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Exclusive interview: Managing Director at Studio 397 Marcel Offermans - Part 1

rFactor 2 has been the simulator of choice for many of the big sim racing events in the last couple of months, such as The Race All-Star Esport Battle and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. In this article series of three parts exclusively here on GSRH, we are having a chat with Marcel Offermans who’s the managing director of Studio 397 that develops rFactor 2. Firstly we are gonna talk about where it all started and both the positive and negative surprises since then. So lean back and enjoy our conversation. 

Hi Marcel, thanks for taking time for this interview. Let’s begin at the start. In 2016, Studio 397 took over development of rFactor 2 from Image Space Incorporated. What’s the studio’s past before rFactor 2 and why did you decide to take over from ISI?

This is a story that started in spring of 2016. At the time I was working for Luminis and in my spare time helping out ISI with various tasks. We were in fact just wrapping up the migration of rFactor 2 to Steam, which I had done at the time when one evening I was casually talking to Gjon Camaj. In that conversation, he asked if I would be interested in maintaining rFactor 2 and I thought it would be a great opportunity to run with it and see how we could evolve it.

The conversations that followed led to the creation of Studio 397 as a new entity that was part of Luminis. The initial members partially were contractors that had been working for ISI on rFactor 2 before and partially people who already worked at Luminis. We quickly started recruiting others from the sim racing community and now, four years later, we have grown to over 30 people.

So why did we decide to do this? Because we believed that the foundation of rFactor 2 is a solid base with a lot of potential. Sure it needed a lot of work. The community at the time was critical that we did not have VR support, that our graphics engine was still based on DirectX 9, that we hardly had any licensed content in the simulation and that our user interface was showing its age. So we started working on those issues, one by one.

Is there something that has surprised you in a positive and/or negative way since you took over in 2016?

I really can’t think of any negatives. Well, maybe one, but it was not new and it’s not just related to rFactor 2 either. It’s the constant bashing by a few people in our sim racing community. I mean it’s great that you like one sim better than another and quite frankly, there is a lot to like in each of them, but there is no need to be so negative about the sims you don’t like as much. Sim racing is still very much a niche in the esports arena, and we should grow it together. A strong ecosystem and different simulations are catalysts to that growth, so let’s all embrace it.

On the positive side, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest there is in our technology. Within our first year, we were already talking with Amazon Games about licensing our physics engine and helping to integrate it into the Lumberyard game engine for The Grand Tour Game. Since that, there have been many more of these and they show the versatility of our technology.

That concludes the first part of the interview with Marcel. In part two, are we going into some of the flaws rFactor 2 has and how they are solving those with the new UI.

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