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Revvin

Anyone playing iRacing?

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Revvin,

Well, this is the first I've even heard about iRacing [iRacing.com]. Is it better than GPL?

Looks very cool, says all the right things about its physics and track realism, and it has all the right partners, but I am never going to part with $13 a month unless there's a demo.

How about a short review, Revvin. Maybe you can convince me to change my mind.

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I too was very sceptical about iRacing and the quality. In the run up to the release on RaceSimCentral's forums I was very critical about the lack of a demo and still think there should be an option to try before you buy though I do seem to recall reading a post in the official forum hinting it could happen though don't quote me, my memory is hazy at best :) I was a little turned off by the marketing spiel but decided to try and keep an open mind in the face of some rabid fanboys who worship David Kaemmer and so glad I did.

The service itself is very polished, it all runs through your web browser until you actually click the button to practice/qualify/race then it loads up the application. The tracks quite simply have spoilt other sims for me. I've gone back to try GTR2, LFS, RACE 07, GT5 Prologue etc and they all feel rather flat and a little sterile. The laser scanning is more than just a gimmick with iRacing you really do feel the bumps and imperfections of the track. The laser scanning also takes away some of the doubt racers have had in other sims over the accuracy of the track. You may recall long discussions over the accuracy of some of the RACE and GTR2 tracks over the years, some minor, some glaring. It apparently takes 8 hours to scan a mile of track so it gives you some idea of the attention to detail they have. They also go to great lengths to make sure the area around the track is accurate too to so you have the same kind of visual markers for braking points as you would if you raced the track in real life.

I can't really comment on the cars as I've never driven them in real life. The standard package consists of everything you will need to complete the rookie season in both Oval class and road classes. The cars are the Legends Ford '34 Coupe for oval racing and the Pontiac Solstice road racer. You start of with a Rookie road license and a Rookie oval license. I thought I'd mainly concentrate on the road racing but my first race was run in the Legends car and it was so much fun I spent most of my rookie racing in the Legends car - its so much fun its obscene! In comparison the Solstice felt a bit tame to start with but once you get to grips with it you realise it can be a lively and fun car to drive though not as much fun as the Skip Barber! This car is the closest you'll likely get to a modern day GPL! It relies on mechanical grip more than aero and is huge amounts of fun to slide through corners and it feels very satisfying as you use the throttle to balance out the car as you nail it through a quick turn. A lot of racers have remarked that it gives them the old GPL feeling all over again - though with a lot of ex-papyrus people behind the sim its easy to see why. I also bought the Formula Mazda, Radical SR8, SK Modified and the Late Model. I've not really raced the Formula Mazda much or the SK Modified but the Radical and Late Model are great fun. The season run over 12 weeks and on the 13th week they have run some fun events where you don't incur any incident points and the Radicals around Daytona Road Course were a lot of un though the race length meant tyres were really getting badly worn by the end.

As I mentioned above seasons are run over 12 weeks (apart from the rookie seasons which are four weeks long). At the end of the season if your rating is sufficient then you will be moved up to the next license and be eligible to in new racing seasons with new cars and tracks. In the rookie season its easy to rank up to class 'D' license as you only really have to run a reasonably clean race to earn point towards your rating but as you progress you have to work harder at racing cleanly, not making mistakes and making sure you finish reasonably well though even if you lose a few spots from your starting position you still earn points. Incident points are received for running off the track, in some cases it may seem quite harsh as you earn points for two tyres off track but this is generally in area's where you could gain an advantage by running beyond the rumble strip, in other parts of the track I've had two tyres off and not incurred incident points. Incident points are also awarded for hitting other cars or losing control (going past 90 degree's sideways will count as a loss of control). Some get frustrated with the 'no blame' system as you may be hit from behind by another driver who misses his braking point and earn incident points but you can generally work those off by putting in a few clean laps though at the higher license levels you have to drive more clean laps to work off those incident points. The result is relatively clean racing. You still get accidents happening, you might find a few dive bombers at corners but its not the kind of malicious wrecking you find on public servers for other games - there are no drivers driving the wrong way around the track in iRacing, nor are there (at least in my experience) players hunting others down to cause trouble. Not only is there the incident point system but you can also file a protest to the iRacing steward if you find someone behaving badly whether on the track or trash talking over voice comms or text.

The downside for some at the moment is that there are no private leagues. You can't just go in and set up a server to race your buddies. Once you've run a few races the system puts you in races with other drivers of the same skill, this again is where the rating system comes in. Races are scheduled at regular intervals at two hours apart but the road and oval races are staggered so if you ran both ovals and road courses the race interval would be an hour. That may not appeal to some but you can plan out your time to practice, qualify and race in that time and as they are run with such regularity its easy to group players together and get fully populated races. Again this kind of structured race format may not appeal to everyone but I rather like it. The biggest sticking point for a lot of people will be the cost. I believe someone did a calculation of all the content - cars and tracks and a years subscription was somewhere in the region of $350 after the discounts for buying more than one item at a time and the rebate you get - $60 dollars credit to spend on iRacing content when you take out a years subscription. It roughly works out at $1 a day. Once I gained my 'D' class license I bought the Skip Barber for $15 and then picked out a couple of tracks to buy, I didn't buy everything for the season to start with - you don't need to you just need to gain the right rating and compete in at least two races or four time trials to get to the next license class so I picked out the tracks I liked and raced those though if you fancy challenging for the title in whatever division you get placed in then obviously you will want to buy all the tracks for that season.

Its hard to sum it all up in a post but if you have any questions about it I'd be happy to try and answer them to the best of my knowledge. iRacing recently announced they have been working with GM to model the Chevrolet Silverado race truck and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS racing cars used in the Nationwide and Sprint cup seasons though you can read more on that here. Pop along to the iRacing web-site and check out the rest of the site for news and information on the sim.

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Revvin,

Thanks for the mini review.

Sounds like a wonderful sim, and a great experience too.

My only question would be ... what about lag? For me, the biggest downfall of online racing is that a 2-nanosecond lag can make the difference between getting through a corner cleanly and smacking into another driver. It must be acceptable or you wouldn't be driving it, I'm sure.

The "incident" points system is brilliant, but it does suck that if someone nails you, you get penalized for getting out of shape.

I will definitely give it a try at some point, but I doubt I'll buy the full-meal-deal :D

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You've touched on one of my initial concerns - lag! Before the game came out of BETA I was worried about the lag situation. I live in the UK and the iRacing servers are located in the US so I saw potential problems for me. I was a little disappointed by iRacing's stance of not having global servers but having everything under one roof in the US but it does keep a worldwide community together and I've had a number of races made up of people from all around the world.

Having centrally located server’s means not everyone is going to be totally lag free but whatever calculations and equations they came up with to minimize it works like a charm. One of my most memorable races was had only a month or so ago. I'd just started out in my 'D' class license road series driving the Skip Barber. It was the car I was really looking forward to racing in as I bought soon after I subscribed because I'd heard so many comments about it being close to the feel of GPL - and they were right.

I started the race at Lime Rock mid pack and managed to hold my own there. I had made up one of two places but then came across one driver who was very close to my lap times and it resulted in one of the most enjoyable series of laps I've turned in a racing sim. Because of the incident point system we both tried to make sure we were clean, not bumping each other, silly lunges or anything like that. After a lap or two there almost seemed to be a trust between us that this was going to be a clean fight and we exchanged places lap after lap for what seemed like forever (though it was probably only 8 or 9 laps :D ) Really exciting stuff that felt very realistic as each pass was made not by a dive-bomb into a corner like some other online races I've had in other sims but by gradually gaining a tenth or two each corner to get that all important slipstream down the straight and into the first corner. A number of times one of use would make a small mistake somewhere, just stray marginally offline and give the other person the chance to ride up on their gearbox. This is where the quality of the online code really stood out to me because I stayed there right on his gearbox through the corners waiting to make my move. Unfortunately I made a mistake which saw me lose some time and the battle was over but for those few laps it was amazing and I congratulated him after the race. The online code had impressed me in other races just for the fact I hardly ever saw a car even so much as micro warp but that race really did show it off to the max.

The incident point system can be a source of annoyance for new drivers. Its hard on you when someone hits you and you get awarded incident points too but I suppose in real life if you get hit by someone you may not get a race penalty but you still have the penalty of having to pay to fix up your car and in some respects it makes you look at your actions during incidents to see how you could have perhaps avoided a situation. As you progress through the ranks though you find the racing gets cleaner and the only incident points you generally get is of your own doing by running wide on a corner etc. Another bone of contention for some is the license system. Working your way up the system early on is a relatively easy ride and I've learnt a lot as a sim racer by racing in the lower leagues and gradually working my way up to the faster cars.

I hope you do decide to try it, its really a lot of fun. At the moment I've been out of action for around two-three weeks because of work commitments and a small system upgrade and I've been itching to get back in the seat. I've not had chance to race this weeks event at Lime Rock and with a few hours left before it changes Sunday I have decide to practice for next weeks event at Laguna Seca. I know at the moment we're all perhaps not spending like we used to (well apart from those wealthy sim site owners in their mansions and stately homes ;) ) but if you can see your way clear to saving $20 then I think you'd be doing yourself a favour to try iRacing. Should you decide to stick around I urge you to give the Skip Barber a try. If you liked GPL you will LOVE the skippy!

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Revvin'

Well, I'm sold. But it'll be a week or so before I have enough time to give it a try.

I'm sure I'll love it, and that's the problem: I'm working on a couple of web projects and I haven't any spare time.

But I will try it, I promise. And when I do, I'll post back in this thread with my impressions :)

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I'm sure you will enjoy it, I know I've been waxing lyrical about iRacing but its the sim that has got me back into regular sim racing and I'm really enjoying it. Thats not to say its without its faults mind you, they are still working on the flag system for blue and yellow flags. Blue flags being something a lot of racers are asking for though at present there is a small window you can bring up with the F3 key that shows the 6 or so positions around you. People on the same lap you are racing are in white, lapped cars are in blue and lead lap cars in red so you know when to give way etc. There are also no pitstops at the moment, if you crash you have a limited number of resets (SHF-R or ESC)but by doing so you go a lap down - not exactly the height of realism but again its something being worked on. Those things may just keep you out of the sim so I'd rather be upfront and tell you now but the races are not long enough yet to warrant pitstops and as I said the F3 key system works well. Just came out of my first race after about 3 weeks off. Well off the pace and managed to stay reasonably clean - I earnt myself 3 incident points by straying wide 3 times during the 18 lap race at Laguna Seca.

Bottom line is there are features still missing but we've been told they are getting worked on and the sim has been updated regularly in the 3 months I've been there but what we have now I think is really very very good.

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Being an MMO, it can only get better over time, so I'm sure all those faults you mentioned are bound to get addressed.

What would ensure the solving of those problems would be the entry of another racing sim into the MMO category. Nothing like a little competition to improve the quality of a product. What's more, it'd help keep prices in line if there were two offering rather than just one. :)

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Absolutely! Some racers can't wait though and in the private iRacing members forum there was a post by someone who cited the lack of flags and pitstops among other reasons - basically he wanted iRacing to be like LFs or rFactor with open servers running multiple tracks per week rather than the structure in place now with one track per week. Personally I like that, it gives me a few days to practice and make myself a bit of a faster rolling roadblock for the other drivers :) iRacing has had a number of updates and content releases over the last couple of months adding such tracks as Sebring, Bristol and Birmingham with annoucements made for new cars including the Lotus 79 F1 car, Road Atlanta and Mosport as part of a deal with the Panoz Group as well as the aformentioned Chevrolet Silverado truck, Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS. So there is good stuff coming. I think it would be hard for another sim to follow this route unless they had the backing of a major publisher like EA or Codemasters but then you run the risk of losing the fidelity of the sim as they may want to appeal to a wider audience. As it stands iRacing is backed by John Henry who isn't short of a dollar or two and wants a realistic simulation because he actually races there and I've had the pleasure of racing on the same track as him. Time will tell if iRacing will appeal to enough racers to make it viable.

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This video taken from a race at Laguna Seca in the Skip Barber gives a good idea of the smooth net code is (both drivers were a continent apart) and the level of detail in regards to the track surface if you watch the suspension working in this video:

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I should point out that its not me driving in the video but I thought it was a good example of the net code. They have announced new pitstops and yellow flags for ovals in an update coming at the end of this season in around two weeks time. There are some other as yet unannounced additions as they have warned us the download will be large. The Chvrolet Silverado truck has been delayed two weeks to tie in with the new changes to oval racing. Last week the Milwaukee Mile was released, it only has the oval layout so far as during the period when they laser scanned the track the infield course was apparently covered in dirt but hopefully it should be added later. Also announced this week was that at the end of this month they would release the Phoenix International Raceway track. iRacing has also setup a social networking site a little like Facebook or MySpace for iRacing users called 'iRacing World' Its free for iRacing subscribers and you can post blogs and upload screenshots and video's as well as add friends like other social networking sites.

Once this season ends iRacing normally run a special 13th week 'fun race' series where members can race in cars they may not usually be eligible for under normal rules. The races don't carry any incident points so racers can have a race in those cars without worrying about losing SR points towards their license. Richmond and Milwaukee host the Formula Mazda's to give a taste of oval racing in open wheel cars while the Radical SR8's go to Laguna Seca and the recently released Sebring. There will also be races for the Solstice and Legends cars.

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Is anybody racing these days in GPL on VROC? I've been trying for a week to race but can't seem to hook up online. I always thought the graphics in GPL the best anywhere, now they're updated, and would love to race, but it seems mostly European servers are doing it, and that doesn't work for West Coast U.S.!

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