June 28th, 2016 by Steve Myers 45 Comments
We Are Building Dragons
I have spent a LOT of time in the car and on planes lately traveling to meetings and events for some very exciting developments for iRacing. I can’t really get into the specifics yet on what these trips are for but during these long drives and flights I have had a lot time to reflect on iRacing. Some thoughts that popped into my head on my travels….
It’s pretty amazing to me that not only has iRacing now been around for 12 years but we are now over 50 employees strong! We actually have a larger development staff than we did at Papyrus over the last five years of that company’s existence. I loved Papyrus and my time there but I honestly feel that iRacing has far surpassed what we accomplished at Papyrus and we have really done far more than we could ever have dreamed about doing if we still worked there.
When we started iRacing we took a very different path in our product development than really anyone else had at that time. Digital distribution and a centralized infrastructure enabled us to focus on product development rather than finding shelf space and dealing with packaging and a physical product. We really did get in on the ground floor of what is now called eSports. You probably would not be surprised at the number of eSports conversations we have had over the last few years and it’s quite funny to me that we really have already been doing this now since 2008 and developing it since 2004!
As most of you know, social and digital media has really exploded over the last few years. It really has become a terrific tool for us to communicate not only to our existing members but also in our efforts to try and recruit new customers.
I will give you a tangible bit of information on the effectiveness of social media. When we did our last survey a staggering number of respondents stated they learned about iRacing from YouTube. This is the exact reason why we developed the feature enabling iRacers to easily record your races and export them into a video format that can be shared without using the iRacing software. This is also why we have put significant effort into upping the quality and content on our YouTube channel.
If you have not already done so I would recommend subscribing to our YouTube channel because we have some exciting things coming soon! Here are some links to our digital and social media sites you should follow.
And if you like service updates, spontaneous ramblings from my mind, interesting pictures from my travels, and disparaging remarks about my co-workers….
A dark topic that I have thought about during mile after mile of driving are DDoS attacks. I just don’t get why people would actually spend money to ruin things for others. It’s a sad state of affairs when we have had to spend probably close to half a million dollars and lose valuable development time on new features and content because of this. I know it’s really frustrating to our members to have these issues but I have to commend our Ops team for the work they have done on this over the last year. I won’t go into a lot of detail on what we have done – for obvious reasons – but we have thwarted about 75% of the attacks we have gotten. That said, we apologize for the ones that got through and we want you to know that they are a priority for us.
On a happier note . . . Recently I was preparing for one of my trips and rummaging through my basement trying to find something I wanted to bring with me and I found my original Nintendo Game Boy. I then began frantically searching for my copy of Tetris to play it again only to come up empty handed. I was transported back in time though about how AWESOME it was to have a portable gaming device arrive and how drastically it changed gaming.
I really feel that virtual reality is a similar if not more impressive development, not only for gaming but entertainment in general. We are hearing terrific things about our implementation of the Oculus Rift, even going so far as getting a shout-out from Palmer Luckey as well! Fans of the HTC Vive should know we finally got one to the developers and they are working on getting that implemented as well…… as long as they can stop drawing dragons….
Don’t tell my wife that I am on my second Red Bull but it’s got me feeling motivated to keep typing so I will run through some updates on projects we are working on.
Dirt is in fact confirmed and we are making great progress. I hope you have checked out our latest video update on Williams Grove. If not you can see it here.
I often see comments on Facebook, Twitter, and our forums asking why we are doing dirt instead of focusing on pavement. If you can believe it, the development of dirt surfaces has actually HELPED on the pavement side of our tire physics model! Not only that, but we have yet another breakthrough on the dynamic track surface that we learned from the dirt project and that will be in the September build!
It’s still too early to know for sure when the first version of the dirt project will hit the member site but we continue to learn so much about how it will all work. From the dynamic surface side of things we are actually getting pretty close to have a working prototype which, needless to say, is exciting. There is still more work that needs to be done on the tire model but that is making great progress as well. It looks like we will be creating a V7 version of the tire model when this work is complete so prepare yourself for another round of “my car next” fight in the forums!
I do think the part of this project that will require the most time is the actual graphics of the surface. This is pretty much uncharted territory for us so although I believe we have figured out the direction we are going with it, we do still need to code it and work on making it actually look not just good but up to our standards.
From a content perspective the dirt late model is almost complete. We will plan to include three versions of the car when it goes up for sale: a Super Late Model, Limited Late Model, and a Late Model Stock. Really the only difference in these cars is the engine, so everyone should be able to find a car to fit their skill. We will also include in our base package a version of our Street Stock that will be prepared for dirt sim racing.
Another topic I hear quite often is “when are we going to build a winged dirt sprint car?” Well you will be happy to know that we are sending poor Kevin Iannarelli on the road again next week to go scan one. Kevin is spending so much time on dirt tracks he is now expensing new clothes purchases. Not a horrible thing really because he was in desperate need of a makeover….says the guy with an iRacing t-shirt on most of the week…
Eldora and Williams Grove are obviously the first two purpose-built dirt tracks that we will release and it is our hope that they will be done when the technology is complete as well. We actually have completed the driving splines for both tracks already and are working on the surrounding artwork. With the work that we have done collecting data before and after the tracks have been raced on, Williams Grove in particular will be important in the research and development stage of this new feature.
Also: We are likely going to create a dirt surface version of one of our base content ovals, most likely USA Speedway, so that there will there be a dirt track in our base package. I know this breaks our norm when it comes to “authentic” content but, at the end of the day, the track doesn’t exist anymore in real life. So just imagine we dumped 500 tons of dirt on it to make this real!!!!
Not to be ignored is the fact that we are also making great progress on the Ford Fiesta GRC car. On the physics side we’ve already modeled a handbrake; David Tucker even went to his woodshop and created a bracket for us to mount an actual handbrake to a desk! As for tracks we will initially be building iRacing rally cross tracks on existing tracks using fun track layouts that rarely get used. In my opinion one of the great things about rally cross (at least here in the States) is that courses can be constructed just about anywhere and are often unique on repeat visits to a facility.
The next track we will be releasing is of course Le Mans. If you have not watched it I would recommend checking out our video update on Le Mans. You can find it here.
Here is a cool story about this piece. We really by chance ran into Frank Biela when working on another project. We had planned on just simply interviewing him about his history at Le Mans to include in the Le Mans update because we thought he would have some interesting insight on the track. Much to our delight as introductions were made and he found out we worked at iRacing he was just as excited to meet us as we were to meet him! Needless to say I am now a full-fledged member of the Frank Biela fan club which includes his personal restaurant recommendations in Prague.
Greg is riding the art team hard to try and get Le Mans ready for the September build so we want to make it known that there are a bunch of very tired artists at iRacing! If you can believe it, this track is actually a more difficult project from a management and art perspective than the Nordschleife!
Back to the topic of surfaces. . . it probably flew under most people’s radar, but we had a very significant advance in our track geometry in this past build. For the first time in the history of the Papyrus/iRacing code base we have an actual polygon mesh on the track surface. Really, it’s about performance in general (literally thousands of particles can bounce off the surface in real-time) and being able to eventually get to complex shapes colliding, eg body panels colliding with the track surface. This was a monumental project and one that had our Scottish engineer Richard Jobling questioning whether or not he should vote “leave” at some points during the project.
Another project we have been working on for quite a long time is finally getting close to an initial release, namely the new UI project. With this update you will have the ability to join official sessions from inside the sim using our new user interface – our goal is to have phase one of the the new UI available by the end of the year. This will be a beta version of the UI specifically to test compatibility and performance much like we did with the initial release of DX11. There really is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with this project and it will be a fundamental change in technology.
One of the first new features that we will launch with this new technology will be our Time Attack competition. We will do a more in depth preview of this new racing mode when it gets closer to completion but the basic idea is to create a competition for the “hot lappers” out there much like GPL Rank. Essentially we will create “seasons” for each car with a specific track list that enables you to run any track at any time in that season and set a time. Your best time in that season for each track will roll up into a cumulative time total that will rank you against all other sim racers in that season. With this new feature Greger Huttu will have yet another way to embarrass us all….
I am running out of steam here after going a solid eight hours on this so I will wrap this up shortly. But first let’s have a commercial break so I can collect my thoughts to bring this baby home.
Ok I am back. Some quick ones to finish this up…..
Time of day transitions? Yes, it’s still on the list of things to do. No, it’s not going to be done in time for the release of Le Mans. Rome wasn’t built in a day people! The poor graphics engineers are just tidying up DX11 and did a fantastic job essentially replacing our entire graphics engine. They are just finally getting to a point where they can actually start developing on this platform so please be patient.
I have seen that a number of you are starting to see the fruits of Aussie Greg Hill’s labor as a full time part of the team here. He continues to pump out new sounds for not only engine sounds for the cars but individual components of the cars. We have two engineers and Aussie Greg working on sounds right now, so you will continue to see, check that – hear improvements in nearly every build going forward. There are some big gains to be made here and Aussie Greg is standing on his head to make things happen!
The animation project is also moving along very nicely. This has required significant work on a new driver model which will now be used for the pit crew and track side engineers. We are hoping the new driver model will be in the September build and we will also now have more animation in general in the environment. The first area you will see this will be with the crew members that are next to the war wagons on pit road. I am sure the art department will find some interesting ways to plant some Easter eggs as well which I will be looking forward to your finding….
And finally, to the guy who just can’t live without flags blowing in the wind, you can stop beating that drum, we are working on it.
Thank you, and good night….
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About Steve Myers
Steve Myers is the Executive Vice President and Executive Producer of iRacing.com. His day to day activities include over seeing and coordinating production, engineering and licensing and trying to get many far more intelligent people than himself heading in the same direction. Steve has been with iRacing since the doors opened in May of 2004 and previously was a Producer at Papyrus Racing Games since early 2000. In his spare time Steve enjoys watching from his comfortable couch all forms of sports including motor racing and occasionally will drag himself to an actual event. Steve lives outside of Boston Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters.