When Simraceway announced their landmark agreement with McLaren earlier this month, we decided to delve a little deeper behind the story before sharing our thoughts.
Anyone with even a rudimentary awareness of driving games will know about the two goliaths of the genre, Sony Playstation’s Gran Turismo (GT5) and Microsoft Xbox’s Forza 4.
To say they dominate the marketplace would be something of an understatement – and with driving games now a $2.5 billion industry, according to market researcher EEDAR, it would take a brave man to place any bets on a newcomer.
Ignite Game Technologies is that newcomer and Simraceway is the game they’ve invested more than $12.2 million and 2 years of their lives in developing. That may sound a lot, but as already mentioned, gaming is now a huge industry.
To provide some perspective, Polyphony Digital, maker of Sony Playstation’s Gran Turismo 5 is known to have invested $80 million over a 5 year period, so you’ll understand why we were keen to speak with the guys behind Simraceway to find out if they were trying to bite off more than they can chew.
Let’s talk about the McLaren deal first, then we’ll come back to a behind-the-scenes Q & A with Ignite.
Prepare to race the McLaren of your dreams..
Prepare to race the McLaren of your dreams – that’s how McLaren led into their own announcement earlier this month.
The significance of the deal with Simraceway is two-fold, firstly no other racing game is licensed by McLaren to include its cars and it’s not just the F1 and MP4-12C that are on offer, McLaren has chosen to provide its entire catalogue of road and race cars – 60 in total – all exclusively rendered for the Simraceway virtual environment.
That’s a huge commitment, don’t you think? Not only does this involve a room full of geeks and designers slaving over their Macs, but also a team of engineers scanning, measuring and gathering data on each and every car. The partnership breaks new ground for the videogames industry, representing the first time McLaren has licensed its entire catalogue of F1, Can-Am, sports and road cars for use in a game.
It also represents the first time that anyone outside the McLaren team will be able to experience the brand’s greatest cars.
Included in the line-up is the iconic 800hp, turbocharged MP4/4 F1 car that was driven into the history books by the legendary Ayrton Senna and his teammate Alain Prost. The MP4/4 is still the most successful car in Formula One history, having won 15 of the 16 races it entered in the 1988 season, capturing the same number of pole positions and leading no less than 1003 of the 1031 laps raced that season.
Joining the MP4/4 are the F1 cars driven by Emerson Fittipaldi and James Hunt (in 1974 and 1976) and of course this season’s Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26, currently being driven by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. In total, 36 F1 cars, with the exception of the MP4-26 (which is already licensed for Codemasters F1 2011), will be exclusive to Simraceway.
Jonathan Neale, Managing Director of McLaren Racing said: “Choosing Simraceway as our licensor for all 60 McLarens makes perfect sense. We’re highly impressed with their gaming products, innovative technology and the drive of their people. We are very optimistic that this will represent the start of a successful co-operation between the two companies, and we look forward to seeing our rich and beloved heritage brought to life in the virtual world.”
To save me introducing them all, but realising that many of you would love to know the details, all 60 cars are listed in the drop-down display below.[reveal title=”Licensed Vehicles List – McLaren” ]
|McLaren Automotive cars|
|McLaren F1 (1992)|
|McLaren F1 LM|
|McLaren F1 GT|
|McLaren F1 GTR|
|SLR (P7 Project) (2003)|
|SLR 722 Edition|
|SLR 722 GT|
|SLR Roadster 722 S|
|SLR Stirling Moss |
|SLR McLaren Edition|
|MP4-12C (P11) (2011)|
|McLaren F1 Cars|
|MP4/2 (Variants MP4/2B,C) (1984)|
|MP4/5 (Variant MP4/5B) (1989)|
|MP4/6 (Variant MP4/6B) (1991)|
|MP4/98T (1998 – Tandem vehicle)|
|MP4-19 (Variant MP4-19B) (2004)|
|McLaren Can-Am cars|
|M1A (Variants M1B,C) (1964)|
|M6A (Variant M6B) (1967)|
|M6 GT Coupe (1969)|
|M8A (Variants M8B,C,D,E,F) (1968)|
Let’s take a look at the game..
When we think of PC driving games, it’s all too easy to imagine controlling it via a keyboard or joystick, or if you’re a serious gamer then perhaps a dedicated gaming seat, complete with steering wheel and pedals.
Ignite chose a different approach, joining forces with gaming peripheral maker SteelSeries to develop the SRW-S1 Steering Wheel. The SRW-S1 is an affordable, high-performance PC controller that aims to open up a whole new racing world to players frustrated by the limitations of joypads.
The handheld hybrid racing controller combines the features and functions of a high-end steering wheel, with the portability and convenience of a joypad – the SRW-S1 includes a motion-sensor for steering and a patent-pending throttle and brake paddle system for a fully simulated driving experience without the need for floor pedals.
Sound like a gimmick? Well take a look at the video below..
The controller was designed, tested and approved by a team of world-class drivers, including four-time IndyCar Series winner Dario Franchitti, double Indy 500 Champion, the late, great and much missed, Dan Wheldon, and SimRacing stars David Greco and Bruno Marques.
“When we set out in 2008 to create a new kind of racing game, one of the first issues we had to confront was the age-old ‘interface problem’,” said Ignite CEO Jonathan Haswell. “For decades now, racing game players have been faced with the unenviable choice of spending a huge amount of money on a wheel-and-pedal set that is tricky to set up, store and transport or settling for a binary joypad that simply isn’t fit-for-purpose.
“It soon became clear that the only solution was to produce something completely new and unique. A controller that would be affordable enough for those who can’t justify spending fortunes on top-end racing wheels but authentic enough to convey the full exhilaration of the virtual racing experience.”
As an extra bonus the SRW-S1 controller is compatible with other PC-based driving games, which makes its €119.99 ($119.99) price seem even more reasonable. You can find out more at http://steelseries.com/srws1.
Q & A with the Simracing Developers
So far the Simraceway experience sounds worthy of a closer look, so we got in touch with the developers and put them on the spot.
Why develop yet another physics engine? Surely the leading console games have this technology already sown up?
We’re not developing a brand new physics engine — we’re perfecting an existing one using extensive real-world racing expertise. It’s also important to emphasize that, despite their popularity, we don’t accept that Gran Turismo and Forza constitute the last word in physics.
As with real-world racing, there’s always room for innovation! With Simraceway we believe we can not only match other titles, we believe we can offer a superior racing experience thanks to a number of important innovations we have made during the title’s development.
Really? Care to share some more details about how you plan on beating them?
Not only has our development team been able to call on the expertise of three world champion drivers, we also have a real-world racing facility permanently available to us for research and development. We believe both of these factors have given us a vital edge over other games in terms of authenticity on the track.
We’ve partnered with SteelSeries to produce a financially-accessible, high-performance steering wheel that integrates fully with Simraceway, giving players a viable alternative to joypads, which are patently not fit for purpose in the context of a racing game.
We have experts in the field of skill quantification developing and perfecting a skill-matching system that will blow existing methods out of the water, effectively bringing sim racing to the masses by producing perfectly-matched contests for drivers of all skill levels.
As well as racing for pride and points, our players can choose to compete in paid-entry competitions which will give them the chance to win big prizes and pit them against real-world professional drivers.
Unlike “packaged goods” games, Simraceway can be constantly updated, allowing us to add new licensed content, features and upgrades and keep the game in sync with the real world.
Will Simraceway run on just PC platforms, or will it be available on Xbox and PS3?
Simraceway is a PC game that employs a client-server model similar to that used by popular online games such as World of Warcraft™. However players will also be able to enjoy an ongoing connection with the game—and perform many gameplay-related actions like viewing leaderboards and engaging with the game’s community—using any web-enabled device.
Does Ignite plan on adding any further car brands to the game?
To date, Simraceway has agreed over 600 licenses for modern and historic race and road cars from some of the biggest brands in the automotive industry, including Bentley, Bugatti, Mitsubishi, and Saleen. Many of these will be exclusive to the game.
By the start of 2012, we expect to be releasing over 30 laser-scanned models each month as we build up a comprehensive simulation library of motorsport history, which our players will be able to purchase content from. We like to think of it as an “iTunes for racing”.
And what about the tracks? Are these simulations of real circuits or purely virtual designs?
Simracing drivers will be able to race on a combination of real-world and fantasy street circuits, ovals and road courses.
We currently have licenses for over 60 real-world tracks which we are in the process of laser-scanning for deployment in the game.
So, how can you get involved?
Simraceway entered into open beta last week and the Simraceway wheel was launched at the same time. You can sign up now at the Simraceway website, then download the game and try it for yourself. The software is free and you can win points and prizes in the Simraceway competitions.
Sound interesting? Let us know how you get on.