Sim Racing: How to Improve Single Player?

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A couple days ago, I decided to run a DTM race in Assetto Corsa, at the Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit. It was a short event, only 3 laps, but was packed with 12 cars in the event. This would be my first time testing out the new Alfa Romeo 155 V6 TI, added as part of the Dream Pack DLC.

Due to a solid qualifying effort, I earned second place on the grid. The pole sitter was another Alfa, piloted by a driver named Antony. Antony got off to a great start and was pushing a gap ahead of me. However, I was noticing he was pushing too hard, and was over-wearing his tires.

Sure enough, halfway through lap 2, Antony started making mistakes, seeing his car dance a little more on the track. I was starting to also feel my rears skirting around on the track a little more, but I could tell I was reeling him in. By the time the third lap started, I was smelling his exhaust.

The final lap was spent trying to make sure my presence was known. I was making sure I could be seen in the rear mirror, and was trying all I could to make Antony make a mistake. On the last turn, my wish was granted: Antony locked up his right rear tire, shooting him off the racing line. I saw my gap, and I went for it. I exited the turn far better than Antony, and pulled up next to him. We crossed the line side by side: I had lost by a bumper and a half.

Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking this race was an online event, but in reality, it was a single player race against the AI. While the AI has truly improved in Assetto Corsa’s latest update, this race left me a little bittersweet. Antony will never remember this intense race we had, or the close finish. Next time I load up a DTM race, Antony will be essentially “brainwashed”, with no knowledge of previous races he took part in.

While AI has improved significantly in this modern generation of sim racing titles, that should just be one part of single player events. A “career mode”, which has been a staple in a variety of racing titles, has been relegated to less hardcore racing titles, or being implemented as an afterthought. I think Career Mode should be revisited for single player, and I want to give examples of how I think single player can be improved in racing titles.

Career With Progression (As seen in Project CARS, iRacing, NASCAR Dirt to Daytona)

The ability to race any series you want in sim racing is both a blessing and a curse. While you can jump immediately to a top-tier championship, there is no sense of reward. You jump into a car, run laps against other cars, and try to finish first. There’s nothing to “earn”, nothing to “win”.

Sim Racing Career Progression

While it may seem gimmicky to some, I think a great element to a career mode would be starting at the bottom and working your way up. I’d like to have the feeling of progressing through racing series, getting noticed by teams, moving my way up, until I make it to the top.

It would also be a great way to teach sim racing beginners techniques. Maybe implement an optional tutorial into the first series, or have a “Driving School” to teach drivers racing concepts.

I think a progression system would be a great way to simulate a racing career, to have drivers racing for a reward.

AI That Moves Up With You (As seen in GRID, NASCAR 2005, F1 Games)

One of the downsides of progression in most racing games is you don’t get “attached” to the other drivers. You move up to a higher up series, and you leave all the other drivers behind. In real life, a group of newcomers will come a series, creating the “Rookie Class”. That would be an interesting element to recreate in a sim racing career, to be able to have you compete for a “Rookie of The Year” award.

In NASCAR 2005, I remember the “Silly Season”, where drivers would retire, and others would take their place. It was weird racing in a NASCAR game where you would see big names retire, but it created an interesting level of depth and an added level of humanity to the virtual drivers.

Managing Your Team (Seen in NASCAR Thunder 2004, iGP Manager)

A unique element in NASCAR Thunder 2004 and iGP Manager was the ability to manage your team, hiring your crew, getting sponsors, and managing your cars.

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That gave a unique management aspect, almost akin to a role playing game, or a “Tychoon” title. In both of the titles, your cars would wear out over a race, and you’d need to take time to bring cars back up to 100%. That was definitely a unique aspect, where if you were not able to fully repair a car, you may need to enter a race with a slightly fatigued vehicle.

Limited Vehicles Per Weekend

One of the great parts about sim racing is that you don’t have to worry about wrecking a car. However, in a career mode, I’d like to see something a little closer to reality. In a NASCAR race, you have two vehicles, your main one, and a backup, if the car encounters damage that can’t be repaired.

I’d like to see that in a sim racing career as well, recreating some of the pressure that real life drivers need to deal with.

These are just some of the ideas I have that I think could help reinvigorate a single player “Career Mode” for sim racing. What would you like to see in a single player mode for sim racing? Let us know in the comments below!