Welcome to the Monthly Development Roadmap post for May – the latest look behind the curtain of Studio 397 as we continue on our exciting rFactor 2 journey.
Thankfully and somewhat later than hoped for, the warm weather is starting to take hold around Europe (allegedly), and even with the significant temptation to venture out into the great outdoors, our team here at Studio 397 have remained hunkered down in our home offices working hard to keep up the flow of updates, tweaks, improvements and fixes to the title coming together at a pace – with plenty having gone on behind the scenes in what has been a satisfyingly successful and busy few weeks of development.
As is always the case with these development roadmap posts, the intention today is to give you a brief insight into what we are working on within the simulation going forward, and to wrap up our most recent achievements for those within the community who perhaps don’t follow our progress on a day-to-day basis.
Studio 397 Now Officially Part Of Motorsport Games Family
Now with that introduction out of the way, and before we dig deeper into upcoming developments, we must start off with some rather big and satisfying news for everyone here at the Studio. Following up on the announcement about our impending purchase by Motorsport Games, we finally managed to see that deal over the line earlier this month, and from here on in are now a part of the ever expanding Motorsport Games network – a move that we believe will significantly help us strengthen our core skills and resources as we continue to push forward and develop rFactor 2 in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Motorsport Games Complete Purchase of S397 | More Details: CLICK HERE
The new relationship is still very much in its infancy at the moment, with much of the current activity focusing on Motorsport Games and Studio 397 colleagues getting to know each other, understanding where our respective skills, strengths and weaknesses all lye and slowly starting to get a feel for how we can collectively work together to drive our various roles and responsibilities forward in the years ahead. Although these kinds of major ownership changes take time to bed in and settle down before any real insight into what benefits each party can and will bring to the table, we are just as keen as the community is to know how this new arrangement will impact the development future of rFactor 2. As such, in a bid to help clear up some facts and share insights with the community here in rFactor 2, we have planned a long and detailed video interview with Motorsport Games President Stephen Hood, where we plan to sit down at the Motorsport Games HQ in Silverstone and really get into the details about how this new arrangement is expected to work going forward. Furthermore, once that interview has been released, and the subsequent questions that will no doubt produce, we will produce a follow-on session with Marcel Offermans from Studio 397, where we plan to mop up any following questions from the community, and likely throw a few curveballs at Marcel from our side as well!
Unfortunately, the initial plan was to head down to Silverstone week ending 28th May, however quite frankly I had a delayed Covid-19 vaccination jab the day before departing, and suddenly the task of a 240-mile round trip felt significantly less desirable than when the meeting was initially arranged. As such, the original plan has been delayed slightly, with a new date for the interview set to be arranged for the first week or two of June.
Development Focus For June
Each month in these development roadmap posts we attempt to share a little insight into some activities and developments we are working on behind the scenes with rFactor 2. Due to the level of complexity of game development, and the many varied states of either bug fixing or feature improvements we are working on at any given time, with the software, sometimes the amount of information we feel able to share with the wider public can vary in its detail. This can be for a number of reasons, some related to our confidence on getting round to starting / finishing any given piece of project work, through to certain aspects of development having a longer lead time than others, often meaning that key areas of improvement can roll over into consecutive months, especially if some of the necessary background work that needs to be undertaken is often behind the scenes, and doesn’t produce something that will affect the game play experience of the public in general.
With that said, much of what the team are focusing on for this coming month will centre around some key areas of the software – from background tooling, maintenance and code revisions that will support future development objectives, to other major changes the likes of our new SSR implementation, that although set to bring a significant visual improvement to the title, are major pieces of work in their own right.
Following up from what we discussed in the April Development Roadmap, this month much of our work continues to look at ways we can develop and improve the user experience within the simulation, as the team look at the smaller and more fine detail aspects of the UI in a bid to streamline and smoothen out both the experience and the flow of using the front end aspects of rFactor 2. Much of the ground work for these changes has already been discussed in our previous roadmap post, however for the month ahead we hope to bring many of these small but important updates forward within the next upcoming Release Candidate build of the simulation – with much work still being undertaken by the development team to further polish and improve the experience and performance within the UI.
Shadow Cascading Improvements
A long time issue of the graphics engine in rFactor 2, I’m sure many of you will have noticed the shadow cascading (or so called running shadow) effect in rFactor 2 over the years. As we continue in our push to improve the overall visual experience for rFactor 2 players, this is one of the aspects of the simulation that has long been on our laundry list of items that we would like to review and improve over time. Back at the very start of the rFactor 2 journey we considered this to be one of those aspects of the graphics engine that would unfortunately prove to require too significant of a development to effectively review and improve in the immediate future, however as the graphical prowess of rFactor 2 has moved on significantly in recent years, it has become more and more apparent that this aspect of the way shadows are produced in the software needs to be improved, and upon closer inspected we are delighted to report that early trials and investigations have brought back some very encouraging results so far.
Although it would be fair to say we are still some way off from creating a solution that is robust enough to move into any public facing build versions of the simulation, we still feel it is a point worth raising with the community that this side of the graphic engine is being looked into, and that we are optimistic that the work being undertaken at present will have real value to the ongoing visual improvements in the software in the near future.
To give you a little bit of insight into the current state of these tests (very early and without any AA applied), check out the comparison gifs from before and after the changes below:
Additional Hardware Support
Another aspect of the continued strive to make our UI experience easier and more customisable for the end user has led us to look at the introduction of further visual references for the calibration of hardware within the simulation. As many of you will know, rFactor 2 works with an incredibly wide range of sim racing hardware, from all different kinds of popular (and not so popular) wheel and pedal sets, to handbrakes, motion systems and pretty much any other type of hardware device one can imagine. Of course, with such a varied amount of hardware now available within the sim racing marketplace, we recognise the fact it is important to our users to have the power to adjust and tweak their equipment to provide an realistic and enjoyable experience. That said, we also recognise that further fine tuning and adjustments are valuable to our players in order to perform those final tweaks to dial in their hardware, as such, we have resolved to bring further pedal calibration options into the UI, that will allow players to access a simple and visual tool within the software that will enable maximum and minimum inputs to be set across the whole raw range of pedal travel – similar in functionality to what was available in the former UI configuration pages.
Furthermore, we also intend to look at offering a reverse FFB forces option natively within the UI, which will be helpful for correcting forces on some wheels that are inverted on calibration. These changes, along with the previously mentioned sever password save option, asynchronously server loading, new sorting options, removed waiting time for ‘favourite servers’ and other quality of life improvements are all at lesser or greater stages of development, and should be making an appearance within upcoming builds of the title in the very near future.
New Overlay Features
With the next Release Candidate build we intend to ship a new overlay feature for DRS (Drag Reduction System) within the core offering of rFactor 2. Many cars in the title, both first and third party, feature some kind of DRS functionality, and while we already support this natively on certain tracks with DRS zones, as well as on all tracks as unregulated activations, the next build of rFactor 2 should bring with it the ability to visually represent how DRS is being deployed on the broadcast overlay functionality within the sim. Telling a story to the viewers on a broadcast, either from the commentary team or on screen by way of broadcast graphics is an important aspect of producing compelling racing coverage, and we are excited to introduce some very interesting DRS related features within the next build. Chief amongst these updates will be the introduction of a ‘1v1 battle box’ that will display in scenarios when a chasing driver has enabled DRS, plus the ability to display each row of drivers with active DRS in the timing tower and the extended battle box, as well as a “DRS ACTIVE” text in the 1v1 battle box if the chasing driver has DRS active – all part of the ongoing improvements and additions to our broadcast overlay system within rFactor 2.
Competition System – New Features
The main noticeable change to the Competition System this month will undoubtedly be the introduction of our new three-race ‘Summer Showdown’ series of events, where we have compiled three very different types of racing action in our StockCar, IndyCar and GT3 car sets across three very different circuits, with the top split qualified drivers featuring in their own live streamed race on the rFactorLive Twitch channel on Saturday evenings. We are quite frankly delighted with the level of interest and engagement these races have generated within the community, and it has been a great pleasure for us to see the enjoyment (and excellent racing) that these events are producing so far as we head into the final ’60 Minutes of the Ring’ later in June. With such a great uptake on this new format of special edition races, we very much plan to continue this trend going forward for a little while longer – so expect more special edition broadcasted events in the weeks and months ahead!
Still keeping to the topic of the Competition System, one other new feature that is likely to be introduced into the main system in the very near future is the ability to host fixed setup race events, something that we have heard many requests about from the community and are happy to finally be able to introduce into the system for future events. Of course we recognise that some players enjoy the aspect of building and racing a custom setup, so don’t expect all events to feature this new option – we will work hard to ensure our planning of future races offers up a nice mix of both fixes and custom setup racing, much like we do with our mix of paid and free content within the Competition System – as we try and offer a mix of something for all different types of rFactor 2 users. Earlier this month we also provided an update to our roadmap, making some changes and elaborating on a few others.
Monza! New Track Announcement
Finally we have been able to confirm the latest new circuit to be added to rFactor 2, with the announcement of the much anticipate addition of the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza – fully laser scanned and up-to-date with the current racing season. We headed out to the beautiful Monza park back at the end of March, and since then the track team here at Studio 397 have been working at an incredible rate to bring together the many hundreds of GB of data into a working circuit model within the simulation. Now of course I’m not going to fall into the trap of predicting a release date for this new circuit, however I think (ha, ha) I’m probably on safe ground to say we should be looking to get this out to the public within the next two or three months.
Monza Announced | More Details: Click HERE
As work continues at a pace back in the studio on this track, we will continue to keep you all updated with regular progress reports on the various Studio 397 social media channels, from video previous, shots of the work-in-progress development and side-by-side comparisons to the real circuit, so if you aren’t already following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, make sure to give us a like and not miss out on any of the awesome progress that is happening with this great new track.
Major Sebring PBR Update Incoming
Sebring International Raceway | Steam Store: CLICK HERE
Keeping very firmly on the subject of tracks, despite the announcement of a brand-new venue in the form of Monza, and with a couple more we are about to secure licences for in the next few weeks, we are still very much focussed on updating and refreshing the current roster of content within rFactor 2 to ensure all our content offerings to the community reach a certain level of quality expected by our community. Recently we introduced a pretty substantial PBR update to the free Lime Rock Park track within the sim (more on that below), and the next venue in our list to get the PBR update treatment is one of our absolute favourite tracks in rFactor 2 – the Sebring International Raceway!
We’ve had a version of the newly updated track in our internal testing team for a little while now as we look to ensure everything is behaving as expected from the new update, and so far things are looking very good indeed for a release within the month of June. As one can expect from a full PBR refresh, we think Sebring looks absolutely spectacular in this new build, and we cannot wait to get this big update out into the general public for you all to enjoy the fruits of our track teams labour. Already the track looks fantastic in the different time of day and weather conditions in rFactor 2, and coupled together with the upcoming SSR update, we thing our players will notice a considerably improved visual experience in this top draw American race circuit.
More PBR Track Updates and Remodelling In The Works
With a PBR update release of Sebring quite close to being deployed to the public, we have already started work on an even bigger PBR update and remodelling task for another of our existing tracks within the simulation, however we will keep the details of that to ourselves for now, and likely tell you more about what is next on the list in the June Development Roadmap – needless to say, our track team are very busy with new and existing content !
Looking Back On May
May was a very busy month for the team here at Studio 397, and we have been delighted to get plenty of goodies out into the public domain for our wonderful community to enjoy. From new content updates in the form of our massive Lime Rock Park PBR refresh, to a pretty significant development by the KartSim team, plus a number of fixes and tweaks to the core simulation itself – May was a good one indeed!
Lime Rock Park PBR Refresh
Lime Rock Park | Steam Workshop: Click Here.
A popular track made even more attractive thanks to the great work of the rFactor 2 track team, we were absolutely delighted to release the free PBR update refresh for this mighty little American venue last month, and the reaction from our community has been incredibly heart-warming to see how much fresh love and affection this little and often overlooked venue has received since the new update was deployed back on the 5th May. We’ve always been fans of the lesser known venues here at Studio 397, despite acknowledging that many players very much appreciate the more well-known tracks we have to offer, we are sure many of you like ourselves enjoy the odd guilty pleasure of tearing up the tarmac on lesser known little gems like this one.
Lime Rock Park has been a staple venue of rFactor 2 for many a year, having originally released for the simulation all the way back in the 2013, and thanks to its grand old age it would be fair to say that the little 2.462km track needed this new refresh in order to bring it back into line with the quality standards you’ve all now become accustomed to with our more recent content offerings.
For us at the studio it was an really rewarding experience bringing this track back into the spotlight, and so far it very much looks like all of our hard work is paying off, as the track has been very warmly received by the community, and already has been the scene of some epic racing adventures in our Competition System. Lime Rock Park is back, and more beautiful that ever!
Opt-Out New Build
May would also see the introduction of a new build of rFactor 2, as we moved over the existing ‘Release Candidate’ version of the software into the main public build of the simulation. The latest new release, deployed to the title on May 19th was the result of several weeks of development focus on address key areas of bug fixing and development that have been identified through both our internal testing processes, and via the valuable feedback reported from our community. Under normal circumstances, the introduction of a new build release would generate a complementary new ‘Release Candidate’ update for players to choose if they wish to opt into that experimental build, however due to the size and complexity of the new for the next RC build SSR implementation, we have taken the decision to delay the launch of our next RC update, until such a time in the very near future that we can be sure the build is stable and suitable for the public to try.
What this means in reality is the current public ‘Opt-Out’ and ‘Release Candidate’ builds of rFactor 2 are for the moment identical, until such a time as when we elect to deploy the new Release Candidate build to Steam.
- Added SteamID of each client to race results logs generated by a Dedicated Server
- Fix issue with Attack Mode overlay information not correctly resetting.
- Stopped AI playing wipers when in Garage
- Added automatic headlight and wiper settings for player.
- These show as an extra step in the key toggles (Headlights: Off / Auto / On) or (Wipers: Off / Auto / Slow / Fast)
- Skip Auto option when the setting is disabled
- Added a message about windscreen wiper state to the message centre. Don’t show a message if the vehicle does not have wipers.
- Auto Headlights and Windscreen Wipers are forced on if no key is assigned”
- Fixed issue where automatic gears would require a false top gear to correctly downshift for some vehicles
- Report steam branch and build number on startup
- Fixed spacing for weather info in HUD
- Renamed Anti-Aliasing options to show the amount of MSAA applied.
- Adjust Sunflare strength so that they work with different field of views
- Added a blend out at screen edge to smooth transition of Sunflare going off screen.
- Fixed an issue where a texture sampler would not set correctly
- Fixed an issue that DigitalFlags would behave as Marshals online
- Reworked Auto Exposure to reduce the calculated exposure “bouncing” around in different conditions
- Enabled Auto Exposure in Cockpit Cameras
- Fixed Water not rendering on TV Screens
- Removed GPU V-Sync option from Graphics Configuration settings
- Updated Environment Reflection Settings
- Low/Medium/High/Ultra settings which increase refresh rate and resolution.
- Ambient light probes now allow for more advanced blending options
- Fixed stuttering on Replay Monitor screen.
- Added sector and lap timing to full screen replay bar.
- Updated the styling and alignment of the full screen replay bar.
- Fixed UI stopping updating when clicking repeatedly on the track map in the event screen.
- Corrected the display of FXAA to On/Off
- Fixed the units to seconds for displaying Transparent Trainer Lead Timer
- Fixed the display units for Low Speed Information to show a percentage
- Fixed race countdown not always showing for a multiplayer race.
- Fixed showing the maximum time for a single player race before the race start.
- Improved formatting of time durations.
- Fixed issue where RealRoad setting was carried over from previous track selection in session setup screen
- Fixed an issue where some tracks would not show in game due to having packed SCN files which were not valid track layouts
- Added Auto Blip, Auto Lift, Hold Brakes, Hold Clutch, Repeat Shifts, Start Engine, Auto Wipers and Auto Headlight settings to difficulty screen
- Fixed some minor issues with sample ModDev content
- Added pop up (mod dev & scene viewer only) / logging to paths where the RRBIN file fails to load
- Force an update after loading RRBIN in scene viewer or moddev so that it shows correctly straight away.
- Updated default RRBIN filename scene viewer / moddev tweakbar rollout
- Setup a stable and beta version of Max Plugins 2021. Stable is the last fully tested internally. Beta is built to the absolute latest code.
Ligier JS P217 Update
Ligier JS P217 Released | More Info: Click HERE.
The lovely Ligier was another piece of content that received update treatment during the course of the month about to pass, as we took out the time to check back and review this awesome LMP2 car and address some of the issues that have cropped up since we released the car as part of the Endurance Pack 2 DLC back in December.
More of a quality of life tidy up than a major development overhaul, the new build took the car to version 1.17 and as well as adding a new O-Rouge themed livery, also cleared up some issues around the cockpit graphics – namely tidying up a reflection issue on the steering wheel glass, repaired the underbody shadows of AI cars bug and other minor wiper and IBL shaders on wheel rims issues, as you can check on the update release notes link above.
Well, well, well – plenty has been happening in the world of the rFactor 2 Competition System this month! We’ve had the debut of regular hourly races in the legendary USF2000 open wheeler, the final throws of the GT Challenge series and of course, a brand-new initiative in the form of the very first ‘rFactor 2 Summer Showdown’ series of events – an open invite three race competition where rFactor 2 drivers are invited to register within the competition system and set a time for three high profile and very different types of racing action.
Quite frankly we have been delighted with the uptake from our community with these races so far, and already the first two events (StockCar Challenge at Portland and the rF250 at Indianapolis) have already produced some excellent top split broadcasted racing action. We’ve only got the final 60 Minutes at the Ring event left to run on June 12th, but don’t worry – this type of thing looks like it is something our community enjoy, so expect more of these type of events in the immediate future.
In terms of the Competition System itself, as part of the now bi-weekly CS Blog postings Marcel has issued a new and revised top level development roadmap for the Competition System, details of which you can see just below the catch up links to the latest Q&A sessions below:
Latest Competition System Roadmap Update:
More competition formats — we decided to pull some of the different competition formats forward, and we just finished running the first season of GT Challenge in the Competition System. That taught us some valuable things about where we need to add more flexibility to the system, and how we can better accommodate the different styles and formats of racing that we know are so important to our existing and potential new players of rFactor 2. With these findings in our growing databank of knowledge, we’ve elected to spend some more time focussing on this area in the immediate future, however that said, this is probably going to be a continual task, so expect more formats to emerge in the upcoming months.
Protests and decisions — This is a topic that we have decided is best managed by splitting it into two distinct parts. The first part of it, making sure we can handle protests and having race control take decisions, is in place in terms of the basic mechanics, which we will continue to monitor, test and expand upon as the system matures and clear trends and requirements make themselves apparent. We have some firm ideas of what we expect this system to look like and the things we plan to achieve with it, however we are also finding it valuable to absorb the excellent feedback from within the community, feedback which will no doubt have an impact upon the finished product going forward.
Ratings — based on the data we have gathered, we have completed the internal testing of our algorithms, so our next steps are to look at how to integrate them into the UI and decide what competitions we want to use them for.
In parallel, we’ve also been looking at some forms of safety ratings, but as I’m sure you can imagine, this is an aspect of the system we want to be fully confident is producing fair and balanced results for all of our users, as such this is very much under evaluation back at the studio as we look to ensure we can offer a robust and well-thought-out solution come public release.
Stewarding — This is another thorny topic of discussion, and arguably one of the most labour-intensive aspects of running racing events on any sim racing platform. When we introduced the idea of the Competition System in rFactor 2, one of the key goals of the platform had to be around how to make life easier for event organizers to put on top quality racing activations, rather than being bogged down with unnecessary levels of administration that doesn’t add to the quality of life experience of our drivers and participants. With this in mind, we have always aspired to offer a significant amount of automation within the system, with aspects such as protests and decisions being one of the key areas we are working to streamline. Of course, this is a rather large area of discussion, and as the system continues to evolve and develop in this regard, we will expand further on this top separately. Our goal 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 offences and directly handing out penalties. At the same time we are aware that not everything can be decided by robots.
Broadcast integration — no big changes here, as we are gradually introducing these features, first internally and then also as part of our overlay package. Some things you will have seen in GT Pro and Challenge over the last couple of months. The goal is still to make sure that overlays showing standings, points, participants and calendars accurately reflect the competition they’re a part of.
Roles and team based driving — This is something that many of you within the community have been requesting from the rFactor 2 Competition System in recent months, and as keen endurance racing fans ourselves, we are certainly incredibly enthusiastic to bring this level of functionality to the system for you to enjoy. As things stand currently, we are working on adding the ability to allow multiple drivers to share an “entry”, or car, in a competition. Additionally, we plan on allowing roles to be defined within the system, which means that teams can elect to allocate specific roles for a manager or race engineer for example. Other roles are stewards, race control, and cameramen to facilitate broadcasts.
Offline Championships — I’m sure you will appreciate that a lot of our development attention has been focused on improving the online experience of rFactor 2 lately, however with these changes we are also looking at introducing new features to benefit the offline portion of our player base. Already we have identified ways to implement the much request offline championship mode within the core simulation – this will be added once the online part is running smoothly. We will leverage the features introduced as part of the Competition System to allow players to develop their own custom championship tool to race against the AI, something that has been a long time coming to rFactor 2, but hopefully should be worth the wait!
Integration — This is a topic that is currently under active discussion within Motorsport Games, the new owners of Studio 397 and rFactor 2 With the rFactor 2 engine becoming the base of many new games, the Competition System is being reviewed and considered for those, as well as integration of it in the Traxion.gg website. No decisions have been made here. We’ll update you as time goes on.
Recommended Viewing – rFactor 2 Esports Competitions
Fun as it is to get out onto the virtual tarmac for yourself, it is also somewhat enjoyable to watch the efforts of others in one of the many sim racing esport broadcasts available on the internet during these boom days of virtual motorsports. As a leading simulation platform, rFactor 2 enjoys its fair share of esport racing action, and to keep things nice and easy we’ve once again put together a list of some potential highlights for the month ahead:
Saturday 5th June | 14:30 CEST | VEC 24 Hours of Le Sarthe | VEC YouTube
Thursday 24th June | 20:00 CEST | RCCO World eX Championship Round 5 | Motorsport.TV
Saturday 26th June | 14:00 CEST | GTR24h Nürburgring 12h | GTR24h YouTube
As always, thank you for your time in reading our latest update from the world of rFactor 2. Please do continue to stay safe, stay fast and see you out on the (virtual) track!