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Race simulations and racing games quickly explained
15.10.2020
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user-iconKevin Rohrscheidt
© Assetto Corsa Competizione
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Racing simulation, Sim-Cade, Arcade-Racer or just racing game? Many terms are mentioned in connection with racing games, but many definitions are more confusing than that they make it easier for interested people and beginners to understand. In our article we will discuss what makes a racing simulation a simulation and how versatile the racing game spectrum really is.

Everyone knows them - with titles like Need for Speed, Burnout, Mario Kart, Colin McRae Rally or Wipeout, childhood memories are immediately awakened. Many of you grew up with these racing games and spent countless hours tuning, tricking and working on ever new time or point records. They are all considered racing games, and racing games in turn are considered the computer and video game genre. By definition, racing games are about driving a given route in a vehicle (or something like that) in the shortest possible time. Thus the whole spectrum - from Mario Kart to iRacing, Need for Speed to Assetto Corsa - falls into the racing game genre.

Finishline rFactor2

The racing games spectrum

On one side of the spectrum, racing games are designed to be beginner-friendly and focus on maximum gaming fun with a steep learning curve. Start the engine and let's go! Without slowing down through the curves? No problem! Extreme speeds and unrealistic driving behavior are often the order of the day, and weapons or other objects can also throw unwanted opponents off track. Colloquially, this form of racing games is also known as arcade or fun racer. This type of racing games for consoles, Microsoft Windows and smartphones also find a home at simracing-unlimited.com. 

Along the spectrum you'll find many more exciting racing games - from Forza Horizon and Live for Speed to the popular console flagship racing games Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo, to the official F1 and rally titles and the Project CARS series. Often this very broad part of the racing games spectrum is simply titled Sim-Cade (or SimCade) - a mixture of simulation and arcade racer. 

These racing games partly fulfill aspects of unambiguous racing simulations, such as faithfully reproduced vehicles and race tracks, tire wear and simulated vehicle weight and chassis models, but they make compromises in certain areas in order to keep the learning curve as flat as possible and the game fun high. Playability with the gamepad - often next to the steering wheel with pedal unit - is also an important factor.

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Driving aids, such as a brake and steering aid, make it easier for beginners or players without much simulation experience to master the first meters in a new racing game. Tires also do not overheat as quickly, and a trip to a virtual gravel bed or a grass carpet does not end so dramatically, which makes it easier for a new and younger target group to enter the world of more realistic racing games. That in turn is a great thing for the whole community. 

The exact classification of the individual racing games is hotly discussed in the player community and can rarely be made clear, so we refrain from a clear classification of the individual racing game titles in this area. But one thing is clear, basic requirement for racing simulation is that the real world is the model for the digital world. All other aspects feel different for different players, different and individually different and therefore a clear classification can never be made.

Assetto Corsa screenshot

What distinguishes a racing simulation

Not much less hotly debated is the question, which racing game actually deserves the predicate racing simulation. Of course there are different opinions, but one common denominator is and remains the claim of the racing game to be as close to reality as possible.

This means that the focus of the development team, and thus the available resources, is much more on a realistic implementation of the complex vehicle physics, instead of a presentation or an attractive career mode. Vehicle models are implemented accurately on the basis of CAD data - in some cases provided directly by the manufacturer - and a large part of the race tracks are virtually implemented with centimeter precision using the laser scanning method, including individual bumps. ABS and traction control systems are also implemented more precisely and the tire grip changes over a driving unit, so that more sensitivity is required behind the virtual cockpit. Brake points set too late and hard steering maneuvers have an effect on tire and brake wear. In addition, the track surface changes with increasing rubber abrasion and the outside temperature affects tire grip and vehicle performance.

Racing simulations as a tool for real racing drivers

By realistically simulating the wheels, tire surfaces as well as chassis and other chassis components, racing simulations also serve as a tool for real racing drivers to prepare themselves for test and racing missions. This also includes working with telemetry data from the respective racing simulation. In addition, setup changes can be adjusted based on numerous parameters, such as vehicle height and rear wing angle, and have a direct effect on lap times and driving feel. 

However, for racing game beginners all this also means a flatter and longer learning curve as well as a lot of patience when mastering the individual vehicles and tracks. A domestic racing simulator with a steering wheel and pedal unit as well as a stable seat construction is ideal, so that the muscle movements can be memorized as well as possible. In addition, there is a lot of patience and fun in the challenge of becoming faster step by step and driving as error-free as possible.

iRacing model

The right racing game for everyone

Current racing simulations include iRacing, Assetto Corsa and Assetto Corsa Competizione, RaceRoom Racing Experience, as well as the Automobilista and rFactor series. Due to complex physics and computational models, racing simulations generally unfold their greatest potential on powerful Microsoft Windows systems and continue to develop with new technologies over the years. Thus, it is possible that a racing game at a later stage of its development is at a different point on the racing game scale, for example even further towards racing simulation.  

Whatever your preferences for racing games, we are grateful for the varied selection along the entire spectrum. Different racing games have their very own strengths and therefore the exact classification of racing game titles is not general, but rather a personal assessment. Meanwhile there is a suitable title for almost every racing game fan - racing game newcomer or experienced simracer - and it is certain that everyone will benefit from a growing racing game community. The most important thing anyway is that you have fun with it.  

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