With just a handful of weeks left to go in Season 4, we are quickly approaching the conclusion of the 2023 competition year, and what a year it’s been! Of course, every year at iRacing is unique; it’s the nature of our business that the sim and racing service are constantly evolving. However, I can’t think of a period that’s been more eventful and impactful for the future of sim racing at iRacing than these past 12 months – we have established key new partnerships that will help our brand of motorsport grow at a global scale and reach all new audiences and racing fans; we have strengthened existing partnerships and secured a critical license that will allow us to return to our roots with NASCAR and NASCAR Team Properties; and of course, throughout all of this, we have invested significantly into the ongoing development and improvement of our great racing simulation and racing service.
Now, I do intend to share some of the cool things to come in the December S1, 2024 build (and beyond!), but first, let’s take a moment to focus on one of the bigger-picture developments I alluded to a moment ago.
As I touched on in detail in a previous update (give it a read if you haven’t already), a significant focus this year (and last) has been the strategic expansion of our staff across many talented teams. This growth will enable iRacing to operate from a position of strength for years to come and ensure that we continue to deliver an unparalleled modern simulation experience. A big part of this modernization will involve our graphics and rendering technology, which, of course, is central to a realistic and lifelike experience. On that note, we are thrilled to upgrade our graphics team later this year through the addition of multiple industry-leading principal-level rendering programmers who (together with our existing team) will help evolve iRacing’s graphics tech in a way never before seen on this platform. These developers have spent the last 20 years building and leading graphics/rendering teams across a broad spectrum of powerful graphics engines such as id Tech, Unity, Unreal, Decima, and Glacier. Our reconstituted graphics team will be more formidable than ever and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come. It is important to note that a graphics engine upgrade is a major long-term project and results will take time. That said, it will be well worth it. In the short term, we will continue improving the current rendering technology.
And now for another big-picture update that I know many have been following closely: the status of our advanced new weather system, called Tempest internally. While we aren’t quite ready to guarantee it for December, we are now confident enough to say that the release of this incredibly complex system is imminent. That means it’s going to rain soon, folks.
Tempest was built from the ground up and consists of several interconnected systems that simulate not only rain and the effect that water has on the racetrack, racecars, and surrounding area but also the physical components that combine to create various types of weather. This system is fueled by extensive real-world data from the very locations where you’ll be racing. Together with our Dynamic Track systems, the combined experience is unparalleled in simulation/gaming.
It’s hard to describe until you can experience it for yourself, but for those of you who race at these tracks in the real world and have had the fortune (or misfortune) to do so in the wet, reliving that in iRacing with physically-accurate and true-to-life puddling is like nothing else out there. You will feel that tug of resistance when you drive through those wet areas. When things get really dicey, you’ll experience aquaplaning. Wait until you see our aero-heavy racecars “vacuum” up water from the track and redistribute it into the air and elsewhere on the track, drying the racing line rapidly in the process. Recalibrate your expectation on what a race has in store for you as you search for the line based on the multitude of dynamics at play and the always-changing nature of the track and weather systems, or if you see a dark cloud looming on the horizon, is it on its way to you? Have your teammate check the weather radar or query your crew chief for an update…
The Tempest project has been a long journey for us, spanning multiple years. The idea took form in discussions and brainstorming back in January of 2020, followed by the initial technical design a year later. For much of that time, the project was helmed by a small R&D team focused on the weather systems and the data model. Today, we have the combined effort of dozens of developers across web engineering, graphics engineering, physics and tire engineering, sound engineering, backend engineering, database administration, track art, car art, VFX, production, vehicle development, QA and design. Talk about a team effort.
To make sure expectations are set properly, we do want everyone to understand that this system requires per-car development. It’s not as simple as adding a generic rain tire onto our vehicles; rather, we are doing car-by-car R&D to ensure proper rain tire construction/modeling and driving characteristics. As a result, rain support will be added to the sim in batches, starting with a compelling initial offering that includes open wheel, production, and touring cars.
We are quite proud of what we have built, and we are even more excited to release it to iRacers. We all look forward to making it rain #soon.
Season 1, 2024 development is rounding into form, and the bulk of our improvements and additions have entered the final QA process. Let’s touch on a few of the highlights…
Sim Optimization and Performance:
Our efforts to optimize and modernize our core engine continue (and will continue for some time), and we have a dedicated team assigned to these efforts daily. Recent releases from this team included significant loading time improvements and an increased limit for unique car models. This season, the team has made performance-focused improvements to our shadow culling system, frustum culling, and mirror rendering. These efforts and improvements are impactful, measurable, and really add up.
Improved Protest System:
Creating a safe and clean environment for racing has been a priority at iRacing from day one and an area of the product experience we have invested considerable resources into. Not only have we developed many rules and systems to help incentivize good racecraft, respectful racers, and an environment focused on fair play, but we have built a department whose job is to coach, correct, and take regulatory action when things go wrong. This team does a phenomenal job working through thousands and thousands of manually intensive reports, each of which requires research and careful thought to ensure that if a response is needed, it is an appropriate response. With the December build, we will equip this team with a more expansive toolset to do their jobs. A comprehensive list will be provided in our next sporting code update, but for now, a preview of what’s to come (and in no particular order):
Post-Results Race Disqualification. A member or team may be disqualified from a Race or event after Results have been posted. Their Championship Points for the Race or event will become 0, and they will drop to a last-place finish.
Restrictions to various parts of iRacing.com and/or the iRacing simulation.
The ability to participate in Race and Qualifying Sessions for a specific Official iRacing Series.
The ability to participate in Race and Qualifying Sessions for ALL Official iRacing Series.
The ability to participate in Hosted Sessions.
The ability to participate in any and ALL multiplayer Sessions of any kind.
The ability to Spectate Sessions.
The ability to use in-simulation voice chat and/or text chat.
…and more. Our hope, of course, is that none of you have to experience these systems in action, but it’s important to know that we are committed to maintaining an environment that is focused on the spirit of fair play and respect.
After a build stuffed to the brim with new cars last season, our team has been focusing on some of our longer-term R&D initiatives this season, such as rain, our aero-modeling program, Oval Refresh, and tire model updates. That said, we are excited to be debuting one new car in December: the Audi R8 LMS Evo II GT3. The Evo II is part of our initiative to keep our GT3 fleet modern and looking great. Similar efforts will continue in the new year with multiple additions/replacements to our GT3 offerings.
And how will the release of the Audi R8 LMS Evo II GT3 affect owners of the older Audi R8 LMS GT3? We will issue credits based on the following criteria:
100% of purchase price for those who purchased within the past 30 days
50% of purchase price for those who purchased within the past 31 to 180 days
We have a diverse set of track content slated for release in this build. No surprises here, as this has all been announced…
On the oval side, we are excited to release Slinger Speedway. Slinger is so much fun to drive, and you all will have a blast turning laps at the “World’s Fastest Quarter Mile Oval.” And yes, folks, it will include the figure eight configuration!
Mugello Circuit is looking amazing and will also debut in December. Not only does the track look amazing, but it’s a blast to drive and is a circuit we have wanted to experience in iRacing for years now. We’re really excited to be able to make that possible finally.
Okayama Circuit is one of our most popular circuits on the service. It’s a compelling drive across various cars, especially those in our Rookie series. However, it has some of the oldest artwork on the service. Okayama will be re-released (for free) with modern artwork that meets our current standards for quality. It looks great.
Outside of these highlights, there are a lot more fixes, improvements, and additions coming in Season 1, 2024, and we will provide a comprehensive list with the release notes as we approach the build.
There’s a lot more going on at iRacing, and I really could go on here for a long time, but let’s save some of these updates for a later date. That said, a handful of items before we conclude…
Our scanning department has been busy. Processed data was delivered to the team recently for both Portimao and Navarra, and our production and art teams are already underway.
The scan team has also just returned from a big trip to the heart of oval racing country (North Carolina), where they scanned the SRX cars (pavement and dirt) and a handful of different Street Stock car bodies.
We are working on a Micro Sprint, which will provide a great entry point to dirt oval racing (do you all want a pavement version too?). This car will lend itself well to Millbridge Speedway (in progress), the already-released Kern, and a handful of additional current and future short tracks on iRacing.
Our Career Mode team is making significant headway on this project, and we are really picking up steam across all supporting departments, including design, sim engineering, web engineering, and backend systems.
Our User Experience and Design teams are working on a new structure for the UI, which will move us away from the modal-based experience available now to a more approachable and accessible design for the future.
Oval refresh has a full complement of developers working on it each day, and they are making significant progress. These efforts will continue for some time as we iterate the many systems involved. That said, we don’t want to wait until we’re “done” to release these improvements to the service. With the December build asphalt ovals have been updated to produce an improved dynamic racing experience. Track surface grip levels will change more rapidly as temperature rises and fall depending on weather, time of day, and the energy the cars are putting into the track. Be prepared to tune setups for changing track conditions and search for grip as various lanes heat up and cool down throughout a race session.
That’s it for now. Thank you all for your continued support, and see you out there on the track.
As always, enjoy the screenshots.
A couple of audio teasers of soon to be released rain: