Let’s Talk About Hot Rubber

Time. You never seem to have enough of it and it moves much faster than you can imagine. I can give you some funny lines about why it has been so long since I have last written one of these blogs, but the straight truth is that I just haven’t had the time! We are so busy here at iRacing trying to bring cool new stuff to our loyal members, that it’s hard to just sit down and collect your thoughts in the way one of these blogs forces you to do. That and I finally got a PlayStation 4…

Seriously though, we’re hard at work here at iRacing trying to make sure that iRacing outperforms the best online racing games and continues to maintain its position as high on the list of the top 10 simulation games in the world. Read onto learn all about the new ways iRacing is working to make ours the best PC racing sim, from high-tech dynamic track surface models to lifelike trees and dynamic weather.

Dan Garrison checking out hot rubber at NHMS

Dan Garrison checking out hot rubber at NHMS

iRacing’s New Dynamic Track Surface Model

My preoccupation with the PlayStation changed this afternoon. I got bored playing Madden 16 and got the itch to write about what I think is really the biggest thing to happen to sim racing in years: our new dynamic track surface model. I will be honest: This is a feature I have been wanting to see us build since all the way back at our days at Papyrus. The problem has always been that we needed to do so much behind the scenes to do this right that it never rose to the top of the priority list. We are entering an exciting time here at iRacing because we now are able to look at projects like this and say we do have all the systems in place now to tackle a project like this the right way. It’s just one of the ways iRacing is pushing to become the best racing game of all time!

So early this year we tasked our brilliant gentle giant Dan Garrison with this project and he has created a masterpiece! This is how it went down:

Steve: Dan, so I have a dream project that I have wanted done for 15 years and I think you’re the man for the job.

Dan: Um, Okay, no pressure or anything. What is it?

Steve: Dynamic track surface. You won’t see your wife or kid until it’s done, but I will take you to the race track so you can see cars put rubber on the track. Sound good?

Dan was up for the task and really has done an exceptional job in creating a system that that not only gives us an incredible feature now but sets up to do exciting things in the future as well. If you have not already done so, I would recommend watching the video we did on this project. You can find it here.

An Overview of iRacing Dynamic Tracks

If you don’t have five minutes to spare to watch the video, here’s a brief overview of the feature. We’re so excited to see how our dynamic tracks change the world of sim racing games for PC, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of the metaphorical race.

Since the start of Papyrus all the way through present day iRacing, our racetracks have been perfectly clean static surfaces. The entire racing surface had the exact same grip on all parts of the track and the racing groove was really just artwork that showed you the racing line of the track. Although iRacing has had groundbreaking accurate laser scanned tracks, they really have not been living, breathing objects like real world tracks. Those days are now gone.

Now when a session loads, the racing groove you see on the track is actually virtual rubber that is on the racing surface. Depending on how the session was setup, you can have a “green” track or one that is fully rubbered-in (or something in-between) and it WILL affect the grip on the track.

As a session progresses the location of every car on the track is tracked and communicated back to the race server which then aggregates all of that data into cells laid-out on the racing surface and sends it back to each driver in the session. Not only is the rubber from the tires being put into the track, the rubber is being torn or rolled into marbles that are strewn onto the track based on actual “big boy math” (that’s a highly technical term I picked up from spending time with Dave Kaemmer). It’s the science that makes the best PC racing game the best PC racing game, after all.

The Dynamic Track Building Process: How it’s Made

There is nothing “canned” about this process. It is all being dynamically generated by the actual actions of the drivers, cars and tires in the session. The marbles on the track will also affect the grip your tires have with the road surface. If you want to try running a different line on the track, it will take a little bit of work to clean the marbles from that line; and you are going to notice your car is losing traction when you do.

The rubber on the track surface is just one component of this new model. What is equally and potentially more important is the effect of heat in the racing surface, which is now modeled in the same way as we do the rubber. 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup cars running the same line on a hot day for 100 green flag laps is going to pretty dramatically increase the surface temperature of the track. Hot rubber is slippery, and the driver who ventures to find a cooler driving line just might gain the extra advantage late in the race to steal a win. This will help us make your NASCAR race online even more realistic than it was before.

We have even gone as far as modeling the albedo effect (not to be confused with the libido effect) which influences how much heat will go into the track surface by the position of the sun and the actual “darkness” of the pavement. A light colored concrete, for example, will reflect more energy than a very dark pavement, and the shadowed areas of the track will now be cooler than those sections in the direct sunlight. Ever wonder what it meant when you heard a driver say they “caught a cloud” during qualifying? Now you know.

Given my brain’s limited capacity, I do not think that I can properly convey how insane this client/server communication technology is. This was a massive part of this project and is what really took the bulk of the development time to create (with help from other engineers). Again, we do not use any type of artificial intelligence to generate these tracks conditions: This is all done by the participants in the session. This data is instantaneously collected and redistributed to all drivers so everyone has the exact same track conditions at all time. There are really so many possibilities on how we can use this system going forward.

Now is the time in this blog when all of you are probably thinking ‘How awesome it will be when we have dynamic time of day and rain!’ So let’s move on to the big picture for all of this.

An in-development shot of our new smoke effects

An in-development shot of our new smoke effects

Dynamic Weather

When we added dynamic weather and started attaching qualifying to race sessions it was the first step in trying to change the racing culture here at iRacing. This dynamic track project is the second step in this process, and hopefully it begins to change the way you approach your sim racing sessions. We hope the days are gone when iRacers would spend hours on end tweaking a setup in search of hundredths of a second because it is always 78 degrees and sunny on a perfectly clean and even grip track. You’re going to be faced with the exact same reality that exists in the real world where you’ll do the best you can to get “in the box” before arriving at the track. Even offline testing will not be able to simulate race conditions because one car turning laps by itself is not going to change the track like a full race field will. We believe that providing a completely authentic, real-world racing experience is what makes iRacing one of the top simulation games available.

I have to say that I am really excited to see the first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series race on September 15,when we’ll get to watch the pros try and tackle Darlington with a dynamic track. This really is a one-groove track and should concentrate the rubber and heat quite a bit which should change the handling of the cars during the race. Maybe someone will plan for this and develop a strategy for later in the race counting on a change in the track that finds a non-traditional line being faster. In any case, particularly on the oval side, there will never be two races exactly the same again. You as a participant in a race can now directly influence the conditions of the track and lines driven around it.

That is very exciting stuff and the good news is that you get to try it for yourself next week! I am really looking forward to seeing what we do with this technology going forward as well. All it takes is time and money to make driving video games almost identical to the real thing. Again, we’re all on board to keep iRacing one of the best driving games anywhere.

Now if you need me I will be in the conference room doing a “competitive evaluation” of the new Mad Max video games damage model…

… Oh damnit, Tony caught me and dragged me by my ear back into my office and made me keep writing! I guess it’s only fair if you have stayed with me to this point I that I reward you with some quick teasers about some other goodies we are working on.

 

An in-development shot of the Nürburgring

An in-development shot of the Nürburgring

What Else is New at iRacing?

I am very excited for a project Jeff Rubin, Kevin Combs and Brian Simpson are working on, which is a new particle effect system. Every few days Jeff excitedly brings me over to his desk to show me new sparks, backfires, smoke, and even sounds that are being incorporated into the sim. And they keep getting better and better. We really did not miss the build by much with this new system and should definitely have it in the December build, since I handcuffed Jeff to his desk.

For those of you planning to come to the iRacing.com Nürburgring GT500 race in two weeks, you are going to get a sneak-peak of the Nürburgring GP track in our booth at the SimRacing Expo. For those of you lucky enough to score a ticket to our suite at the race, you hopefully will get to sample the Green Hell — that is if Otto Szebeni gets his s*it together and gets us a racing pod up there. I smell eBay auctions for suite tickets in the future.

Although it won’t be done in time for the SimRacing Expo, one thing you will notice when we launch the track in our racing sim is how awesome the new trees look. Thomas Leyva and Dave Gosselin have done some awesome work with a new tool and shaders to dramatically improve our trees, of which the Nürburgring has a few. You may even be able to find Tony Gardner in a tree stand in one of them.

The DX11 project is making good progress. Nothing I write past that statement will really satisfy anyone so I am going to stop there.

Another really cool project Dave Tucker is working on is trying to incorporate a video codec that will allow you to directly export video files from the sim. It will now be much easier for you to flood Nim’s inbox with protest videos of the dynamic birds.

Of course we have plenty of other things we are working on (and actually more development staff than we have ever had here at iRacing), but what fun would it be to tell you about all of them. Plus, if I can carve out the time I do hope to do another one of these before another year goes by… as long as I am not hopelessly addicted to playing Star Wars Battlefront.

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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.


26 Comments

Hello,
Why iRacing not also in French … And a little less expensive ?
You will have a lot of members more …
Best regarrds

Emiler
September 3rd, 2015 at 11:38 am

So you felt like you had to reboot a two months old video ?

Tomas Beha
September 3rd, 2015 at 11:46 am

Great stuff guys. New Surface model will be awesome. Final piece of the puzzle will be DX11 and 24-hour time of day changes. Hopefully for Daytona 24!

Chris Partridge
September 3rd, 2015 at 11:56 am

This is a pretty amazing feature addition. My only concern is that it’s hard to find time now as it is to practice enough to “dial in” a set up that is somewhat competitive. This seems like it will make it nearly impossible for anyone but the most hard core who does nothing but iRacing in their waking hours.

This isn’t meant to detract from the accomplishment or the logic behind the decision to do so. It is truly amazing and you should be commended. But I know I already struggle with finding enough time to create competitive lap times (not even winning ones) and this will probably make it next to impossible.

That being said, I’m curious to see how it will all work.

Kevin Morgan
September 3rd, 2015 at 11:58 am

Great job iRacing. This will have a huge impact on realism. You truly are simulating the real world.

Larry Butler
September 3rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm

Sooo this means idirtracing.com is around the corner!?!?! Lol dreams simply dreams

Wes Campbell
September 3rd, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Hey, Whats Happnin, This is Tommy Regan. Driver in the Camping World Truck Series. I racing is 100% Awesome.And somehow you have found a way to make it better. Really looking forward to the dynamic track. Cant wait.

TommyRegan
September 3rd, 2015 at 1:01 pm

This is going to be one of the BIGGEST advances in online sim-racing since the move from dial-up to broadband! And yeah, I am sure there will be bugs and issues that will need addressing, but I am STILL really REALLY stoked for this!!!!

John Mustian Jr
September 3rd, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Sweet! Thx, Steve! Great news!

Renan Azeredo
September 3rd, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Why do you have ps4?… peasant

me
September 3rd, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Sheesh…. Been about a year since I have raced on iRacing. In lew of this video, makes it hard to resist coming back to iRacing.

RC Rigdon
September 3rd, 2015 at 1:44 pm

How are you going to ensure an equal competition setting between a 10 car grid on a Tuesday afternoon and a 28 car split on Friday night? Will grip levels be comparable or entirely left to random events in the race?

Sebastian
September 3rd, 2015 at 2:35 pm

thanks for the great news Steve! please do not wait another year to post again. 😉

Alexandre Martini
September 3rd, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Why do you need a PS4? iRacing doesn’t work on that. Unless you just gave everyone a scoop.

Ray Schmidt
September 3rd, 2015 at 5:53 pm

Thank you Steve! I am looking forward to everything iRacing has to bring!

Chad Dillon
September 3rd, 2015 at 10:24 pm

best sim ever..

Roque Garcia
September 3rd, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Where i get that ticket for the iRacing-Lounge?

Michael Müller
September 4th, 2015 at 3:19 am

iRacing – again and again and again :)

Wolfgang Weger
September 4th, 2015 at 4:56 am

Your blogs Steve are always entertaining to read. Thank you for your efforts and time to get us enlighted on what´s to come on iRacing :)

Sascha Henken
September 4th, 2015 at 6:28 am

Holy cowww…how cool is this?
As a past licensed road racer who had his best race ever on a very rainy day, I am impressed, and excited!
Thanks!!

Dwight Sontag
September 4th, 2015 at 9:50 am

Emiler: >And a little less expensive

Sorry, I don’t follow. Basic sim wheel/pedal sets run more than one ought to spend on iRacing in a year; between participation bonuses, yearly bonuses, and various deals, the ongoing cost is near zero and the only outlay is for new cars/tracks, which seems quite reasonable consider the ongoing development.

Kevin: This seems like it will make it nearly impossible for anyone but the most hard core who does nothing but iRacing in their waking hours…

I would argue the opposite; not even a superteam could predict how a track will rubber in over the course of a weekend or a race of non-trivial length, so the balance ought to shift in the favor of the individual driver, not the setup analyst.

No. 6
September 6th, 2015 at 1:33 am

This is an extraterrestrial-grade work!
Thanks for your all efforts!

Hyunsoo Lee
September 6th, 2015 at 3:29 am

Man if iracing finally has consistent multi-roove racing i can then finally end my 2 year hiatus.

Shawn
September 6th, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Looking forward to this, thank you. I guess we could also expected oil and other things affecting the track surface (dirt?)

Craig Jones
September 7th, 2015 at 1:03 am

That’s amazing! Thanks guys!

Igor Kmn
September 8th, 2015 at 7:29 am

Keep up the good work…

D Avery
September 9th, 2015 at 5:29 am

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