Project Sim Racer: Part 2 – Let's Go Racing!
When we left Project Sim Racer in Part 1, we had just finished constructing our cockpit and outfitting it with controls from Logitech. Now it is time to get to gaming! I mean driving! I mean driving in the games! OK, whatever!
In this segment we will evaluate two extremely popular simulators: iRacing and rFactor 2. These are fairly thorough/in-depth looks at these titles, but both of them offer so much content, customization, and options that I found it hard to narrow the focus!
Note: The photos in this article are screenshots from the games captured running in windowed mode at 1280×1024, unless they are browser photos. Both titles would run at the full resolution of the Predator X34 (3440×1440). Do not mistake the quality of the screenshots directly for the quality of either title. Both simulators have stunnning graphics and tons of options to tune the graphical detail to your liking / system's capabilities. Click the photos for links to the full-er resolution versions.
First up: rFactor 2
rFactor 2 is the next release in the rFactor series, originally created by Image Space Incorporated (ISI). Late in 2016, ISI formed a strategic partnership with Luminis to accelerate the development of the simulator. This partnership involved the creation of a new corporate entity, Studio 397.
Studio 397 has been very forthcoming with information about the future of rFactor 2. While many people are familiar with the traditional software grind of having to buy a new title every few years, rFactor 2 has something slightly different going on in relation to its recent transition to using Steam as the distribution platform.
Studio 397 has embarked on an ambitious development plan which they are very public about on their news page. While many companies would consider the upgrade of the core graphics runtime to be part of a new release with a new purchase required, Studio 397’s use of Steam and their new business model means that this will simply show up one day as a regular update when users log into their Steam client. Major and minor updates are simply automatically pulled down by Steam and are available for use once ready.
Another benefit to the use of Steam as a distribution platform is that Studio 397 can make it easier to release additional vehicles, tracks, and enhancements to the game. These are not being offered as pay-for DLC, but are actually delivered through a Steam feature called the Steam Workshop. When Studio 397 releases a new track, like they just did with NOLA Motorsports Park, or new vehicles, like the USF2000, Nissan GT500, and even the Brabham BT44B, it simply appears in the Workshop, and, with the click of a button, can be added to the game.
As a fan of open source and open architectures, rFactor 2 continues where rFactor left off, providing a rich system for modifications and for user-developed contributions to the game. If you have the skills and want to tackle 3D modeling and programming, you can make your own cars, tracks, or other modifications to the game. Then, you can upload them to the Steam Workshop for everyone to consume.
Because of the openness of the simulator, there are quite a lot of forums with sections dedicated to rFactor 2. These also serve as interesting places to find cars, tracks and plugins. Studio-397 also operates their own forum where many contributors post their things.
Examples of “user-contributed” content include:
- Road America, Barber Motorsports Park (tracks)
- BMW M6 GT3, V8 Supercars (cars)
- Track Map Overlay, Customizable Spotter, Lap Delta (plugins that affect the in-game experience).
So, what does it look like? How does it work? Let’s get into it.
When the simulator is first fired up in single player mode, you find yourself here at the title screen. Like many driving simulators, from here you can select your track, the track configuration, the vehicle, and some details about the vehicle. You can also choose specific race series, which will then restrict your selection of tracks and vehicles. We’ll get into series later, as it relates to multiplayer.
First, make a vehicle selection.
Depending on the vehicle, various liveries and color selections are offered. And, depending on how the vehicle was created, you can sometimes tweak your selection in the details page.
Next, choose a track!