It was announced a couple of days ago in a post on the iRacing forums that iRacing were in the middle of developing a brand new AI system, the first time iRacing have been looking into that market. For the longest time, iRacing went without a built in AI system and I always thought that was one of the charms when it came to iRacing. I feel now though that the charm has been lost, and I am slightly sad at the announcement.
Don’t get me wrong, I think adding AI is a good move and a must make move for iRacing in order to grab in the traffic of those who don’t want to put up iRating and Safety Rating but cannot find a suitable league to make anything happen. It makes sure that those who can’t make races due to a time zone difficulty more likely to find reason to play and it also gets a lot of casual players familiar with the general mechanics without having the pitfall of driving around in rookie, which is lethal at the best of times.
When it comes to a personal appeal though, what makes me sad is that iRacing wasn’t about AI. This was the game where if you wanted to prove you weren’t chicken, you used iRacing to race against others and that was the sole purpose. In iRacing’s seemingly infinite desire just to want new people upon heaps of new people, I think AI starts to encroach on the identity of iRacing, if Dirt didn’t already massively change that.
What I find good though about the announcement is that the AI element won’t be released into the core iRating and Safety rating aspects of the game and that it will exist as a separate entity. As I said before, giving a lot of space for brand new drivers to come in and want to race, getting them accustomed to how a vehicle handles and operates without ruining the enjoyment for others and being able to use them as a way of testing race pace without having to be in a team or a practice session is a massive boost for iRacing.
What makes it so good as well is the fact that with a custom career mode looking to be added too, the capability for mainstream racing YouTube stars like say a Tiametmarduk or Aarava or even more content from Nicki Thiim or a Jimmy Broadbent, there won’t be a denial on the fact that adding an arcade style element into the simulator is a good decision in that regard.
Mind you this comes at a time where iRacing’s development has ramped up over the last year and with eyes on what has been confirmed which includes Audi and Porsche LMP1 vehicles, a Subaru GRC car, Rain, Day/Night transitions, a new tire model, a new damage model and the promise of more tracks which has now included the Chili Bowl, iRacing has been pushing for all of this to be hopefully added before the end of 2018. When you add AI into that too, it looks like iRacing will have a lot of change on the horizon.
While my problems with AI are personal and come from my love for just a pure racing challenge against others, iRacing trying to bring in the casual racer is arguably what they need and with Rallycross considered a very good success with a lot of drivers picking it up in 2018, including myself, I think iRacing wants to hit 100K active subscriptions by the end of the year. Development wise it is going the right way, however iRacing do need to sell themselves more as has always been the issue.
Safe to say I will be spending most of my iRacing time getting to grips with AI when it releases and probably won’t be seen in a race for a while after that. I think people will enjoy it and it is a positive, however for me, there is a tinge of sadness that the sim of no nonsense and racing means against other people will soon be drawing to a close.