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Cat Herder XVII

Written by Steve Myers, iRacing.com.

Monday morning after the Super Bowl is always an interesting day. I always kind of feel like I fought someone and I didn’t come out the winner. All the crappy food I ate all night comes back to haunt me like 12 rounds of solid body shots from a heavy weight fighter. The beer doesn’t help either but it’s Oh so delicious…..

If I am lucky to have my hometown team in the game (Patriots) every muscle in my body is stiff from feeling like a compressed spring ready to explode all night. Unfortunately the Pats choked two weeks ago so I only feel like I fought a middle weight boxer today instead of a heavy weight…

As I sit here on this Monday morning trying to nurse my “injuries” I have started the mental transition from football season to racing season. Yes the Rolex 24 was last weekend and really is the start of the racing season but let’s be honest: until the merger of the ALMS and GRAND AM happens the race really feels like a minor league baseball game with a handful of Major Leaguers getting in some rehab work.

Chevy SSIn my opinion the racing season starts in three weeks when the beautiful Gen6 NASCAR cars take to the high banks at Daytona. I am legitimately excited that NASCAR has finally gone back to its roots with the concept of “win on Sunday, sell onMonday” and brought back cars that at least resemble vehicles we can drive ourselves.

Okay, so technically that phrase was coined by Bob Tasca, Sr. who had a Ford dealership up here in Providence, Rhode Island along with an NHRA team, but you get my point.

The good news for you and me though is that we don’t have to shell out tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to drive a new street Chevy SS or NASCAR SS Cup car. We are going to get to drive the NASCAR version in about four weeks on iRacing and for only “pocket change” compared to the real world versions.

The Chevy SS will come first and the Fusion should be released a few weeks later. Yes, I have been working on trying to get the Toyota signed and hope to accomplish that “soon.” I have been working on it since last summer but working with the big corporations means the “soon” clock runs on months instead of hours….

I have been asked quite a bit whether we will have driver names on the windshields of the Gen6 cars and I can confirm we are working on it. We may not be able to get this done for the new car’s release in a few weeks, so it may need to go out with the next 13th week build.

The next car in the development pipeline will be the Ruf Rt 12 R which I can say has personally given me more heartburn than any car to date for a number of reasons I care not to divulge. I do not anticipate this car being in the next build but there is a very good chance that the Kia Optima SX race car will be in the Season 2 build.

I have to admit that I was not super enthusiastic when this Kia deal came together and then I drove the car…….and it was fun…..and I kept driving it……..for hours. It actually makes me even more excited to get the BTCC Honda Civic done which we are currently working on trying to scan.

The art and production team continues to impress me with the work they do in building our tracks, and our recently released Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace is no exception. The track better known as Interlagos has long been a favorite of mine from my very early days of sim racing and running Geoff Crammond’s GP games. The flowing uphill, double apex Laranjinha corner has always been one of my favorite sections of track in the world to “drive” — even if only virtually in my case.

With the release of Interlagos, the guys have turned their considerable talents to Kansas Speedway while as continuing work on Montreal and Bathurst. When we finish-up Kansas and California Speedway this year we will have finally completed building all of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tracks on the schedule.

At this point it is likely that Kansas will be the next “new” track completed but probably not for the next 13th week deployment. However, we should have a fresh coat of paint on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and USA International Speedway to bring them closer to our current standard of new tracks. The art guys staged a pixel protest and demanded that we stop shaming them by flaunting their early work to the masses . . . and we caved.

Keeping on the visual topic, we have a bunch of projects in the works to add some depth to our in-sim world. We almost had the new shadow map work done for the last build so it is almost certain that it will be done for the next build. We are also in the process of changing the way that shadows are cast from trees. This project is pretty much the first required step to be able to get dynamic skies into the sim which is another project on the horizon. Pun intended.

Our newest engineer, Richard Jobling, whom you met in our last episode of iRacing TV, is working on the first project to improve our collision and crash models. This may sound silly but starting with something simple like making cones “collideable” is a significant step forward in making the environment more alive. This is a big, hairy, monster of a project but when interviewing him for the job he made it clear he was perfectly comfortable wrestling big hairy monsters.

I think the question I get asked most often in the forums and on my twitter account is when the Lotus 49 will be completed. The good news is that it’s done….well except that it needs NTMv5 which isn’t done yet. I know I sound like a broken record but Dave really is making great progress on the tire model and feels that he is getting closer to getting NTMv5 released. He made a significant advance in this last build which really is NTMv4.5. We are hoping the remaining 0.5 is in this next build.

We are finally getting to a point in our development life here at iRacing that, not only can we can start looking at things that just are not working the way we like, but we can do something about it! We have a number of projects we are starting work on in this department.

Early UI Concept
One area of the service that has been neglected has been our UI. I don’t think we have really changed anything since we launched the service. We have taken a fresh new look at what we can do not only with the in-game interface but also with the loading screen and post-race. This is a significant project requiring work from both the sim and web engineering teams, so a release schedule for this is still hard to predict.

Also, we are going to try and kill two birds with one stone by introducing an exciting new feature and at the same time try and give the time trial session some TLC. We are starting work on adding the ability to integrate a ghost car into the session that will allow you to select the best lap of the session, your best lap ever or even a loaded lap from someone else. We have a lot of exciting longer term ideas as well but in the short term you should be able to work on improving your performance while you spruce up your safety rating!

Yet another project that we are coming back to is our paint kit. We want to evolve the paint kit, both in terms of its design and layout as well as the introduction of new features such as a new color picker and increased font options. We have even kicked around the idea of adding the ability to download the templates directly from this page. Brian Simpson actually paid me in peanut butter pattie girl scout cookies to write that last sentence and this is the first time the engineers will hear about it…..

The web team has a number of different projects they are working on in support of features like team racing and our UI re-design. They really are the unsung heroes of the development team. These poor guys often are crunching right down to the wire trying to tie-up a feature that literally can’t be deployed without their interface.

One exciting project they are working on right now is a re-design of how you view and join race sessions. Imagine your TV guide view of nightly television and you get the general idea of where we are going with this. Soon you will actually have a visual depiction of the racing schedule that you can complain to me about!

I think the second most asked question I receive is the status of team racing. I can confirm for you that I was sitting in Randy’s office the other day and I watched him make in-race setup adjustments on one iRacing account and machine — and it changed on a second iRacing account and machine. This is a significant step forward on this project, and although there is still quite a bit of work to be done both in-sim and on the website, I am cautiously optimistic that it will be in the next build. Once we get the crew chief portion of team racing done actual driver changes are not far off.

I think one of the most significant advances we made in our last build was the improvement Grant made to the drive-train model. It is amazing how this change has not only transformed the immersion factor in the cockpit but also how the cars actually feel. The funny thing about it is that this is the end result of us having him work on improving the sounds! Long term he is still heading towards converting our software to use X-Audio but our lovable Kiwi does have plans to try and make some advances in the near term as well.

For those of you that have not done so, I would highly recommend taking the Ford Falcon V8 Supercar for a spin and then watch the replay from one of the TV cameras. Aussie Greg Hill has made a huge breakthrough on these external sounds and, coupled with Grant’s work on our sound engine, I think we have the best sound EVER in a racing game or sim. Expect this same treatment with as many cars as we can get samples for in the service but this new technique will require new recordings so, realistically, this will be a long project. We are doing our best to launch the Gen6 Cup cars with these new sounds and the Cadillac and Corvette will have them in the next seasons build as of now.

As always there is much more going on behind the scenes then what I have spelled out here. I make no promises on when any of this will make it on to the membersite but at least you get a little glimpse into what we are working on! I would encourage those who have joined us in the twenty-first century to follow me on twitter at @iRacingMyers because I often send out some charming 140 character updates on what’s going on in the iRacing universe. For those of you leery of being sucked into the social media blackhole — don’t worry! It will be on the forums in thirty seconds.

Now I am off to get some Tums…