The Case For Damage in Sims

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In this latest generation of racing sims, we have seem realism jump forward exponentially, providing for some of the most authentic experiences we can have. However, I feel that one of the areas that has been somewhat lacking is damage. I feel that, while other elements of sim racing have advanced in leaps and bounds, damage has stayed stagnant, where it could have advanced just as far.

Now, I know many people do not consider damage to be a crucial aspect of simulated racing. I have heard many different opinions, ranging from “It’s a racing simulator, not a crashing simulator” to “If you’re crashing, you’re not driving well enough”. However, I feel that damage is an essential aspect to sim racing, as it is a critical element in real life.

I think it is safe to say that every single sim racer has crashed in his or her virtual racing career, be it out of curiousity, driver error, or just unfortunate circumstances. The thing is, that also happens in real life. Real life drivers CRASH. Cars get damaged, and sometimes cars are destroyed.

iRacing Damage

In this latest generation of racing sims, it seems like damage has taken a backseat to other elements. The biggest culprit, in my opinion, is rFactor 2. It has a solid damage engine when it works, but it is clearly in an unfinished state, with no word on when damage will be improved. Vertex damage is non-existent in rF2 at this point in time. Damage in Assetto Corsa seems to be an afterthought as of now, with damage ranging from overly sensitive on the visual side, to tough as a brick on the mechanical side. iRacing has a solid foundation (and they recently hired a new guy dedicated to damage), but there are still some questionable elements that lead to iffy behavior when cars get damaged.

Now, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on WHY damage should be improved:

  1. It promotes healthier driving habits. If you drive like an idiot, you should have damage as a consequence. One thing that sims seem to not simulate is the wear and tear that cars (and parts) go through over the course of a race. If a driver attacks a high curb like a maniac, he could be risking having a suspension component on the car fail. If a driver goes through the grass, there is the risk of damaged bodywork or underbody components.
  2. Helps drivers respect others. I feel that if damage was more authentic, there could be less drivers using other cars as a brake or as extra turning. If drivers knew that their driving had more consequences akin to real life, I believe they would not be as aggressive.

Sure, we would still have the occasional guy who enters races just to wreck others, but that is a danger of this hobby. Ulitimately, we are not driving expensive race cars, but their virtual counterparts. We don’t have the sense of danger that real racing provides, but if you can find a good group of people to race with, you can have great experiences.

iRacingSim64 2014-08-26 15-21-32-17

One of the areas that I feel has the greatest potential to be advanced in is what happens AFTER the car is damaged. I feel racing sims have generally dropped the ball in regards to damage repair. In real life, you can pick what parts of the car you need to have repaired, so you may put off less essential repairs for later in the race. However, in most sims, you have very limited control over what repairs can be done. In iRacing, you can stop halfway through “Optional Repairs”, but you can’t choose what components you want repaired in the stop. rFactor 2 has two options “Repair Body” and “Repair All”. Assetto Corsa allows you to select body, windshield, or mechanical parts. I personally would love to see a system similar to Richard Burns Rally, where you pick each specific part you want repaired (you could either select parts while driving or during the stop), and the repairs are done. A more comprehensive repair system could also lead to strategic repairs, which could be a deciding factor in endurance races.

Another one of the flawed systems that is tougher to fix is “consequences for your actions”. In most racing games, if you wreck out, or worse, wreck someone else in the process, you can just hit the reset button and have no ill effects. iRacing has a system that attempts to penalize you in an objective manner, but it leaves many racers scared, not willing to push the car for fear of incident points.

I feel that there should be some system that could be put in play, that is similar to what iRacing has attempted to bring, that at least creates some accountability for drivers’ actions. If someone causes a ten car wreck online, he should NOT get off scott free. However, I don’t really know how a system could be effectively implemented. Do you have any ideas?

This new generation of sim racing is still in its early stages, and odds are, we’ll see major advances in the damage engines for titles, but how extensive will it be? Time will tell

What is your opinion on the state of damage in racing sims? Let us know in the comments below!