Hood: "No Shortage Of Ideas" For Le Mans Ultimate, But Patience Is Needed

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Image: Motorsport Games / Studio 397
As Le Mans Ultimate has received its first pieces of 2024 content, sim racers are still missing certain features - but there is a reason for their absence, as Motorsport Games CEO Stephen Hood explains.

Waiting for new features and content in sim racing can feel like an eternity to some. In Le Mans Ultimate's case, this could be even worse, as the title has not really seen much progress since its Early Access launch in February - on the surface, that is. The first batch of updates and hotfixes focused on resolving numerous bugs and improving smaller elements that were not ideal out of the gate.

The game's June update is the first to also add new content and features, albeit smaller ones. Sim racers are calling for proper VR support, online play outside of the Race Control system, or elements essential to endurance racing, such as driver swaps. And they will come - it just might take a while.

The reason behind this is simple: Motorsport Games and Studio 397 want to avoid releasing undercooked features that are below expectations. This is also the reason behind the last-minute change to an Early Access release - the team felt like the game was not ready for a full release. And for everything to work together in a coherent way, the cornerstones need to be firmly in place first, as Motorsport Games CEO Stephen Hood told OverTake.

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Image: Motorsport Games / Studio 397

"The things we are rolling out now like better restarts, a replay system, even things that are not seen as particularly attractive like netcode updates - it sounds very nerdy, but we are excited about them. It does not mean that the experience is dramatically different in LMU today, but our intent is to build that framework for the features that we know need to be there", stated Hood, meaning elements like driver swaps, a better VR function, or performance improvements. Simply transfering elements from rFactor 2, which does serve as the base, without changes would not work for this purpose.

All of this also plays into plans that may be even further in the future, such as eventually releasing Le Mans Ultimate on consoles "if there is enough demand for it", Hood said. "You cannot do that overnight by just taking rFactor 2 as it used to be. There is no shortage of things and ideas that we want to bring to the table - the hardest thing is to say 'no', and we keep saying 'no' to things so that we can, as a team, focus and deliver the best that we are capable of."

The MSG CEO, who rejoined the company in April 2023 after over a year away from it following termination of his position, continued: "We are still a small team. We are not Electronic Arts or Take Two, but it is a labor of love for the team. They are trying to craft something despite the product now being live and demands coming in from all over the world. We have got to tick them off one by one."

"Pleasantly Surprised" By Feedback From European WEC Tour​

Feedback is plentiful for the LMU team, particularly since the World Endurance Championship started the European portion of its eight-race schedule at Imola in late April. Le Mans Ultimate has had simulators available in its own tent in the fan zone there, as well as Spa-Francorchamps, and they will also be present at Le Mans for fans to try out the game.

And try out they did. Usually, the LMU stand sees long queues forming for racing fans to get their hands on the title. "It is interesting to see the attention the product gets. We were more than pleasantly surprised by the reception, because it could have gone either way", said Hood - because of the reputation Motorsport Games has.

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Imola marked the first of three European WEC events where fans could try Le Mans Ultimate directly at the track.

"We are not hiding the fact - and are very conscious of it - that LMU is still attached to Motorsport Games", continued Hood. "I came back just over a year ago - I am well aware of the reputation of Motorsport Games, but it is under my direction and control now, and we are doing things very differently. Hopefully people are starting to see that with LMU."

On the other hand, the current boom in sportscar racing seems to also rub off on Le Mans Ultimate, as both WEC's and IMSA's popularities are soaring. "The World Endurance Championship and Le Mans, multiclass racing, all the manufacturers coming back, the cool Hypercars - it feels like it is on a real high at the moment, and that, I think, resulted in a real interest in LMU", Hood stated.

"Not only at the events themselves where people get to sample it, but also those that have very kindly purchased it in Early Access so far. They did not need to, everybody could just wait, and some people are waiting. But it has been a real confidence booster for the team - but we know we are not finished, there is a lot more to do.
"

Driver Feedback Balances Science & Character​

To achieve this, feedback by real WEC drivers proves invaluable. Ahead of the June update, the LMU team released a video featuring BMW works drivers Sheldon van der Linde and Raffaele Marciello giving sharing their thoughts on the incoming BMW M Hybrid V8 for the sim.


The duo's feedback was positive overall, but also featured some advice for improvement - which may go against the approach of properly simulating everything by the book, as Hood explained:

"Because we go so far into trying to understand the model of the cars from a simulation perspective, we do not really take shortcuts here. The drivers themselves are really interesting for us, because we got a lot of data from the teams. Some are willing to share a great deal of their secrets, and we are very thankful for that, which means we can model the cars in a scientific form."

However, science does not always match the subjective experience of the drivers. " Sometimes, it can be a case of "the model says this, but I can tell you from driving the car it does this here", elaborated Hood. "And that is the thing we are still trying to capture in some areas. Fundamentally, we are trying to capture the personality of the car as well as the data."

Considering the size of the 2024 WEC grid, this also explains why it will be a while until the full line-up of cars will be available. Not only does 2024 see two all-new Hypercars in the Alpine A424 and Isotta Fraschini Tipo 6-C, as well as the extensively-reworked Peugeot 9X8, there are also nine different GT3 cars to be recreated, as the class replaced the GTE class.

Free Content Alongside DLC To Continue​

Some sim racers did take issue with the fact that unlike in the June update, future content will also come as paid DLC while LMU is still in Early Access. While there will be freebies for those who purchased the game in Early Access (Hood: "There is going to be lots of free stuff coming as well"), MSG and Studio 397 do not really have another choice, according to Hood:

"We are building very expensive content. We have got a very talented team. Everything that we build in terms of track content is laser-scanned, because we care about the fidelity of it, and there is an expense associated with gathering and building this content", explained the CEO. "We want to go down that track, not take shortcuts. So we are trying to tread a very fine line, and I am not sure we will always get it right, we try to."


"The entry point to the Early Access was very cheap in our mind, and to keep rewarding those people that were huge supporters, we will give some free content with these updates. And some of it is going to be paid content - it is the only way that we can really balance the books. Some people will dislike us for it, some people will understand the approach."

The latter is not a surprise considering the earnings reports of the last few years, which were in the headlines for their significant downward trends - although revenues looked significantly better following LMU's launch. However, with MSG slimmed down (Hood: "About 90% of our workforce are Studio 397"), the company hopes to turn around its fortunes by a patient, methodical approach in Le Mans Ultimate's development.

Hood is convinced that this is achievable: "I am looking at the longer-term picture. I want the best content in LMU, I want the best people working on it, and I think it will deliver the best experience."
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

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So traxxion isn't dead...

Nope, it's re-emerged back into life, but this time not under MSG. If you go to their channel on youtube there's a few videos explaining the why's, the wherefore's and the how's.
That's good news, more racing game sites to help spread the word about our hobby and their content was always enjoyable.
And nice that more of their staff have managed to get work after what must have been an anxious time for them.
 
That's good news, more racing game sites to help spread the word about our hobby and their content was always enjoyable.
And nice that more of their staff have managed to get work after what must have been an anxious time for them.
Yep it is - definitely. However I'm guessing you guys lost @Thomas Harrison-Lord back to his original stomping grounds as he no longer appears to be a part of the editorial team here, for obvious reasons.
 
"Patience is needed." I think they should excercise patience as well. I'm still not on board with the paid DLC's rolling out on an Early Access title, while the whole game is a bit half baked, and entire game modes are missing. However, what they have here, could very well be the next Assetto Corsa Competizione. With all the real world hype surrounding WEC and IMSA, the new golden age of sportscar racing, will be basically free advertisment for the game. Just look at how ACC and SRO worked together to create an "empire". I believe that game had an impact on giving exposure to SRO events, and SRO used that free audience from simracers to expand their buiseness. Maybe GT2 wouldn't exist without that partnership, cause there won't be anyone to care. So what I'm saying is they need to be really smart about this game, with a focus on creating a finished product first, as a solid foundation. Not alienating people with tons of paid content early on, and a promise of an ever expanding platform of a sim, that one day will be finished.
And how exactly are they going to pay for all this wonderful development? I for one am happy to support them because this is a very niche product and frankly we're pretty lucky to have it at all.
 
In recent weeks I have been working a lot with Acc...(Nordschleife) for the first time, the best version ever made! I enjoy it! But when you come back to Rf2 in this case LMU... man what a world of difference when it comes to driving a car, with Acc nothing short of anything. LMU is magical... ffb itself feels even better than Rf2 Certainly the best driving feeling sim for me at the moment
 
In recent weeks I have been working a lot with Acc...(Nordschleife) for the first time, the best version ever made! I enjoy it! But when you come back to Rf2 in this case LMU... man what a world of difference when it comes to driving a car, with Acc nothing short of anything. LMU is magical... ffb itself feels even better than Rf2 Certainly the best driving feeling sim for me at the moment
A sentiment that was echoed by Dan Suzuki on his stream today. Now I don't normally buy into what simfluencers have to say but he does seem to be one of the more trustworthy ones, if you can ignore his links with GSI.

Another case in point is my brother, who is way smarter than me as he stays well away from the cesspit which is the online sim racing community. I gifted LMU to him on release day, and he's playing it more than his main which is ACC.

Just as a disclaimer - I have it myself, but due to being hospitalised at the start of the year and the lasting side effects of the treatment I only got back into the sim rig 3 weeks ago, so I haven't played it yet.
 
Even if they ceased development right now, this would be the best racing sim on the market currently. I love it.
This title being Le Mans Ultimate, I decided to try to do a Le Mans simulation, not the full 24 hours, but the full grid.
On my system, which runs every other SIM without issue at high(est) setting in flat screen, for LMU, even with everything at the lowest, I cannot even run it, FPS so low, it is not only looking terrible, it feels terrible.
I read comments like yours and I do not understand, how can something I cannot even run as designed be "the best racing sim on the market currently"
Yet, optimization, which for me is a deal breaker, is hardly mentioned.
Ideally, I would prefer to run LMU in VR, but since even single screen is out of my reach, I am in no rush for it.

But when you come back to Rf2 in this case LMU... man what a world of difference when it comes to driving a car, with Acc nothing short of anything. LMU is magical

I gifted LMU to him on release day, and he's playing it more than his main which is ACC.

looks good for LMU, looking forward to see the massive exodus from ACC to LMU in the next month OT Steam player attendance. :D
 
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Some people really need to chill. The level of vitriol about this game is off the charts. The only game that I've seen getting so much crap is AMS2.

LMU was released in EA less than four months ago. It's far from perfect, but nobody said every single problem would be solved in a few weeks. Some of the rants on this board are juvenile at best.
 
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looks good for LMU, looking forward to see the massive exodus from ACC to LMU in the next month OT Steam player attendance. :D
I don't think there's going to be a massive exodus, but yesterday practically everybody who's anybody in terms of sim racing streaming was on LMU for the new update. Admittedly they're all back on their main sims today, but typically this level of peaked interest only really occurs when ACC or iRacing have an update.
 
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I don't think there's going to be a massive exodus
I know you don't, I was just being facetious. :D
but yesterday practically everybody who's anybody in terms of sim racing streaming was on LMU for the new update
Yes, I saw that to, impressive peak, demonstrate their is interest and appetite for that type of content in a "realistic" package.
Looking forward to the realization of the potential.
 
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This title being Le Mans Ultimate, I decided to try to do a Le Mans simulation, not the full 24 hours, but the full grid.
On my system, which runs every other SIM without issue at high(est) setting in flat screen, for LMU, even with everything at the lowest, I cannot even run it, FPS so low, it is not only looking terrible, it feels terrible.
I read comments like yours and I do not understand, how can something I cannot even run as designed be "the best racing sim on the market currently"
Yet, optimization, which for me is a deal breaker, is hardly mentioned.
Ideally, I would prefer to run LMU in VR, but since even single screen is out of my reach, I am in no rush for it.





looks good for LMU, looking forward to see the massive exodus from ACC to LMU in the next month OT Steam player attendance. :D
The question is what other sim loads 62 cars on a huge track like Le Mans? I guess your system would run into trouble if you loaded 62 cars at Nords in ACC. As it stands now, you can't really limit the amount of AI cars, so Le Mans with a full grid is kind of worst case. Somewhere I read that it uses up to 8GB VRAM or even more in that case on max settings. In your situation I would propably try and rebuild the shaders and set the graphic settings to the the detected settings and limit the FPS for a start. At least that's how I set my gfx settings and it has been pretty smooth on my end. But I run a 6700k and a 1070 at 1080p, so I am kind of limited anyway. That said, using a mix of high and medium settings still looks very good on my end but helps with performance and loading times.
 
The question is what other sim loads 62 cars on a huge track like Le Mans?
None that I know of, agreed.
you can't really limit the amount of AI cars, so Le Mans with a full grid is kind of worst case
Exactly, the only way is to select only one of the category, but that kind of defeat the purpose. Limit the amount of AI is the best way.

I agree with you, my answer was to a post claiming that even without improvement LMU is the best sim ever (slightly paraphrased :D )

I think we all agree LMU needs massive optimization, the sooner the better, as the whole concept of endurance racing, which is what this title is about, always involve big (bigger) grid.

Still, I was shocked, that even with the graphics on 1999 mode, my GTX1080ti, was totally floored, with a grid that is boasted as a plus for LMU.
 
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Purchased LMU a couple of months ago. Was Super excited to try it out. Fired up for first time today.

Menus lagging so badly. Minutes to load into game. Then tried to make menu changes … freezes up. Couldn’t figure out quick in game way to change fov. Legacy Rf2. More lag. Freeze. Etc. Just rebooted machine. Opened up another sim. Such a bad bad first impression. Not sure I’ll open it up again.

I’m not criticising the hard work that’s obviously gone into this title. I’m just disappointed with this first time experience. I’m sure I’m not alone regarding this.

For me - the critical issues plaguing RF2 - it’s abysmal menu system imo should have been addressed years ago. More people would have been using it today. Obviously changing the backend of this system was problematic from a development pov, or else it would have been done a long time ago … but with LMU I really was hoping they would have refactored it. I know it’s just a menu system - but it’s a blocker, knowing I have to go through ten minutes of brain damage to try to race. I really hope theyre able to bin the system and give us a fresh, optimised experience to just get into the business end without the frustration.
 
Purchased LMU a couple of months ago. Was Super excited to try it out. Fired up for first time today.

Menus lagging so badly. Minutes to load into game. Then tried to make menu changes … freezes up. Couldn’t figure out quick in game way to change fov. Legacy Rf2. More lag. Freeze. Etc. Just rebooted machine. Opened up another sim. Such a bad bad first impression. Not sure I’ll open it up again.

I’m not criticising the hard work that’s obviously gone into this title. I’m just disappointed with this first time experience. I’m sure I’m not alone regarding this.

For me - the critical issues plaguing RF2 - it’s abysmal menu system imo should have been addressed years ago. More people would have been using it today. Obviously changing the backend of this system was problematic from a development pov, or else it would have been done a long time ago … but with LMU I really was hoping they would have refactored it. I know it’s just a menu system - but it’s a blocker, knowing I have to go through ten minutes of brain damage to try to race. I really hope theyre able to bin the system and give us a fresh, optimised experience to just get into the business end without the frustration.
Comments like your show that there is propably not enough understanding for what this title is, because getting rid of rF2 legacy is exactly what they did. If it was an rF2-legacy-issue, it would be non existent because that UI has been stable and running for the last two years. For LMU they have a new UI tech wich obviously needs sorting out and that is part of the whole EA.
 

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How are you going to watch 24 hours of Le Mans

  • On national tv

    Votes: 151 35.8%
  • Eurosport app/website

    Votes: 117 27.7%
  • WEC app/website

    Votes: 81 19.2%
  • Watch party

    Votes: 27 6.4%
  • At a friends house

    Votes: 9 2.1%
  • At Le Mans

    Votes: 37 8.8%
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