danger of important reports being missed by the team, but inevitably if we don’t have the information required to properly reproduce the issue back at base, delays in rectifying the issue will be encountered and valuable development time lost to trying out different scenarios without guarantee of a valuable outcome.
As such, we have resolved to release a dedicated bug reporting form within the Studio-397 forum software that walks users through the required steps needing to be completed to create a bug report, breaking down the report into various categories and channelling the user into providing the information we need to act upon the report – this should prove a very powerful tool to aid the development process.
Bug Reviewing – Additionally, we plan to develop a public facing dashboard view that allows our community to see what bugs have been added into the reporting system, and a broad view of the status of the report – developed with the intention of providing an easy-to-understand basic reference for interested people to see what is in our system for review and action, and broadly what status of development each particular issue is at. We are still looking at how this might look and work in reality, however we hope to put something together over the course of the coming weeks.
Competition System – Blog Next Week
January has also seen the launch of our new, weekly, Competition System Development Blog postings here at Studio 397, where we offer insights and updates into the ongoing development of our newest rFactor 2 feature, and where we give our community the opportunity to post their own questions about the system for answering by the Studio. Already we’ve posted three separate blogs on the new Competition System (Blog 1 / Blog 2 / Blog 3), however as we’ve been a little on the busy side over the last few days, we’ve elected to move the fourth post over one week, with a scheduled release date of Wednesday 4th January. We are still logging community questions, so if you’ve got something pressing you wish to ask, feel free to pop it down in the comments section of THIS THREAD and we will do our best to answer it in the next, or upcoming blog postings.
Competition System – Development
On the subject of our Competition System, we are delighted to see many of our players are engaging in the daily races and having fun racing in rFactor 2 against other drivers – exactly why we developed the system in the first place! Although we are very much in a Beta phase with the CS so far, I think it would be fair to say we are quite pleased with how things are progressing, and the improvements brought to the system since we launched at the end of 2020 have for the most part been well received, and have gradually enhanced the end user experience. Don’t worry, these are just the very tip of the iceberg for the Competition System, with plenty more tweaks, changes, features and depth set to be added as we progress through the development phase.
A side effect of running so many races using the Competition System, was the rather visually impressive but incredibly annoying ‘laserbeam’ cars – where a graphical glitch on some vehicles would explode car bodies and take up a lot of the visual real estate of the player – making participation in races a bit more challenging. This bug has been a tough one to track down and resolve, however after much investigation we finally managed to get to the bottom of the issue, and deployed a hotfix update to temporarily remove the problem. Since that hotfix, we have found a more permanent solution to the issue, and will include that fix in the next upcoming update to the sim. It turns out this bug has been in the codebase for more than two years now, so we’re glad it’s gone now!
In terms of the system itself, so far we have put together a nice mix of free and paid content for our drivers to enjoy, with players having the opportunity to race in such varied machines as LMP3, GTE, GT4, Cup and Tatuus formula cars. Speaking for myself personally, this has opened my eyes to a number of interesting combinations that I’ve not previously explored fully, and I think it fair to say the variety of content used so far has proven popular with our active racers – with more to follow in the next weeks and months!
Formula E 2021 And Attack Zones
January would see another piece of premium content added to rFactor 2 with the introduction of the 2021 ABB Formula E FIA World Championship DLC – bringing the very latest and greatest from the world of Formula E back to rFactor 2 once again. Rather than “just” a new season pack DLC, this new release would prove special for a couple of very good reasons. From a performance point of view, the 2021 car features brand-new and overhauled physics and tyre behaviours, producing a very different driving characteristic to the way the cars act out on circuit, improving what was already a very fine racing experience.
On the visuals side, another new element to this DLC that we are very proud to introduce to rFactor 2 for the first time is the inclusion of Attack Zone – a unique to Formula E strategical element of racing where a driver must navigate through a dedicated Attack Zone gate during the race, to activate an additional boost for 35kW of power – for a limited time period. The Attack Zone has been added to our four existing Formula E circuits, and is represented by an on track graphic that lights up during activation; and of course the LED Halo illumination that flashes blue when a driver has the additional power boost activated within their car.
This is an interesting and unique strategic element of racing within our Formula E content, and something that adds a very exciting new strand to what are already highly entertaining cars to drive and race.
As an further bonus, we have added the 2021 pack to the existing 2020 Formula E store item, which means anyone who already owns the 2020 cars will get this content for free, and any players who purchase the 2021 pack will also get the cars, teams and drivers of the 2020 season included in their download!
Formula E 2021 | More info: Click Here
Formula E 2021 | Steam Store: Click Here
Track Updates – Indianapolis PBR
February is set to be the month where we release something that has been on the wish list of our community for quite some time – the much anticipated PBR update to our fabulous Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuit! Yes, one of the older but still wonderful tracks within rFactor 2 is set to be given a new lease of life this coming February thanks to the excellent work of our track team here at Studio 397, with all the latest PBR graphical development goodness set to be applied to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the various configurations found within the simulation. Yes, gone is the original 2013 version to be updated to 2020 standards – including the modern track layout!
A fresh lick of PBR magic, a wholesale asset update, some AI tweaks and a new variant – it’s going to be wonderful, and it releases for free in early February!
Looking Back On January
Now normally we start these Roadmap posts with a look back on the month just gone, then move on to future matters – however seeing as we’ve had some pretty pressing things to discuss about the immediate future, we decided to switch it up a little and put the rearwards facing element of the roadmap towards the bottom of the post. Updates and rollbacks aside, which we spoke about at the very top of this article, what other rF2 related things have been happening in the opening days of 2021?
Warming to the theme of updating content, January 2021 would see a nice fresh set of tweaks applied to our existing GTE class of cars within the simulation. Comprising of models from Ferrari, Aston Martin, BMW, Chevrolet and Porsche, the new build deployed on January 6th brought about a number of small but important improvements to our closed top GT machines. Tweaks to the balance of performance parameters around weight and power, plus an important fix for some aerodynamic drop off issues we had been experiencing in close proximity to other cars were just the headline items, plus of course the introduction of these vehicles within our Competition System – making for some very nice and close racing within our community!
rFactor 2 | Steam Store: Click Here
Formula E Accelerate Start
In terms of competitions, at the time of our Formula E 2021 release January would also see the launch of the brand-new Formula E Accelerate Esport series – the official Formula E esport championship that brings together an impressive collection of big name drivers from the virtual world across a six round championship with our new Formula E cars. Reigning F1 Esports World Champion Jarno Opmeer, 2017 Vega E-Race champion Bono Huis and rFactor 2 star and World’s Fastest Gamer finalist Erhan Jajovski are just some of the big names fighting to take home their share of the 100,000 euro prize pool (and a test in a real Formula E car!) this season, and if the opening round at New York is anything to go by – the series looks set to provide some fantastic action.
Formula E Accelerate | Catch all the action: Click Here
Sim Formula Europe 2021
As one Esport series starts, so another completes. January would see the conclusion of the 2021 Sim Formula Heusinkveld Peregrine competitions on rFactor 2, which brought together some of the top rFactor 2 drivers via a qualification process to race head-to-head on the Zandvoort Grand Prix Circuit in the now legendary McLaren Ford MP4/8.
While the main series did much to entertain the viewers at home, just a few days prior to the finals we also ran our Heusinveld Peregrine competition for drivers who qualified through a hotlap competition. Taking to the circuit in specially liveried Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars adorned with community created livery designs in the theme of the Peregrine Falcon, the Heusinkveld Peregrine race at the recently updated Maastricht Street Circuit produced a fantastic event from start to finish, showing off both the driving skill of the racers, and the wonderful artistic talents of our sim racing livery painting community.
Another great competition, and one to look forward to seeing more of next season.
Sim Formula Europe | Catch up on the racing: Click Here
So that’s it for another month ladies and gentlemen – plenty happening and plenty still to come. Thank you once again for taking the time out of your day to read this latest roadmap post, stay safe, stay healthy and see you all out on the virtual racetracks of the world!