Initial thoughts on iRacing

My Helmet Design

I start this iRacing blog several weeks after I began racing in the service, and so I’ve already had several weeks to become acclimatised to the good and bad points of the sim. Following my invite I signed up for a one month trial (the only option available) on June 26th with the general idea of trying it out and seeing if I felt it came good on all the promise and hype.

I was immediately impressed – I feel it sets new standards in many areas that other sims have not been able to get close to. The physics and detail (both in vehicle and laser scanned tracks) contribute to an incredibly immersive experience, and this is complemented by an excellently integrated website (the entire sim runs from the website) which really cements the feeling that every lap you do is charted and contributes to your ‘career’. Along with this is excellent network code – in races the majority of cars appear to be ‘rock solid’ and every race I’ve had could have been a LAN race for all I could tell. A certain element of this is going to be the clever masking of latency and warping (i.e. the cars are still ‘wobbling’ but we don’t see it), but even so I’ve had many close races where lag has not been an issue at all.

I don’t intend on writing an exhaustive opinion here and now (my general thoughts will ebb out over the next few weeks) but in interests of balance there are also some areas that I feel are lacking currently. These features are well known already so I’m not achieving any great service re-iterating them here but here they are nonetheless…

1. For a sim that is four years in development, and considering they didn’t start with a blank canvass (instead drawing on elements of the Nascar Racing 2003 Season codebase) it is still heavily feature incomplete. Pit stops, flags, mechanical damage are all missing to name a few, and some of these things are pretty fundamental. I’d rather see these areas delivered on sooner rather than later (and certainly before a deluge of new cars and tracks appears).

2. It is clearly early days yet. A lot of the back end functionality is missing, such as being able to see when your friends are racing, or comparing stats with them etc. At the moment, participation in a series is a bit weird when there are over 2000 drivers in the tables! The counter argument to this is “would I have preferred it if they held the release for another six to twelve months?” – NO. I’m sure all these areas are being worked on, bit by bit.

I think that’ll do it for now as a quick summary of how I feel the service stands today. I’ll post shortly on my experiences in the first four weeks of my rookie season and my first races.

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