In an exclusive interview, studio boss and co-founder of the racing game developers Kunos Simulazioni, Marco Massarutto, answers some interesting questions. Here you can read the first part, the second part of the interview will be presented to you by SimRacing Unlimited next week.
SimRacing Unlimited: You developed ACC (AC) based on the idea that there should be a racing simulation for the PC that transports "Il gran turismo". Did you expect the success at the beginning of the development?
Marco Massarutto: Definitely not, we have far exceeded all our expectations, not only in terms of units sold, but also in terms of popularity. We have a very strong community that really loves the Assetto Corsa brand.
SimRacing Unlimited: Assetto Corsa ran on an engine that you developed yourself. Asseetto Corsa Competizione then ran on Unreal Engine 4. Do you plan to build your new project on Unreal Engine 5 in the future?
Marco Massarutto: The Unreal Engine is a very powerful engine, but it was not specifically designed for racing games that need special features and very high performance. After the experience we had with Assetto Corsa Competizione, we are not ruling out the option of working with Unreal again, but we are also considering other options.
SimRacing Unlimited: You are currently developing a version of ACC for the new PS5 and Xbox Series X|S consoles. What are the advantages of the improved hardware?
Marco Massarutto: Well, Unreal Engine 4 is quite demanding in terms of performance and the new generation of consoles can handle the whole process better, granting a more stable frame rate, a higher resolution, etc.
SimRacing Unlimited: After ACC, is your team already working on a new project? What can you say about the future of the franchise?
Marco Massarutto: It's still too early to talk about "what's next". As I said, Assetto Corsa is a very popular brand and we have to treat it with care, so we will take the time to do our work in the best possible way to meet the expectations of our community.
SimRacing Unlimited: ACC is the uncrowned king of force feedback implementation. How did you manage to implement this technology so brilliantly?
Marco Massarutto: Our goal since netKar PRO is to grant the best handling experience we can deliver: To achieve this goal, every aspect behind Assetto Corsa lives on physics. Our force feedback is not magic, it "just" reads the physics algorithms that control tires, suspensions, chassis and so on, without using wrong numbers. The accuracy of the track surface is not secondary to providing a very natural driving experience. I think that the combination of different factors is the secret behind the quality of our force feedback.
SimRacing Unlimited: After the great success of mods for AC, you integrated some modders into your team, who convinced you with their performance. What are the requirements to get your attention with a mod and maybe become part of your development team?
Marco Massarutto: Best quality, reliability and attitude: everyone at Kunos works for and with the team, not for themselves or for their personal "fame". Understanding the "AC philosophy" is the basis to make the best contribution to the team's success.
SimRacing Unlimited: How do you manage to integrate the physics models for the many different vehicles into the game? For some vehicles it is difficult to get the appropriate data to incorporate them into the physics model?
Marco Massarutto: We have a close partnership with several car manufacturers; moreover, the fact that our development studio has been located on an international circuit (Vallelunga) for 9 years has helped us to build a very strong network that we can use to get most of the data we need. Also, over the years we never stopped our R&D activities to improve our physics model. Now that Assetto Corsa's reputation as a realistic driving simulation is very stable, it's not uncommon for automotive companies to provide us with all the data we need to reproduce their specifications in the best possible way.
SimRacing Unlimited: How do you ensure the high degree of realism of the physics model? To what extent does feedback from professional racers and race engineers, as well as manufacturer and tire data, feed into this process?
Marco Massarutto: Our approach is very rigorous and methodical, backed by more than a decade of experience. We take special care to get as much measurement data from the manufacturers of the real cars and tires, as well as environmental and track conditions and everything else we can collect. Everything goes into the simulation model as it is. We validate the real-world results with our simulation results, and we never change measurements that we know are correct. If we find a deviation from reality, we try to find the error in our physics model or we try to implement new features to better simulate the real-world counterpart. Feedback from real drivers is then taken into account to cover all the dark spots where data is unavailable or unknown, and with the help of telemetry we try to reverse engineer the unknown data and get an even better model. Even feedback from real drivers is carefully validated, as we need to have direct contact and understand how accustomed a driver is to driving simulators, what their expectations are, and how well they can describe the car's behavior under both real and simulated conditions. This type of approach yields objective improvements, not just a "fun to drive" model made up of subjective opinions. We believe that if we do our job right, the end result will always be driving fun because real driving.... is fun.
SimRacing Unlimited: The engine sound is an extremely important detail in a racing game. Normally a dyno is used for this and the microphones are placed accordingly. But there are certainly cars where you can't use a dyno to record the sound. In this case, how do you go about recording?
Marco Massarutto: There are two possibilities: The first is to actually drive the car on a closed circuit to collect interior sounds, sounds under the hood/exhaust, and pass-by sounds. The latter is what you miss when recording on a dyno.
The second way is through our audio archive: Over the years, we have collected recordings of many engines and exhaust systems. This allows us to reproduce a specific car sound by starting from different models equipped with the same engine and/or exhaust system.
End of part 1 of the interview
Really some very interesting insights into how the developers at Kunos Simulazioni work. You can read about how ACC is coming along in the future and what game the developers would like to make aside from racing games here next week.