iRacing: Hardcore Online Zoom-Cars

By Kieron Gillen on August 28th, 2008 at 11:05 pm.

Griefing iRacing, I suspect, would be the highly amusing. Man! I'm immoral.

This was brought to my attention by comrade Hobbes, via an Xconomy article. iRacing is a new motorsports based MMO. Except “MMO” isn’t really the phrase the developers would like. They’d prefer “MMIS”. That is, “massively multiparticipant Internet sport”. It’s a serious endeavour, to say the least – it’s minimum spec includes a steering wheel and pedals, for example. More details beneath the cut…

Even its origins are interesting – the company is being driven by John Henry (the owner of my girlfriend’s favourite American bat-to-ball team, the Boston Red Sox) and Dave Kaemmer (Who you may remember from Papyrus, who are most often celebrated for the hyper-hard Grand Prix Legends. So, yes, that’s all the hardcore racing cred you really need.

And it’s that angle they’re pushing it (Example quote from Henry: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ‘game’ is a four-letter word to us, but we don’t think of ourselves as a game company”). It’s not even sims-heads who they’re considering their primary audience – it’s actually racing drivers, with them trying to offer the definitive tool for learning race courses. Well… while I’m sure that works fine, achieving that would also have an appeal to anyone who fancied themselves a famous racer like – er – Mr FastDrive. Yeah, RPS’ sports knowledge is failing again.

The pricing says a lot about how it positions itself. Payment plans are $20 monthly up to $156 for a year, plus extra payments for extra tracks and cars and similar. Oh – and there’s no trial version at the moment either. The article explains they plan to actually market this primarily through word of mouth – as in, for a product this niche, anything else is pretty much useless. All this kind of implies an actual serious belief in their Sim’s potential to appeal to its specific audience: As in, “We will build it: they will come”. Oh man! We’ve gone back to baseball.

Admittedly, of RPS, only Tim Stone is even vaguely within that audience, but it’s still excellent to see people trying something aimed at a completely different audience. Would this sort of thing appeal to any of you?

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35 Comments »

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  1. Gladman says:

    NNNnnnnnnno.

  2. Noc says:

    I feel like I’m missing something. I’ve been laboring under the assumption that “learning race courses” meant “learning to turn left,” and that “interesting” courses were an invention of the video-game industry.

    Apparently this isn’t true?

  3. graham says:

    I’ve just checked the ‘game’ out, it takes itself pretty seriously. I would prefer to play this than NFS unlimited but a steering wheel and pedal is taking it too far especially as there is no trial. It might benefit from a 10 race cap so that people like myself can test it out. I dont fancy handing over £12.00 for something I may play just once and which doesn’t strike a chord.

  4. Jesucristo says:

    I’m playing it and it’s one of the best raving sims, if not the best, I have played. Of course you have to like realism in racing sims, if you are a GT5 or NFS fan, do not touch this “game”

  5. cHeal says:

    I’d consider this if:

    There was a trial

    I had electronic monies!!!

    Looks like serious stuff, but the site could probably do with a video or two showing the menus, graphics and different things like that. From what I’ve looked at so far, I would be a little hesitant about subscribing.

  6. Phil says:

    Noc: I take it you’ve only ever seen Nascar, and the Indy 500?

    Outside of those fairly minor (if not in monetary terms) areas of car racing, you’ll be pleased to know that drivers are generally required to be ambi-turners.

  7. Cigol says:

    I actually tried forwarding the release announcement I got through the mail as a subscriber to RPS. Not sure whether it got through or not, but I have a very high opinion of it myself.

    For everyone here I would suggest ignoring the spiel about it not being a game. It has merit in that respect but not to the degree they claim, well not yet at least anyway. If you’re a sim-head who’s into games like GTR, Live for Speed, rFactor (etc) and specifically Papryus’ previous games (GPL and NR2003) then you really should look into at least a months subscription. You could always cancel it at the end of the month and pick up where you left off some other time.

    It’ll likely never replace private league racing, and why should it, but if you want to side-step the politics and tedium of the latter, to race on your own terms and in a more competitive environment which is tailored to your ability level – whenever you want – then iRacing is perfect!

    Hook up a G25 and the force feedback is second to none, giving you what feels like precise information on the nature of the track and car. Aside from being immersive it’s a beneficial aid to driving on the edge Graham, so I would say it’s a reasonable request that everyone uses something similar.

    There are a lot of features sim-heads take for granted which, whilst planned, aren’t actually implemented yet. Still I think it’s a great game and the potential for it as a competitive ‘mmo’ is, for me at least, mouth-watering. The amount of racing I’ve done in such a short time is actually scary, I have my wheel set up 24hrs a day, 7 days a week now…

    Anyone wanting more frank, critical discussion of iRacing should check out RaceSimCentral. It’s a good hub for racing games in general, and you can access their iRacing sub-section here; http://forum.racesimcentral.com/forumdisplay.php?s=&daysprune=&f=1503

  8. Jochen Scheisse says:

    No, my nicheness is catered to by Age Of Decadence. Also, if I wasted money on driving, I’d waste it on a car rather than on a Gravis steering wheel.

  9. Jesucristo says:

    Jochen, I think a car is more expensive than a Gravis Steering Wheel.

  10. wien says:

    I would love to play iRacing if it’s as realistic as people say it is, but I’m just not going to pay that much for it. Not a chance. The $156 is insulting enough, but when you have to pay for content on top of that it becomes ridiculous.

    I also can’t fathom the reasoning behind locking down all online play the way they have. I want to race when I want to race, not in pre-allocated timeslots against completely random people. I don’t need a “professionally sanctioned racing series” dictating when and with what content I’m allowed to play.

    Until they fix those things, I’ll be having fun over in Live for Speed.

  11. Cigol says:

    If you pay for the annual subscription you actually get $60 of iRacing credit (equivalent to genuine money) to spend on buying tracks and cars. So whilst you’re not technically getting money back (as the act itself implies spending more in the future) you are getting your moneys worth.

    Still, you’re unlikely to want to diversify too much, particularly in the beginning and I imagine more subscription packages (beyond ‘rookie’) will be implemented eventually. I don’t think $20 a month, particularly if you live in Europe is too much to ask however, especially with the dollar so weak!

    Regarding your second paragraph, I direct you to RaceSimCentral (as above). You don’t have your facts straight, and there’s nothing stopping you enjoying both Live for Speed and iRacing.

  12. wien says:

    It certainly was like that in the beta. Have they changed it? Can people start their own servers and hold races when they want, with whomever they want and with what content they want? A simple “yes” will suffice and I’ll shuffle along to read up on the details.

  13. Dinger says:

    Yes, I remember playing massively multiplayer flight sims when they had an hourly rate, and a couple of times, I ran up monthly bills that equaled these guys’ annual rate (so the one-offs would be affordable).
    Thankfully, everyone went to a monthly subscription model, but it was still $10-$15/year. $20/year for an online, MM-only sim is perfectly reasonable, in large part because your community is a lot smaller, so for a reasonable game, they have to spend more. I mean, heck, even when I was player for $12/month, I still ended up running sorties with professionals who were “sim training” (for the overseas guys camped out in a dorm room in Red Flag territory, we found that switching from simspeak to standard NATO terminology helped everyone out). Sure, if they can deliver on the experience, it’s worth it. Not to me, mind you, but to the sim-racing enthusiasts out there and the professionals. Niche? Sure. But ain’t that the beauty of PC gaming?

    Oh and Steering wheel and pedals? Yes, necessary to run the game. TrackIR? Necessary to finish the race.

  14. Cigol says:

    @Wien; No. Aside from the the logistical nightmare it would create for a niche product stunted by a prohibitive subscription model, that’s not the goal of iRacing. Aside from which, not many people I know actually enjoy public server racing and stick to private leagues – something iRacing plan to implement in the future.

    Regarding races, they are scheduled yes but staggered to allow overlap into other series – you wont be left wanting and the paradox is that you’ll participate in and complete more competitive races in a single day of iRacing than a week in most games.

    You can also influence the system into picking your friends as opponents by adding them to your friend list. Naturally this isn’t a dead cert because manipulating the system into allowing to compete against lesser drivers would be unfair.

    To say you race against ‘completely random people’ also belies the fact you’ll be racing against these completely random people quite a lot to the extent you’ll at the very least recognise them if not get to know them. It all depends on how sociable you are and what yours and their trajectory is, up or down.

    As it’s an evolving product these sorts of things can be tweaked and improved as the client base increases.

  15. wien says:

    Okay, then I’m not interested. I think a system like that is ridiculous. If participating in this organized league was an option in addition to normal free multiplayer racing it would be fine, but when it’s the only option I’m out the door. I just don’t want to be told how and when I’m allowed to race, and I certainly won’t pay through the nose for the privilege.

  16. Seb Potter says:

    Wien – Just because their model doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean it needs fixing. It strikes me that it’s been built that way specifically to discourage the sort of casual gamers that might think in a similar vain. (If only other games did that. Imagine Counterstrike servers that cost a premium but guaranteed you were going to play with people who took the game seriously rather than running around screaming insults and teabagging corpses.)

    Back on track – I was lucky (crazy?) enough to have to QA Grand Prix Legends back in the day. It was the most awesomely nerdy month of my gaming career, and is probably the reason that I can’t see a driving game without buying it and playing it until the wheels fall off. I might have to give this a go, the idea of a game being organised as a sport is really quite appealing.

  17. wien says:

    I didn’t say it needs fixing. I said it needs fixing if they want my money. If they don’t, then that’s fine.

    I still think it’s a shame they have developed this awesome physics engine and scanned all those tracks just to limit their user base to this niche within a niche. I don’t see how us “casual racers” would interfere with the league people when we wouldn’t be playing on the same servers anyway. Seems to me they’ve just halved their customer base for no good reason at all.

  18. Devan says:

    I don’t see why this needs to have a subscription, other than to squeeze more money from their very niche market. I guess if the players find it that much better..

  19. Ginger Yellow says:

    I don’t get it. People who actually need to learn tracks (ie racing drivers) can practice on the tracks themselves. People who don’t need to aren’t going to pay that much money.

  20. wien says:

    I think you severely underestimate the cost of a training session in a real racing car (with the required team to run it) at a major track. It ain’t cheap.

    Sim racing also makes it much easier to practice your racecraft since you can do lap after lap against other people at little actual cost, or risk of trashing your car if you overcook it. That’s not to say you can jump directly from a sim to a real car and be competitive, but certain aspects of sim racing certainly translate.

  21. Iain says:

    I’ve been a SimRacer since the heady days of GPL and I can safely say that iRacing is phenomenal but when they say it’s not a game it has a certain amount of validity. It’s a big commitment, both financially and in time, to get anything out of iRacing, you need to be a pretty good driver.

    You are paying for that extra step of realism which brings the whole experience closer to the real thing. The driving model is sublime but I doubt most people would really care that much!

  22. Commando says:

    I know they are going for the hardcore but $20 a month rips the piss.

  23. Philip says:

    Sounds…interesting. It may well be worth it if it reduces the number of wreckers in races – Race 07 has turned into destruction derby recently.

    EDIT: Having checked out the website – The number of cars and tracks is a touch limited at the moment, and it’s a bit US-centric. May give it a month’s try out at some pont though.

  24. The Sombrero Kid says:

    Yuck

  25. Heliocentric says:

    i’m really shocked how positive people are sounding. F**king monthly fee’s, all they seem to be providing in terms of features is a play what we tell you system, great. I hope the company goes under, the last thing i want is this payment model sneaking into genres i care about. Yea, i’m bringing the hate to what is meant to be a specialist product.

  26. Philip says:

    Erm…people pay money for WoW, Everquest. Why not for a racing game? Ok, I’m not sure personally if it will work, as all other racing games are based on a one-off payment – the only micropayments I’ve see are for hi-res skins in LFS. For a product intended for use by professional racing drivers to “learn” circuits, it has a fairly limited array of tracks at this moment, but it has potential.

    And as a big GPL fan, anything with Dave Kaemmer as part of the team should be fairly authentic handling/physics wise, which is what I look for personally in a racing game. I know, quite sad, but I haven’t any time for arcade racers.

    So long as I can have a go for a month, and cancel the subscription easily should it not be up to much, I’ll be giving it a go. Unfortunately, I fear having a free trial will only encourage wreckers etc., and that will give a bad impression of the game to potential customers.

  27. Domicius says:

    Although I personally don’t have the time to spend on a driving hobby, I think that this “game” is just that; A way to participate in a serious hobby with other like minded individuals.

    The money is not much if you consider that you are playing against other serious individuals, and the implication is that you’re going to be playing this game for several years to come, and not just a month.

    Sounds great, wish I could afford the time.

  28. Bozzley says:

    Different is good. The game / sport isn’t my cup of tea, but I’d be interested to see what happens if it becomes a success. Might encourage people making other games in other genres to rethink a few things, might encourage a bit more diversity across the board for any game with an online component. Different is good.

  29. Fede says:

    I like racing simulators but I dislike a bit monthly fees. Especially if there is no trial.

    No trial? No buy!

  30. AbyssUK says:

    I’d also like to say yay open source and post racer

    http://www.racer.nl/

  31. Cigol says:

    The problem with a ‘trial’ is that it’s going to put off quite a lot of people, and with it generate negativity. Even if you’re familiar with other racing titles there is still a learning curve to get to grips with – something that isn’t initially fun, but with perserverance everything soon falls into place. If you pay a paltry $20 you’re more likely to get stuck in and work at it, a trial version would potentially dilute your appreciation.

    It’s like taking someone who plays GRID, sitting them down in front of Richard Burns Rally and telling them to have fun in a set amount of time. It’s possible they might but most will give up after the 5th try at turn one and miss on the excitement of playing it properly.

    I’m not saying this is the motivation for no trial existing, I don’t know the reasons, but I think it would be more of a detriment if it were to exist. If you play any of the aforementioned games (GTR, LFS, rFactor, NR2003, GPL, etc) then you don’t really need a trial. You’ll more or less know what to expect and whether that appeals to you.

  32. minipixel says:

    i don’t want to troll with this link. it can be informative of what happened some time ago :p
    first-racing-sucks.com

  33. Phil White says:

    The small community will work in its favour, given the content. ‘Wreckers’ shouldn’t be tempted. However…

    In my experience of real-life racing, the tantrums thrown by a large number of the fraternity is enough to put me off such a community. I’d be far more inclined to subscribe to a Maddox flight sim, despite having less knowledge on the content.

    I’m staying with Live for Speed unless something changes my mind. iRacing has a way to go to convince me.

  34. Jason Moyer says:

    Thanks for posting this Kieron. I haven’t really bothered talking about it much on the gaming sites I frequent (motorsports sites are a different matter, but I can’t really see TTLG or someplace getting excited about it), but it’s good to see gamers are also becoming aware of it. I’ve been a subscriber since early May, and frankly, I haven’t been able to tear myself away from it since. I don’t want to launch into a lengthy review, but I can say with confidence that there’s nothing out there that’s even remotely comparable to either the simulation or the service (which is really what you’re subscribing to).