December Build & Other iRacing Updates
November 18th, 2015 by Steve Myers
This is always kind of a depressing time of the year for me, because winter is literally only weeks away and all the real world racing series are finishing up their seasons. I am excited, though, to be heading to Homestead on Friday to celebrate our NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series champion Kenny Humpe and get to watch what is really the only race left in the season. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that this new Chase format does provide a “Super Bowl” event with the final race at Homestead.
Here at iRacing, we’re hard at work this winter to ensure that iRacing remains one of the most awesome racing games around. Read onto find out what we’ve been cooking up for the December build. We’re enhancing our member site, cars, tracks and drag racing system to ensure that iRacing online racing remains on the most popular racing video games around.
New Changes to iRacing: the Best Racing Game of All Time
So as the real-world racing season comes to a close, it seems like a great time to sit down and bang out some updates for you on what we have not only coming in the December build, but to update you on some longer term projects as well. As always, I won’t be covering everything we are working on, and I make no promises that some last minute issue won’t push-back a new feature or item … even if I did say it’s coming in the December build! So grab your drink of preference and settle in because this is a long one!
Let’s start with an update on the massive project of overhauling and upgrading our websites and user interfaces. I don’t think anyone can deny that iRacing possesses the best match-making racing service on the planet, but it was in need of a refresh. In case you haven’t seen it yet, we have completely redone our public website at https://www.iracing.com. The general look and feel of this site will carry over into our new slimmed down member site and in-sim user interface. I can’t overstate how massive a project this has been. It has taken literally a year to untangle the spaghetti mess that our current member site has become and to design a new, more intuitive interface.
The actual front-end design of the new interface is pretty much done at this point and the project has now moved into the implementation stage. We are slowly connecting real data into the pages and the site really looks terrific. This is all part of our plan to make iRacing the best PC racing game for veteran and new users alike.
We have also taken-on another huge behind-the-scenes project, namely upgrading all of our back-end hardware and technology. We are porting the code from a commercial infrastructure to an open-source infrastructure. This will allow us to more easily scale our servers for larger events or when there is a large influx of users. We look at the best simulation games out there and try to make sure we’re always ahead of the game.
As well as being the first of many steps in the road map, this first step carries the most peril. We are trying to minimize risk by doing a direct port of the application while changing as little as possible. But the underlying infrastructure is completely new: New operating systems, new operational procedures, new monitoring, new capacity planning and, where the application was vendor specific, new implementations. With these first steps, our goal is for things to look and, perhaps, perform a bit better. More importantly, it sets the stage for overhauling the application in ways that will be noticeable as we provide a better and more scale-able feature-set, one that is subject to continuous integration, testing, and deployment.
I know user interface and web technology might not be the sexiest of topics so let’s give you something a bit more exciting.
New Cars Take iRacing’s Racing Sim to New Levels
Our McLaren MP4-30 Formula One car is shaping-up very nicely. Now before you start making comments about the combustible nature of the car’s engine let’s put this into perspective. I don’t know this for sure, but I feel pretty confident that McLaren saw the writing on the wall this season and that, coupled with the fact that we have an outstanding relationship with them, provided us with a truly unique opportunity. Nobody in this industry goes further to try and accurately replicate a race car than we do. And, to quote Jonathan Neale, “McLaren has never given anyone the amount of data on a car than what they gave us.” And then we went back and asked for more. Again, just one more reason iRacing continues to be one of the top simulation games in the world.
We have been provided access to a current Formula One car in order to integrate into our sim racing at a level nobody else has ever seen. Laugh all you want about the performance of the engine this year, but we are still talking about one of the most technically advanced vehicles that has ever been produced; and we are going to bring it to you in a level of detail never done before in this (or any other) space.
Just to give you an idea of the new technology we have developed for this car (we received updated CAD for the MP4-30 as recently as three weeks ago), we are integrating all the technology you would expect in a currently competing F1 car. This work has required us to redesign our engine model to support the F1 Energy Recovery System (ERS), which allows us to harvest thermal energy from the turbo and braking system. We are then propelling the car with a Motor Generator Unit (MGU) that provides a bank of extra electrical power that you will be able to use for overtaking. Because you will not be able to harvest enough energy to fully recharge the system, you will need to manage this extra power over the course of a race. You will also need to manage your fuel to ensure that you have enough to run the full race distance.
New Drag Reduction System at iRacing
We will also be implementing a Drag Reduction System (DRS) which I am sure is familiar to many of you. Basically there will one or two zones around each track where, if you are within a second of a car in front of you, you are allowed to open a flap on your rear wing to reduce drag. During qualifying and practice you will be able to open the flap in the marked DRS zones regardless of your proximity to another car.
When the new car is released, we will have all of the primary tracks used with the F1 cars configured with DRS zones and will roll-out additional tracks as time allows.
Ultimately, it is our goal to also have multiple tire compounds available for the McLaren MP4-30 in a session and require the use of both. Unfortunately, this feature will not be in the December release, but it is our goal to have it ready for the start of the 2016 iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series.
New Nürburgring Feature: More Track Options
Another piece of content that will be shipping in the December build is a track you might have heard of called the Nürburgring. We will be releasing the Nordschleife and GP Strecke as two separate tracks, but if you have both you will be able to combine them as into one long circuit as used in the 24 hours of the Nürburgring. All told, the tracks will have 12 different layouts including the “Tourist configuration” which we will use in a hot lapping competition when the tracks are released. We will NOT be shipping a feature that allows you to be a passenger in a Ring Taxi on the verge of throwing up (like myself).
As you can imagine, we are very excited not only about the release of the Nürburgring, but we are also pretty stoked about the opportunities we have in working with the track management. We actually have the co-owner of the track visiting us this week to sit down and talk about how we can work together moving forward! And yes, we have been talking about the VLN series and have plans on trying to do something with that series.
One project that became a necessity with the development of the Nürburgring is the ability to share pit stalls in order to increase the car counts at tracks with limited space on pit road. Although the project was initially designed to enable us to use the maximum number of cars on the Tourist configuration, for the December build you will also be able to add up to 60 cars at Daytona, Sebring and Spa as well as the Nürburgring. Down the road we will expand this track list as we have time.
Now I am sure you oval fans are starting to wonder “what about us?” Rest assured, we are also working on getting Southern National Motorsports Park into the December build as well. This is going to come down to the wire but if we miss the December 8 build, the 4/10 mile track will be released shortly after the build.
Amazing Audio & Visual Enhancements
Going forward, we have budgeted significant development dollars to enhancing the “sound” of iRacing. We have actually persuaded Aussie Greg Hill to ditch all of his other contract jobs and to focus solely on iRacing. Some of that work is already making its way into our December build with new debris and updated tire sounds along with updates to a few car sounds. Who would have thought a case of Shiraz and a subscription to “The Modern Drunkard” magazine was all that it took to lure Aussie Greg to the dark side! Hey, whatever it takes to maintain iRacing’s position as the best PC racing sim, right?
We had hoped to have the new particle system in our last build but it actually turned out to be a benefit to have missed that target and have spent another three months working on it. As a result, the next build will feature all new backfires, gravel, grass, dirt, and marbles effects. All of this debris will have corresponding sounds, which really make a dramatic difference to livening-up the cockpit environment.
The debris is more than “just” an effect. It will be picked up by your tires and flung-off as it would in the real world, even affecting the traction. That feature may not make the build, but we are planning on making debris visible on the tires as well which will obviously be most noticeable on the open wheel cars.
One highly visible new effect associated with the particle system is updated smoke. If you are able run the racing sim at high detail settings you will be able to see it. Burnouts have never looked so good in iRacing!
While DX11 won’t be part of the next build, we have made some great progress toward its completion. DX11 has actually been a part of the alpha testing process already and we were able to gather some excellent feedback. Several of the alpha testers have been testing with it almost exclusively at this point.
A majority of the shaders and effect systems have been ported over to the new graphics API independent layer. As part of this process several of these systems were re-written for better performance. Of particular note is the post-processing system (which in DX9 implements depth of field) was re-written to make it easier for us to add future effects.
Additionally, as part of the DX11 work, we’ve begun work on implementing support for the Oculus Rift 0.7 SDK.
While there is still quite a bit of work to do, we’ve made a lot of progress. Just to be clear though, the days of running iRacing in anything other than 64 bit and Windows 7 or higher are coming to an end. You’re really going to need to be running this already and have 6 Gig of RAM to probably even run the Nürburgring. In other words, you might want to ask Santa for some PC upgrades! The only thing that could make the best PC racing simulator even better is some shiny new hardware.
Upcoming Plans for More Great Advancements
We have a lot of awesome content in the development pipeline. From a physics standpoint, the new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car is already done because we actually helped them develop the racecar! We are only just now getting a chance to scan the body of the car this week because they had not finalized everything with the body kit until very recently. When the new MX-5 is completed it will replace the existing MX-5 Cup car in official series and included FREE in the base package!
On the GT3 front we anticipate the new Mercedes AMG GT and Audi RB LMS will be ready in time for the March build, which will also line them up to be used in our new iRacing Blancpain GT Series in Season 2.
I have seen quite a few forum posts on this topic, but rest assured, we have not forgotten about the Renault 2.0 car which is also in production. We hope to have it completed in the first half of next year as well. So yes, Half Life 3 is confirmed.
On the track side of things Imola is looking like the next major project we will complete and it is penciled-in – lightly – for the March build. We are also doing everything we can to try and get Le Mans finished for June of next year but I would not bet on it. By the way, I’d appreciate it if the community could form a support group for Jonathan Butel until then.
As always we have tons more in development including some big tickets items that are going to blow you away. We are excited about the progress we have made this year and even more excited about what the future will bring. We could not do all of this without the support of our fantastic community so, on the behalf of all of us, thank you. Stay tuned in the coming months to see what’s new with iRacing’s top-notch road course racing platform.
Now if I only could get excited about the fact that, technically, the last big race of the year before a long cold winter is between two cars in a series with the championship decided a month ago.