It’s been over two months since Gran Turismo 7’s emphatic launch when Sony’s flagship racing game reignited long-last passions for JDM vehicles and showed the sim racing world how dynamic weather should be implemented.
It also managed to frustrate some players with its in-game economy changes, who were rightly ropeable and pilloried the game on user rating scoring services and comment sections.
Now firmly away from its nadir – thanks to a grovelling apology, further available races and bigger payouts and free currency – what I think is Gran Turismo 7’s biggest, most frustrating, flaw is sadly still present.
The online lobbies are borked.
GT Sport did it better
For the uninitiated, the Sport Mode within Gran Turismo 7 provides a three-race playlist each week, delivering ranked racing on dedicated servers. It’s superlative, and the best racing you will find on a console. Period.
The private lobbies are a siloed feature, allowing you to host races with the wider gaming public, or create private sessions with known friends and leagues.
In 2017’s GT Sport, precursor to Gran Turismo 7 and sharing the baseline game technology to the point of online progress transfers, the lobbies were sublime. Perhaps lacking some classic features from previous Gran Turismo titles, such as 5’s shuffle races or 6’s loan car list, but dependable, adaptable and capable of delivering peerless online races.
The prior game’s competence, and varied lobby options, make the current iteration’s lobby regression even more frustrating.
The current state of play
At present, one person can set up and host a room, before friends join and partake in a race. But there are three big problems at present.
- The network-connected stability of some rival cars is more jittery than a feline on catnip
- You cannot change any of the room settings, including car class and track, without closing a lobby and starting again
- Hosts do not migrate. Once they leave or have a technical issue, everyone leaves. Goodbye
The fidgety appearance of some rivals is frustrating because it’s hard to tell where your competitor has placed their car – making overtaking without contact an exercise in patience. At least this does not affect every driver and is consistent with its failure. The same competitor with the same internet connection will continue to screech their way around Trial Mountain every race, while others are perfectly smooth.
But not being able to change the lobby settings is a gut punch to those wanting to race with like-minded competitors.
This is a basic expectation for a focused racing title in 2022, allowing one race to develop into a varied evening. The fact that all the options appear to be in place within Gran Turismo 7’s structure and GT Sport’s ability to handle such a function with aplomb really rubs our faces in the asphalt.
Not being able to vote for the next track within a lobby, or tweaking the required tyre compounds or fuel usage on the fly, adds a layer of organisational complexity that Gran Turismo players should not be accustomed to.
Clear as mud
Worse, during the pre-launch period, it was highlighted to reviewers like me that “with review code” lobby settings will remain until the room is closed and then reset, plus host migration was not yet a feature.
The use of the term ‘review code’ within Sony’s literature, in my opinion, suggested that final, retail, code would not suffer from such afflictions. Yet here we are in May without a fix.
In Producer Kazunori Yamauchi’s post covering upcoming changes and improvements, the only online feature of note was the addition of Time Trials, presumably within Sport Mode. Lobby updates were a glaring omission.
Such a blinkered view is typical of a pre-social media Polyphony Digital, furrowing its own esoteric path for the cognoscenti. It’s head-in-the-sand approach to communication when its servers were offline – rendering the main single-player component unplayable for 33 hours – was in many ways unacceptable.
But its swift response to the cries of credit unfairness was laudable and even included apologetic social media posts and a PlayStation Blog article that isn’t the case for regular updates. I thought the team had turned a corner when it came to addressing the existing flaws. But the current lobby situation perhaps proves that assertion was inaccurate.
Or, perhaps, the stampede of negativity about the microtransactions drowned out what is the real sticking point. They were simply an easy target.
Personally, I race on Gran Turismo 7 once per week with my friends from TheSixthAxis.com, and my Traxion.GG colleague Justin Melillo also gets together on a Friday with a crew.
We are both of the opinion that when you have a race set up with changeable conditions and similarly skilled friends, there’s no other online racing experience like this available.
Sadly, we also share the same opinion that the current lobby condition is egregious.
That’s just our friendship groups. There are countless Gran Turismo communities that will no doubt feel the same way. If an event is structured in a way where it’s only one set race per week, such as the exuberant 27Racers, then there are ways around the current predicament.
But I think the current rigid process for online racing is at a determent to the long-term sustainability of Gran Turismo 7. Once you’ve worked your way through the missions, licence tests and café menu book, the sim racing communities are the lifeblood of a racing game.
Right now, they are hamstrung by a bewildering lobby system, and that will eventually turn off players altogether.