In a post I wrote a couple of days ago, I cast doubt on the “rubberization” and “marbling” that is supposed to take place on iRacing’s new surface model. I now withdraw that doubt. After running a longer race with quite a few cars, I did see some rubber buildup on the track, and I could tell a slight difference in the way the car handled. I never saw any marbles, but that’s probably because the session was set to clear the track during each caution period, and there were a few of those. However, I’m still not sure that the track was “dynamic enough.” This is something new for iRacing, and I’m sure there will be some adjustments.
But I hark back to the introduction of dynamic weather, and that makes me wonder about this dynamic surface model. For those of you unaware, the introduction of dynamic weather was somewhat of a catastrophe for iRacing. All of the members who registered for a session were assigned completely different weather conditions. Of course this gave the members with cooler conditions a huge advantage. It wasn’t pretty. iRacing came up with a workaround, but, as far as I know, there has been no real fix.
I also wonder what happened to the thermal vision camera that was supposed to be included with the Season 4 build and the new surface model. You know, the thermal vision camera that was yanked at the last minute. Is there something that can be seen with the thermal vision camera that iRacing doesn’t want its members to see? That is what’s being alleged by an anonymous iRacing member on Reddit. Here is a quote from that anonymous user.
Some may recall that during the second week of Season 3 2015, there was something of a fiasco with the weather, where different drivers in the same session received different weather, yielding potential advantages of two seconds per lap. A pretty big f***-up. iRacing didn’t figure out what was happening until a user investigated it and flagged it up. This means iRacing is not logging information to ensure that performance-sensitive data is matched between client and server. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Someone flagged up the potential for this cheat and got a permanent ban from the service, later reduced to a six month forum ban. Now, the ban is clearly over the top as the information given was totally insufficient to do any actual cheating, as someone would have to figure out how to decrypt the content and modify it on the fly. This isn’t something one can just Google. Interestingly, people mentioning lag switches don’t get banned and that’s pretty easy to Google. If data is transmitted it can be intercepted and changed. The issue is that iRacing are not logging the state at the client end for comparison between multiple clients, so if someone is hacking the weather, iRacing have no way to know it. iRacing seem to be really f***ing jittery over this.
The bit where it gets interesting is that the exact same thing applies with the new surface model. Performance-sensitive data is being sent to the client. However, during the unique weather mess, it was possible for the community to investigate when things seemed off, because they could see the weather conditions in-game at the top of the screen. When it didn’t match up, hey, there’s a problem!
On announcement of the New Surface Model, in a single post in the middle of a lengthy thread, Tony Gardner posted that they would not be putting the thermal vision camera out for this build, meaning we have no way to check this stuff. So iRacing aren’t checking that the conditions are the same for each client, and we can’t do it either. A cynic might argue that iRacing doesn’t necessarily care whether people cheat, just that no such perception exists. This move would give ammunition to someone holding that view.
The banned user has tried to get in touch with developers about the issue, and they were happy to talk about how the new EAC anti-cheat system from Valve prevents RAM hacking, but as soon as the subject of a proxy, and logging states to ensure consistency was brought into question, suddenly they clammed up. All very odd.
So, in short, it looks like iRacing know there is a problem and just want to cover it up rather than properly deal with it. Had the community not found the weather problem, iRacing wouldn’t have had to deal with the public embarrassment. One could argue that this is why they are preventing the community from discovering the problem this time around – they’re ensuring they don’t have the tools to point out a competitive balance issue.
Let me make it clear that I 100% want to be wrong on this stuff. I want iRacing to be 100% fair. I’m not the quickest but I do OK, somewhere in the top 15% most of the time, definitely not at the pointy end, but for me to enjoy the battles I have, I have to know that I am competing on a level playing field. My goal is simply to wake iRacing up from the complacent slumber they’ve gotten into lately, and to get them to properly clarify this.
In all fairness, it has also been said that the member who reported the iRacing weather bug was banned for publicly revealing a way to exploit that bug and gain an advantage. In other words, cheat. It should also be pointed out that this is all conjecture based on the weather SNAFU. There may be no problem at all with dynamic tracks. I have seen no evidence of it in my limited experience racing this season. In fact, since the massive weather foul-up, you’d think iRacing would probably be very careful about something like that happening again. Then again, without a thermal camera, nobody would know if something like that happened again.