Hello everyone and happy hump day! By now just about everyone should have gotten a chance to drive the new content and I hope you guys are enjoying the build.
In the last couple articles we have talked heavily about accessibility and marketability. We are going to take a slight step back from that and look at a slightly more nuanced issue, but one that is very much a problem given the power of word of mouth, which we will talk about directly in the Thursday article. Quite simply, the topic is the traditional mistakes iRacing makes.
I have been on the sim since April of 2012. Anyone who has been on the sim, and taken it particularly serious, knows that iRacing makes a lot of mistakes in regards to their service.
Now when I say mistakes I do not mean anything within the sim itself. This is purely an issue with execution and decision making. As much as I don’t want it to be an issue, and as much as I hate to say it is holding the sim back, the cold hard truth is that it is a major issue. It is at the point where whenever something is happening on the sim there is always the question of “How is iRacing going to mess this up” from the depths of the community.
The most recent bit of drama that resonated throughout the sim was the removal of live admins from the World Championships. Up until 2018 all of the World Championship level series had live admins. A decision that came with a flurry of questions from the community (Especially at the pro level) and as far as I know we have been left with no real answer. The logic essentially being that the automated race control and penalty system is capable of handling problems on track.
Anyone who knows anything about running a series knows this is not true. Many of the largest leagues on the sim use live admins for control, such as the NEO Endurance Series and Indy Elite Series. So the idea that the automated system is adequate, when other series who are under the control of the same system do not rely on it, is a little odd. I know that Sparey did an article dedicated to this particular issue when it first cropped up so I wont go too much on this, but it is sort of the perfect example.
iRacing, as good as they are at producing content, are extraordinarily bad at seeing the important issues that grind users gears on a constant basis.
Bugs consistently last for years and remain unfixed. An example being with the C7 Daytona Prototype. A bug has been around since the car released that it will sometimes not repair certain damage. So get the wrong hit in an endurance race and your day is pretty much done, and practice time wasted.
There has also been consistent issues with the creation of sessions. I know for me, my first exposure to the issue was back in 2012/2013 with the Inside Simracing 2 hours of Watkins Glen endurance special event. ISR sponsored the event, which would feature the old Riley Daytona Prototype and the Cadillac CTSV. People were excited to run in the event as the Cadi was new at the time, race servers launched, and the Daytona Prototypes were put on the grid behind the GT cars. An issue which was somehow dealt with in some splits by the drivers, and caused complete calamity in others.
It would be understandable if this were a once in a blue moon issue, but it simply is not. We have seen new GT3 cars release and have the incorrect fuel levels in the official sprint series, the season opener of the 2016 Blancpain GT World Championship was a standing start, and several times the wrong layout for the Indianapolis 500 has been used and the Indy Car community has to bring it up and get it fixed.
Most recently the first round of the new Road To Pro series for NASCAR was held, and the sim featured incorrect restart rules, no lucky dog, and a points system which means that the people who won the bottom splits got just as many points as people who won the top split. And while iRacing were able to revert the points awarded it does not change the fact that the results were affected for a top level series that is to qualify for a world championship license.
These are the sims large scale events, the events that market the sim. If there is any time that things need to be flawless it is for these events. To keep having these issues ten years after release is unacceptable for what is being charged. Not only because it shows laziness, but most importantly because it perpetuates a “What will slip through the cracks next time” mind set in the sim. I would say that the community as a whole lacks confidence in the sims ability to consistently and dependably execute things the way they say they are going too.
On top of this it is as if there is little to no communication between the developers and the community about a lot of the issues.
As a recent example that stirred up a ton of controversy was the way splitting works for endurance events after the iRacing Daytona 24. For those who are unaware, when a team registers for an event the sim takes the average iRating of the drivers who registered for the session (That is, the drivers who press the button to signup the car before the session launches). However there is no minimum driver count for these. That means one driver can signup the car and can dictate where a team goes.
Because of this there have been situations where we have cars in top split broadcast races where the highest rated driver in a car had a moderate iRating of 3500, yet in second split there is a team running whos LOWEST rated driver had 400 iRating plus. The inverse can also happen, and quick drivers can have a friend with a low iRating drag them into a lower split meaning teams can bully their way to a free win.
The system has worked like that since the team racing feature released, and drivers among the higher tiers of endurance racing have complained about it for years. It was no secret that the community did not like the system. It had been discussed endlessly on the forums. But, for whatever reason, the 2 times it was brought up to the developers it was as if they had no idea this was even a problem. A communication breach like that shouldn’t exist.
What is so curious about that is that some of the developers do not fit that mold at all. Someone who is fairly new in the office is Steve Reis who was brought in for engineering in 2016. He does a lot of work on the dirt side and he has been utterly phenomenal in his communication with the community. When the non-winged USAC Sprint Cars first released they were really bad, and the forums reflected that.
Steve was super open to comments and suggestion, was discussing things on the forums, made himself available to pro drivers to test the car, and within several days there had been several patches that greatly improved the cars bite and characteristics. That is how dev and community interactions should go. This should be the rule rather then the exception but unfortunately it isn’t.
And because that disconnection exists as the status quo, and because mistakes tend to happen time and again, a number of people have the attitude in the community that the staff simply does not care.
That said, I personally do not think the issue is nearly that sinister. I think iRacing has a much more nuanced issue.
We know that iRacing has a relatively small development team. I think the issue is that they are constantly looking forward at new content, and not so much at fixing issues and backtracking as little as possible. A flurry of small bugs and quality of life issues have existed in a lot of the cars and tracks for a long time. The DP repair issue, the meatball bug that effects every car, lack of options for hosted sessions, HPD under tray damage bug. The list likely extends to every can and every corner of the sim. Not everything necessarily being game breaking, but things that are definitely problems.
I think a good solution would be a slight change of focus for parts of the year. At the moment it seems like the sim is 100% focused, foot flat to the floor moving forward pumping new content. That is fine and dandy, and I know their dev team is swamped. However a slight rethink could do some good. Maybe take a season off of developing new content and focus purely on bug fixes and quality of life issues. As much as I understand that new content is huge for the sim, those small fixes, and solutions for bugs people wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get to fixing also build the sim in a big way. As important as a new car is to the sim, a bug that goes unfixed for multiple years to the point where users are telling other users to not use that car is a MAJOR issue. It may seem like a small one on the surface, but that sort of bug needs to be a primary focus always.
Matter of fact, this very situation is why I think this build is one of the best I have seen in a long time. And its not because of the MAJOR releases such as LMP1, IR18, Limaland or Charlotte. Its the little filler that improves the flexibility and usability of the sim. The primary example in this new build is actually some of the update to the controls.
The release notes read:
1 The Sim should now make better estimates for controller calibration when initially starting up the Simulation.
2 Joystick calibration routine has been adjusted to reduce the likelihood of a noisy joystick axis getting detected.
3 Improved the ability to map a multiple button press trigger to a single control response.
– – For Example: Button A = Action 1 -and- Button A + Button B = Action 2
4 Support for mapping actions to buttons that are permanently held down (for example a position switch that simulates pressing and holding a button), has been added.
– – When mapping button controls, iRacing would normally watch for the “button release” event before mapping that input to the action. But in this case a user can hit “Enter” when mapping the control to accept the held-button (or switch position) in its current location.
Notes 3 and 4 are the most interesting to me here.
For note 3, what this essentially means is that you can bind a shift (Like the keyboard key, not the gear change kind) or function button if you have an unused button on your wheel, and then you can use all the other buttons on the wheel to bind more complex changes to the car. Are there in car adjustment you don’t have enough buttons for? Function button + an existing key and guess what, you get that control. For example I have bias adjustments bound to all my road cars. What I am going to do is make it so the buttons, when combined with the function button, will alter ABS levels. Effectively what this does is double the amount of buttons you have on your wheel and allows you to program much more vague controls/commands through the macros.
Note 4 is a little more self explanatory, but a lot of people want things like their pit limiter to always need to be held down. Giving people the option to do just that is an extremely nifty addition that suits peoples preferences.
Both of these are extremely handy additions which are currently flying under the radar, but when people sort out what you can do with them could be one of the most used features in the sim down the line.
And if you look through the release notes there are several other small nifty things that are in the same category.
While these little features or past issues may not ruin the sim as a whole having those features and eliminating the issues could actually make it. While focus will always be on the major things such as new cars, tracks, and way to market the sim, the little pieces are important components to the end user and their importance should not be under estimated.