Simracing online is certainly a fun activity. But increasingly we’re seeing the single player experience fall to the bottom of developers’ priority lists.
Image Credit: Kunos Simulazioni
Today, the simracing market is nothing if not healthy. We have an industry full of high quality games all going up against one another, pushing each other forward. Titles like iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione and rFactor 2 all feature at the top of the pile. Though they all have one particular issue.
Since the pandemic in particular, simracing has become single-mindedly focused on the online competition side of racing. The result of this is that developers are jumping from the single player ship. Even ACC, a game originally dubbed as the next GTR2 has, in my opinion, lost its way by aiming at an esports market.
Is Online Simracing Favoured over Singleplayer?
From what I can tell, the modern idea of single player gameplay in simracing is essentially a sandbox environment. Choose any car and track. Maybe throw some AI cars in the session. And, in my experience, probably get bored before the end of practice.
For the most part, the reason offline racing doesn’t enthuse as much as it should is because the content and features seem to be hastily prepared. Developers would rather spend their time copying the rest of the industry, making matchmaking software rather than perfecting AI and adding offline features.
Ironically, aside from the best-known online sim out there, iRacing, AI hasn’t made any steps forward for seemingly a decade. When it comes to gameplay, no-one seems to be putting in the effort. Other than the original Project CARS title, I struggle to think of any progression-based career modes in games. Indeed, the license challenges seen in GTR2 or modern console titles like Gran Turismo aren’t seen on PC. This is a massive shame.
It’s clear that we know how to implement enthralling offline gameplay into excellent simulators. GP Laps recently posted a Twitter thread recounting his awe after a race in Grand Prix Legends. During the race, an AI opponent was seen driving slowly on the way to the pits. No, this wasn’t a ‘silly AI manoeuvre’ as he put it, the car in question suffered a mechanical failure after a long season’s worth of racing.
Mechanical failures aren’t something we experience in the modern sim world. Admittedly, GPL recreates an older, less reliable form of racing. But if you consider endurance racing today, cars are certainly not faultless and management is still an element to the racing. Other than the F1 games, this isn’t something we have to consider as simracers.
ACC: A Prime Example
Upon its initial announcement and release, Assetto Corsa Competizione seemed like the game to conquer single player simracing. The title would focus on the 2018 and 2019 GT World Challenge with potential to bolster content in future years. There was going to be a career mode featuring a hefty progression rate. The immersion factor was, and still is, brilliantly executed.
This focus on single player gameplay continued for a good year into release with the first DLC package, the Intercontinental GT Championship. This pack had all the real-world liveries and tracks enabling players to replicate the four-round endurance series. But later on in its development, DLC addons seemed to miss out on little pieces of content.
The British GT pack lacked the Toyota Supra and Ford Mustang GT4 cars. While tracks released since 2020 have featured slow AI in my opinion. On the original tracks, I cannot compete with the AI in its highest difficulty while the more recent American tracks are a walkover.
The same can be said for the GT4 content. GT3 cars provide a much harder challenge than their entry-level counter parts when it comes to AI races. Combine the two and you’ll be lapping the competition, even on 100%.
This gentle yet consistent drop in quality leads me to believe Kunos shifted their focus towards the online racing community. Esports competitions and racing leagues are more popular than ever on the sim, yet I haven’t touched it in months due to its lacklustre offline playability. The cars’ BOP may be in constant evolution, but the singleplayer experience has fallen by the wayside.
An Offline Simracer’s Wishlist
With graphics and physics seemingly reaching their peak, artificial intelligence is surely set to climb back up the priority list. This fills me with hope that future titles will cater to those of us that aren’t so inclined to spending days practicing, only to be wiped out at turn one of a league race. We’ve already seen this with the strides iRacing is making in its offline modes.
Though it’s not just the AI’s quality that makes a great single player simracing title. Features like the career mode are possibly even more important, as they keep a player coming back for more.
In Assetto Corsa Competizione for instance, I would love to see a progression system starting with the spec Cup cars introduced in the Challengers’ Pack. This would go on to rise through the GT4 ranks joining various teams and factory outfits. After countless seasons with strong results, you’ll move through the classes in GT3 finally becoming a Platinum driver. This currently doesn’t exist, yet it would be so effective for the game.
Elsewhere, the developers could set up stint challenges in which you jump in the car late into an endurance race. Get the car to the end with damage, or battle to earn a win for your teammates. The possibilities are endless for such game modes.
Finally, what ACC needs in particular is to tie up its loose ends. Ever since the 2020 GTWC pack released missing a track, its DLC has not featured enough new content. The American track pack was a similar story, not featuring enough tracks from the American series. It may be too late now for ACC, but future titles should take note of these immersion breaking details.
What do you think is missing from the single player experience in simracing? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!