A few weeks back Sim News Daily was given an excellent opportunity to conduct a community driven interview with Kunos Simulazioni surrounding their current title Assetto Corsa which is one of the main titles currently being discussed in the sim racing community.
First off i would like to thank Marco Massarutto for taking the time to answer the questions we chose from those submitted by a large number of community members. Not only did we receive a great reply to all our comments but also Marco takes the opportunity to give everyone an insight into the development decisions regarding Assetto Corsa.
Please take time to read both the statement by Marco Massarutto regarding the development decisions regarding Assetto Corsa which certainly is an insight you don’t get everyday and the interview questions, answering the questions you the community submitted to us.
A word from Marco Massarutto about development decisions regarding Assetto Corsa.
I would like talk a bit about development decisions regarding Assetto Corsa, before answering to some of your questions.
First of all, we really appreciate your comments and we thank you for all your interest in Assetto Corsa. This provides a strong motivation for our team to work at its best. We would also like to thank all the people that continue to support us, and the AC project, by purchasing our existing products. Please, continue to do so.
Reading comments on blogs, forums and your questions here, it seems that people think of us as a big software studio with unlimited resources. We feel proud because it seems that people think we are doing top quality work. Nevertheless we would like to underline that Kunos Simulazioni is a small, independent software house that is not funded by any external investment. We don’t work with, or on behalf of, any financial company and therefore our budget and resources are limited.
Because the community seems to be very kind on our regards, the least we can do is to be honest towards the community. Before discussing features, cars and tracks or how our title will be the “sim to end all sims” as maybe other marketing departments of other software studios do, we would like to explain the reasons behind some decisions, so here it goes.
It’s important to understand what limited resources means. We need to decide very carefully on which aspects of the software we have to focus our production: graphics, physics, licensing, features, the offline and/or online experience, weather effects, and so on. Obviously we can’t put the same attention in all of these aspects together. Gran Turismo 5 is a game that proves that 5 years work and budgets in the range of several tenths of millions of dollars, are not by themselves a guarantee that you can include every feature in existence into a racing game, and create the perfection.
We have a maxim in our office: “everyone wants to race a 24 hour race, driving at night, under heavy rain, with broken suspension and a puncture. But just one time for a try“.
What we have learned, over the years, is that feedback on forums and simracing blogs represents just a minor percentage of the total amount of users and it doesn’t always tell you the truth about what people want to see in a game. We pay great attention and listen to our customers, but when we see how people are using our software, we see various patterns -often vastly different- from what blogs and forums would suggest as normal usage. Here’s a couple of examples that are significative.
- As you probably know, Kunos have released, for free, for all registered members – all the add-ons produced for netKar PRO: cars, tracks, features, etc. And a lot of people who didn’t purchase netkar PRO before, during these years decided to buy it to get these add-ons, when a certain car or track as piqued their interest. Well, you would probably be surprised, but the slowest add-on car has sold much-much more copies of the game than the version that introduced weather conditions with aquaplaning, even if that feature was highly demanded from communities and the implementation was not bad at all when it was released, in 2009.
- If you are not involved in the simracing community and you read the biggest simracing forums, blogs, and so on, you could think that Grand Prix Legends, Richard Burns Rally and a few other games are the most successful racing games ever. And that -for instance- some modern famous F1 or rally titles are a total sales disaster because people hate them. Well, you already know the truth, don’t you?
- Many people think that that the multiplayer and online experience is dramatically important to every racing game. We love online racing too and we participate in various leagues with netKar pro or even other sims occasionally! Still if you count the number of users that play online at any time of the day/week with all the available simulators on the market, and then you also count the sales numbers of all the simulators available, you will notice that the online active users are a tiny fraction of the whole sales, even on purely online dedicated sims. So we’re troubled… where are all these people? Why we can’t see more online active users, than 15-20% of the whole sales of all sims even by the most pessimistic sales projections? Obviously because only a small part of the customers have the time and energy to race online regularly.
For all above reasons, and much more that we haven’t expressed but one can easily imagine, an independent developer needs to determine a strategy, in order to stay alive and be able to produce a new product in a busy marketplace. Our strategy, at Kunos, is not to create what people would ideally like to see in Assetto Corsa, but what Assetto Corsa should include in order to be an enjoyable product that simracers and, why not, normal gamers, would love to use. Because if you think about it, fast driving and racing is fun, so why simulators are not used by more people?
The development of Assetto Corsa is the present and future of our software house and an offer to the simracing community that surely thrives if more simulations are available in the market. We need to give priority to the features that make the driving experience with Assetto Corsa, worth for a larger audience of customers, without compromising and producing an arcade or sim/arcade game. Therefore we need contents, official cars and tracks, hi-quality graphics, a cool entertainment experience and a moddable structure to the software design. All powered by the most realistic physics engine we are able to develop, because that is our trademark and most praised characteristic. We believe that those features will make everybody happy, while having whatever extra feature at the expense of stability or mediocre experience while playing would make probably some people happy and angry everybody else.
So for example, multiplayer? Sure, but it will be one of the features of Assetto Corsa. AC will not have only a multiplayer structure as its core function, like its predecessor. Our original wish list, when we defined the concept of AC more than 2 years ago, included a lot of interesting and cool features. Realistically, today we need to set priorities and give you a great, stable racing experience. We are investing so much, we decided to bet on the simracing community. When AC is released, you will decide whether to bet on us. What will happen after the first release of AC, will also depend on the community stance. If the community stops the religion wars of “my sim is better than yours” and embraces the small number of simulations that exist in the market, then the same market will grow and become healthier. If we are not up to the realistic expectations of the community or the community asks the impossible, then in the future we will see even more arcade driving games.
The community can support Assetto Corsa’s development in the long term, by buying our previous products now, and purchasing AC when it becomes available.
We really hope we’ve been able to transmit you the positive spirit that drives us to write these honest words and hopefully you will read our answers to your questions, from a different perspective than the usual “we want everything and we want it now”.
Assetto Corsa Interview Questions
Will there be any kind of campaign/progression featured in Assetto Corsa or will this be limited to single events against the AI/multiplayer events only?
I can say that there will not be a career mode: all the contents included in each version will be available without the need to unlock them. We schedule to include a championship mode, but I can’t confirm this as yet.
Will there be a system that discourages wrecking? Such as the equivalent of iRacing’s iRating/SR?
There are going to be penalties for various driving behaviours. We are well aware of the iRacing rating system and we think it’s a great implementation and feature. We also noticed though that you can’t make everybody happy with such systems. Considering that we are an indie software house with small budget and resources, we must be very careful on where we spent those resources. That’s why we think it is better to give communities and users the ability to create the rating system that they prefer. Assetto Corsa will be moddable even for such advanced features, and so maybe with a bit of luck, some talented user might come out with the perfect rating system for everybody, or quite more probably, every league will create a personalized system that better fit their necessities.
Do you have any new features planned for Assetto Corsa in the multiplayer area? How many cars will be supported in Multiplayer?
Feedback was positive from the latest netKar Pro v1.3 version, and we aim to get better in Assetto Corsa, both in the actual multiplayer experience and most importantly in the management of the server and classifications after a race. We are still working on the feature list and actual multiplayer code; therefore I prefer to answer specific questions related to multiplayer when these features are completed.
The addition of laser-scanned tracks to the title brings a huge emphasis on realism to the title. What features do you have planned for circuits such as dynamic surfaces/drying lines localized weather etc?
We do have the code in place and we have created the graphic engine and physics engine in a way that dynamic weather and drying track can be implemented. I’m afraid though that we won’t be able to include it at v1.0 of Assetto Corsa, simply of time constraints. We learned the hard way some lessons in the past with netKar Pro. We tried back in the days to include as much features in the game as possible. The end result was that the sim was buggy at release and people couldn’t enjoy it.
This time around we want to create a software that has a very strong and stable core that people can enjoy and then start building and adding extra features on it. If you don’t make an enjoyable software for the community, then the community will abandon you and no matter what you do later, you won’t be able to win them back.
So yes we are working on it, we already going to have better grip on the ideal line and different grip on various asphalt patches for version 1, and we definitely want to include dynamic drying line and weather for future versions.
What’s the hardest part to make in AC, what features they want to have are giving them the biggest challenge to overcome and what are they the most proud of because they got it “just right”?
Programming the AI is an interesting challenge, because it is the first time we have done this. Being a small development team, each single aspect of AC is a challenge, considering the kind of contents and features we are developing with such a low budget. The involvement of real car manufacturers and race tracks makes every task much complicated and takes much more time. We are proud because the AC project is our most ambitious and most expensive project yet. But we will not betray our philosophy to make it as realistic as possible, even if we know that realistic simulations are not as potentially lucrative as arcade and sim/arcade games.
When Assetto Corsa was released you mentioned it would feature an open architecture allowing the title to be easier to access for modders. What features and tools can modders expect with the open architecture of Assetto Corsa
We think community input is very important for a niche market product. Nevertheless watching forums and blog comments is not always enough, because you can’t be sure as to how many people will eventually use a feature, a car or a track, everybody talks about. Modding gives the power to the community to express its creativity but also its preferences to whatever they like best. It makes a product more interesting to everybody and it gives developers the time to work on core features while the modders take care of “content”.
So yes, Assetto Corsa is going to be totally open and user will be able to create new content, new UI’s even new features if capable. The tools are not yet fully defined and we need far more time and space to explain how modding works on Assetto Corsa, but we are trying to keep everything as simple as possible and document every line we write on the various open files.
More information and documentation, about the tools will be available when the tools are going to be ready for release.
What other features are planned/already present in Assetto Corsa that you can share with us? Any plans for such things as driver swaps or dynamic day/night cycles?
We prefer to not talk about future plans and features, because we don’t want to raise expectations. We want and hope that people will drive and have fun with Assetto Corsa as it is. If Assetto Corsa is a hit with simracing fans then hopefully the sales will be good too and this will permit us to keep on expanding it. We have plenty of ideas on what to do next, but we must remain focused on version 1.0
Will triple-screens be fully supported? By that i mean rendering every screen independently so everything is in proportion on the side screens.
As you can see by the screenshots released so far, that are 100% in-game, our new graphics engine supports DirectX 11 natively with plenty of rendering passes. This means that it requires a considerable amount of hardware resources. Currently, it already runs fine on mid-level PCs, but before thinking of separate rendering onto triple screens, we want to optimize it for standard configurations, which as per official statistics, are more than 85% of total. AC will be compatible – it already is- with triple monitor solutions, while the kind of implementation you ask for has been scheduled for future release as we have to follow other priorities and scheduling.
We have all seen from the screenshots you continue to tease us with that Assetto Corsa has some stunning graphics to present a more realistic feel to the game. With this at mind do you know yet what the minimum PC specs to run the game will be?
We develop and run Assetto Corsa, currently, on several kinds of PC, including some entry-level configurations. One of the PCs I personally use is equipped with a Dual-core Intel processor, and an ATI 4800 Series GPU, bought in early 2009. Several screenshots we have released have been captured using that hardware. The graphics optimization process has yet to come, but I think we can consider this as the minimum hardware configuration needed to run AC.
Any plans on releasing a pre-release version to the public for testing before release? When can we expect to see the title available?
We’ll announce our plans by the end of August. Our intention is to release a “technology preview”, a one car-one track executable version of Assetto Corsa that will allow us to test hardware and compatibility issues on a very large number of PCs and OS configurations. Assetto Corsa doesn’t share anything with our previous products, so we want to test the code accurately well before we complete the development. This version will probably be good enough for having a first look of how Assetto Corsa drives, looks and sounds, and will also give the opportunity to modders to explore AC’s modding possibilities.
The “technology preview” is not a demo version of Assetto Corsa though. This will come later, after the initial testing and bug hunting of the “technology preview” is done. With the demo, users will be able to have a good test of the final version of Assetto Corsa, before making a buying decision.