Happy end of the month to all our community members as today we reach the final day of April, and like we say every month, these last four weeks have flown by in something of a flash – with plenty of rFactor 2 flavoured goodies having been deployed to the simulation, and plenty of very exciting and rewarding things happening in the very near future.
Aside from the fact that May usually marks the traditional start of the warmer weather season in much of Europe, which always helps lift the mood somewhat, the next few weeks also look like being rather good ones for rFactor 2 players, with plenty happening here at Studio 397 HQ in our ongoing development of the simulation.
Motorsport Games Acquisition
While we announced the impending purchase of Studio 397 and rFactor 2 by our friends at Motorsport Games back in March, these last few weeks have been a whirlwind of sorting through the legal aspects of the transaction, arranging contracts and generally working through all that a deal of this magnitude entails. We appreciate that many of you will be keen to find out more about what this arrangement will mean for the future of rFactor 2 and the many new projects we will be working on with Motorsport Games going forward, and frankly we can’t wait to start getting into the details ourselves! However, as is always the case with business transactions of this type, paperwork takes time, perhaps even a little longer than we initially anticipated ourselves, however expect more news on the finalization of the purchase in the very near future – then we can start finalizing our strategy and sharing more exciting information with you as the months progress!
Screen Space Reflections (SSR) In Development
This is something we have been excited to bring into rFactor 2 for quite a while now, and once we have fully integrated this technique into the simulation we expect it should produce a nice visual uplift to how we replicate environment reflections – especially noticeable in wet weather driving conditions.
For those of you who are perhaps less familiar with the term Screen Space Reflections, simply put it enables us to achieve real time reflections on the road surface – essentially reflecting objects based on what can be seen at any given time in situations such as damp or fully wet track surface conditions. Currently the content team have to manually associate objects with a relevant reflective plane, however with the introduction of SSR real time calculations, any given scene will be able to identify where objects should be reflected and produce the desired effect upon the reflecting surface – producing significantly better quality environment reflections and enabling reflections from a much further distance to be generated and displayed within the sim.
Although this will of course show itself most prominently in wet track conditions, the introduction of SSR also allows us the opportunity to produce much improved reflection quality over what is currently possible within the title, and also opens up opportunities for us to produce reflective surfaces on circuits with considerable elevation changes, something that was previously impossible before the introduction of SSR.
While we are certainly excited about this new feature introduction, we are aware that we need this to work across multiple different time of day and weather scenarios within the sim, and without having a significant cost to the frame rate performance of the title on a variety of different hardware configurations. With that in mind, we are planning to run a substantial number of tests and iterations of the technology before we consider it fit for a new Release Candidate build, so don’t expect this to be brought into a public version of rFactor 2 in the immediate few weeks ahead, as we continue to test and refine our implementation within the private beta build of the software behind the scenes. That said, we are keen to get it out sooner rather than later, because it does look very cool indeed!
Development Focus For May
While much work is still ongoing behind the scenes, not least of which is the previous mentioned SSR implementation, we also want to keep a very firm eye on some of the things we can fix and improve in the short term within rFactor 2. Of course, we have many varied paths of development we could take in the next few weeks that have a tangible benefit to the sim, however as is always the case with software development of any kind a good portion of the task is to understand where we should place our development resource to give back the most benefit to both the community itself, and the long term health and progress of the simulation.
Alongside our drive to identify, validate and rectify some of the existing bugs and add new features from the last few builds, we are also very mindful of community feedback telling us that rFactor 2 can be somewhat complex to configure and engage with for new users and existing players. While it is of course a significant undertaking to map out and develop best practice for the entirety of the gameplay experience, we do want to bring some short term solutions to the simulation in order to help our new users setup rFactor 2 and begin their journey with the simulation in the right way.
One of the goals for the coming month has been identified as improving our new user setup experience – getting the player into the simulation, configuring their controls and installing content. With this in mind, we have taken the decision to develop a brand-new ‘First Time Start Up Wizard’ that aims to guide players through the initial configuration phase of the install, and help them choose a curated list of content options to quickly get into the sim – yup you heard that right… gone will be the need to download absolutely every piece of rFactor 2 content on first instal!
Of course, our development of this new setup tool is still very much a work in progress, however in simple terms the idea is to initially guide the player through a setup wizard to calibrate basic hardware such as wheels, pedals and shifters, then present a selection of content instal options to allow the user to select which content they wish to have on first launch. To help guide players through the content choices, we intend to break the content options down into categories that reflect which stage of development these items are at – from ‘recommended’ which represents the latest and greatest rFactor 2 has to offer, to ‘legacy’ items that are perhaps based on older graphical technology. Of course, the player can pick and choose as he or she so wishes, or even elect to download everything and have fun trying them out in the software.
Another aspect of rFactor 2 we wanted to improve upon this month is how the UI handles multiplayer server lists. We’ve heard loud and clear from our community the desire to irradiate UI blocking when waiting for favourite servers to load or even when reviewing the full servers list. At the point of launch for the new UI, this was a feature hard coded into the system, which presented a significant amount of work to remove in such a way as to retain stability in the way servers are displayed. That said, we have begun to invest the time and resource into both removing the requirement to wait for favourite servers to load, whilst also adding the possibility to load server lists (Internet, LAN, Favourites, Friends) asynchronously. What this means in reality is, players no longer have the waiting message load up and block the UI on the Race tab, and should you click on the multiplayer tab the servers list will load servers in such a way that you can see the list populating, and engage with the list even before it has fully loaded – introducing a much reduced wait time when looking to take rFactor 2 online.
Still on the topic of multiplayer servers, we also have the intention of adding some further sorting options to the multiplayer list, adding in the option to sort by version type to help with ease of use for players who run different build versions of rFactor 2. Additional to this, we also plan to add a server password memory function – allowing your install to remember server passwords and removing the need to re-enter login credentials each time you wish to join a server. These changes are being designed with the intention of improving the user experience for our players, and hopefully reducing the amount of time it takes to get in and do what we all come to rFactor 2 to do – go out on track and race!
As these changes are designed to improve the user experience for the players, we have also resolved to look at the possibility of adding more functionality for server administrators too. We are acutely aware that many communities chose to use rFactor 2 for their league racing endeavours, and although we still have plenty of features we wish to bring into the software to ease server admins lives going forward, some of the more immediate improvements we hope to put together in the very near future include the ability to add spectators to the player list when in race monitor, with functions brought into the sim to give admins the rights to kick/ban spectators via the same process as kicking/banning an active player. Furthermore, we also intend to introduce the ability to run server admin commands using Steam IDs, which should help ease the current process of hosting online servers.
Another key element of online racing, either in a league or quick race multiplayer environment, is the ability for users to proudly display their own custom or downloaded liveries. Since the introduction of the refreshed UI in rFactor 2 this feature has taken something of a back seat, however we are currently in the process of reinvigorating and refreshing how skin transfers are handled within the UI, with much improved performance and functionality set to be introduced in the near future. We are looking to offer up a much simplified and clearer progress bar and status icons around skin transfers, although this enhancement is still very much in the early stages of development, we expect it should vastly improve how skin transfers are handled within the simulation.
Moving away from online play, we are also looking to bring some very robust improvements for our loyal and talented modding teams out within the community. One such example is set to be the addition of new AI editor methods designed to improve how modders can update and improve Cut Corridors within their track creations. These new changes are set to include Finding, Normalizing, Setting to Corridor values, Setting to Collision Corridor values as well as setting if adjusting Corridors effects Cut Corridors, which we hope should empower the many talented modders out in the community to create even better and more realistic AI behaviour on their track creations.
Speaking of tracks, recently our community have reported a bug with how the software wrongly closes loops on point-to-point tracks such as rally stages and drift roads – this has already been reviewed and fixed and should appear in the next Release Candidate build! Thank you to those who reported this issue, and of course the other issues that are reported by our users – needless to say we see and hear your communications and endeavour to address each and every one of them within the simulation as development progresses.
Another aspect that we think should help improve the playing experience of a selection of our users centres around how light flares are represented on Ultra-Wide and Triple Screen setups. We’ve noted that on these hardware configurations recent updates have produced an unrealistic visual experience when the sun is low in the sky and directly impacting the view of a driver. Although only a subtle visual discrepancy, our development team are working hard back at base to review, update and improve how light flare effects are represented on these type of screen configurations, and early testing suggests the changes under development produce a significant and much more realistic effect, one that we are sure will be well-received by our community in terms of increasing the visual immersion of the gameplay in rFactor 2.
Of course, the above text is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of things we are currently working on here at the studio – we most certainly have plenty more development goodies up our sleeve either in active development or planned for the near future, however we wanted to take the opportunity within this roadmap to give you a little taste of some of the things that are more towards the forefront of our development plans. It would be fair to say that each and every member of the Studio 397 team are immensely proud of the work we undertake with rFactor 2, and the journey that we are all collectively on – be it at Studio or within the community. Although we all want more things to happen sooner, we are on a strong development trajectory now, and we have plenty of exciting things lined up for the short, medium and long term plans of the simulation.
Looking further at the player experience,we also have intentions to look at various aspects of the overlay within the sim, adding things such as gear data and RPM for the speedometer, driver name options drop down to overlay control panel and updated overlay elements to use it, plus looking into broadcast overlay issues that have been reported recently by the community. This will be an ongoing process as we add more information and features, and fine tune those that already exist, so stay tuned for that as development progresses.
On a final note before we move on to the next topic in this April Development Roadmap, we have put quite a bit of work in behind the scenes to ensure our peripheral support tools are in place and up to date for some of the most popular sim racing devices. Having undergone substantial review and testing, we expect that the next build of rFactor 2 should contain updated driver support for Fanatec and Thrustmaster hardware – and a whole load of other fixes, changes, additions and improvements!
Release Candidate Deployment Strategy
As you will likely have noticed, it has been a while now since we last deployed a ‘Release Candidate’ build of rFactor 2 into the main public branch of the simulation. In the early days of our new Release Candidate strategy we had plenty of smaller yet still very important fixes and improvements that we could work through relatively quickly – which meant that we found ourselves in a position to quite rapidly develop, test and release new RC builds to Steam and fairly quickly afterwards update those to the main build of rFactor 2, whilst simultaneously deploying a new Release Candidate for users to opt-in and check out while we ensure it is suitable to push to the main stable build of the software.
Delighted as we are about the speed of which we initially managed to put together new build releases, we’ve now moved to the stage where much more substantial changes are being developed for the latest builds, and as such these have considerably higher levels of complexity and development lead time – which inevitably has to slow down the process while we build upon the initial base changes and get them into a stage where we feel confident to deploy to a new Release Candidate. Despite this slowing down of new build updates, we’ve still made sure that the current RC available to the public receives updates when certain issues are identified, such as the recent replay stutter problems that some have you have reported, Essentially what this means is that the current RC will be yet further refined when it transfers to the main branch, and our new Release Candidate build that is currently in development will feature some pretty sizeable improvements over the current version of rFactor 2…
As has become standard practice in recent months, we currently have four distinct public branches of rFactor 2 for players choose from. These are as follows:
- Opt-Out’ – This is the main public build of rFactor 2, without any beta branches or additional early updates applied. This is the build that will be available as default.
- Release-Candidate – This build will always feature the latest updates and improvements that have been introduced by our development team ahead of main public release. Although these changes will have been reviewed by our test team here at Studio 397 prior to deployment, we will use this build branch to give our users the opportunity to opt into these changes early, and report any unexpected issues that may or may not occur before we launch to the main public ‘opt-out’ branch of the software.
- Previous-Build – Our new ‘previous-build’ branch will contain a copy of the last public ‘opt-out’ version of rFactor 2, prior to updates being deployed, should any communities need to revert to the last known stable branch of the software for any reason.
- Old UI – Depreciated build of rFactor 2 featuring the old UI – this build will no longer be updated.
Our current ‘Release Candidate’ build has been active since first deploying back on March 4th (update notes here). As mentioned previously in this roadmap, the current RC build has taken longer than normal to move towards a main public release as we continue to fine tune some of the aspects of the build, and as we further develop the next Release Candidate update that is currently being worked on behind closed doors.
Right from the off, the intention of our Release Candidate strategy was to both offer players access to new features and bug fixes earlier, and also stress test the build with a larger collection of our userbase to help identify any areas of improvement or bug fixing that would be required before we can safely move to the main stable branch of the simulation.
With the current Release Candidate 3 version of rFactor 2, the last few weeks have seen quite a bit of additonal work undertaken by the development team to get to the bottom of some issues with replay stability, namely an unexpected issue that caused minor and major stuttering to take place within both ‘live’ and saved replay action. Following that intiial March build release, we have since released three further complementary hotfix updates to the build in order to rectify both the replay stuttering issue and a fullscreen UI freeze problem, of which the change notes can be found below:
Client 6496645 / Dedicated 6496649
- Fixed replay stuttering with capped frame rate
Client 6532194 / Dedicated 6532199
- Fixed sporadic freeze of the UI in fullscreen mode
Client 6541710 / Dedicated 6541716
- Fixed replay stuttering
We would like to take this opportunity to offer our thanks to those within the community who have elected to opt in to these Release Candidate builds, and to thank you all for the valuable testing and feedback we have received during this process. We cannot stress enough how important it is to the ongoing development of the simulation to receive this level of engagement from our fantastic community- each report and reproduction steps your share with us helps us all to collectively work on identifying and improving the simulation for all of our players, which in the long term will help us reach our goals faster and more efficiently, and deliver to everyone the simulation experience we all know rFactor 2 is capable of producing. Thank you to everyone for your support with this so far, we really do appreciate it.
Lime Rock Park PBR Update
Last month we suggested the big Lime Rock Park PBR update should be in a position to release in April…. having learnt the hard way not to make timing predictions in public, we’ve unfortunately not quite managed to squeeze in the new update this month due to various changing priorities and the need to lavish just that bit more love and attention to the track before it is deployed as an update to the free Lime Rock Park circuit on the Steam Workshop. If you are one of the many players keen to sample the updated version of this wonderful little American venue, worry not it is still very much on the radar and hasn’t been forgotten – just a little more patience is needed, and you will soon be ripping up the tarmac on one of the finest road course tracks in the US. Having learnt not to fall into the release date prediction trap I’m not about to do the same again here, however it shouldn’t be too far away now…
New Track Development Update – Reveal Next Month
In the last Development Roadmap posting we teased the fact some of our Track Team colleagues have been out with the laserscanning equipment taking tons of awesome images for our next scratch built track in rFactor 2. At the time we cautioned that the wait to see this new track in action is likely to be a lengthy one, as at the time of writing the team were still very much in the process of sorting the hundreds of GB of data, images and videos into some kind of meaningful order.. Well that bit has been done, and the track artists are already hard at work putting together the first early stages of this new venue into the sim – for me personally its been fascinating to see how much work and attention to detail goes into these things behind the scenes. If the previews and chatter I’ve seen so far is anything to go by, this should be one of the best tracks we’ve produced for the simulation so far!
With all this said, much as we’ve enjoyed reading the rampant speculation on Discord as to which track it is we’ve been working on, we don’t quite feel ready to reveal the identity of the track to you all just yet – most likely timing for that will be in and around the next Roadmap at the end of May for an identity reveal. However, seeing as much of the world is starting to take tentative steps to opening back up again, and travel is becoming possible for many of us – including limited attendance at motor racing events, one thing we will say is we’ve left a pretty large rF2 sticker at the track (in a semi-hidden location of course) – so if you are planning to visit any racing events in May, have a good dig around the venue and see if you can find the sticker and identify the track – I’ll buy a cookie to the first one to find it and post a photo on our Discord channel!
Looking Back on April
As usual, the month that is about to pass has been another one of great satisfaction here at Studio 397, with plenty of work behind the scenes having taken place as we continue to push forward and develop our beloved simulation. Unlike in previous months however, much of the progress made has been behind closed doors, the fruits of which we should be able to share in the near future, so on face value we have a little less than usual to look back on this month – something that I’m pretty confident we should be able to make up for as we start to reach the summer months in mainland Europe.
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the release highlights from the month of April 2021.
Silverstone, Portland and Indianapolis Update
rFactor 2 Additional Content | Steam Workshop: Click HERE
You may have noticed that we’ve recently been pushing to bring a number of updates to our existing content within rFactor 2, from larger full PBR refresh builds to smaller fixes, tweaks and improvements to the newer content without our existing portfolio. As I’m sure you can image, this is a rather time consuming and labour intensive process, however I think you would agree that the reward of bringing our existing content offering up to the standards of recent releases is well worth this additional workload – although as with the case of Lime Rock Park, things don’t always hit the schedule we initially anticipated!
During April, we have managed to review and update a trio of our popular free circuits in rFactor 2. All three of these tracks already feature PBR technology, either from initial release or updates deployed further down the line, however we still had a few areas upon which we wished to focus some further attention, and the release deployed back on April 1st went some way towards adding that final bit of polish to these very popular racing venues.
All three tracks can be downloaded at no additional cost on the rFactor 2 Steam Workshop – and feature regularly in the rFactor 2 Competition System within the main simulation UI.
Silverstone Grand Prix V2.12
- Fixed: Starter Worker animation under Safety Car.
- Minor Balance Updates.
- Fixed: an issue where a camera was blocked by a digital flag.
- Fixed: some digital flag uvw issues.
- Fixed: Closed gaps around pit in detection.
- Fixed: Start Flag Marshal animation under safety car.
- Fixed: Pit Official animations.
Portland International Raceway V1.06
- Fixed: Starter Worker Animation under Safety Car.
- Fixed: Issue with default mapper at night on No Chicane Layout.
- Fixed: Pit Official numbering.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway V1.09
- Fixed: Starter Worker animation under Safety Car
- Reduced size of curb GP layout T6
- Fixed: Various Collision Issues
- Reduced noise on road surface
- Regenerated all real road rubber profiles
RCCO eX Zero 2021 Hotfix Update
eX ZERO 2021 | Steam Store: Click HERE
Earlier this month we spent a little time looking into some feedback from our latest electric racer – the potent RCCO eX ZERO 2021. The car first released back in December 2020 as a new paid DLC for rFactor 2, and since that time we have taken the opportunity to revisit this pretty special machine and add a few further features and visual improvements. As many of you will know, the car has been well-received by the sim racing community since launch, and features in a number of high profile esport racing championships, the highest profile of which is of course the official RCCO eX World Championship – a series that features a number of big name real world and esport racing drivers and teams, with a worldwide television broadcast package supporting the series.
With so many talented drivers and engineers involved in using the car on a regular basis, we have received plenty of valuable feedback in these last few months as to how the eX ZERO 2021 behaves in racing conditions, and how it can be improved yet further to increase the racing spectacle. Churning the numbers back at base against the feedback we received, we recently deployed a new hotfix update that both increases the positive effect of slipstream behaviour when following another car, and also reduces the undesirable effect of ‘dirty air’ that washes off the lead opponent.
These changes have moved the car to version 1.39 release status, and have been available to owners of the eX ZERO 2021 since release on Wednesday 21st April
RCCO eX Zero 2021 v1.39
- Significant reduction in dirty air
- Stronger slip stream and stronger draft
Diriyah and Rome Formula E Updates
Rome Formula E | Steam Store: Click Here
Diriyah Formula E | Steam Store: Click Here
Our two most recent official Formula E street circuits, the Rome and Diriyah Formula E venues underwent minor hotfix updates during April, with the track team here at Studio 397 spending some further time tweaking and refining these two very challenging, and visually stunning city street tracks.
Although both updates are only quite minor in size, it is nevertheless important to us to continue to monitor and improve our content within rFactor 2 to help ensure the best playing experience for our players, and address issues that have either been reported by the community, or have arisen from our own further testing and driving post release.
Of course, this update has automatically deployed to all current owners of the tracks, and will be available as the latest version for anyone who purchases either the Rome E-Prix or Diriyah E-Prix circuits from the rFactor 2 Steam Store.
- Fixed Camera Clipping at Final Turn
- Fixed flag mapping issues
- Improved Tree Textures
- Improved Real Road materials
- Slight adjustments to some buildings
- Fine-tuned static and ambient mapper placement
- Fixed terrain gaps
- General scene optimization
Although still firmly within the beta stages of development, we continue to see many positive trends with player engagement in our Competition System within rFactor 2, especially some of the valuable feedback we continue to receive on the many styles and formats of racing and qualification sessions that we continue to prototype during this beta development phase. As well as the actual system itself, we are delighted to see the ongoing interest from our community around what we have planned in the short, medium and long term future of the Competition System – something that we are sure holds a lot of exciting potential for new and existing players alike.
In order to try and keep everyone as informed and up-to-date as possible on our development plans, and to gather your fantastic feedback and suggestions to help us turn this Competition System into something that helps everyone get more enjoyment from the simulation, we are pleased to note the continued engagement from many of you with our Competition System blog postings. As we push forward with developing the Competition System we may experience larger gaps between updates, while we fine tune some of the larger areas of the system, as such we’ve taken the decision to move the blog post onto a 2-week release cycle from now on – although we will certainly consider releasing special posts around the time of any new updates that fall outside of this release cycle.
If you missed any of our posts from April, fear not, you can find links to the respective updates below:
- Week 13 – https://www.studio-397.com/2021/04/competition-system-blog-week-13/
- Week 14 – https://www.studio-397.com/2021/04/competition-system-blog-week-14/
In terms of the Competition System itself, this month would see the addition of some new and pretty well-received series for our drivers to enjoy. We’ve found that GT3 continues to be a strong draw for sim racers in any simulation, and our rFactor 2 community are certainly no exception to this rule, with plenty of close racing having taken place over the last four months. During April, we also introduced the mighty Nissan GT500 and McLaren MP4/13 Grand Prix car into the service, with some epic racing in both very, very different machines having played out over recent weeks – we certainly hope you continue to enjoy these cars and the many other future additions coming to the Competition System this May!
Recommended Viewing – rFactor 2 Esports Competitions
Mat is once again set to be a bumper month of virtual racing on the rFactor 2 platform. Open wheelers, endurance racers, tin tops and more are set to hit the virtual tarmac over the next few weeks – and to help you keep track on some of the best esport racing broadcasts in rFactor 2, as ever please find below some select highlights to look forward to over the next month:
Thursday 27th May | 20:00 CEST | RCCO World eX Championship Round 4 | Motorsport.TV
That’s all for this month, we hope you enjoyed our latest Development Roadmap, and we look forward to seeing you all out on the virtual racetracks of rFactor 2 !