Greetings Everyone! Here we are for the second Dev Update of 2023, and we have tons of exciting stuff to talk about on this one.
Just this past week, we have deployed V1.4.7 featuring the fantastic Nürburgring Historic 1971, the conclusion of a mammoth project on which our track team worked so hard for so long. It has taken much longer than even our latest forecast suggested, as has been often the case specially with these historical projects which seems that always provide room for going a little bit further.
Partially because of the ever-expanding demands involved in the historical track projects, the neat bimonthly release schedule we had mapped our for 2023 isn´t really panning out so far, and the updates also haven´t included everything we had planned for them - reality once again demonstrates it can and often will mess up the most carefully crafted plans.
The silver lining here is that work going beyond schedule is not work gone to waste, so users may expect a very meaty update in the next cycle - so meaty in fact that we have opted to split them in two updates, one already later in May before the big one just before the end of Q2 in late June.
So let´s look into what is it that we have been working on and what you may expect for these next AMS2 updates!
Stock Car Pro 2023 Series
2023 marks the fourteenth year of our ongoing partnership with VICAR, the organizers of many Brazilian motorsports series - the main one of course being the Stock Car Pro Series which already feature heavily in AMS2, with a total of seven seasons represented ranging from the very first one in 1979 to the latest in 2022.
With V1.4.7 we have increased that representation to eight, adding the new 2023 season joining the roster - although both Chevrolet Cruze and Toyota Corolla models remain largely unchanged to the generation of Stock Cars first introduced in 2020, the series has now switched to Hankook tires which are slightly different from the Pirelli PZeros the series used to run - these differences aren´t yet represented in-game however as new tire physics are expected to arrive in June (to be elaborated on later in this dev update).
Nürburgring Historic 1971 - A Triumph of Passion
Needless to say, the highlight of the latest release is the arrival of Nürburgring 1971 - it has been a long time coming, but hopefully everyone can now appreciate where all the time went.
A lot was already said and shared about this project, and Youtuber GPLaps - a great content creator himself who goes beyond the usual Youtube punditry to provide fantastic and detailed coverage of historic motorsports content in sim racing - does a great job covering it in his latest video.
In this dev update we will instead give tribute to the artists who put it together: a project of this magnitude obviously is the result of many man-hours from many different devs with a wide range of different skills, one of key ones being @gunnar333 who already did great work as a track modder in Assetto Corsa, and who provided a lot of the initial modelling & data for this project.
This was done under the supervision of @ilka who is Reiza´s general art lead and also our main track modeler; he is the main artist in most of our track projects and has major input into all of them - Ilya took over the main duties from Gunnar towards the end of last year, and he has been hard at it ever since (although still juggling it with the other historical projects we have released since).
Ilya is Russian, and is one of our lead artists who was affected by the Russia-Ukraine conflict last year; as commented in a dev update around that time, Ilya was forced to move to Brazil in order to be able to continue to work with us. Without getting into the unfortunate nature of that conflict, it goes without saying that it had a direct impact in his life and that of his loved ones, most of whom he has no idea when he will get to see again.
This challenging situation however didn´t compromise his ability to do great work - if anything, it has led to him pouring even more of himself into his craft, as the last year has seen him realize some of his best work.
As a bonafide perfectionist, left to his own devices Ilya would easily find reasons to keep going with each of these projects for another month or three, but I think we can all agree these historical tracks as they are have been realizations with very few equivalents in sim racing, and that it is to AMS2´s gain as well as that of everyone who appreciates motorsports history that his talents get redirected to covering more of it - and there is more from when this one came from further down the line.
We raise our glasses to Ilya, Gunnar and many others from our fantastic track team, who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty even when the odds are heavily against them.
The team are also not quite done with the Nürburgring yet - we had plans to release an update to the modern track along with the 1971 version, enhancing mesh resolution and adding further trackside details, but that task has been put on hold as the track had recently undergone renovations - these will eventually feature in a future update.
Circuit de Barcelona Is Coming!
Following a long stint of time travelling, for the next release the track team is back to modern days for a very modern racetrack - Circuit de Barcelona is expected to arrive with a late May update, just in time for the Spanish GP.
Barcelona will be the bonus sixth Premium Track we alluded to in previous dev updates, and as a standalone DLC the price is estimated at US$ 6.99 / 5.99€ - it will however also be included free of extra charge to the 2020-2022 Season Pass and to the Premium Track Pack.
A staple on the F1 calendar since 1991, the Barcelona circuit has been a favorite among teams to test and develop their cars due to its mix of long mid and high-speed corners, making it an ideal testbed to gauge and develop their aerodynamic performance. For the 2023 Grand Prix the track is reverting to the pre-2007 layout, opting out of the unpopular tight chicane at the end of the lap for the two ultra-fast right-handers that cars used to tackle back in the day before entering the long 1km long home straight.
Barcelona will become the tenth modern GP circuit in AMS2, which means we are edging close to having 50% of the 2023 calendar being represented in the sim; in terms of layout accuracy, that ratio is sustained virtually for all of the last 40 years of the sport. By the end of 2023, those figures will be at or above 50% over 50 years, with similar strike ratios for many of the most prestigious classes in motorsports history, from Group C to GT1 on to modern IMSA and GT World Challenge - not bad for a sim supposedly focused on Brazilian motorsports!
Formula USA 2023 Makes a Return
You may recall that original plans for the V1.4 update included a generic F-USA 2022 as part of Racin´ USA Pt3 - we even had previews for the car in our August 2022 Dev Update, but that ended up triggering an objection by Indycar due to its similarity to their IR-18.
We did try to use that opportunity to resume a previous licensing discussion we had years earlier to officially feature Indycars in AMS2, and although that did end up netting a deal for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ultimately the car was too tied up with their agreement for the official Indycar game for them to license it to anyone else.
The plan for a modern F-USA was thus shelved, but thanks largely to the physics developments we will elaborate on later in this dev update, we felt the urge to get back to the drawing board to produce something of our own - hence the arrival of the Formula USA 2023, a completely fresh design that shares technical specs with the 2022 car, and that like other F-USAs will come to AMS2 with road, short oval and speedway variants.
As originally planned, this car will be added as part of Racin´ USA Pt3 and all packages that include it.
Sigma P1 G5
Also coming with the late May update is a new prototype challenger in the P1 class - the Sigma P1 G5, free to all AMS2 owners.
The original Sigma P1 has been already available in AMS2 since the early days, but despite the name their freshman effort still lacked performance to compete at the very top, so at first Sigma were forced to compete in the P2 class of the Brazilian Endurance championship.
Its latest G5 update however evolved to not only rise up to the P1 class, but actually take the fight to the Metalmoro AJRs that used to rule the P1 class - Sigma actually scored their first win last year at Interlagos, and are expected to be a regular contender this season.
Formula Junior - Vintage Low Power Racing
We are not done with new cars for the next update, as May will also see the arrival of another old gem as free base game content - the Formula Junior, based on the popular class from the early 1960s which remain popular in historical racing to this day.
The series was conceived to be a cheap entry level formula - a tiny 400kg chassis with skinny tires, little over 100HP and various components mandated from production cars of the day.
The development of the Südschleife made evident that AMS2 really needed such a vintage lower power formula in its car roster, and F-Juniors are the perfect fit - as can be seen in videos like the one below of a Brabham BT2 (of similar spec but not same car as our generic F-Junior), these are gobs of fun to throw around in tight and twisty tracks:
Automobilista 2 V1.5 Physics Development
While we have already delivered some AMS2 updates this year and have another incoming for May, the first true milestone update of 2023 is expected to come later in June, when Automobilista 2 is expected to hit V1.5 - as with previous milestone updates, this will be another major upgrade to the game on all levels.
One front to have another big step-up is physics - as explained in the Dev Update preceding V1.4 release last year, from that point onwards we would be concentrating further physics developments to these bigger updates, in order to preserve gameplay consistency between them (rather than having physics developments fragmented through the various updates in between as it had been the case before). So even though the updates since V1.4 have included some critical physics fixes and general functionality developments, from a handling and performance perspective physics have largely been preserved since that release.
We have made some considerable progress on this front since, and are eager to share the results with you - while the full revision to all cars is expected to be completed only upon V1.5 release, the update later next month will already introduce full V1.5 physics for several classes - currently all gens of F-Vintages, F-Retros, F-Classics, F-USAs, the F-Ultimate Gen2 and P1 Prototype class along with the new cars previewed above are expected to feature new physics, and for that reason we wanted to advance some info about how the new overhaul came about, and what you may expect from it.
The V1.5 physics overhaul is once again focused on tires, with aerodynamics and suspension also receiving substantial developments. It was triggered by the discovery of an issue with how the SETA tire model was interacting with the old ISI PMotor model from which it was still getting fed some tire-related values - basically this was resulting in a "confused" tire carcass with oscillating spring rates which were different from what we were actually inputting into STM - and as explained in previous revisions, since the dynamics of the whole vehicle literally rides on how the tire carcass flexes under load due to its direct repercussions on aerodynamics and suspension, fixing this issue once again demands an extensive overhaul to all car physics.
Another important discovery made since V1.4 was that the way the undertray of the car was defined for each car had been changed vs what we had in AMS1, even though that particular component of the physics seemed on the surface to be identical to what we had before. Correcting that issue forces further suspension and aerodynamics revisions but the results are well worth it; it also contributes to fixing the issue of cars appearing to explode off the ground upon hard bottoming (which has been known to happen specially with AI from low riding formula cars).
The developments relating to the undertray are already present in new cars released since V1.4 (as obviously it wouldn´t make sense for us to ignore that for the sake of consistency with older content) and so are refinements to how we reproduce each car´s suspension geometry - these being the main reasons some of you have noticed post-V1.4 cars already drive better than older content. The real thick of the V1.5 upgrade however will come from the tire developments, and while the F-Inter is the one car so far to feature some of those tire improvements, most of it relies on code changes we haven´t yet merged to release in order to preserve older content until they are also properly revised to suit it.
The net result of the changes impacts different cars in diverse ways - some (like the oval variants of F-USAs) really are massively improved with noticeably more accurate dynamics, while others present subtler differences. Generally speaking, what you may expect from V1.5 physics from a driving perspective are cars with more precise response to steering inputs which thus feel more "connected" to the road than before, but that also will punish mistakes getting tires beyond their peak slip angle more severely.
All this once again highlights what we have been trying to communicate since we first announced AMS2, and that this is a long-term project; all sims that are serious about simulation evolve over their shelf-life, but with the Madness engine and specifically its physics being so complex and detailed, it would be a steeper evolution curve until we figured it all out - it´s in the very nature of the project for things to go from good to better until eventually great, and it goes for the whole game not just physics.
Being candid, we didn´t expect to still be making such physics breakthroughs three years into its release and five years into its development but the simple fact is, while this is a fantastic piece of technology from developers whose brilliance we are in awe of and feel privileged to have our hands on, it is also the product of code on top of code integrated by different third-parties over the course of decades - understanding and sorting it all out does take a lot of time, effort and resilience, and it is a journey that will continue until we wrap up its development for good.
There is a lot more to be said about V1.5 beyond physics - among other highlights, we are pushing for a solution to lift the need to use Bootfiles for mod installation and possibly lifting some other hurdles based on feedback being received on this topic to better support the great modding projects already being delivered for AMS2; Multiplayer should also receive some substantial upgrades including some net code developments.
We will expand on these and everything else you may expect to see in AMS2 V1.5 and beyond in our next development update in June, by which time V1.5 should hopefully be just around the corner.
Until then, there will be plenty to keep you all busy with Nürburgring Historic and all the good stuff incoming with the May Update - we hope you all enjoy it!