August 13th, 2012 by Steve Myers
Writing this, I have a feeling similar to the one you get when you show up to a wedding or party and see that very close friend who you have been horribly bad at staying in touch with. So let me just get it over with: I am sorry it has been so long since we have talked. I will do my best not to go so long before we talk again. There. Done. Now how about we grab a drink and some hors d’oeuvres and do some catching-up?
I should make it clear though that while I have not written a blog in a while I do send out quite a bit of news on my twitter account and often answer questions there as well. If you are not already following me you should @iRacingMyers. Sometimes I even give away random crap I steal out of the marketing closet or off people’s desks.
The good thing about going so long without talking is that there is so much to catch-up on. It’s only been…..cough…cough….seventeen months since I last did one of these, so I will do my best to include some stories and updates here that you will find interesting enough to forgive my lack of a blog for so long.
Let’s start by touching on some of the interesting developments on the partnership side of iRacing since my last last blog.
I am sure by now that everyone is aware of our partnership with Travis Pastrana. If you haven’t seen the special episode of iRacingTV we shot down at Langley a few weeks ago I would recommend watching it. We shot the entire interview in one 30 minute take and what you see is exactly what came out of his mouth, unscripted.
In the “I thought it was dead and buried and it came back to life” category, I am happy to announce that we have worked-out a deal for the scan data for Interlagos. I don’t have it physically in my hands yet but I would not be writing this if I did not feel confident that it was happening.
We also have iRacing member Frederic Jay to thank for resurrecting the conversations with the city of Montreal to the point that I can now say we will be building Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. The fact that Frederic was able to do this for an office full of Bruin fans is to be commended, although he may not be able to go home now that this is out.
A question I get quite a bit is “When are we going to have more makes in the NASCAR world in the sim?’” Well, I am happy to announce that I have signed the new Ford Fusion and Mustang, and am working on adding the SS and Camaro licenses as well. I am also working on the Toyotas but can’t make any promises there yet because I don’t have an existing agreement to amend with them. We are going to do everything we can to get two of these cars ready for the start (or shortly after the start) of the 2013 season but, quite frankly, the cars are still changing. From what I hear the die-cast makers are on the verge of creating an international incident over this…..
Staying with the NASCAR theme, we will plan to head out to Kansas to scan the track this fall, now that the major renovations are complete. We will probably bite the bullet and head out west to California to scan Auto Club Speedway as well, which would complete our roster of Cup series tracks on iRacing once both tracks are complete. I am sure the day after we leave California with data in hand, the speedway will be bull-dozed and turned into a road course . . .
I am just going to put this next one out there so – hopefully — I’ll stop seeing threads regarding BMW in our forums about why we have our heads in places that are technically not possible to reach (as far as I know, anyway). For awhile now we have had ongoing conversations with BMW about bringing some of their cars to the service and I actually have a first copy of the contract on my desk. I am cautiously optimistic that this will happen but no promises will be made by any means. Quite frankly I have indigestion just by typing that…
As has previously been announced we will be scanning Bathurst this fall. I would like to scan at least one more track when we are there but you Aussies need to do a better job at giving me some direction as to what you want. Every thread on this topic I have read turns into everyone wanting their favorite local track, so I am still confused as to what most think is the “next best thing to Bathurst.”
I would venture to guess that 80% of the questions we receive from iRacing members involve when certain cars or tracks will be released. Here is the current schedule of what is in production: Zolder will obviously be coming out next, followed by Oran Park and then Rockingham. We are shooting to have both Oran and Rockingham ready for the Season 4 build that should go out the last week of October.
As for cars, we are working on getting the NTM on the Lotus 79, Sprint Car, and Silver Crown car for the next build. We are also working on the McLaren MP-4 GT3 and Lotus 49 but I have no update on when those will actually be finished. However, they should be the next two new cars to come out.
I get a lot of questions about the Ruf Rt 12 R and when it will be built, etc. As of now we are still in the data collection process for the car. Actually physically getting our hands on the Ruf is turning out to be quite a problem because they are so rare. My plan is to win the $305,000,000 Poweball lottery on Wednesday, and I will buy one so we can dissect it for the good of the community.
Now that this blog is out, I’m sure the next round of questions will start as to when Montreal, Interlagos, and the Ruf will be done (not to mention the rest of the three year back log we have on content to build). The only people happy about this backlog are the art and production staff who are feeling very comfortable with their job security right now….
Moving on to the engineering side, I am happy to announce that after an exhaustive search in which I personally interviewed over 30 candidates we have finally hired a new engineer. He starts in two weeks and we are very excited about that. We plan on throwing him into the fire by getting him up to speed with our collision model and starting to lay the ground work for improved damage modeling. These will be longer term projects but are areas in which he has a lot of experience. (Digitally that is; he assures me his real world driving record is spotless.)
A long term project, longer then we had estimated by quite a bit, is team racing. The best way to explain what has happened with this project is to compare it to rebuilding the foundation of an existing house, then redoing all the plumbing and electricity, all without the family that lives there knowing we did it. There had been over 150 files changed already on this project which could not be checked-in until we are actually committed to getting them into a build. We completed that last week and are shooting to get live spotters into the sim for the next build. Hopefully, the driver changes and crew chief functionality should be in the Season 1 build but that could be optimistic.
The web team will have a lot of work to do to incorporate team racing but they do also plan on continuing work on the very popular league racing functionality. We have received a lot of great feedback and feature requests which we will evaluate for inclusion in the sim and feel confident the next build will include some of those features.
Another one of our longer terms projects has been converting the sim to x64 which is nearing completion. It will be a fun few weeks of testing with massive file check-ins for team racing and x64! I will be wearing a referee jersey and whistle to break-up the fights over who broke the testing build today.
Converting the sim to run native on 64 bit processors opens-up a lot of options for us on the technology side of things, especially when combined with the upcoming planned port to DirectX 11. However, since porting an entire graphics engine to DirectX 11 is a very large project, there is still one important piece of our current DirectX 9 based graphics engine that we’re already working on improving right away. We’re attempting to replace the shadow volume implementation with a version of shadow mapping, which should substantially out-perform shadow volumes on most systems. If the shadow mapping conversion works-out as planned it will be a great graphics improvement.
Continuing with the theme of longer term projects, Dave continues to dive deeper and deeper into the abyss with his trusty copy of “Polymer Physics” by Michael Rubinstein and Ralph H. Colby, as well as countless other math-heavy works. I think Dave is actually participating in some kind of social experiment on whether it’s possible to physically change a human into a quaternion equation.
In all seriousness, Dave continues to make progress with his next advancement of the tire model (or N5TM as he calls it) and, yes road course racers, he is aware the cold tires are too fast right now. Based on the progress the model has made so far, there is optimism that N5TM is going to solve this issue. As with previous iterations of the new tire model we will probably look to roll out a handful of cars at a time when it is ready to go.
One project undergoing a long term overhaul is the sound engine. We have been doing an extensive revision of the entire sound engine in preparation for moving away from DirectSound towards the more modern XAudio2 framework available in Vista and Windows 7. This work is continuing. As an early part of this restructuring, FMod will be gone in the next build. This project will lay the groundwork for us to add new features and sounds that we have not been able to include before.
We have a number of shorter term items we expect to address in the next few months as well. These are by no means “easy” projects, but we don’t anticipate they will take a year to complete.
For example, we’ve started work on building a proper turbo model for our engines, a model which will be needed for the McLaren and the Ruf. We have also been working on all-wheel drive, which will likely allow us to make both a rear wheel and all wheel driver version of the Ruf. I have a feeling the rear wheel drive version of the car will be for fun and the all wheel drive for racing!
We have a wish list a mile long for things that we want to build IN the sim world to try and add more life to the sim. These projects are often picked up at random times throughout the year when an engineer or the production staff has a window of availability open-up, typically because they are waiting for someone else to finish something they need done.
Projects falling into this category include continuing work on adding course flaggers to parts of the track other than start/finish, particularly on the road courses. We want to also look at adding-in the accumulation of dirt and oil on the windshield, and backfires from the exhaust. As well, we want to look at starting to add time of day changes into the sim, but that is probably a much longer term project, one we’ll tackle after moving to DirectX 11.
In our last build it seemed that adding hover-over-help in the garage for the oval vehicles was well received, so we are working on incorporating the same functionality in the road car garage as well. This was my old excuse as to why I am no longer competitive in the sim, so it would seem I need to come up with a new one.
As you can see, our work here at iRacing is a balance between massive changes in the foundation of the service and smaller projects that produce tangible improvements immediately. A lot of what we have planned for the future required these significant changes behind the scenes to position us for important developments in the years to come. We appreciate the loyal support we have from our customers and we are excited about bringing these projects — and much more — to you over the next year.
I hope you all had enjoyable conclusion to your racing seasons. Now I am heading to the bar for another drink!