Do we need better graphics?

With Gran Turismo 7 right around the corner and the next iteration of Forza Motorsport due later this year, it’s about time we talked about graphics - eye candy.

Whilst neither of these franchises are sims, both have shown they can push their respective hardware to the limits. For instance, Forza Motorsport 7 ran at 4k 60fps (albeit with clever supersampling) on a Xbox One X, which dragged along it’s ancient CPU from 2013!

The PlayStation 5 will allow users to play GT7 in 4K at 60fps on launch, and it’s not too far fetched to expect 120fps in the future. The PlayStation 5 can output 4K up to 120 fps, but that doesn’t mean that the frame rate can be maintained and Polyphony have not released anything official about increasing the frame rate of GT7 in the future.

Whilst we don’t know the specification of Forza Motorsport 8 yet, we should expect it to be comparable to GT7 in terms of graphics and frame rates.

Here’s an official video from Sony, showcasing the Daytona International Speedway

This is without doubt the best looking version of Daytona I have ever seen in a racing game. The level of detail of the stands, the surrounding area of the track, the lighting, detail of cars, and even the level of detail of the driver’s gloves are incredible.

With all of the above taken into account, should we expect more from sims?

AMS2 is the best looking sim to be had right now and it’s rendition of Daytona does not stand up to GT7. Yes Daytona looks awesome in AMS2, but the sheer amount of detail in GT7 is startling.

Apart from ACC with all the graphic settings turned up (if you have some kind of supercomputer) and Assetto Corsa with an insane amount of mods, all other sims look at least a generation old. To be fair, most are at least a generation behind in graphic fidelity.

Many will argue that there’s far more going on in a sim, more complex physics, tyre modelling, and so much much more. And those of you who make that argument are right, there is a lot more going on within these sims, but does that mean we should compromise on the aspects of these sims?

So whilst there is the argument that sims have so much more going on than graphics, most of the major sims are using technology that is 14 years old (DirectX11).

Unfortunately, money talks. iRacing is the most played sim, you know there’s always players online and grids usually fill up at most times of the day. On any usual day there are around 10k players online at any time.

iRacing has one tenth the number of GT Sport players on a daily basis. In February 2021, Polyphony Digital celebrated 9.5 million players. With this amount of revenue and the backing of Sony, they are able to employ larger development teams and extract every last ounce of performance out of a PlayStation.

With that all being said, should we expect better graphics in our favorite sims? Or are graphics lower down on the demands you want from a sim?
About author
Damian Reed
PC geek, gamer, content creator, and passionate sim racer.
I live life a 1/4 mile at a time, it takes me ages to get anywhere!


Graphic sells , great physics keeps you hooked for longer

I always considered Gran Turismo tracks among the best
Cars look decent in many games, but it's the tracks where some titles can look generation old
I don't think we need improved visuals , but i also think it's easier to improve overall visuals , than add some new amazing game features ( anything from safety cars to driver swaps , car damage etc ) , and polished graphic will sell more copies than amazing physics or multiplayer

It really depends if as a developer you are in it to make the best get in the genre , or if it's more abou making a bit more $$$
For me personally its not the most important thing, I still enjoy playing GTR2 so I guess that says a lot. I really like the graphics in AMS2 and can run them on max without issue which adds to the immersion but its not an essential to making the game enjoyable.
Whilst ACC looks impressive unfortunately my PC is incapable of running that at anything close to max settings, in fact the settings I need in order for it to not stutter almost make it look worse than GTR2. Still fun though.
As much as I enjoy Assetto Corsa, watching the eye-candy of GT Sport (and soon GT7) makes me want to have them for PC. Don't get me wrong, AC can look wonderful, thankfully I got a PC to run it with every CSP setting maxed out, but it really starts to show it's age. You can't bring 2022 out of a 2014 game. But if I could have one wish, I want 3D trees (or more realistic looking 2D ones). That would change the whole game to me forever. I haven't heard about TreesFX in a while so I really hope Ilja is still working on that project.
but it's the tracks where some titles can look generation old
IMHO, GT Sport Tsukuba conversion by DDM for AC looks absolutely photorealistic.
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Thanks, Damian ! Excellent Article title.
When the Sound system we have, is still capable of keeping the noise coming from the cooling-fans down, everything is dandy. - Yes, louder Please ?
Who whispered Head-Sets for All ?! We need to discuss these things. :)
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I guess Assetto Corsa 2's graphics will surpass Gran Turismo 7 and Forza Motorsport Reboot.
What makes you think that, may I ask?

I don't really want AC2 to look like GT7 if there isn't the possibility of lowering the graphics quality. Graphics like the ones seen in GT7 would probably require a very powerful, state of the art and expensive computer.
Graphics are important, it's more often than not what sells you on the product at first glance. However another detail that is often overlooked and I'd argue is equally as important (especially in this genre): sound.
I'm all for fabulous graphics as long as there is a way to run the game on older systems and have it look passable. I don't mind the graphics in RaceRoom, for example. I absolutely love seeing the reflection of the setting sun in a puddle at Daytona in AMS2, but I can live without that in exchange for FPS and physics.
I think there comes a point though when the needs of those on lesser systems is outweighed by pushing onwards with tech. What annoys me is when stuff isn't optimised and needs higher level gear than it really should do. ACC being one example when you compare it's looks to AMS2/PC2. Well in VR anyway (which WILL be the future at some point)
What makes you think that, may I ask?

I don't really want AC2 to look like GT7 if there isn't the possibility of lowering the graphics quality. Graphics like the ones seen in GT7 would probably require a very powerful, state of the art and expensive computer.
Well, it was just my rough guess so please calm down.

Edit: We'll see how will Assetto Corsa 2 exactly looks like by 2024.
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I love good graphics in a game. I've ordered GT7 for PS5. I know it's not a true SIM. But I've just started out and my first game was GT sport played on controller. I then decided to get a T300 Wheel and a few SIMs on my gaming PC. AC, ACC, AM2, Rfactor 2, PC2 Dirt 2.0. I also got the PS5 upgrade version of ACC.

Currently rubbish at all of them. Slowly learning.
Tl;dr - Imo, No. We don't need better graphics. ACC bottlenecked on my 4GB VRAM GPU even on the lowest settings. RF2 and iRacing already set a great balance of performance and graphics without mods. Focus more on creating good looking, optimized laser-scanned tracks, and great cars with great physics.

Long version:
Imo, the so called "a generation old" sims (iRacing, RF2) struck the best balance of performance and graphics and I don't want to be pushed into higher graphics. Why? Because you can set it to low to have high framerates on a low-end PC, and still look good. For example in RF2, In the right track and car combination, like a GT3 on Monza at night, it can look really beautiful. Rain and lights in RF2 cost the least amount of GPU resources as well. As for iRacing, really I don't have a problem with its graphics (other than the yellow filter); it looks good enough and has very stable framerates even with many drivers on screen because it has great LOD system. I'm happy the way it is now. The truth is, I avoid ACC just because the graphics are too great for my 4GB VRAM to handle even at low settings. Bring more manpower into making the most optimized sim possible. I don't need the eye candy.

Quite understandably, because GT7 is a simcade meant for everyone, its graphics must be top notch. I believe that if a sim is advertised to have laser-scanned tracks with the best physics and multiplayer with passable graphics, it will still gain the attention of many racing enthusiasts out there.
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