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XB1 Let's discuss the Automatic Gearbox in online racing (mainly console issues)

Discussion in 'Console Lounge' started by MBK72, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. MBK72

    MBK72 Hardcore Simmer

    What is going on with the automatic gearbox in online multiplayer? A bug, as designed game balancing or game breaking mistake?

    It's a longer post but hopefully worth the read, for TL;DR the first 2 paragraphs should give you the main points.

    There is an odd performance mismatch with the automatic gearbox selected in online multiplayer races and I can't understand the reasoning behind it. With the current stone cold tyres on the Xbox One version multiplayer online races, the automatic gearbox seems to have a significant performance and car handling advantage. I'll give more examples below but that is the central point of the discussion. Is the automatic gearbox increasing the performance of the cars and at the same time making them easier to handle and more forgiving? After a couple of days testing the use of the automatic gearbox in online races we, our little race group, think it is. What I can't be sure about is if this is a bug, part of some game balancing for gamepad users or a straightforward mistake.

    There are a couple of issues specific to the Xbox One version of the game to keep in mind here. The online races all start with stone cold tyres, there is no option to turn on tyre warmers and in any case console users have no access to the online lobby controls, they are all set and fixed on the server. Cold tyres, especially at the start of races are for certain part of the problem. The fact most races seem to have warm weather for qualifying and overcast weather for the race further magnifies the issues.

    If you are replying from a PC only perspective please say so in your post, thanks.

    I don't ask you to take my word for any of this and encourage you to test this for yourself. We noticed the issue as we have a little race group with similar ability across most racing games. There is usually less than 1-3 seconds field spread in the group with some intense battle throughout the pack. This is why we enjoy racing as a group. Suddenly 2 of the group were consistently qualifying faster and lapping significantly 3-5 seconds a lap faster in races that we realised something was amiss. Our first thought was some form of setup but on cars with often limited options it soon became clear this was not the case.

    An example
    (default tuning setups used throughout to keep this as simple as possible, stability off and factory settings as per console online settings). Take a car like the Ford Escort Mk1 RS1600 currently available to race online at Brands Hatch GP circuit. This car can be tricky to control even in good conditions which are all part of the fun of course. With the automatic gearbox selected in qualifying and race conditions, drivers of known similar competence can produce laps 3-4 seconds faster out of the box with the standard setup and fuel with ease. With a manual gearbox, reproducing this time requires warm tyres and considerably more talent.

    The Escort is just an example, the MX5 Cup, Porsche RSR and to a lesser extent GT2 cars also display a similar pattern.

    Automatic advantage?

    Here are a few advantages the automatic gearbox appears to give the cars:

    - Additional stability through corners and as a result faster acceleration out of corners.

    - No penalty for mid-corner gear changes, try the same thing with the manual gearbox and downshift lock is almost certain.

    - Ability to ride kerbs with ease. Take for example the Westfield bend where the kerb on the inside and outside of the track can both be used freely. In the manual car, this causes an almost certain spin or severe loss of traction. At Sheene Curve, the corner can be severely cut by the automatic equipped car due to the additional stability across the grass. The inside grass can be used at Clearways/Clarke Curve with impunity. (More well-defined track limits would help but this is the situation we have for now so be it).

    - Tyre temperature seems to have no impact on performance or lap times. Stone cold tyres work just as well as fully warm tyres on the automatic-equipped cars.

    - Mismatched tyre temperatures, warm on the left, cold on the right, in this case makes no performance impact.

    - Easier to control slides and spins, if they do occur. With automatic gears equipped, it seems much easier to correct slides and hold drift angles.

    - If the automatic box does bog down and makes a mistake the player still has the option to manually override this, without needing to worry about cornering or impact on the stability of the car.

    - There seems to be some sort of built in traction control in the automatic gearbox. With cars with no TC or the TC off, you can visibly notice the gearbox holding throttle positions through certain corners. This could

    - (Race) Perfect starts every time even with stone cold tyres, asphalt and overcast weather. Manual cars often have torque steer and wheelspin to contend with.

    - (Race) First lap huge advantage due to better performance on cold tyres.

    - (Race) Easy to recover full spins and no loss of traction if on the grass (spins on the grass are almost impossible to recover quickly in the manual cars as there is seemingly no grip)

    - (Race) More aggressive lines and more kerb/grass can be taken in the race without fear of performance loss. This is even more noticeable at tracks such as Mugello with higher speed corners.

    - (Human & AI) Perfect up shifts every time, lap after lap. Watching players using the automatic gearbox reveals perfect upshifts just inside the 'red zone' on every change. Few humans could be so precise and I think this also helps to explain:

    - One unintended consequence is that those using the automatic gearbox with a wheel will see their Xbox One enter screen saver mode after a few minutes. The Xbox One does not recognise the left right and pedal inputs as activity and puts the Xbox in screen saving mode. It's one way to tell who is using what settings...

    - As they tyres of the manual gearbox cars warm the difference in lap times falls to 1-2 seconds depending on track and car combination. The stability difference is never entirely overcome (standard setups only referred to here) and with cars such as the GT2's on tracks like Mugello, the automatic gearbox equipped cars retain a significant advantage for 'expressive' cornering.

    AI Stability

    - One issue the automatic gearing looks to answer is how the AI, especially at Alen difficulty is so stable through corners and when they take exuberant lines over kerbs and grass that a manual gearbox equipped human player cannot. Having experienced the way the automatic gearbox changes car behaviour I suspect this is the reason for the AI's almost perfect behaviour lap after lap.

    It won't make you an Alien but...

    - You will be able to run with them in Career Mode and Special events and you'll have the advantage of the additional stability to run lines more similar to the AI. Automatic won't, as far as I've seen, suddenly give you the ability to match the very best Alien human lap times but with setup changes, I wonder just how close you might get?

    Thoughts on why the automatic gearbox might behave this way.

    Intentional design? My first thought is that this is in some way intentional design to assist the higher percentage of gamepad users on the consoles. It could be that the extra stability is there on purpose to help make the game controllable on thumbsticks. It would be an odd reversal of the way most racing games approach automatic gearboxes with greater performance and control being available in manual mode to encourage increased skill. Forza has long given a performance boost to manual with clutch users through a variety of means, including the automatic gearbox not changing at the perfect point on every upshift.

    Bug? My second thought was this may be a bug unique to the Xbox One version of the game. A quick repeat of the same conditions on PC showed similar lap times are achievable with the same track conditions. The issue isn't as readily noticeable on PC as the tyre warmers are available in all sessions including online (when selected in lobby server settings).

    Game breaking mistake? Few of our group were impressed at finding out the near miraculous lap time improvements had been made by simply selecting the automatic gearbox in online races (parenting was indeed questioned). Part of this is down to the terrible state of the current multiplayer lobbies available on the consoles. Stability is fixed to off and TC/ABS to factory but automatic is an available assist. As we are unable to force specific settings this is a situation we are stuck with until player configurable multiplayer lobbies soon. Again we see another example of people finding any loophole to gain an advantage which is why control over online settings and more well-defined track limits are a must if the game is to be a level playing field.

    Hopefully, you'll be spared being caught out by players using the same exploit.

    Reduced to a glorified chauffeur. Using the automatic gearbox dulls every aspect of Assetto Corsa, for wheel users at least. Despite the obvious online multiplayer advantage I felt reduced to little more than a glorified chauffeur, sense of car control is reduced by 70% and there is almost no risk/reward involved in clipping kerbs or taking a different line. If it is intentional for the gamepad users it would be good to know this, if it's a mistake it would be good if it could be rectified. Above all that, I look forward to private multiplayer lobbies so that we can be sure what settings are in play and available for players to use at least then we will have some better sense of fairness.
     

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  3. ppbucko

    ppbucko Hardcore Simmer

    I'm in that little race community, its also so easy to recover cars of the grass and gravel traps using auto gearbox, just point wheel in direction of track shove throttle to floor car travels to track easily, do this using manual gear change, donut city. I'm 3 to 4 seconds a lap faster with auto box, just down to the stability of the cars.
     
    GhostMan and MBK72 like this.

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