Since its release in 2014, Assetto Corsa has been delighting sim-racing fans with its realism, gorgeous visuals and the insane depth of customisation on offer. If you’re looking for a racer where the handling is so on point you may need to look down to check you’re not actually in the driver’s seat, Assetto Corsa is the game for you.
Now, developers Kunos Simulazioni are jumping back in the cockpit to deliver Assetto Corsa Competizione, the follow-up to the super-realistic racer that's set in the Blancpain GT Series, and aims to better the original in every respect. We speak with Marco Massarutto, Brand and Product Manager at Kunos Simulazioni to find out just what’s new.
“Of course we'll have a career mode, the championship, a single and multiplayer system. But in terms of what's new, the rating system, driver profile, stats and the tutorials will keep players busy. Our aim isn't just to say ‘that's the game, here's the available cars and tracks, enjoy it.’ Instead, we want to keep players involved with the GT Series and all the aspects that the GT3 Championship can offer them. That includes providing the tools and information the players need to improve their driving style, consistency, and more.”
Also new is the partnership with Blancpain GT Series – one of motorsport’s most prestigious championships, with a wealth of manufacturers participating in a world outside of F1. So how did this deal come about? Massarutto explains:
“After the console release of Assetto Corsa in Summer 2016, Stefano [Casillo, founder of Kunos Simulazioni] and I tried to define a picture of the sim racing genre, to see what was missing in the field (like we did years before, when we designed Assetto Corsa). We found that the Blancpain GT Series would have perfectly matched our strategy for the next Kunos game. I contacted SRO to ask for a meeting, and we discovered that SRO and Kunos were exactly on the same page.”
Dedication to realism
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Assetto Corsa was in its slavish attention to detail and sense of realism. Thankfully, for fans of the first game, this isn’t set to change, with the developers ensuring that attention to detail is paramount.
Massarutto says, “Working on Assetto Corsa we collected a lot of information and we now have a great deal of know-how. We’re improving or re-defining some key aspects, like the tyre model, the aerodynamics, and more. The racing teams are even more cooperative than in the past, because they know that their cars will be part of the game, so they’re very happy to provide us with all the information that will result in a very detailed simulation.”
He adds, “Producing a game dedicated to specific cars, we can be even more focused on each single model. In general, I would say that the basic workflow needed to produce one car model in Assetto Corsa Competizione can require up to 14 weeks, and after that, the fine-tuning process (to check and improve the production in all its aspects: graphics, physics, sounds, AI lines) moves forward within the overall development.”
As for the cars Massarutto most enjoyed bringing to life, the list is comprehensive. He says, “Personally I can't wait to drive the BMW M6 GT3, that should be ready in the next few weeks, and I'm very curious to see the Bentley Continental GT3 on the grid with the other cars, because it's huge in terms of its shape and sound.”
Laser scan brings tracks to life
The tracks are also getting a fresh lick of paint, with laser-scan technology used to accurately represent the bumps and bends these vehicles will be traversing.
Massarutto tells us more, “Laser scan results in crazy precision in terms of accuracy, track details, slopes, bumps and curbs as well as shape and size (something that often isn't taken into consideration enough, in my opinion). Also, those circuits already included in the first Assetto Corsa have been updated in order to provide an overall product that includes the most updated version of each single car and track in the game.”
As for the stand out tracks, Massarutto says, “The Paul Ricard is a beautiful location and looks like the circuit has been placed in the middle of a resort. I really love that place and I'm finding it very interesting in the game because on several corners it’s not easy to find the best lines, so requires good training. It also features a couple of very long straights, where we'll see very good battles with the AI and in multiplayer.”
He adds, “The Hungaroring is another technical track that requires good training, as well as Misano, where being fast isn’t easy at all. What I really like is that because Assetto Corsa Competizione is totally new in all aspects, driving on tracks that our fans already experienced in the first Assetto Corsa provides a very new experience, thanks to the graphics, the sound and the way the GT3 cars behave in the game.”
Indeed, the updated graphics are hugely impressive, but did pose some challenges in development, according to Massarutto, “The engine (Unreal Engine 4) is completely different from our own, and this of course results in better graphics, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.” He adds, “The file management, format and structure is totally different, and it required a different workflow. Also, in terms of graphics, UE4 is very powerful, but it doesn't do the job for you, so reaching a point where we were happy about visuals, features and performance took almost one year.”
Weather changes add a new dimension
Kunos’s quest for realism extends beyond cars and tracks, too, with the game’s weather conditions one of the most impressive aspects of the game, and wet conditions in particular wowing those who have experienced the game.
Massarutto says, “The wet adds lot of reflections, environment effects, puddles and so on, and if when developing the game you calibrate all these effects properly, the result is usually very immersive. In terms of handling, of course we'll have several levels of wet. With the lower levels of wetness you could decide to keep your slick tyres, taking care to avoid all the puddles, which could result immediately in aquaplaning effects.”
“Surprisingly, racing with wet tyres is very effective and can guarantee a very good grip even when the track is properly wet. Of course you need to be gentle with the throttle, but driving in wet conditions will be very immersive, exactly as it appears watching the videos.”
The videos Massarutto is referring to were taken from an event in June 2018, where Assetto Corsa Competizione gameplay was showcased at the Marco Simoncelli circuit in Misano Adriatico, where players were able to sample the game and offer their feedback. The twist? Some of these players were GT4 and GT3 drivers. According to Massarutto, the representation of weather conditions was greeted warmly, “Following some feedback from the real drivers that played the game in Misano, it looks like we’re on the right path, and we’re taking into consideration the suggestions they gave us. We’re still working to define some specific features, but the idea is that players will get a different grip on the ideal lines, aquaplaning effects, and will be able to define the trend of weather and its variability through a race weekend”
Check out how the gameplay's shaping up:
As for the decision to work with these experts, Massarutto tells us it was a no brainer, “Talking with engineers and pilots is in Kunos’s DNA ever since we had our offices inside the Vallelunga circuit. There’s always something new to learn, something that numbers won’t tell you, measurements won’t show and recordings won’t explain. The Misano demonstration was no different and we’re so thankful for the feedback and information the drivers and engineers were willing to share with us.
“When we had the opportunity to showcase our brand-new rain simulation in the sim, drivers got very excited. They trained on the sim and surprised us, themselves and sim racers by doing on the real track the same racing lines on the wet as on the sim.”
Massarutto enthuses about what was learned during this demonstration, “One of the great little details we got from them, was the fact that if they find themselves on slick tyres on heavy rain, they’ll try to go and collect rubber marbles from the outside of the turns. The marbles will stick on the slick tyres, creating a kind of “tread”. It will give vibration and less pure grip, but it will help the tyre to drain standing water a tiny bit better than a completely slick tyre, thus helping drivers survive for a couple of laps until the pitstop or end of the race if it’s close enough, without changing to rain tyres. It’s not much, but slicks are really dangerous on wet and every little thing helps. Obviously we’re hard at work, implementing this into our physics engine.”
The drivers also contributed to the sound design of the game, contributing details about distinctive sounds that most people can't hear in a normal car or in videos of racing cars. Massarutto says, “The noise generated by the ABS is a good example: it can provide information to the drivers regarding their driving style. In Assetto Corsa Competizione we're now able to reproduce the same audio experience of the real race car when the ABS engages, and it’s fully driven by physics, so no fake sounds! This, together with many other details in the audio department like puddles, debris, different surface conditions, engine start-up and shutdown, will offer much more information to the driver and at the same time improve the overall driving experience.”
As for how we can expect to play Assetto Corsa Competizione, Massarutto says, “Our strategy is to complete the development on PC, reaching the best level of optimisation we can achieve and, after that, evaluate if we can achieve good performance on console as well. If yes, we'll be glad to port Assetto Corsa Competizione on console as well. We have considered this option from the very first day, so the user interface has been designed in order to meet console requirements.”
With sim racing set to shift up a gear, we can’t wait to jump into the driver’s seat with Assetto Corsa Competizione.
Assetto Corsa Competizione is coming to PC in 2018.