Racing games are getting more and more detailed. It is not longer a question of sticking to the racing line, being in the right gear or braking at the right point. There are so many aspects affecting the handling and performance of the car, that as a new (or even expert) driver, you must consider many aspects of both the car, track, weather and much more, to perfect your pace.
Tires by them selves are a universe of different compounds, temperatures and pressures. They all affect performance accordingly in different conditions or track surfaces. We’re not simply picking tires for gravel or asphalt. Some tracks have more coarse asphalt than others, and we need to pick the right tire for each. Put on top of this the varying and even changing track temperature, as well as tireheaters, and you’ve got an overwhelming combination of factors that can affect the way your car handles in the game.
You can more or less multiply the overwhelming number of setting option, with each aspect of racing. When you consider that dampers, springs, differentials, gearing, brake balance, weight distribution, fuel load and many more features have equally or even more settings, we really have an almost infinite combination of setups that can, and will, affect the way your car handles on the track.
What this also means, is that you need to trust the game to render the setting correctly. When trying different things out, you need to be sure that what you experience is the real thing, even though it might be hard and diffucult to understand. Some changes can be difficult to grasp, but should eventually make sense when you understand them. On the other hand, if you have a little bit of doubt about an issue being caused by a glitch or error in the game, it all crumbles.
I first found this out on Project Cars 2 (before the patches came). Sometimes, I could not hold a Porsche GT3 on a straight line at Silverstone! I know I am not the best driver, or even a good one, but I usually can keep my car midfield in public races (and at least midtrack on straights!) so I was amazed that this car was so difficult to drive. To start with, I thought that this might be because the track was too cold, or it was windy. Or maybe a camper setting. Maybe my toe settings were off, or the steering ratio needed to be adjusted. I spent many hours fiddling with the car set up, to make it more stable, less twitchy and when that didn’t work, I had a look at the controller settings, dead zones and sensitivity. I really spent a lot of time on this, but eventually found out that it was a bug in the game, that happened when there were more than 10 AI drivers in the session.
The problem is, that this was just one of the issues. Both Project Cars, Forza, Assetto Corsa and probably any racing game out there at the moment, have problems. With so many aspects in virtual racing now, comes a huge responsibility for developers, that the game is perfect. Throw in the occasional bug or glitch, and you never know what to trust, when you’re driving. It’s like having a traffic light that 9 out of 10 times works, but 1/10 it may show the wrong color. Would you take the risk, or check every time and be suspicious of it not showing the right color when you cross it? The few issues, rub off on the entire game, and you start blaming bugs and errors for things that might actually work.
The issue with all of this, is that a bug free game is not a strong selling point. People expect this, so they pick a game that looks good, has the most cars, most features, most tracks and are best at making promotional material. Developers focus on the things that sell, and this has caused games to be beautiful messes, that eventually and hopefully get fixed if they errors cause enough uproar from the players.
With so many aspects to racing games, new drivers can be overwhelmed with the options when they mostly just want to drive and race with a competitive car. Throw in the occasional bug, and we’re really fishing in the dark, trying things out to see what works, and not really being sure it will actually work when it counts. I personally really love and appreciate all the work being put into racing games these days, but it seems like a trend across most games, that bugs and errors are more common than they used to. Also it seems like games are still being developed after they have released, and the players (who paid full price for the games) do the actual testing.
This could of course be because there are so many aspects put into the games, that they can’t confirm they all work as intented but for me, i’d rather have a game that performs and handles correct, than the perfectly right ratio of raindrops on my windscreen, or a working lunar calendar for each race date. I do realize that it is all business and a “working game” does not sell as well as sensational graphics or overwhelming choices of cars, but at some point, a buggy game will stop selling because, as we learned through Forza 7, looks and hype are note enough to really make it when it comes to racing games.