A licensing deal with Image Space Inc has been revealed as Rennsport attempt to clear the rFactor 2 code controversy, which blew up after a Studio 397 forum post suggested the sim racing title was using files from the existing game.
The possibility that Rennsport was using unlicensed or stolen code obviously caught the attention of a lot of sim racing fans. And early coverage included Tim Wheatley at RaceSimCentral, who somewhat ironically previously worked as a licensing specialist at Studio 397, and is currently Head of Licensing at Straight4 Studios. Initially, rFactor 2 developer Studio 397, now owned by Motorsport Games, released a statement clarifying that a license had not been issued for rFactor 2 technology.
Meanwhile Rennsport had previously mentioned building systems from scratch to work with the Unreal Engine 5 game engine. That changed with the release of a statement by CEO and co-founder Morris Hebecker, which said all content and libraries were created, comissioned or licensed appropriately.
An accompanying blog post refered to exporting MoTeC Telemetry, FMOD for audio, and Sentry for crash collection as examples of existing technology and compatibility. Rennsport have now followed up with further information, which you can read in full, here. But to summarise, they turned to Image Space Inc and acquired a lciense for their physics processing system (ISI), which they have then ‘tweaked, refined and changed’.
“Our ambition is still to create custom physics. Such an undertaking from scratch is a multi-year endeavour. A full rewrite will enable us to support more advanced racing experiences, such as implementing mixed weather systems, larger races and higher quality physics by increasing the physics thread frequency. We believe we can get there instead with incremental improvements on the strong foundations we have.
We have realised with these “revelations” that there is a significant need for more transparency.”
This still leaves various questions over the timeline of the licensing agreement. Image Space Incorporated released the original rFactor in 2005, with rFactor 2 entering an open beta release in 2012. They renamed as Studio 397 in 2016 after partnering with Dutch software company Luminis, and that developer was acquired by Motorsport Games in 2021.
Meanwhile the isiMotor technology stack has been licensed for use in various titles for almost two decades, which various teams using iterations for titles including RaceRoom, the original Automobilista, Project Cars and more, with various levels of changes and rewriting depending on the title. Given that Rennsport was originally announced in 2022, we don’t know when work and technology licensing began.
Given that later versions of the rFactor 2 physics engine have only appeared elsewhere in NASCAR ’21 : Ignition released post-acquisition by Motorsport Games in 2021, and The Grand Tour Game developed by Amazon Game Studios and released in 2019, hopefully Rennsport can clarify the timeline as part of their new approach to transparency.
Licensing can often become a murky subject behind the scenes, so hopefully it can all be resolved amicably by the developers and parties involved. And once everything has been clarified publicly, we can get back to simply hoping for the widest range of high quality sim racing titles to be available.