A birds eye shot of cars navigating a banked sharp corner.
Image credit: iRacing.com

When are Track Updates in Sim Racing Needed?

Tracks in many racing games are out of date and in need of an update. Or is it just unnecessary? We were wondering when changes to circuits warrant reflecting those in games.

If you have been playing the F1 games as of late, you will notice that certain tracks do not reflect the way they are in real life. A lot of the tracks on the F1 game are built from scratch and not laser scanned like in most sims.

The sim racing community are a keen-eyed bunch. Many are all too eager to point out if a corner is not aligned correctly, or if an apex kerb is all wrong. So when there is a real world amendment to a track, there will always be people eager to see it reflected in their favourite racing games.

But where do you draw the line? If there is a brand new building made on the outskirts of the circuit, is that as important as a new bit of track? This is where we want to know your opinion.

Track Changes

Firstly is the obvious. When a track layout is fundamentally changed, it is detrimental to the way a driver engages with it. That can be corners getting reprofiled, like Zandvoort’s Turn 3 and last corner becoming heavily banked. Or changed altogether, like the various changes made to Albert Park’s layout for 2022.

It almost goes without saying, but changing the layout is kind of a must. But where does that extend? At the Red Bull Ring, for example, a chicane was added between Turns 1 and 3 for motorcycles, but cars do not use it. So why did that change make it to F1 23?

On a game like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, a case can be made for having that chicane available in case anyone wants to race it. But for the F1 games? Players cannot race that layout properly even if they wanted to. So why have that over making an actually needed change?

The Singapore GP circuit had not been updated to skip the Turns 16-19 section when F1 23 launched. It has been in the meantime, of course, and it would have taken longer than adding the MotoGP chicanes at Red Bull Ring. This being because they also need to code the AI to drive the new section.

But who would have chosen the MotoGP chicanes at Red Bull Ring over the Marina Bay Street Circuit’s changes first? Of course, the new layout means new run-off sections. Which segues us on quite nicely to our next point.

Run-Off Changes

The video at the top of this article shows the changes that have been made to Spa-Francorchamps. This included the extension of the run-off areas after La Source and Radillion. Also the new bit of tarmac on the inside of “No Name”, all so motorcycles could race there.

That video was made using a third-party mod on Assetto Corsa, but as far as first party content goes, the only titles with Spa in its current guise are Automobilista 2 and Rennsport. The F1 game, rFactor 2 and ACC all lack the new run off areas. Even iRacing‘s version of Spa is from 2008.

Whilst the layout remains relatively unchanged, there are now different consequences for making an error. No more “accidentally” going wide at La Source to get extra speed and less chance of bouncing off the tyre barrier at Raidillon into the path of an unsighted driver.

Yes, the track itself is pretty much the same, but part of driving the track is pushing the limits. Once you reach it and go beyond, you run wide and lose time. So that has to be a part of it, surely?

But where does that need of realism perhaps stretch beyond the confines of the track?

Environment Changes

Back on F1 2020, Silverstone got a change that perhaps caught a lot of people unaware. When entering the now-called Hamilton Straight to start a new lap, a big enclosed bridge structure hung over the track. It connects the Wing pit building to a new hotel on the other side.

That bridge is there in the real world now, but the inclusion of it in F1 2020 actually pre-dates its real life completion. This is a rather extreme example of course, but it does beg the question: If a new building or some other environment change is made, and the player does not directly interact with it, is it a necessary change?

An overview of a racetrack and pit building with a big overpass going over the track.
Should Codemasters have focused on adding this overpass before making layout changes? Image credit: Codemasters

Remember, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya had its Turns 10-11 section changed for 2021, and various changes were made to Yas Marina too. But the F1 2021 game did not have these changes, despite Codemasters having more time to implement the changes to Barcelona than Milestone with MotoGP 21 yet they managed to complete them just fine!

But a building that does not even exist yet? Of course, like we established earlier, it is undoubtedly way easier to make an environment change than a layout change. In the end, it boils down to what sim racers can do without.

Would you rather have a circuit update arrive a tiny bit quicker but missing one relatively minor detail? Or is that random new pit building that does not impact how drivers interact with the track absolutely essential?

Have Your Say

We implore everyone to lay out what they want when it comes to circuit updates. Whether it be amendments to the layout, the run off or the surrounding area. Everyone has different perspectives here, and it can be as specific as you desire.

With the news of the Nordschleife finally coming to ACC, we know the level of detail Kunos Simulazioni have put into it. Circuit specialist Misha Charoudin even gave such pain-staking specific feedback to the devs regarding the shape of the trees on the side of the track. They listened!

But maybe some sim racers out there would take some minor discrepancies with trees if it means they could access the track earlier. Right? That is why we want to hear from everyone on this.

Which tracks would you like updates to in sim racing and what changes could you do without? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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