This valuable post tries to collect things new guys starting out with AC. I think the reason is the Steam summer sale, but if you look to the near future AC gains many more members due to the Console release at 26th of August (30th for North America).
Having good starting points are very important, especially for a product like Assetto Corsa. Although I advise to keep your eyes on the initial forum post (and contribute, if you can!) I’ll have my own take here – and try to keep it up-to-date.
I General aspects
1. Focus on driving
To enjoy Assetto Corsa, you should know right away: AC is a very special software product, and this is not a compliment. It is one of the best simulators on the market, but that’s it. The package, like the GUI, menus, settings, gamification aspects, even fonts – provisional at best. AC was built to just start the engine and drive, anything around wasn’t a priority when early and important design desicions have been made. It looks like the priorities have been
- Credible physics
- Perfectly recreated car models and behavior
- Good graphics (for the cars and tracks)
- something to select the car and track
Somehow this uncompromisingly approach reminds me on another and pretty famous Italian guy:
That’s important and a source of constant mourning and dissatisfaction. Assetto Corsa is about driving, and it’s so damn good in it. But the small independent developer Kunos Simulazioni has limited resources, and until today most are spent on the things they consider important. Adjust your expectations and you will have more fun.
If this is a no-go for you, I highly recommend Project Cars. It is quite similar, but has it’s strength on all the things Assetto Corsa is missing. Or iRacing, if you seek the best possible multiplayer interaction. It’s up to you what you are going for, but please don’t pick the wrong sim and complain afterwards because pCars has a less connected driving feeling, AC has no rain or iRacing comes with outdated graphics. You can have almost anything you want – but not everything.
The same goes for quantity of cars and tracks: You don’t have that many cars compared to titles like Gran Tourismo, but the individual detail is stunning – aside from high quality recreations of the model and sound you’ll get a perfect sense of the character of that car. The differences between them are astonishing. Aristotelis (Kunos’ physics integrator) has published some videos of comparisons worth a look, but there are also very good community contributions.
The amount of tracks isn’t overwhelming as well, in numbers. It’s similar to the cars here, the available tracks are high quality recreations of real racing circuits.Almost all tracks are laserscanned (except Zandvoort, Trento Bedone and the fantasy Black Cat County) and very well reproduced. Even real race drivers compliment the accuracy up to bumps and curbs:
2. It’s more a sim than a game
If you don’t exactly know what this means, you should read carefully. Basically anything that recreates real things is a sim, but in this specific case it means you have a racing game where the developers try to be as close to reality as possible – that also means, they will try to match reality instead of making a fun game. This can be very frustrating: Dependent on your experience and skills it might take hours of practice until you are able to complete a lap without crashes – and a crash is often the end of that stint, not only a minor loss of time. You’ll need to understand a lot of car dynamics like the Circle of Forces, Weight Transfers or on which axle your car puts the power on the street before you can even start to enjoy the driving.
Let’s put it the other way round: You will need many hours of pain until your pain turns into fun. If this isn’t for you – maybe stay away or just use AC as a cool tookit and showcase without high expectations. This is even more severe in multiplayer environment where certain manners and rules are expected and important, but we’ll catch this later.
II Important settings
1. Input method
You can control your car with keyboard, mouse, joystick, gamepad and wheel. Forget about the first ones. Although I really can’t drive with a gamepad, there are many who do – and they say AC has substantially good support here. The “real thing” of course is a FFB wheel with pedals and H-shifter. Then AC gives you perfect control and very good information about your car. Although half of the community would disagree here, you can plug&play most of the current wheels just by selecting the correct template. If you want to go to the advanced mode, the FFB community guru has a perfect mod for you that will on-the-fly adjust your FFB force so you end up with little clipping and maximum information.
2. Graphics (probably PC only)
Nothing unusual here. Resolution, detail settings, antialiasing and stuff. Take care of shadows, smoke and reflection – they seem most expensive and don’t even need to be maxed out to look good. Make sure you run the benchmark tool and don’t significantly drop above 50 fps – then you’re good to go.
The engine is very smooth and should run way better than competitors titles on comparable settings, one of the advantages of not having night and rain. You still should have good frames as input lag can actually hurt your reactions and driving experience, but if you just start out you might want to focus on the experience first and later on come back to this and optimize your input lag. In other words: First learn the right inputs and then think about optimizing them.
3. Field of View
You find this single slider in the graphics menu, but it’s very important to consider. Dependent on your distance and size of the screen, you most probably should reduce it. That will reduce your viewport and sense of speed, but helps your brain to estimate dimensions correctly and eventually feels like the right thing.
Do not miss this. You might end up with a few degrees above your calculated correct FoV to be really comfortable with, but please don’t use more than +6°. You’ll get used to it, and it will make you better and the sim more enjoyable (this isn’t restricted to Assetto Corsa btw).
3. Driving aids
That one is tough, but very important. Assetto Corsa offers to help you with some artificial or replicated driving aids. You can use them to compensate controllers you maybe don’t have (like a clutch) or helps to start out by removing some of the advanced techniques like Heel and Toe. Others like ABS and Traction Control (TC) are part of the simulator, as the real cars do use such systems as well. For ABS and TC Assetto Corsa offers three states: Always on, always off and “Factory” – which just means “On, if the real car has this”.
If you are just starting out, I recommend to aim at:
- ABS: Off, Factory, On (toggle with Ctrl+A)
- Traction Control: Off, Factory, On (toggle with Ctrl+T)
- Stability Control: Off
- Automatic gearbox: Off (toggle with Ctrl+G)
- Automatic clutch: Off (if you have a clutch pedal and H-shifter)
- Throttle blip: Off (if you have a clutch pedal, H-shifter and enough experience)
- Ideal racing line: Off (in my opinion this will prevent learning the track)
A word about the Stability Control (SC): This isn’t some recreation of a real ESP, more like an invisible hand that helps you not to spin in a terribly artificial way. On 100%, you think you can control even a turbo-lag monster like the Ferrari F40 – don’t ruin your fun here. If it helps you to keep motivated during the early hours: ok, but work on reducing this to 0% as first priority. SC also removes a lot of the simulation and character of that specific car – maybe just start out with a more forgiving one. The FWD street cars are fine here (Alfa + Abarth), or use modern street cars with Traction Control (TC) and ABS (like all the BMWs) instead. The worst ones are the 90s supercars like the Ferrari F40 or Ruf Yellowbird. Stick with the modern ones, they are pretty safe and have the best grip, stability, brakes and ABS/TC. For race cars the GT3 are fast, but easy and have good ABS and TC as well.
One very different driving aid you should know about: F11 toggles a virtual mirror – slightly unrealistic, but very helpful to overcome the limitations of a on-screen cockpit. It’s always in the same position and won’t suddenly dissapear when your FoV, car model and driver positions don’t fit. Please use it for both AI and multiplayer action, unless you have really good sight (e.g. triple screens or VR headset).
III Official on-screen apps (PC only)
Kunos offers various HUD elements that give you different kind of information, although it’s not exactly easy to find them: When in the car, ready to drive, move the mouse to the rigth side of the screen – a sidebar with available apps will pop up:
The bad thing: This isn’t well documented or intuitive to handle. The good thing: You are absolutely free to design your HUD elements, including both official apps and fan made mods.
Hover over an icon to see the description; one click and it appears on the screen. Now you can move it wherever you want and also increase or decrease the size with the white arrow symbols above:
Finish this by clicking the white PIN icon. This will lock the position so you can’t accidentally drag it around – and it will also make the background vanish and less distracting.
Some of the most important apps you should know about:
A basic combination of RPM, current gear and speed. I can recommend this one – it’s by far the best official app: High information depth, almost eye-candy with good readability.
Be careful about the redline indication, when your gear turns red. This marks the revs after that the engine could be damaged – but it’s not always the best point to switch gears. Rule of thumb: If you see LEDs blinking red somewhere in your cockpit, you should upshift, regardless what the gear app says. Some cars have much mid-rev torque, some have intake restrictions like the 458 GT2.
You will instantly understand most of the important information. Maybe a word (or speculation) the the red part of the white RPM indicator: Almost every combustion engine has a peak in its power curve:
You can rev more, but the power will start decreasing now – this is when your revs become displayed red. How far you rev on for the perfect shift depends on lots of factors, most important ist the gear length – it reduces your revs to an earlier point, and that point will be different for each car AND gear. Mathematically you probably want to maximize the area used, but in any case this information is helpful here.
On turbo cars you can also see (and hear) the turbo pressure:
It can save your virtual life – a brutal car like the Ferrari F40 will be very rude to you in this specific situation: 2nd gear, low speed -and the turbo pressure is rising. Your rear tyres will have a huge power output in the next 0.5 seconds that will end up in a spin if you are not prepared and cut the throttle.
The Map shows the current section with a few dots that mark cars. It is not – I repeat – not a substitute to not knowing the track. But it is the only artificial helper that gives you a chance to see guys from behind approaching way beyond the limits of your mirrors:
- see slow or even standing cars in front of you
- see faster cars approaching from behind (estimate their speed and let them pass accordingly)
- If you need to rejoin the track after you lost control: watch the map until it looks safe to rejoin
A nice (but huge) overview about
- your current vs. total laps
- current laptime
- split delta
- personal best (in this session)
- last lap
4. Performance delta
With the new version 1.7 the performance delta app will look like this (sorry for the youtube-screenshot):
This handy app compares your best lap against the current one – for every moment. You can see how much faster or slower you are in comparison, very helpful to judge when you try out different lines or setup things. In 1.7 this is even pronounced by the red or green bar above.
Not the most beautiful chat app on the market, but still an extremely important thing to start out with multiplayer racing – unfortunately this one isn’t on the screen by default, nor is it documented well.
Please, before you even check the “Multiplayer” tab in the main menu, pick this so other guys have the chance to talk to you. I don’t want to know how many newbies have been kicked or banned without even having a chance to know what happened.
The sophisticated tyre model in AC makes it very important to know about their state. Practical pressures and temperatures can make a huge difference of several seconds a lap.
Luckily this app already has it’s dedicated article on CatsOnSlicks. Have this open even if you don’t really know what’s happening – red is very bad and will cause the car behave extremely nervous. Blue (=cold tyres) usually feel very different and dull, make sure you at least know why it’s currently hard.
7. Developer apps
There are many more (official) apps, but there’s not really a point in describing them. Even more interesting is that you can even gain access to the so called “developer apps”, which Kunos uses to develop their game. Especially cool is the telemetry app – it gives you graphs and numbers to a huge array of simulated values.
Unlock them by editing the C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\assettocorsa\system\cfg\assetto_corsa.ini and set this value to “1”:
If you have it already open, I also recommend to enable the free cam:
This allows to free the cam with F7 and move around with the arrow keys – really needed feature for cool screenshots and videos. I don’t get why it is hidden there.
IV Modded on-screen apps (PC only)
The official apps aren’t enough? Luckily Kunos provides good modding support for the apps, and surprisingly there are many, many guys who spend much effort to share their version of the perfect enhancement. Let’s have a look at the differences compared to the official ones:
Unfortunately we can’t talk about the Steam Workshop, although this has been mentioned several times. There are many places to browse and obtain Apps, my favorites are the official forum section and RaceDepartment.com. The latter is clearly better, as you have ratings, download numbers and so on – but many good mods originate from the official forums and you might have more luck there to contact the authors for feedback or support requests.
Obviously you need to download and install the custom apps. Usually they are just a zip file that needs to be extracted to your root Asssetto Corsa folder (like C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\assettocorsa).
Assetto Corsa wants you to manually enable anything you download (which is a nice thing, security-wise) in the main menu. Don’t skip this:
Now the app is available in your sidebar.
I don’t really want to give ratings here, but there are some legendary apps you really should know. RSR Livetiming is a online laptime leaderboard with many functions you should have a look at. pTracker is hard to describe – so many little and big things. Helicorsa is not only for your own enjoyment, but also improves your opponents time on the track.
That would be my Top 3 I couldn’t live without, but there are so many.
4. Performance impact and support
Apps are additional programs that run on your PC while you are driving a demanding game. Dependent on how good they are written and what they do Apps can and will decrease your framerates – be careful here. Some even consume CPU when they aren’t displayed – deactivate them over the Main Menu -> General.
Kunos doesn’t support any 3rd party apps. Whenever you have any problem with Assetto Corsa, try to disable all custom apps before you post a bug in their support section.
V Third party systems (PC only?)
Mod authors didn’t just stop with the custom Apps displaying RPM values in a special fashion – they built entire systems to improve mostly the multiplayer experience. Unfortunately Kunos’ support is only technical, so newcomers won’t have a source to get introduced to those systems. This way you can just miss something cool – but in one case you can even be banned from a majority of the servers without knowing what actually happened. So let’s have a short overview:
Both worst and best one. Minorating is a global, dynamic whitelist for Multiplayer servers. It turns driving and accident data into a safety rating and allows server admins to reject certain “grades”. The problem is that you don’t install anything to participate – you just need to enter one of the MR servers (and they are many) without even knowing anything about it. After a short distance of 40km you are rated and maybe excluded from many servers.
My criticism is not towards the system on its own – actually it is perfect and made a huge difference in the quality of the online driving. There are also guys who try to spread the word and help newcomers to get a good start – but it still happens that clueless guys are basically blacklisted before they even realize what Minorating is.
2. SRS – SimRacingSystem
SRS is a very cool effort to bring events and championships to the multiplayer divisions of various racing simulators – latest addition was Assetto Corsa. You need to register on the website and download a special App for Assetto Corsa in order to participate.
Once activated, you see a dedicated menu item that allows acces to the race events and your stats.
SRS currently offers scheduled races including hosting the servers (for free, so think about a donation) and also stores the stats. You have championship points and ratings – pretty good and meaningful compared to the usually Pickup Races in Assetto Corsa.
Youtuber gamermuscle did a review where you can get in touch with SRS more in depth:
VI Going clean
Coming back to this simulator aspect: You might not be aware of what is expected of you in a racing simulator. Like I mentioned in I.2 a sim tries to replicate the real life, and the sim drivers are expected to do the same. Forget about your Mario Kart experience, and get ready for a very different level. Racing a car around a circuit is complicated and difficult in the first place. You will learn to handle it, but things remain difficult the faster you go – no room for physical fights and crashes. Any unfair behavior will somehow reduce the enjoyment you can get from AC – in some way. One of those ways is to be kicked and banned in Multiplayer.
1. Don’t crash
It is absolutely expected that you do not crash into anything else on the track: Not the AI controlled cars, but definitively not in Multiplayer. Pretend the 400k GT3 car is yours, and you don’t want any scratch in it.
2. Don’t cut
There are rules, one is “stay on the track”. You are expected to go as fast as possible, but inside the range of the racing rules. Flatout a chicane is not acceptable.
3. Know when to fight
You are allowed to “fight” (again, without contact and inside the rules) drivers on the connected positions in a comparable car. But even that doesn’t always make sense. Fighting cars are slower than others, so both lose. Fighting includes the risk of an accident, which is a huge loss compared to only fall back one position.
Honestly, when starting out: I can’t recommend to fight anything or anybody. Just don’t do it.
And if you see a blue flag on the top left screen: Let anybody pass who is behind you safely. How does this work? Well, first don’t fight/block him of course. Second, don’t do anything stupid. The best is just to race on, and wait until he clearly passes you – this way you are predictable. As soon as the other car is next to you, a short lift on the throttle is more than enough to let him pass. The only exception would be a longer corner where you can stay on the outside, instead of aiming to the apex.
4. Read the rules…
… wait what rules? Yes exactly, that’s a problem. There are no official simracing rules (I’m looking at you, Kunos!). But there is some common sense about it, as compilation of the different FIA rulesets. Minorating.com was forced to define rules and ettiquettes this way – but they never went that official or even have been discussed. I consider them valid, or at least good enough.
Please take some time to get the idea. You will be less surprised by the AI’s actions and even have less collisions here – and you might have a chance not to be banned to hell in your first Multiplayer race.
VII Going fast
Tricky topic. How many time do we have? Let’s pretend your virtual driving experience is exclusively Mario Kart, and you ask how you can get along with Assetto Corsa.
1. The physics
Coming from Mario Kart, you will notice this is less fun in the first place. Cars have masses, any acceleration (including braking and direction changes) is limited by the grip your tyres have with the tarmac. Deal with it, that’s part of the fun.
The most basic thing to learn is: If you can’t do a corner with your current speed, you need to brake. Do it early and in a straight line. May sound funny, but this insight is the most important step into the simulation world. Only the first of 4327, but we need to start somewhere.
2. The car
You need to know your car and its characteristics. They are very different in Assetto Corsa, and you have a good chance to pick one of the most difficult ones if you don’t think about it.
On the limit, any car is difficult – but we’re not there yet. While you learn, the car becomes difficult if it isn’t stable. High power and/or bad suspension and/or bad tyre grip can add many elements and frustration potential you don’t want to be bothered with now. For the first runs, you want to pick a car with ABS and TC and much brake and corner grip as possible, compared to the acceleration and speed.
I recommend using smaller street legal cars, like:
You find this selection when clicking “Tag” and selecting “SMALL SPORTS”. Most of them are pretty good to start with, but I wouldn’t recommend the older ones except the BMW M3 E36.
Those cars have pretty good brakes and suspension compared to the little engine power. You can ignore many difficulties and master the basics.
Tip: Pick street tyres. Although less grippy in total, they tend to be better on low tyre temperatures. You should drive slowly in your first laps – the default Semislicks could become more difficult then and their grip level will go up and down while you are driving.
Personally I recommend the Alfa Romeo Mito as FWD car and the Toyota GT86 as RWD car.
3. The track
Unfortunately there is no “easy” tracks. But you need to learn the track and it’s corners, so pick a short one first. This will reduce the corners and situations to learn and you’ll improve way faster. Short tracks are
- Brands Hatch Indy – difficult 1st corner, but probably the best starter track
- Vallelunga Club – slow and easy to remember
- Magione – very slow track with many hairpins
- Silverstone National – pretty fast track with few but complicated corners
- Nurburgring Sprint – pick GP for an easier chicane. Many and strange corners, but well rounded mix
The cool thing about the layouts is that you learn corners of more than one track (all except Magione).
4. Feel the limit
For your first laps*, just drive as you like and try to stay on the track. Pick a corner you feel good with and slowly try to experience the limit of this car, and how it feels. Drive that corner over and over again, until it several turns look similar. By now you should have learnt all of the corners and roughly know where the track goes – now we can start going faster.
*in practice or hotlap mode! Just the car, the track and you. Do not start in multiplayer please!
You probably know: the tighter the corner, the slower you have to go. Which one could you drive the fastest?
Yes, the first one looks most like a straight. 3rd comes next, the green in the middle looks like the slowest corner. The funny thing is:
What you saw is not an actual corner, but possible lines through one(!) corner. You will be fastest when you try to find the most straight line in a corner. The more you need to steer, the more lateral (sideways) acceleration your tyres have to handle. Minimize it, and you’ll be fast. No, that’s not the whole story, but a huge chapter 1.
As you now know each corner and your car, you want to learn where you need to slam the brakes and where to release them. The goal is to end the brake zone at the corner entry – you need to have your corner’s speed there. Braking ends completely, steering starts.
The brake points will vary slightly with conditions, but are basically the same for each car / corner. Learn them. Watch your environment for reference points, and learn where you start braking so the corner will be good.
For the first weeks, I recommend to completely isolate braking and turning: If you can make that corner with 100 kph, adjust your brakepoint so you can brake in a straight line, then release the brakes, then turn. If you start turning during braking, you are over the limit and will understeer and miss that corner. Why? See Circle of Forces for a more scientific explanation, or just believe me: If your tyre is braking to 99% of its grip level, you can only use 1% to steer sideways. As soon as you try to steer more than that your tyre suddenly slips, losing a huge margin of it’s grip – your car ignores your steering and goes forwards. We call this behavior understeer, like: you steer but the car underperformes.
The cornering should be pretty easy. Given a good line and good braking, you just start to turn your wheel at the corner’s entry, and stay like this through the corner. Yes, if you do it perfect your wheel goes to a certain degree and doesn’t change until you are out. That’s because if you need a bit more steering at a point, this is your maximum lateral acceleration. If you could do this without losing grip, you could have done the whole corner with that acceleration – carrying more speed through the corner.
On a perfect line you would touch the outer track boundary at the entry point, the inner boundary at the corner’s apex right in the middle, and again the outer boundary at the exit – with one static steering angle.
It is a lot of practice, but also knowledge about the corners and the car’s brake/entry points. Until then, focus on a smooth line and not-so-many corrections.
Towards the end of the corner, you want to start accelerating again. If you picked one of the recommended, slower cars this is easy. But you might notice that the throttle will widen your line a bit. Make sure you don’t need to cut the power after you started accelerating – start later next time. On more powerful cars you might violate the Circle of Forces which will spin you. Then you just need to be more careful, accelerate later and less. It’s not a shame not to give full throttle until you are back on the straight.
The exit is particularly important, as it defines your starting speed during the following acceleration on the next straight. You can lose significant time here.
9. Slow in, fast out
That’s why you should try to get your braking done properly, and better be slow in the early corner. That way you can change your line a bit and steer in later but harder. Your corner speed will be slower, but from now on your line towards the exit is more straight – it is easier to get a good exit and your exit speed will be much better.
That would be one of the first semi-advanced techniques, but I like to mention it as it directly counters a severe beginner’s mistake: Braking too late, too fast in the first half of the corner and completely ruining the important exit.
Now you will start to comprehend how much accuracy and consistency a race driver needs. The good ones hit every single point with mm precision. Until you have a certain consistency, all the other things (like setup) don’t even start to make sense.
How could you go there? Well, either you are born with a one-in-a-million talent for racing – or you do what we other mortals do: Practice. It will be frustrating, but believe me – once you enter the next stage(s) you will be very happy about your efforts.
VIII Singleplayer content
Lucky me again – the Singleplayer has it’s own article here. In general you can do unlimited races and weekends against the AI, drive Special Events and earn Steam Achievements, or use the Career for some unlocking elements and well themed race series.
Writing a “short summary for a newcomer” is never easy. But this time I’m really astonished about the things the newbie needs to know, but nobody will explain him.
Feel free to leave a suggestion or correction, but please don’t get into fights regarding advanced stuff. I know this isn’t the final truth, but they need to start somewhere.