There is a lot of excitement that centered around Project Cars 3’s reveal, there has always been hope that Project Cars will finally live up to its original expectations. However, just recently Slightly Mad Studios, the development team behind the Project Cars franchise has announced that sim racing features such as tire wear, tire temperatures, and fuel consumption will be removed, indicating that pit stops are no longer necessary in a race. This was seen as a huge step backward and caused outrage in the sim racing community. As a result, SMS announced that these functions will be part of the endurance DLC, further outraging fans. We are not expecting too much from PCars at this point but we want to explain why PCars had high expectations set on them, to this we must back to the history of the PCars franchise.
Slightly Mad Studios was founded by Ian Bells in 2009, Ian Bells was originally part of the SimBin team, which in the early 2000s started as a modding group creating mods for Image Space Incorporated (ISI)’s early sim racing title, F1 Classics published by Electronic Arts.
By mid-2000s, Simbin has acquired a development license from ISI using its gMotor 2 engine, otherwise known as rFactor, and started creating its independent titles like the GTR series that focus on Prototype/GT endurance cars and also acquired the WTCC series license and started produced touring car racing titles for both PC and consoles. Because of this development, many 3D assets from the Simbin series were extracted and turned into mods for other sim racing platforms, namely rFactor due to the high compatibility of files. Simbin’s content has set the scape for modern sim racing and in fact, many of its 3D assets have been renewed, updated by the community, and still used today in Assetto Corsa.
By the 2010s, Simbin was broken up as Ian Bell left the company and formed Slightly Mad Studios, and Simbin has since restructured and became Sector 3 Studios known for Raceroom Experience. Slightly Mad Studios developed the Need For Speed: Shift series for Electronic Arts also using ISI’s gMotor 2 engine, and overhauled its graphics engine to become the MADNESS engine which Project Cars uses to this day.
Because of its history in sim racing, long time fans have been monitoring closely at the development of SMS and when the first Project Cars title was announced, it was also the only successfully crowd-funded sim racing title and it raised over USD 4 million allowing the development to complete. PCars 1 brought very big innovations in the sim racing world such as full real-time transitional weather and native VR support. It was also these two features that attracted Reiza Studios to also use the MADNESS Engine for its Automobilista series.
While its graphics and features were highly praised and many fans hoped that PCars would become the next standard in sim racing it did not live up to the hype. Many were disappointed when PCars finally shipped, backers of the project found that the driving physics were disappointing and the entire game was filled with bugs and glitches.
PCars 2 was released a few years later and fixed many flaws fans were disappointed with in the first title. Driving dynamics, force feedback have been improved but it wasn’t enough, the world of sim racing is constantly evolving, other titles such as rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa have been continually setting the bar higher with the help of the modding community even smaller studios such as Reiza have also been able to stand out in such competitions through the sheer refinement of car dynamics and force feedback In 2020 Reiza released Automobilista 2 that uses the same MADNESS engine and have since set the bar by being one of the best driving feelings sim with modern graphical features.
PCars 2 is seen as a stepping stone from console racing games towards sim titles it houses attractive content for all sorts of motorsport enthusiasts, beautiful graphics, and a user-friendly interface that will not overwhelm those new to sim racing. It is the best title SMS has released to date and it is recommended to try it if you are looking to seriously sim race.
Just before the announcement of PCars 3, Slightly Mad Studios got into financial troubles, and not long after, was sold to Codemaster, the company behind many blockbuster racing titles including Dirt Rally Series, GRID, and most importantly the Formula 1 series. Fans were anxious to see what PCars 3 could become with a large publisher backing the development. Needless to say, many were displeased with the announcement trailer, many felt that PCars 3 went back to its roots and became another Need For Speed Shift title or GRID and with its recent announcement of removing critical sim racing features is the final nail on the coffin for this series. While other titles out there are moving forward with innovations to create an even more realistic environment for sim racers, we see that SMS is moving backward to create generic racing games that cater to the console market. PCars 3 may turn out to still be a fun racing game but as a serious sim racing title? We will wait and see, but we are not going to have high expectations.
We are still very interested to see what Codemaster would do with the MADNESS engine. We have all already seen what Reiza Studios could do with the engine in Automobilista 2 and has created one of the best driving sims to date. We would love to see Codemaster use the Reiza Studio’s version of the MADNESS engine and build the next Formula 1 title. Imagine AMS 2 level of driving dynamics merged with the features and quality of life components in a traditional F1 game and the graphics of PCars. That is a dream that we hope to see one day.