IndyCar Jumps Back Into the Virtual World

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Some of you may be surprised to learn that about twenty years ago, I was a fairly active simmer. I never got into any of the shoot-‘em-up video games; but I owned my fair share of PC flight and race simulators.

I hate to admit it, but I was the only male in my immediate family that never got a pilot’s license. It’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I soloed at age 16, but at the time – chasing girls and drinking beer held more allure than studying on how to plot a cross-country trip on a chart, or spending my weekend days practicing crosswind landings. I had enough interest later on, however, to buy every updated version of Microsoft Flight Simulator as soon as they hit the market. I also had several others as some had different advantages over the others.

My first racing sim was CART Precision Racing. I bought it in 1998 and it was my first experience in Force Feedback. When my car hit the rumble-strips, I felt it in the wheel.

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One of my favorites was Grand Prix Legends. It featured Formula One cars and tracks from the early to mid-sixties. It was fun to take Dan Gurney’s Eagle to do just one lap at the old Nürburgring, which was over fourteen miles in length and consisted of 160 turns. The problem with it was it my have been too realistic. Without the proper setup, you really couldn’t even compete – and the throttle was extremely sensitive, no matter what you did in settings.

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Later on, I got NASCAR 3 and then NASCAR 4. Probably my favorite was NASCAR Heat, because it was easy to create your own customized liveries. I had a Marlboro stock car in a paint scheme that would have made Emerson Fittipaldi proud. The best thing about NASCAR Heat was that it had a platform that allowed outside developers to create tracks and other type cars. I eventually could download CART Heat and IRL Heat, so long as I had the original NASCAR Heat installed on my computer.

My last racing sim to buy was IndyCar Series by Codemasters. It had the best graphics of IMS and most other tracks on the IndyCar schedule, but it featured the cars from the 2002 season, before the 2003 Dallara came out. Since it was before 2005, there were no road courses on there. I logged hours of driving the perfect line at Indianapolis in practice, or driving against other drivers that the computer generated.

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What I did not enjoy was racing online against people I didn’t know. There was always the one jerk that had tweaked his setup so much that he was doing about 300 mph in the straightaways and about 275 mph in the turns. Of course, they had superb grip to where they never lost control. What fun is it to race against that?

Then there was always that other guy that was getting beaten so badly, he would turn around and go the wrong direction – purposely crashing the entire field and ruining someone’s good race.

I think that’s why I never cared for iRacing that much, well…one of the reasons. You had to do everything online – even practice. The thing I really didn’t like was the idea of paying a continual subscription fee.

Yes, I am old and even more old-fashioned. We subscribe to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Peacock, but I still prefer to watch a movie on a hard-copy blu-ray or DVD than streaming. When it comes to sims, I would prefer to but a disc copy and install it on my computer. That way it’s a one-time purchase. After about four months of paying a subscription fee, the disc has paid for itself.

I think I’ve gone through three PC steering wheels (with pedals) and I don’t think my most recent is even compatible with Windows 10 – that’s how long it has been since I drove a sim. I really think it was the late 2000s since I last touched it.

Why am I rambling on about my racing sims of fifteen and twenty years ago? Because IndyCar announced a couple of weeks ago that a new IndyCar racing game is being developed by Motorsports Games Inc. It is expected to be available in 2023 for Xbox, PlayStation and PC. Why am I just now writing about it? Because there has been a lot of news to digest lately, and this is the first chance I’ve had to discuss it. This is not what I would call a priority news item.

I would be lying if I said I was familiar with Motorsports Games Inc. The news release named a few other series and races they were involved with, but I can’t speak to how good a job they do.

Different people like different things in a racing sim. For me, I want great track graphics and cars that look exactly like the real thing. Realism in driving is not so important to me. If it drove like a real race car, I wouldn’t be able to drive it. I want to be able to actually drive the thing and compete. I don’t want every quarter turn of wing to make the difference in making it through the turn or getting loose and spinning out of control. I am not a race car driver, a mechanic nor an engineer. I’m just a chump sitting at a computer trying to get around a race track without hitting the wall.

The bad thing about the timing is that the new engines are scheduled to be in the cars for the 2023 season. The new chassis is scheduled for 2024 (I think). If I’m correct in my timeline, this new game is about to feature equipment that is soon to be obsolete. Will they feature updates when the new cars come out?

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure who the target audience is for this game. Do teenagers or college kids give a hoot about racing games? They don’t seem t care anything about the real thing, so why is this different? Are they going for people like me, old goats who used to do this twenty-five years ago? I think iRacing has raised the bar, as far as graphics and realism. Are they going after the iRacing crowd?

There are a lot of questions that were not addressed in last week’s announcement, but if they offer a hard-copy disc version of the game, I will probably go back to 1999 and buy a copy. If it is an ongoing online subscription, I’ll probably pass. Change is Bad!

George Phillips

5 Responses to “IndyCar Jumps Back Into the Virtual World”

  1. Brandon Wright Says:

    It’s made by the same people who make the NASCAR games so it won’t be super realistic and shouldn’t have any kind of paid subscription model.

    You might like the newest Microsoft Flight Simulator. They used Bing maps and satellite imagery to recreate the entire world on a 1:1 scale (it’s not perfect, but pretty cool!). You can fly over your house (in most cases) and I’ve landed at IMS several times. You can see IMS in this video.

  2. Tony Geinzer Says:

    I’d hope they’d do the NHRA Game in Time so we could play Houston Raceway Park. I’d feel that of the Racing Games, what doesn’t necessarily hold any weight is the fact the waiting is the hardest part.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I’m not good enough at video games to probably consider buying this upcoming game (I’m still trying to regularly beat Danny Sullivan at Long Beach in Indy Heat), but, the fact that it is happening is a definite positive for the series.

    One thing that is nice for the consumer in this online era is that games can be modified and given updates without the need to create and market an entirely new game. Imagine buying CART: Flag-To-Flag for the Sega Dreamcast in September 1999, starting it up, and being greeted with things you had not thought of in 10 months: Alex Zanardi, Arnd Meier, JJ Lehto, Bobby Rahal still in the cockpit, the Newman-Haas cars riding on Goodyears…

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Also, the thought of a Marlboro stock car reminds me that Marlboro had what I recall as a stock car driving experience for a few years in the late 90s, it occasionally popped up in ads at convenience stores and in magazines. They used IROC Dodge Avengers, I believe, painted up with the day glo chevrons. Looked good.

  5. Rancher Dave Says:

    I knew an online racer that raced with particular groups and one time he wrecked a certain participant. He didn’t do it on purpose but the guy let him have it. It turned out to be Dale Jr.

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