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|Release||v1.0.0 April 10, 2006
v1.0.1 April 24, 2006
v1.0.2 October 31, 2006
v1.0.3 December 28, 2008
v1.1 April 6, 2010
v1.2 November 12, 2010
Beta 1.3 February 12, 2011
Beta 1.3B February 18, 2011
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
netKar Pro (also stylized as nKPro) is an online racing simulator that is developed with an emphasis on realism. It provides advanced features such as a complex tire model (visible dirt, tire wear and flat spots, that influence the car's handling) and a fully interactive cockpit such as those seen in flight simulators.
Debut and Versions 1.0.x
netKar Pro debuted at a fair held in Lanciano (Italy), February 24–26, 2006. Version 1.0 was released for download on April 10, 2006. Developers worked with companies involved in real car racing such as Sparco (design of steering wheels, helmets and driving suits), AIM Sportline (official and fully functional AIM data acquisition systems are reproduced in netKar Pro), Cooper/AVON Tyres,Brembo (braking systems), Beta Tools; they worked also with a Formula Three team Target Racing, with the race engineer Andrea Quintarelli and the driver Riccardo Azzoli (Formula Gloria, Formula Renault and Formula Three).
The success of its free predecessor netKar Namie, and the anticipation created by previews of netKar Pro in the press, led to high expectations from the simracing community. However, this initial release and the subsequent patch were negatively affected by many bugs hampering gameplay, and therefore was received reluctantly by the sim racing community. In the summer of 2006 it was announced that netKar Pro and BallRacing Developments Ltd - developers of hardware and software for the professional racedriver and simracing community - have joined forces "to co-develop the next generation of motorsport simulation".
BRD are using netKar Pro to help with the running of their Formula BMW team, as their version of netKar Pro has a Formula BMW car programmed in it, though it is unlikely the public will ever see this car. Also they are running a version of the Osella PA-21 car and Hill Climb addon, which at some stage will be made available to the public.
In October 2006, the netKar Pro development team released version 1.0.2, a patch that improved the multiplayer experience and fixed several other bugs present in the previous two versions. However, version 1.0.2 still had its issues. Still a very controversial game, the online racing community for netKar Pro is rather thin compared to other sim racing games, and contact with the developers has been sparse.
Jaap Wagenvoort - a member of the online netKar Pro community - has been issuing Community Updates on many forums, trying to help improve communication problems between customers and Stefano Casillo, the game's main developer. Version 1.0.3 of the simulation was announced immediately after the release of 1.0.2, but its release was delayed multiple times due to other projects and technical problems during the development. The other projects also helped improving netKar PRO as it allowed the netKar Pro development team to validate the simulation data with Formula One engineers.
During the development of version 1.0.3 a lot of infrastructure related problems were identified and required solving in order for version 1.0.3 to finally be what the simulation originally set out to be. On December 28, 2008, version 1.0.3 of netKar PRO was released, over two years after the previous release. This was a free upgrade for existing customers.
Version 1.0.3 improved the multiplayer experience and increased the stability and performance. Also, new features were added like an anti-join lag feature. Much to the pleasure of the community, flatspotting was also reintroduced to the simulation. Version 1.0.3 was positively received by the simracing community.
Version 1.1 and the Public Beta
During Summer 2009, Kunos Simulazioni announced that the next version of netKar Pro, dubbed 1.1, was to be released through a three-stage Public Beta in an effort to iron out all the bugs before reaching gold status, through the help of the community. A new bug reporting feature was added specifically for this purpose. This was meant to address concerns in the simracing community that v1.1 might have seen the same fate of v1.0 which remained unplayable for a long time for many simracers.
Stefano Casillo also made it clear that a new course was about to start, with a more professional approach to developing software, abandoning the previous one-man-band nature of the project and forming a true, dedicated company (Kunos Simulazioni).
The main aim for 1.1 was to attract new users, and bring back longtime players that had lost interest in the project due to it being stagnant. This was to be accomplished by making netKar Pro more accessible without losing its commitment to realism and faithfulness, offering new content, and improving usability. A time-limited discounted offer was also made available.
Beta 1/3 was released in August 2009, and featured:
- A new, streamlined user interface, which included a wizard to make controller set up more straightforward. The redesigned UI abandoned standard Windows UI widgets for the most part, and is focused on ease of use and a sleek look.
- Support for additional controllers (such as keyboards, mices and gamepads), abandoning the previous hardcore approach of supporting only USB steering wheels.
- A number of small usability features were introduced, such as automatically switching on the electric and electronic systems of the car upon entry, a step which in the past relied on the driver's intervention, and was known to be baffling for many newcomers, driving them away as a result.
- Many details which made netKar Pro more faithful and realistic were removed, ultimately deemed as too hard on non-hardcore simracers.
- Reworked Force Feedback, improving realism and immersion.
During the Beta 1 period, new netKar Pro licenses were sold at 19.90 € instead of the full price of 36 €.
Beta 2/3 came in early September, bringing a new car, the Abarth 500 Assetto Corse, and a new fictional track called Aosta, while at the same time fixing many bugs that affected both the handling of some of the cars and the new UI.
The 500 Assetto Corse received much praise from both users and professional reviewers, while Aosta, despite bringing much needed variety to the set of existing tracks, attracted both praise and some criticism because of its high hardware requirements, and an annoying bug that made parts of the grass appear black on a significant number of systems. As of December 2009 Kunos Simulazioni has not released a fix to this problem.
During Beta 2 licenses were initially intended to be sold for 24.90 €, though at a later date Kunos Simulazioni cut the price back to 19.90 €, the same as Beta 1.
Beta 3/3 was released on 16 January 2010. Although it was expected to only contain bugfixes and a revised replay interface, it contained other minor additions, such as: audio levels control, enhanced chat, tweaked differentials and coast torque, plus many usability improvements.
On April 4 a Release Candidate (1.1RC) was leaked to a German site, with the official release of 1.1 Final following on April 6. Reportedly there is no difference between 1.1RC and 1.1 Final. Even though an official change log hasn't been released, 1.1 Final offers improved force feedback, tyre model (which, according to some remarks Casillo made, is likely to be a revised version of the old 1.0.3 model) and also includes the new auto updater system and KOF Lite, the track editor.
Beta 3/Final Delays and Controversies
Version 1.1 reignited interest in netKar Pro, but the hopes for a new course for netKar Pro started to dwindle in Autumn 2009 when Beta 3 failed to materialize. The community later independently discovered that Kunos Simulazioni had been busy preparing a free, modified version of the simulator containing only the 500 Assetto Corse, which was to be used in an online competition sponsored by MTV Italia.
Kunos Simulazioni failed to communicate what they were doing or why Beta 3/3 had been put on hold, so the MTV/500 release came as a negative surprise to the community. Harsh criticism ensued: Kunos Simulazioni was accused of abandoning a half-finished netKar Pro v1.1 (repeating the mistakes made with v1.0), while making available the 500 Assetto Corse at no charge. The 500 AC, up to that point, had been a major selling point for v1.1 and could be used only by paying, licensed customers.
Marco Massarutto, Product Manager of netKar Pro, who acts as a spokesman for Kunos Simulazioni along with Casillo, replied claiming that the 500 in the MTV package was actually a dumbed-down version of netKar, only intended to be used within the boundaries of the promotional event.
The netKar Pro community had to wait until January 16, 2010. Shortly afterwards Casillo announced on the public forum that "Full Mode", a gameplay mode which aims for maximum realism and is currently used by GPChampionship, the main organized racing event in the netKar Pro community, was going to be "deprecated", i.e. disappear from the GUI of netKar (thus forcing users to activate it through manually edits to the text configuration files) and eventually become unsupported. This caused concern in the community that netKar Pro will be abandoning its commitment to realism in the future and become less of a simulator and more of a videogame.
netKar Pro 1.1 Final was supposed to be ready within February, along with the long-awaited Track Editor. Citing other work commitments, Casillo stopped posting from the official forum in March 2010. 1.1 Final eventually materialized on April 6, 2010 although without any official statements from Kunos Simulazioni.
The latest revision of netKar Pro is an incremental upgrade initially released to the public on November 12, 2010. Two patches, 1.2B and 1.2C followed shortly. At the time of this writing (December 2010), has brought:
- A new car, the Formula KS2 based on the real-life Formula GP2.
- Revised tyre model.
- Revised differential modeling.
- Improved collision handling and sturdier cars.
- Many usability improvements, minor bug fixes, and some optimizations.
On December 10, 2010 it was revealed that some of the announced planned developments would be released as netKar Pro v.1.3 on Christmas 2010. This update would contain:
- A hill climb track (Trento-Bondone) and a new specific car, the Osella PA-21, which have been the object of much speculation since early 2007, was finally released to the public. Preview versions of this content have been around for a long time in the form of the Marangoni Simulator (which has been recently pulled off the tyre manufacturer's site). This update was slated for release after 1.0.3 and subsequently delayed when 1.1 was announced.
- A new car, the Shelby Daytona that was initially spotted on Marco Massarutto's YouTube channel and subsequently announced in the same way.
- Support for rain, with puddles forming on the road
However, it was only on February 12, 2011 that a new Beta 1.3 release saw the light of the day. To this date (February 28, 2011), the final v1.3 still hasn't been released.
Casillo has been pretty cold about further developments. He confirmed Kunos Simulazioni is committed to keep developing the 1.x branch to avoid disappointing existing customers, while at the same time pointing out the shortcomings of the technology in the current netKar Pro, which would make it very hard to add new features. There have been earlier and repeated indications that Kunos Simulazioni has another, more modern and flexible engine in the workings, possibly already deployed in side projects such as a simulator developed for use in Italian driving licenses schools. However it would seem this technology will not land in a netKar branded product any time soon.
Other points worth noting are:
- There are no plans to update the graphics engine in netKar.
- 3D trees, real time lighting are not technically feasible with the current technology.
- An auto-banning feature may be implemented at a later stage; it is not clear which conditions would trigger it as Casillo stated things like detecting corner cutting are too complicated problems to solve.
netKar Pro current line-up is composed of 8 cars:
- The F1600 is an entry-level single seater modeled after the popular Formula Ford. In spite of the small powerplant, its lightweight construction allows for high performance. In v1.1 slicks were removed as a setup option for this car, and only grooved tyres can be fitted: according to Stefano Casillo, the car has too little power to be fun when driven on slicks. As of April 2010, this is the only car available to demo (unlicensed) users. Casillo had once expressed the will to replace the F1600 with another entry-level single seater with downforce, which would have been easier to drive. However, a recently published interview shows Casillo has apparently changed his mind on the subject.
- The F1800 is a revised F1600, sporting a more powerful engine, limited-slip differential and slicks.
- The F2000 resembles a Formula Renault 2000 car. With its 190 PS engine and downforce, the F2000 has greater performance than either the F1600 or the F1800, at the same time being easier to drive.
- The FTarget is a reproduction of a Formula Three car, the result of a collaboration between the Target Racing Team and Kunos Simulazioni.
- The Formula KS2 is the most powerful car in netKar Pro, and has been modeled after the pre 2011 GP2 Series car.
- Abarth 500 Assetto Corse is a limited edition racing tune up of the Fiat 500.
- Osella PA-21S is hillclimb car powered by a two-liter, 247 bhp Honda engine.
- Vintage GT is a classic muscle car modeled after the legendary Shelby Daytona.
- Brawn GP BGP001 Formula One Car. In October 2009, a video surfaced on YouTube showing a custom version of netKar Pro with a Brawn GP F1 car. Another F1 car had been previously released publicly as a promotional event for the Singtel GP in 2008.
- Formula BMW. This car is only available to BRD.
The game comes bundled with 5 tracks, and a further 21 are available to download. Some are real, with the rest being fictional.
- Assetto Corsa - successor to NetKar Pro, created by Kunos Simulazioni
- iRacing - online road and oval racing simulator.
- rFactor 2 - successor to rFactor, moddable racing simulator by Image Space Incorporated.
- TORCS - open source racing simulator.
- Race 07 - racing simulator by SimBin
- "AIM Sportline website".
- "Cooper Tire & Rubber Company homepage".
- "Target Racing".
- "BallRacing Development Ltd - News Room". brdsim.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.