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VIRTUAL RC RACING – THE INSIDE STORY Episode 21

13.07.2022   Category: Site news

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Episode 21: special racing features

We really wanted to step up the racing features VRC Pro would have to offer in order to make up for the ‘loss’ of the famous AI-cars. That feature was simply not sustainable as I explained in an earlier episode. I anticipated that we would easily have 80 to 100 tracks in VRC Pro, multiply that by 8 for all the classes we were planning, by 2 for spec and modified, by 2 for normal direction and reversed direction and finally by 3 for the 3 racer levels we were planning, Club, Sport and Pro. And each AI-car recording and implementation would take at least 1 or 2 days if not more. Simply undoable.

So let’s take a look at what we came up with in the cause of the development process. As always it started relatively simple but along the way it expanded and expanded. Feature creep, remember? Let me sum up the basic structures we developed for VRC Pro without going into too much detail…

Spec and Modified chassis
From the outset I wanted 2 different levels of cars, Spec and Modified. The reason is quite obvious, Spec cars run with less power and are therefore easier to handle, and Spec cars have much fewer set-up options and are therefore easier to set-up, just some gearing and maybe steering angle changes allowed. We also made ALL the Spec chassis and components free, to lower the entry level for competitions. The Modified cars are unrestricted, faster engines, and all set-up options available, surely something for the more experienced racers.

3 Racer levels
We decided to go for 3 racer levels, Club, Sport and Pro, to make the racing interesting for anyone, beginners and experienced racers. We developed a relatively simple algorithm that would look at someone’s race results during a season and compare it to the best result in each of the events he participates in. The closer you finish to the top finisher the higher your race average would get. At the end of a Season all these results are computed, and you would then be automatically repositioned in a higher class depending on your race level average, or stay where you are or demoted to a lower racer level. So you could also drop from Sports back to Club for instance. Shortly before the start of a new season you would be able to check your new racer level and if you felt your racer level was too low you can change it upward, but not downwards. Each racing class is calculated individually! So, you can be in Pro for 1:8 nitro onroad, and Club for 1:8 nitro buggy for example. This system has really worked well, kept the racing fair and everybody happy!

Events
The VRC events structure is quite advanced. We can program the rounds, how many proceed to the next round, what starting mode will be used, staggered start for qualifying or grid start for finals, and which racing direction will be used, normal or reversed. Track conditions can also vary for each round. We even have a bump-up system that can be selected, after qualifying you could for instance have the top-2 to go straight to the final, and the best 2 from 4 semifinals.

Official series and events, and club events
The official Series and events are organized entirely by us (Virtual Racing Industries) and you can only earn ranking points (see further down) in these events. You can also create your own club and create your own events; these events have fewer options to be set by the club owner.

Series racing
We opted to create Series, one for the first half of the year, Season 1, and one for the second half of the year, Season 2. Each series consists of 7 events in all classes of racing. With best 5 results to count for the Series championship. We organize separate series for Modified and Spec.

Weekly events
For the most popular Spec classes we organize weekly events, with a very simple format, just one round and many, many runs (tries), like 50. Many of these events are also raced on free tracks, so basically Weekly’s is a completely free event structure as the Spec cars are also free.

Rankings
We also developed a ranking system based on ongoing points earned in events, for example 20 or 30 events. A series usually only has 7 events, so the ranking is a measure of your performance over a much longer period, sometimes for more than a year. A ranking could also include a World Championship event which has a higher points count than just a Series event. And we differentiate points between Modified class and Spec class events too.

We created also ‘combined’ rankings, for instance ‘Combined nitro Onroad’ which includes all 1:8 and 1:10 nitro classes, or ‘Combined off-road’ which includes all off-road classes. We have many rankings and these can also be filtered on Racer levels Club, Sport and Pro. Compared to real life r/c racing the VRC rankings and racer level surely are a lot more sophisticated, don’t you think?

Race results and reports
We developed a very sophisticated results reporting system which lets you analyze your own performance and compare your result with other racers who competed in that event. Not only can you check all your lap times, you can also see how long your pitstops took, when you needed a turn marshal and how much time was lost. Plus best, worst and average lap times, max. Speed etc. All these analytics are of course not presented in the game itself, for in-depth analysis you go to the VRC website.

This overview should give you a good idea of the depth of the racing structures and features we have developed for VRC Pro, you have to experience it for yourself to fully grab it... But it doesn’t stop here. And here comes one of the best parts of VRC Pro: Replay cars

Replay cars data
We actually record all the driving data of every lap you drive in a race, similar to what we do in multiplayer. In fact, we treat every run you do in the same way we treat your data in a multi-player session, after all in a multi-player session we also need to distribute your car’s position and behavior to all the other racers in that session, only that has to happen in real time! When you are racing in an event we store the car data temporarily and after you finish your race, we send that data, plus all the lap time data to our severs. We do this for each run, in each round of any official race. If you have multiple runs in a round we save only the best one, else our server storage would explode…

How replay files are used
Since we have all these runs stored on our servers (and we know of course who’s run it was, when, what track, what class, what racer level, what duration, what event, what round etc.) we are able to ‘replay’ these runs, not only upon request but also automatically. Read on…

Practice mode with replay opponents
In Practice mode you can opt to race with or without up to 3 opponents! The opponent will be selected to match your own racer level! And you can even select if you want to practice with collision on or off, to make it less or more challenging for yourself. This option adds so much value to the whole VRC practice experience, it is really up to you how difficult or easy you want to make it for yourself.

Note to practicing with collision on: you probably understand that the replay cars can’t vary their path like we used to have with the AI cars, they just run their laps as they were recorded. If you have a collision with one of them, you will feel the pain, you are shut off, you will be hurt, not so for the replay car. But still, it’s incredible challenging and rewarding to try to make clean passing moves on such replay opponents with collision on!

Event mode with replay opponents
As we store all these runs we can actually re-run any race, not only your own races but everybody’s races. And on top of that we have developed the option to race together with the other participants in a particular race, as if you were part of that race. Any race, even a World Championship final. And you can select Pro, Sport or Club level and with collision on or off.

To enable these race re-runs we developed a special algorithm to synchronize the runs of all the participants in the selected race, so that the race will unfold as if all the racers would have raced in the same race and at the same time, either in staggered start mode, or in start grid mode. And you can be right in the middle of it!

VRC World Championship videos
This feature is also used to create the World Championship Main Final videos as I am able to select and play an entire race with the replay data we have collected of that race, record it while selecting cars to follow and which camera to use, edit it and then have Mike Garrision do an exciting voice over for that race. There you have it, that’s how it’s made, how I manage to give you an exciting World Championship video. Still a whole lot of work though…

I think this sums up the richness of VRC Pro racing quite well, and I haven’t even touched on everything. I hope it gives you a good insight on how far we have gone to give you a real-to-life r/c racing experience in VRC Pro, and in many ways even far beyond RL. In the next episode I will explain what efforts we have made to develop our multi-player mode.

That’s next…

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