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.
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.
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.
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.
One step forward, 2.0 steps back.
As sequels go, this is as bad as the Phantom Menace.
Thankfully, Steam gives refunds.