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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 tires, 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 sim racing community. However, this initial release and the subsequent patch were affected by many bugs hampering gameplay and therefore were 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 race driver and sim racing 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 issues. The online racing community for netKar Pro is less active than 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 to improve netKar PRO as it allowed the 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, flat-spotting was also reintroduced to the simulation. Version 1.0.3 was positively received by the sim racing community.
Version 1.1 and the Public Beta
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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 sim racing community that v1.1 might have seen the same fate of v1.0 which remained unplayable for a long time for many sim racers.
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 goal 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 setup more straightforward. The redesigned UI abandoned standard Windows UI widgets for the most part and focused on ease of use and a sleek look.
- Support for additional controllers (such as keyboards, mice, 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 casual sim racers.
- 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 variety to the set of existing tracks, attracted both praise and some criticism because of its high hardware requirements, and a 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 level control, enhanced chat, tweaked differentials and coast torque, and 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 changelog hasn't been released, 1.1 Final offers improved force feedback, tire 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.
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 video game.
netKar Pro 1.1 Final was supposed to be ready within February, along with the anticipated Track Editor. Citing other work commitments, Casillo stopped posting from the official forum in March 2010. 1.1 Final eventually appeared 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 tire 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 tire 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. As of February 2011, v1.3 still hasn't been released.
Casillo has been quiet about further developments. He confirmed Kunos Simulazioni is committed to continuing development of 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 and 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.
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". Archived from the original on 2006-02-22.
- "BallRacing Development Ltd - News Room". brdsim.com. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2010.