Mike Straw of Insider Gaming teased an exclusive interview with iRacing president Tony Gardner on Thursday. In the teaser article, it was revealed that the next NASCAR video game would be developed on the Unreal Engine by Monster Games. Why does this matter, and is this the silver bullet for the next great NASCAR game?
- NASCAR announced that iRacing had acquired the NASCAR license in October of 2023. Previously, the license had been held by 704 Games, which became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Motorsport Games in 2021. 704 Games held the license since 2016, and Monster Games previously worked with 704 Games to develop the NASCAR Heat Franchise from 2016 to 2019.
- The Unreal Engine is one of the most popular game engines of the modern day. It was made by Epic Games, who created the popular free-to-play game, Fortnite, in the engine. Racing/car-based games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione and Rocket League have been developed with this game engine.
- Many were excited and some were surprised to hear this news. Some people thought that iRacing would try to develop the game on their own engine, but, it seems Unreal is the choice.
The Benefits of Using the Unreal Engine
iRacing using Unreal Engine to make the next NASCAR game makes a lot of sense. This game engine is truly on the cutting edge of modern game design. These are a few reasons why.
Lots of Money and Resources Behind It
The Unreal Engine was created by Epic Games, a major figure in modern gaming. There are a lot of resources that went into developing this game engine, and as we already mentioned, plenty of great games have been made with this engine.
Simply put, this engine is as good as it gets. All of the bells, whistles, and resources necessary to create a good video game exist within this engine.
The Ability for Cross-Platforming
Unreal Engine creates an easy way for games to be enjoyed cross-platform. This means that gamers can join online lobbies with players playing on other consoles. Online games are not limited to what console the player has, and that opens up each online lobby to more people.
This would be huge news to the NASCAR gaming online community. Anyone can play against whoever they want regardless of the hardware. From there, it’s about making sure that matchmaking and getting into a lobby is fair and not a hassle.
Modern and High End: Capable of the Latest Graphical Quality
The video above shows just how realistic Unreal Engine games can look when all of its’ graphical capabilities are used. As far as graphics go, the Unreal Engine is about as good as it gets.
While the next NASCAR game may not look quite like that, it will look good. It will be interesting to see how this engine allows for day-to-night transitions for night races in the game. That’s one graphical improvement many have been asking for.
Reason for Caution
Based on this, many would think that a good NASCAR game is a slam dunk on the Unreal Engine. Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Remember NASCAR 21: Ignition? That game was absolutely unfinished upon release, and it had about as ugly of a launch as any NASCAR game ever has. Motorsport Games and 704Games developed that title on the Unreal Engine. At least it looked pretty.
This doesn’t mean that a good NASCAR game cannot be developed on Unreal, but, it highlights that having the engine can only go so far. The engine gives the developers the tools to create a good NASCAR game, but, the important piece to the puzzle is effectively using the tools.
Will that happen? iRacing has never made a console video game before, and that is a much different ballgame than creating a motorsports simulation. Having Monster Games involved does help given their experience creating NASCAR video games, but they have never created a NASCAR game in Unreal before.
Using Unreal Engine is not a guaranteed 10/10 NASCAR game with all the bells and whistles that every single fan asked for. However, it is a great toolbox to help fashion a great NASCAR video game.
Emphasis on “Good Driving”
When talking about the focus for the next NASCAR video game, Gardner told Straw about “Good Driving” first, and he even threw in the career mode. These are good things to emphasize, but they are also basic parts of a good NASCAR game.
Given iRacing’s reputation with its state of the art racing sim, good driving has to be at or near the top of the list. The question is, how do iRacing and Monster Games strike that balance between a realistic driving model that is also easy enough to pick up and play for beginners? The NASCAR Heat series, that Monster Games also developed, was heavily criticized at the time for its unrealistic driving model and physics.
As far as career mode goes, that may take time to develop. This new NASCAR game needs to emphasize getting the basics of the gameplay correct, then they can focus on deeper game modes. There’s a reason why Gardner mentioned it second when asked about what to emphasize in the next NASCAR game.
The Return of Monster Games
We’ve held off on discussing this in-depth until now, but Monster Games returning is a welcome choice by many in the fanbase. When Motorsport Games came in, which essentially phased out Monster Games, fans gained an appreciation for what the NASCAR Heat Series did well. Sure, the driving and physics model was mid with a clunky online mode, but the single player modes featured a lot of depth not seen in a NASCAR game in around a decade.
Since then, Monster Games has developed the SRX video game and a World of Outlaws video game. Both of these were received well by fans, and they developed the World of Outlaws game while working with iRacing.
However, this is Monster Games’ first time developing a NASCAR game on Unreal Engine. Previous games were on the Unity Engine, so, there may be a learning curve for Monster Games in the process.
The hope is that Monster Games’ strengths and weaknesses complement iRacing’s strengths and weaknesses to create a game that features the best of both worlds. A fun game that new fans can pick up and play that also requires enough skill to master it. That second part keeps more experienced players interested.