By: Colby Martin
I love simulation racing games, in fact it’s probably my go to genre, but lately they’ve failed in every category possible. While they are true to the profession in the terms of physics, graphics, and atmosphere. However, they are boring as all get out. They lack the significant key to a great game. Some of you probably are saying “No joke, it’s a stupid racing game”, however racing games can be a defining moment for a console.
Console Sells Correlation to Racing Title Success
Look at the Playstation One. Gran Turismo was the title that separated it from the Nintendo and Sega consoles. It was such an in-depth racing title that we had yet to see, and it moved consoles. Fast forward to the PS3, and the same title that defined it’s generation is also defining this one. Except, it’s not such a positive definition. The PS3 to many has been a system filled with promise and direction, but has failed to deliver on many pages. GT5 also was a title full of promise, but failed to deliver. Polyphony Digital secured the rights to NASCAR, yet they failed to do anything significant with it. They obtained the rights to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but didn’t feature the reason it’s famous. Why is it that the IndyCar Series wasn’t included? Not sure if it’s licensing, but I’m sure they could have put it or something like it in the title.
GT5 is also a game that completely lacks identity. Is it a driving game, or is it a simulation racer? To be honest, I’d have to say it’s more of a driving simulator. That’s not really fun is it? Most people hate driving, I otherwise enjoy it but not as much as I do racing.
Let me not just pick on GT5, I’d also like to take a second to pick on the titles like Simraceway, rfactor, and the Race On Series of games. These games are fantastic simulators of racing, but they aren’t fun to drive. This is why the opinion I have is that Simulation Racers lack personality. I love games like Need for Speed Shift and other titles like Burnout. They are a blast, they are fun to play and they are and enjoyable driving game.
You’re Doing it Right!
These games aren’t just fun, but they are also games that have such an amazing atmosphere. Burnout Paradise was Paradise City, Paradise City was Burnout. You take away one of the elements of that and you get nothing. The game would fail miserably, however, the atmosphere combined with the gameplay was a success. Sure, Burnout could work anywhere, but if you put it in a generic place with no name or attitude and you’d get a generic game.
Let’s look at Forza, and all the Forza titles fall into this, but Forza kind of pulls it off. Truth is, Forza has an identity and a personality. It’s a car game, and it’s a game about driving exotic and powerful cars. The atmosphere is the car, the beauty of the car, and how you make your car more powerful than your competitors. You can also edit your car to personalize it so that it’s your’s. Your own paint scheme or vinyls, your own parts, and your own setup. This is where Forza defines itself, and it’s the reason it’s the best selling racing franchise this generation.
You’re Doing it Wrong!
Earlier I mentioned how racing simulators fail miserably on personality. They don’t have a specific one, they feature many identities. Let’s look at rFactor. It’s one of the top selling simulators on the market, however it’s had little share due to it’s genre and lack of mainstream appeal. I stumbled upon rFactor in the fall of 2008 and fell in love with it, shortly after I made the decision to buy it. At the time it was one of the best purchases I ever made, however, I shortly began to realize it’s lack of personality. Sure you can race any car there is a mod for on any track that’s ever been modded for it. However, most of the physics and desirable things are missing due to the lack of consistency in modding. This is annoying because you can never quite figure out a racing style or in my case a specific wheel setup. Sure, tracks and cars handle differently in life, however there’s a significant change in overall handling and physics between mods. The mainstream crowd doesn’t want this, that’s why these titles don’t work well.
Also, take a look at a game like iRacing. (I know I shouldn’t call it a game, but it technically is). The game is solely online, there’s no offline racing mode only testing. It’s not kind to the first time racer as people crash, spin, and drive like maniacs in online rookie level races. However, it does reward people who are willing to work at it. My levels of racing should be a lot higher as long as I’ve been subscribed to it, however I get annoyed way too easily with crappy drivers and leave. Plus they continually update their driving mechanics to offset the big guys and continue to add a challenge. Again, mainstream audiences don’t attract to this as they want to enjoy what they do, not be beat into the dirt over and over.
Again, it’s not about the challenge, it’s about the personality. iRacing is another title like rFactor that is about racing, but other than that there isn’t a lot of customization. Sure you can change your paint schemes and number or setup the car to your liking, but there’s nothing else about it that has mainstream appeal. I admit my Raptr account shows these titles at the top of the “Hours Played” chart, but that’s not due to fun, that’s due to the work they need to become an average racer.
Why The Sim-Crowd Needs to Appreciate the Arcade Crowd
Go to any sim-racing forum or website and you’ll constantly see sim-racers complaining about “so-called” sim racing titles. These titles include Codemasters F1 titles and Need for Speed Shift. You’d also see the newer Ferrari Racing Legends listed in this spot, however that game has a lot of issues in it (look for a review on Backlogged Gaming soon). These games have personality, atmosphere, and flavor in them.
F1 tries to emulate the Formula One paddock, and while it struggles in some areas, it actually makes you feel like you’re battling for the F1 Title. Every team has a chassis that handles differently, and each team has different development paths as well as expectations for you. Certain teams don’t care if you struggle to finish at the top as long as you’re showing improvement. Other teams will quickly get upset if you finish to gain points. This all adds to the personality and immersion.
Need for Speed Shift doesn’t have as much in the terms of replication, however they do make the game tough and enjoyable. Each car handles slightly different and every track has a different driving style. Add to this the mini-objectives that each track and race has and you’ll see an identity. Not a lot of games offer these multiple levels of objectives or challenges. I often find myself replaying a race so that I can master a corner or beat a lap-time. This is a new level that simulators lack, and is something they should try and replicate. However, the sim-crowd often complains the instant these are included.
Will it Ever Change?
While the simulator crowd continues to grow, there’s a chance that full-on simulators will never strive in the marketplace. They can be extremely challenging, but with the challenge comes amazing rewards. Running quick laps at times similar to the real life times is an exciting moment and one that many gamers could enjoy. However, the lack of customizing the game really kills it’s appeal.
I hope it changes as many simulators offer some of the best driving mechanics around, however blurring the line between simulator and arcade is essential. I love the F1 titles, and I think they blend the line wonderfully. I believe this line blurring is essential if titles like iRacing want to survive in the next generation, and truthfully these titles need to move to the consoles to also survive. Trust me, the PC is the best medium for simulators, but the biggest market share will come from the consoles.
Just don’t do like SimBin did with Race Pro. I like that game, but there’s no personality in it. It’s just a racing game and one that is tough. It’s not that fun or entertaining. I like it, but most people laugh at it and call it a joke of a game. That’s where these developers fail, they don’t game it up enough. That’s what has to change because these developers offer a wonderful experience, they just don’t make it very appealing. Like I said about GT5, don’t make “Driving Simulators” make “Racing Games”. This is the only way the genre will grow as will console success.