The Flare Path: Back On Track

There are good reasons why the likes of Canal King, Despatch Rider 1944, and Schwerer Gustav Simulator seldom get mentioned in The Flare Path.* The glaring absence of X-Plane, rFactor and iRacing coverage is harder to explain and justify.This week, in a feeble attempt to make amends for years of negligence, I mark rFactor’s 10th birthday by grilling Image Space Incorporated’s Tim Wheatley over a very low flame.

*Flare Path Games still lacks a coder, a budget, and a work ethic.

RPS: Choosing a high-fidelity race sim is particularly tricky at the moment. For the benefit of genre dilettantes like myself, what does rFactor 2 offer that rivals like Assetto Corsa, iRacing, and RaceRoom don’t?

Tim: Without a doubt the thing that pulls us apart from all of those (for now) is the dynamic nature of the racing experience in rFactor 2.

– You can setup a race in rFactor 2 that will have a 24 hour day/night/day cycle where the sun goes down and the stars move across the sky.
– You can have tires that start out fresh and end up physically flatspotted or worn out depending on how you have mistreated them over the race distance.
– You can start a race on a clean track and see it gradually rubber in over the course of a race specifically where you and others have driven. You’ll have higher grip on those areas and less grip off of them.*
– You can change weather conditions between wet and dry and see a drying line form where you and others have driven, making the change of tires a decision that can be different each and every race.

*iRacing are about to implement their version of a dynamic track surface, while we’ve had one for a few years. Theirs looks to be more advanced in some areas such as heat transfer (if their latest trailer is an indication of how things will work), so that’s a great way to drive the genre forwards in a way that is better for all.

The great thing about all those features is that you can adapt them exactly how you want. Say you want to do a 24 minute race, but simulate a full 24 hours with driver changes, etc – no problem! You can run a 50% length race and accelerate the time of day, tire wear, fuel usage, realroad (track surface rubber) and mechanical failures by x2, meaning everything that would happen in a 100% race still happens. Or – you can accelerate them much higher or lower depending on the experience you want to have.

That’s what racing is about these days… They barely race their opponents. They race the track and themselves. I like to say that rFactor 2 is the first true racing simulator, everything before it was a physics simulator.

Lastly, our A.I. is very good (best in the industry, in my opinion), and some products don’t even come with an offline capability. You can also save your offline races mid-way through, too, something that hasn’t been in a sim for quite a while (maybe since Geoff Crammond was kicking around).

RPS: Modability is obviously a key part of rFactor’s success. What three mods would you recommend to a mod-overwhelmed rFactor 2 newcomer?

Tim: Although there are quite a few third-party mods to choose from, I don’t think a newcomer has to go far from home. I would recommend all these first-party content items:

– Indianapolis Motor Speedway if they want an oval or roadcourse that is fairly flat.
– Atlanta Motorsports Park if they want a rollercoaster ride of a roadcourse that is extremely challenging… Also including their kart track for good measure.
– The Nissan 370z is a great beginner car.
– Formula Renault 3.5 2014 is a very nice open-wheel car.
– The AC 427 is for those who want to try something a little bit more crazy.

Atlanta, FR3.5 and the AC427 are in our free demo right now, along with the karts.

RPS: What’s gJED and how is it’s arrival likely to change things?

Tim: gJED takes 3DS Max out of the production pipeline for modders. You can use any 3D modelling tool that can export the right format. Previously you had to have the right version of 3DS Max and use our plugins for it.

RPS: Why doesn’t rF2 feature laser-scanned tracks?

Tim: We don’t need it to produce quality tracks. I’d happily ask anyone to compare our version of Silverstone with any scanned version of the same layouts. We used another method to produce similar results.

RPS: In terms of race sim physics, do you feel there are significant dragons still to be slain, or have we now entered a phase in which future advances in the genre will be so small… so incremental, that the only people likely to appreciate them will be connoisseurs.

Tim: I do think it is quite a small market, but it can appeal to people if they put the time in. If you want to make money, if that is your driving force, then you don’t make racing sims anyway. Every racing game will try to sell itself as a simulation, and that’s fine, but what tends to happen is that everyone thinks they are Fernando Alonso, Jimmie Johnson or Mark Webber, then get angry when a simulation actually challenges them, blaming it instead of trying to work on themselves in the way simulations force you to.

I dare you, drink a shot every time you see “like driving on ice” said about a racing sim and your liver will be dead and buried before you’ve even felt the effects of the alcohol.

Whether that means further advancements in physics will drive gamers and simmers further apart or not? It’s very hard to say. I hate how defensive people are over the word sim versus game; Our sim is a sim; Our sim is a game. I’ve always felt that if someone finds a racing game, any racing game, and they truly appreciate it, they might find our product eventually… “Graduate up” is perhaps the right way to say it, where graphics become less important and feeling/physics the most important. I personally try to support every developer in the genre, especially those making hardcore sims. We all have a part of each others customer base and we all could be the next sim of choice.

The real advancements to come in other sims (I feel we’ve already got them in various forms in rF2) are the dynamic nature of racing as a whole. What we’re missing is taking those a bit further, like iRacing seem to be about to do with the track surfaces, and like we’ll maybe do sometime down the road in response.

RPS: I’m still waiting for a dev to combine rFactor 2/Assetto Corsa/iRacing calibre car physics with public roads and non-competitive motoring. Theoretically could the isiMotor2.5 engine be used as the basis for a Euro Truck Simulator/City Car Driving-style motoring game?

Tim: Absolutely. A modder once imported a GTA map into rFactor 1 (it quickly vanished due to the fact it waded knee-deep into a legal minefield). We license our engines out for all sorts of projects and would welcome someone giving that a proper go!

RPS: Do you have any plans to licence isiMotor2.5 for third-party development?

Tim: Yes, the first client to license what is effectively the rFactor 2 engine is pretty close right now… We often have people mentioning what they are planning to do, so I’m hoping things go well for them.

RPS: Will rFactor 2 ever be sold through Steam?

Tim: Yes. it’s a lot more challenging to do this with rF2 than rF1, but we had the same guy do it for us so we can keep developing. He comes to us to make decisions for him and just gets on with it.

RPS: What’s glooping through the rF2 pipeline at the moment?

Tim: Stock cars are coming fairly soon. While turning left might not be to everyone’s taste, they are a fantastic and cheap way to get your oval racing fix in rFactor 2. We need to get a few more tracks together for release and polish up our rulebook. :)

RPS: Thank you for your time

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As I was saying to colleague John Walker just the other day “Though Panzer General’s gameplay is neither original or visceral, I do find Open Panzer, Nicu Pavel’s free browser-based version of it, extremely addicting.” Clearly tempted by my recommendation, John immediately handed me his empty glass and half-eaten sausage roll, and, without saying a word, hurried away. The urge to wargame can be a powerful thing!

I wonder which campaign John tried first – the four-scenario ‘Fall Weiss’ (German), the continent-trotting 16-scenario ‘Big Red One’ (US), the snow-draped 20-scenario ‘Great Patriotic War’ (Soviet) or the 32-part ‘Das Reich’ (German) epic. Whichever it was, I bet he was impressed by the skilfully streamlined GUI, the handy autosaves (Leave the site and your current campaign is automatically saved. Return and it’s instantly autoloaded) and the abundance of carefully ported PG features. Constantly maturing core units, spontaneously generated leaders, in-mission unit purchasing, one-click move mode toggling… anyone wondering why Panzer General is held in such high esteem by middle-aged grogs like Yours Truly could do a lot worse than experience the old timer’s populist charms and peculiar challenges via Open Panzer.

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A licencing policy shift by US rail giant BNSF, means Dovetail Games are no longer willing to sell Train Simulator DLC featuring BNSF content to rail enthusiasts outside the US. Whether non-US citizens that already own important routes like Marias Pass and Stevens Pass have the legal right to continue to use the branded rolling stock these routes contain, isn’t totally clear, so, to be on the safe side, I now endeavour to obscure all potentially illegal logos while using TS2015.

In cab view, this is relatively straightforward; on seeing another BNSF loco in the distance I generally lower my gaze, roll my mousewheel forwards, and focus on an instrument or cab detail until noise levels suggest the danger is past. However, when using external cameras, respecting BNSF’s wishes is much trickier.

The hand method I employed for a while worked well enough when rolling stock was some way off, but at close quarters it was sometimes necessary to use two hands to hide unsanctioned skins. As I soon discovered, the human nose may be superb at odour differentiation and spectacles support, but it’s a very poor substitute for a nimble digit when it comes to jabbing keys quickly and cleanly.

Small sellotape-affixed modesty panels now take the place of my greasy fingers. Moving them speedily around the screen as a train beetles past a lineside cam can be challenging (thank heavens for the pause button!) but the inconvenience/expense (I find tape pieces need to be replaced after roughly 80 miles of train simming) is a small price to pay for perfect peace of mind.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s puzzle foxed for 72 hours. Roman was preparing to add another kill ring to his foxing pencil when the fantabulous phlebas arrived, considered the clue decrypts of Matchstick, Rorschach617, AFKAMC, Numptydumpty, Der Zeitgeist, tigerfort, and Hydrogene, and spotted a gulden thread.

(Theme: English words of Dutch origin)

a bulwark
b trigger
c rover
d meerkat
e school
f walrus
g howitzer
h holster
i bazooka
j skipper

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Foxer Fact #1229

In 1986 The Police’s Stewart Copeland released Kits, a solo concept album consisting of 26 musical foxers. Three of the compositions – A, D, and I – remain unsolved to this day; a fourth – Q (Beirut) – is now better known as the theme tune to Pat Cash-fronted BBC antiques show Cash in the Attic.

All answers in one thread, please.

45 Comments

  1. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I will add “not looking at logos” to the list of Bizarre Things I Must Remember When Simming, along with remembering not to have have fun when using P3D

  2. JB says:

    FOXER THREAD:

    If I’m not mistaken, those are gooseberries rolling around on that foxer.

    • Shiloh says:

      That bottom picture looks Australian, like the Bungle Bungles or somewhere.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      The stamp bottom left is Hungarian, but I cannot find it or the chap on it. If it helps, Hungarian stamps have the surname first, so if “Ya” is referring to him, I believe his surname begins with YA, not his first name.

      • mrpier says:

        The Stamp – Yalta commemoriative hungarian stamp.

        link to colnect.com

      • mrpier says:

        With Franklin Delano Roosevelt on it of course.

      • mrpier says:

        Not sure if commemmoriative is even a word, but I’m always in a hurry when I type answers to the foxer :-p

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Nice spot. I was thinking the face looked familiar, but I spent too much time looking for “Yanos Something-or-other” :)

    • AFKAMC says:

      If the thing on the trailer that looks like a bomb really is a bomb, I wonder if it’s the Tsar Bomba?

    • JB says:

      The chap with the dodgy lungs looks like a diagram from a tuberculosis poster or book. I’m still digging around though.

    • mrpier says:

      I think the car is GAZ 13 Chaika limousine.

      • JB says:

        You’re right, but I suspect the clue may be about where that picture was taken, or maybe who is in the car, as that photo is scattered around the foxer in 5 or so pieces.

    • Gusdownnup says:

      Gooseberries, Yalta and Tsars suggest Anton Chekhov as a theme.

      • JB says:

        Also tuberculosis

      • Shiloh says:

        And “chaika” – Russian for seagull.

      • JB says:

        I think the ship is the Marco Polo, previously named the Aleksandr Pushkin, and Chekhov won the Pushkin Prize in 1887

        • JB says:

          There should have been some emphasis on “think” in that reply, as I’m really not certain yet.

    • Gusdownnup says:

      The airportat the top seems to be Taganrog (Chekhov’s birthplace):

    • guidom says:

      The aircraft appears to be a Victa Airtourer which was designed and built in Australia.

      • AFKAMC says:

        I think the guy in the hat is Count Fyodor Keller.

        According to Wikipedia, at Chekhov’s funeral, “Some of the thousands of mourners followed the funeral procession of a General Keller by mistake”.

  3. Farsearcher says:

    I do look forward to reading John’s Open Panzer Wot I think.

  4. Mr Bismarck says:

    “You can also save your offline races mid-way through, too, something that hasn’t been in a sim for quite a while (maybe since Geoff Crammond was kicking around).”

    What? That’s one of my most-wanted features in a race sim, (I’ve been dearly hoping it’d show up in SCE), and I had no idea it was in rF2.

    The last sim I remembering having this feature was simbin’s GTR2. I managed to run a complete 24 hour race at Spa over the course of a couple weeks by running a couple hours a night and then saving.

    Guess I’m finally caving and buying that then, today.

  5. Mavadelo says:

    Thanks for pointing to the eurogamer article. But more..thanks for the laugh, your BNSF avoiding was hilarious, must try it out

  6. Shiloh says:

    Incidentally, if anyone wants to make “Despatch Rider 1944”, I’ve got my wallet open already.

    “Experience the life of a Don R in the treacherous rear areas of Europe’s soft underbelly. Thrill to the throaty roar of your Norton 16H as you dodge mortar stonks, oncoming American trucks and the occasional horse-drawn cart, all the while carrying Major “Jumbo” Jenkins’ request for replacement medical supplies for his piles.”

    • JB says:

      Likewise, it sounds like a fun time to me!

    • Novotny says:

      I would play the shit out of that – my grandad oftens talks about tearing about northern france on acquired german motorbikes and I’ve got a picture of him from then sat on a British one.

    • LionsPhil says:

      A sorta stealth/evasion-racer could be very cool.

  7. Novotny says:

    Addicting? wtf

    • Novotny says:

      Meant to also say, great interview. I’m really hoping that Reiza Studios get the rfactor 2 license.

  8. Targaff says:

    Talking of things being mentioned, I was wondering if you’d had the opportunity to look at Eisenbahn X? It’s kinda simmy, if not exactly your usual train sim.

  9. Hydrogene says:

    Interesting interview with Tim Wheatley! I’ll have to check ou the demo (didn’t know there was one) to see how good the driving feels. I’ve been spoiled with Assetto Corsa, and am having a hard time driving anything else…

    By the way, an interview with Stefano Casillo would be great too! :)

  10. LionsPhil says:

    Hmm. First turn under my control out of the tutorial in Open Panzer, I try to click “end turn”, and the icon just pulses a check mark before returning to an hourglass, without actually advancing a turn.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Oh, it’s a confirmation thing; you have to click it again while it’s pulsing.

      Yeep. Tank reinforcements.

  11. KastaRules says:

    I hope that if they bring rFactor 2 to Steam will be able to import the existing accounts over there.

  12. charlesg says:

    To clarify: If you own some of the Train Sim content with BNSF branding, it won’t be taken away.

    You just can’t buy it anymore if you’re outside of the US.

    I have no idea if it’s possible for someone in the US to send it as a gift to someone living outside the US.