rFactor is a computer racing simulator designed with the ability to run any type of four-wheeled vehicle from street cars to open wheel cars of any era. rFactor aims to be the most accurate race simulator ever, providing advanced tyre modeling, complex aerodynamics and a 15 degrees of freedom physics engine.
rFactor is developed by Image Space Incorporated (ISI), which has been developing race simulators since the early 1990s for both commercial and military purposes. Their most recent title to use the complete engine was F1 Challenge '99-'02, released through EA Sports, although the rendering engine itself has been used for SimBin's GT Racing Series, comprising GTR - FIA GT Racing Game and GT Legends.
Initial Reactions Edit
Initial reactions have been generally positive from the small race sim enthusiast community. The graphics are a notable improvement, and have generally been lauded. The extendability appears to be fairly substantial, it is simpler to modify than F1 Challenge, due to enhancements and extra features. That being said, there is greater freedom and more definability than any ISI game before, with more tools being released on the official rFactor website.
Negative comment is generally confined to the AI cars (computer controlled vehicles), and the reality of the racing experience. The latter is very subjective, but some have claimed the default cars sometimes feel more like an arcade game than F1 Challenge, particularly in the way the car slides and "breaks loose" (transitions from four wheel grip to skids). Others have noted that the head movement (literally the way the driver's head moves when driving), set to maximum by default in the game, is mildly overdone, and while it makes for a better experience, it may be a little unrealistic. It is, however, fully adjustable.
From the developers:
rFactor is a serious simulation that is both challenging and fun to play. ... Ultimately, I expect to see [in rFactor] every car, of every paint scheme, from every year driving on every circuit both current and historical, which has ever held an event where an internal combustion engine was used to decide the winner of a race.
- Gjon Camaj, ISI team member
Ultimately the fate of rFactor will depend on two factors: How well extensions to the base game are received, and how well ISI deals with the game community and their product activation scheme for rFactor.
The game is played in full screen mode (windowed mode is an option). Its main control window consists of a menu to the left, with categories named in the tag line, Customize, Control, Connect.
Customize, Control, Connect EditCustomize allows the user to configure the games basic settings, including user profiles and hardware settings.
Control allows the user to select offline, user vs. computer game modes, such as single car tests, single race weekends, and full championships.
Connect is for online play, and shows online games being played globally over the internet. Access to these games or "rooms" can be restricted by password access, or even by game setup status, so that if a room is using a different car-engine model, only players using that model are allowed to play. With release 1.150, it is now possible to have multiple drivers share a car for longer, "enduro" races. As an example, the USPits recently hosted the Bullrun 1000 in which drivers swapped the car during the race.
Driving and Racing EditrFactor has a detailed interface during offline race sessions or online games, allowing players to control the mechanical setup of their cars, chat to other players, and enter the racing arena in their vehicle. The player's car can be driven from multiple viewpoints, but the two most popular are termed the Cockpit view (from the driver's eye) and Swingman view (above and behind the vehicle).
The vehicle is best controlled using a computer steering wheel, although a joystick or even keyboard can be used. The keyboard is also used for some actions, like requesting pit service and adjusting brake bias. This is analogous to buttons on modern racing car steering wheels, and most computer wheels have buttons that can be mapped to keystrokes. The player can jump directly from the racetrack to the control interface by pressing the escape key (ESC), or entering their pit box.
rFactor is a significant evolution of F1 Challenge '99-'02, but without the licensing of Formula One circuits and teams. As such rFactor's initial release only included four fictitious circuits (seven as of v1.087), with about a dozen layouts within these facilities; there are about six vehicle classes, including two open wheel and four sedan classes.
So, with the expertise already in place, ISI have allowed their game to be highly extensible and modifiable. As of September 8 2005, there has already been a Formula Three mod, a new circuit (Lime Rock), and new skinsets for various vehicles. The amount of modifications however increased vastly over the next months.
AI Cars Edit
As of v1.070, the AI blocking code (literally the software that instructs the AI to block other vehicles, preventing passing) was removed and re-written, done in part to ease some of the criticism of the Artificial Intelligence model ,. Once again, some people have critised ISI for removing this code however, Mike Z of ISI has promised that, "AI blocking will be back in a much more robust and logical form for a future update. I concentrated on fixing bugs for this update; in the future I'll expanded the range of AI behavior. (probably still fix some bugs too...)". Judging by the v1.087 beta release, we should expect that ISI will want to make the AI more aggressive and in general drive better before looking at implementing AI defensive blocking again.
A quote from the v1.087 beta readme,
- AI can attempt to "learn" a track (by learn I mean, better follow the path). ... [During testing with a single AI vehicle the] AI will take off and talk to you in chat and tell you how he's (sic) doing. Typeing (sic) "status" tells you how he's doing and "finish" will make him end next lap. v1.087 beta readme
AI drivers that learn are quite rare amongst racing simulators, another game that use them being Live for Speed. AI blocking code may return as early as the next official final game update. If these two updates are put in place, rFactor should be one of the best, or at least "challenging" AI racing games.
As of V1.150, the AI have received some improvements, notably, they are much faster than ever before. In general, they are improved. There are minor issues remaining, they still do not reflect human behaviour, nor do they have human performance in corners. They also suffer from an odd-bump anomaly, which whereby they don't take jumps as they should (For example, at the new 6th Lienz layout the "rally hillclimb" layout). AI blocking has not returned yet, but they are no longer afraid to pass, and will pounce on any player and indeed AI mistakes.
rFactor provides an advanced tyre model, claiming to be much better than the Pacejka model previously used in most simulators. rFactor's tyre model simulates the tyre use cycle according to temperature and wear.
In the first review of rFactor, published on AutoSimSport, Jon Denton says:
What the tyre model in rFactor does very well is that it models the relationship between slip angle, self aligning torque and cornering force - and it does this better than anything that has come before.
Networking EditF1 Challenge proved to be popular for online racing over the Internet through GameSpy, which allowed any player to find available games. rFactor has extended this in several ways. The central server is handled by ISI themselves, so finding other games is effectively the same. The central server, however, will show all races and practice sessions over a web interface (URL racecast.rfactor.net), similar to real Formula One coverage (as of 2005) at the official formula one site. There are also career statistics available to drivers.
Technically, the game server can now be run from a dedicated program, free from the need to render graphics, and this machine only needs lowly Pentium 3-class (500 MHz) performance. It can run mixtures of human and computer controlled (AI) vehicles.
Modifying rFactor Edit
In an evolution from F1 Challenge, the circuits now include all layouts at a particular facility, which greatly reduces the need to duplicate track geometry and look (skin).
The game can easily accommodate different sorts of vehicles, and games between multiple classes of vehicles are possible.
Beginning in October 2005, conversions of circuits from other racing games, particularly the EA Sports F1 Series, began to appear. The circuits do not take advantage of rFactor's bump mapping, which allows bumps on the cicuit to be modelled in much more detail (polygon only circuits give a resolution of about 2 m). The circuits were still playable.
However, and more importantly, players began to have trouble connecting to servers running these circuits. This was because rFactor incorporates testing of the game's physics, including game engine (the executable), track layout and vehicle physics, to prevent cheating. Because the converted circuits were haphazardly released, along with multiple patches, and the people who converted the circuits had no naming scheme, there was a high probability of triggering a circuit mismatch.
Thus, the response to the converted circuits has been mixed. While drivers are keen for more choice, frustration soon rose. Some drivers and developers also appeared to be concerned that the focus is being taken away from developing circuits from scratch; that circuits made from conversions are too difficult to develop to full release quality.  Such conversion game mostly from games Grand Prix Legends, F1 Challenge, DTM Race Driver, GTR and GT Legends Moreover legal concerns were always at hand with some companies prohibiting conversion from their games.
On October 19 2005, an announcement was made that there would be an rFactor Roundtable, which would oversee development of circuits and other addons. This claimed to be official, with support from ISI, and would allow developers to compete to be the official rFactor Roundtable release. The Roundtable never started and vanished never to be heard again.
Vehicles EditVehicles are defined by their physics, such as suspension geometry and engine characteristics, as well as many skins, which includes a 3D mesh and paint scheme.
rFactor has two classes of vehicles, "Open Wheel Challenge" and sedan cars. Open Wheel Challenge vehicles are open wheelers, including 50 HP training vehicles, F3-like cars and F1-like cars (called FormulaIS). The sedan cars range from compact but sporty to BMW-like vehicles and US Muscle cars; they also include stock cars (USAR-like).
ISI has announced (10 May 2006) it has signed a deal with Intel to add the BMW Sauber Formula One car to the game. The vehicle was demonstrated at the 2006 European Grand Prix. The deal seems to be specifically to promote the new Intel Core 2 processor. . The exact release of BMW Sauber happened on August 1, 2006. On the 18th of May, 2007, ISI released the 2007 BMW Sauber addon car.
In addition to the stock vehicles available in rFactor, a steady stream of unofficial mods has become available. One of the earliest mods was F3 vehicle mod, which became very popular for some time and was later officially included in the game, although with fictitious branding. In the beginning of 2006, many more mods for various series were released, including Porsche Carrera Challenge, Lupo Cup, Megane Series Mod, Formula Nippon, Formula One and V8 Supercars. In addition to the many mods based on real-life racing, mods have surfaced based on the virtual world Second Life's BNT All Star Challenge series, and many purely fictional series, such as LeMons 24h, literally a racing series of lemon-shaped cars on wheels.
Circuits have evolved from F1 Challenge, and are now facilities with multiple layouts available, similar to most real circuits. They include a 3D mesh (polygon size approximately 1 m on the track itself), trackside objects (walls, curbing) and buildings.
As noted above, ISI did not seek to license any series at all, so included only fictitious circuits and vehicles. As of the v1.070 release however, they included the Essington Park circuit, a fictitious track. The details within the game support this with the location of this fictitious track to be in Bolsover, also in Derbyshire. ISI announced to be working on the Euroring, Hungary circuit, although it was not included in the upcoming update(v1.150). It was not made clear if ISI paid for the rights to these circuits, but seems likely that the circuit operators saw it as a chance for free or cheap promotion.
rFactor was released with just five facilities, comprising approximately 10 layouts, including some which were simply reverse races. The facilities were Orchard Lake (an oval and road course), Mills Park and Toban Raceway (road courses), Joesville Runabout (a short oval) and Sardian Heights (a street race in a city environment). Since then an extra layout for Sardian Heights has been added, and Essington Park.
As part of a major update released on August 1st, 2006, several real world tracks were added to the game, but with fictitious names. These were Barcelona (Circuit de Catalunya, Spain), Nuerburg (Nürburgring, Germany), Northamptonshire (Silverstone Circuit, Britain) and Montreal (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada). Also added were two new fictional locations, Lienz (a mountain road and rally course) and Jacksonville (a high banked superspeedway), although some users contend that Jacksonville is very reminiscent of Daytona International Speedway. Brianza (Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy) and Jiading (Shanghai International Circuit, China) have been released as separate downloads.
With the release of the SDK and tools for modifying tracks in rFactor many new tracks were created and released as unofficial addons to the game. Initially, there were few track releases, because of the higher complexity and the time modlers needed to learn the new techniques. Many of the tracks for rFactor were converted from GTR, GT Legends, DTM Race Driver, GP4 or GP Legends.
However, over time the amount user-created mods and tracks available for the game has grown enormously, varying from the completely scratch built through to conversions from other games. While the quality can be said to vary widely depending on the skills of the creator, the sheer amount downloadable content ensures that almost the full range of motorsport is now covered.
Other Add-ons and Modifications Edit
- Relay Anticheat multiplayer client - Detects cheats based on direct memory [RAM] manipulations
- rFactor - official website
- RaceCast - The official live timing and stats site for rFactor
- rFactorCentral - the biggest rf community in which mods and tracks can be downloaded