Esports Racing? Dirt Rally 2.0?

DiRT Rally 2.0 was released this week, and I was going to write a week-long diary about how awesome it is, but it turned out to be shorter than expected, so I’ve included a little extra content about racing as an esport.

Nobody gives a shit about esports racing

I’m not sure why car racing is such a terrible esport, but the fact is that nobody watches it. The most famous racing games ever made are Gran Turismo (Playstation) and Forza (Xbox). They must be financially successful because these franchises have been through 7+ iterations for 15-20 years. But if you look at the number of Twitch streamers and viewers, it’s clear that nobody gives a shit. In January 2019, Forza Motorsport 7 averaged 8 streamers and 34 viewers per day. Gran Turismo Sport had fewer streamers (5) but more watchers (76). Let’s put this into perspective with another game, Eurotruck Simulator, which has over 10x the number of streamers and viewers (95, 1009). People would rather watch someone picking up and delivering packages than racing. Let that sink in. It gets worse. In Rocket League, cars play soccer to a tune of 50-fold more viewers.

But wait, no hardcore sim-racer takes Gran Turismo or Forza seriously. That’s console crap. The real racing sims are on PC. Let’s look at the streamer and viewer numbers from the real racing platforms.

  • iRacing (47 streamers, 641 viewers)
  • Project CARS 2 (9 streamers, 92 viewers)
  • Assetto Corsa (9 streamers, 42 viewers)
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience (2 streamers, 31 viewers)
  • Automobilista (1 streamer, 55 viewers)
  • rFactor 2 (1 streamer, 17 viewers)

Nobody gives a flying fuck about PC racing either. However, the overall #15 most popular game on Twitch is Grand Theft Auto V with 539 streamers and 16,321 viewers per day. So people do like cars. They just like them doing stupid shit, not racing. So what can we do to make racing a more popular esport? I give zero fucks. I want my sim software to be as realistic as possible. That probably makes it less popular, not more. Ideally, I want a sim that lets me drive my Toyota Yaris around Thunderhill West. The Twitch impact of that would be on the order of 0 streamers and 0 viewers.

DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks ass

The original DiRT Rally was sort of a surprise when it was released in December 2015. Codemasters was well known for their DiRT franchise of rally games, but none were ever thought of as true rally simulators. In many racers’ minds, the only rally simulator is Richard Burns Rally, which is now so old (2004) that you can’t even buy it anymore (you can find it for free if you look hard enough). With the 2015 release of DiRT Rally, there was finally a modern rally simulator. Not everyone thought it eclipsed RBR, but it was very well received by the hardcore sim crowd. DiRT Rally has been called the Dark Souls of racing games. While I never played Dark Souls, it has a reputation for being the most difficult video game ever. What made DiRT Rally so hard? There was literally no tutorial, no help of any kind. They just threw you into a rally stage, shouted abstruse directions at you, and then played some cool music while you watched the replay of yourself falling off a cliff or hitting a tree. Thankfully, it did get better. Lots better. Eventually you understand the lingo. You adapt your driving to gravel, mud, and snow. You start to think track driving is too easy. I liked it so much that I built my Yaris into a rally car.

Monday

DiRT Rally 2.0 was released at midnight so I stayed up until 2 am. I spent most of the time configuring the controls. I’m still not sure I’ve got the brake pedal sorted. There’s no graph telling you how much each controller is inputting or outputting. With a pressure sensitive pedal, it’s very easy to have the brake partially on at all times. I ended up copying the settings from the original DiRT Rally, but I don’t know if that’s sub-optimal or not. Frustrating. After driving a little, my immediate impressions were “it’s sort of like the original but with surface degradation, different locations, and you can drive in custom events without having to unlock cars in career mode”. So that’s all pretty good. Next up, actual driving.

Tuesday

I drove a stage in New Zealand, and it was decent fun. Trying to beat the AI times is pretty hard. Good, I like challenges. But then I went to Spain to drive on asphalt and my heart shattered into a million pieces. I desperately wanted to love this game because it’s gorgeous, but this is not how tarmac feels. You might as well use a hand controller because what comes through the wheel is total fucking garbage. Words fail in describing my sadness. I don’t have much real world time driving on dirt and gravel, so it’s hard for me to determine how broken the physics are on loose surfaces, but I can say with certainty that the asphalt model sucks ass. The original DiRT Rally wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better.

Wednesday

I went looking for reviews and found 3 types. (1) DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks because of RaceNet. (2) DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks because the physics are broken. (3) DiRT Rally 2.0 is the king of rally games. Apparently the single player career mode requires logging into RaceNet. This makes it impossible for people to play offline. Also, RaceNet has been plagued with bugs, causing people to lose their saved games. As a result, the most common complaint about DiRT Rally 2.0 is the career mode. There are fewer complaints about the physics, but those who complain about it, like me, really hate it. Of the fanboys who think DiRT Rally 2.0 is better than the original, I suspect they have never executed a pendulum turn, much less shifted a manual transmission.

Thursday

One step forward, 2.0 steps back.

Friday

As sequels go, this is as bad as the Phantom Menace.

Saturday

Thankfully, Steam gives refunds.

8 thoughts on “Esports Racing? Dirt Rally 2.0?

  1. I have been watching iRacing via replays on youtube. Never thought I would enjoy esports. I see many views on the videos I am watching, so I am not alone… These views are not counted in your tally.

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    1. You’re right, I’m not counting YouTube views for iRacing. I’m also not counting YouTube views for Eurotruck or Rocket League. It’s great that you’re enjoying iRacing via YouTube. The point is that there are a lot more people enjoying the non-racing car games.

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  2. It’s a shame about Dirt 2. I wrote it off when they said they weren’t bothering with VR. Playing VR Dirt 1 on PS4 was a lot of what got me into sim racing.

    I can’t get into e-sport sim racing. There are tons of options for watching real-life racing, so watching the simulated form just doesn’t appeal to me. It would be like watching Madden games when you can watch NFL.

    The only way i see it taking off is if it’s a fantasy game or has stuff that you can’t do in real life.

    That reminds me, this is probably an incredibly niche idea, but I wish someone would make a proper, hardcore racing sim with fantasy tracks. Real life tracks are limited by geography, safety, cost, etc but video game tracks can be anything. Make a track that goes under a waterfall, through an underwater glass tunnel and corkcrews up a mountain. Make a track 100 stories in the air over a city and have it go through buildings. Put a racetrack on the moon. Forza and Gran Turismo did this a little, but they’re not really simmy enough or crazy enough for me.

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    1. Assetto Corsa has some weird fantasy tracks. There’s one where you drive through a glass tunnel underwater. It may have been ported from another game. I toyed with the idea of making a random track generator. It would be interesting to hold a competition on a track where nobody has ever seen the track before. I definitely like the idea of realistic cars driving in unrealistic locations, so count me in the same niche.

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      1. > […] random track generator. It would be interesting to hold a competition on a track where nobody has ever seen the track before.

        Combining the best of autocross and DE? Racing could be even more exciting or a mega clusterfuck.

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      2. I think a 30 min practice/qualifying session would be appropriate. But no more than that. It can’t be that hard to write a program to generate tracks. Maybe I should try it.

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