Ah.. One of the good questions. Kevin Knorpp asks for input to explain a younger one what “using AC as a sim” actually means. Let’s have some thoughts that might be useful (or not) to forge good answers.
In this context I read that the target audience is both a young “Need for Speed” experienced guy, as well as the simracer-dad himself.
There is an differentiation to more arcadsih racing games, but “driving a sim” is also something for itself – you could (try to) explain it to somebody who doesn’t know any racing games – maybe one of the “Grandpa”s that didn’t catch up with the computers.
The first topic is what the young one asked: What do you do in Assetto Corsa, under the context of career, unlocking and stuff?
Now you could mention AC’s career mode, unlocking and so on, but that would be wrong. No, the career mode has nothing to do with the sim part of Assetto Corsa. It’s an attached addon because some people really expect that, and because it’s nice to give some ideas.
The simulator inside Assetto Corsa is more like Lego (if you’re too young replace that with Minecraft). You sit there, in front of all your possibilities and nothing happens without your creativity and initiative. On the other hand, you can do whatever your bricks and the physics allow.
This is no argument for the “Grandpa”, but for sure for the Need-for-Speed fraction. Their games focus on guiding and entertaining the driver. There are events, race types, game rules, you can do this and that. You have many options to chose from, and the good games always offer the next cool thing you can do like a good waiter offers the next glas of wine (or Cola). It’s almost like a movie.
Now you will say: Wait, there is freedom as well! Look at NfS Underground 2, free roaming as long as you want! Yes. There is no absolute sim and no absolute arcader – and I’m pretty sure a fan of simracing also enjoyed NfSU2 very much.
The (driving) sim just sits there and waits. The track, the car, you. Everything else – program, calendar, events, AI, multiplayer, that doesn’t really belong to the core of a sim. It’s arcadish and entertaining.
#2 Teenage dreams
Kunos didn’t chose this special event’s name by a fair dice roll. They belong to a generation that had its human idols as well as the ones with four wheels. Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari F40, Diablo, McLaren F1, Porsche 911; man made dreams we were raised with, and also trained to love. Some people just love cars, horsepowers, Gs, V8s, downforce and speed, … Ok, some do not but we can ignore them as we won’t ever bring them to simracing.
Everybody dreamed of driving one of those childhood dreams one day. Surprisingly, most of us didn’t. So computer games are the next stop when you want to come closer to your dream. And that dream isn’t really about drifting through a canyon with 370 kph, it’s more like sitting in the car for 13 minutes and then finally turn the keys. Standing there, listening to engine and carefully put your right foot down to hear the response. Admire the shifter, slowly locking it to the first gear and so on. This is what we were dreaming of, not just driving some fictional car in a typical color and with the Porsche emblem that will autoshift through the (fictive) gears as soon as the green light yells “GO GO GO”.
Simulators tend to pay attention to the details we were dreaming of, and let us play with them. The details are part of the sensation. “Grandpa” might agree, and even ask for the GTO 250.
As sims are more focusing on details and realism, rather than on the show, cars tend to behave more realistic. From a certain point of view this isn’t fun – yes. Speed and sensation aren’t easily possible, and frustration can (and will) be overwhelming. I don’t want to say that arcadish racing games are easy – they are not. Nothing is easy, and you can even gain insane expert levels in much simpler applications. But what is very different: Sims usually do not help you with big mistakes, because reality does not as well. The entertaining show needs to prevent frustration, the sim says “haha look at you”.
On the positive side this means a lot of rewards when your raise to the next level. Yes, I could drive one lap without mistakes. Yes, I could drive 5 ones! Yes, I could catch this drift. A completly different experience, on the good and on the bad side.
A good example is a rubberband AI. Most arcade racing games opponents will never be much faster than you, even if you crash they seem to wait. Once you are close they give you a good fight – and they never really lose to you. More simish games give you the ultimate penalty if you do a mistake, as your opponents just drive on. But in the same moment it will be more rewarding when you finally keep in touch or even beat them.
The only thing where the most realism sim is superior to anything else is what we can learn from it. About cars, tracks, car physics. The better the sim is, the more we can learn – they are key components.
Yes, I wasn’t really talking about the “race sim” with lap times, flag rules, penalty implementations and good TV cams. This isn’t part of the “sim”, it’s part of the game wrapped around that doesn’t need to exist (although it’s fun).
ESRB warning: Contains high amounts of opinion.
Changed the second paragraph in #1 Freedom as the original author requested.