Things have come a long way since Italian driving simulator developer Kunos Simulazioni was a one-person team, creating the professional-grade netKar-Pro title in 2006. It then grew and spun off various Ferrari and Abarth-themed games before arriving at the breakthrough smash hit Assetto Corsa, initially through Early Access in 2013.
This popular simulator used a brand new, in-house developed, game engine, and it was a doozy. The engine sounds, vehicle handling – and later, adaptability – proved to be genre-leading. The now eight-year-old veteran is still showing many newer titles a fresh set of Pirellis.
The studio then switched to the Unreal Engine 4 for its 2018 simulation of the then Blancpain GT Series (now GT World Challenge), Assetto Corsa Competizione, much to the surprise of many fans.
“The problem was that at the time the Kunos team was too dependent on [former lead programmer and founder] Stefano Casillo and me. Myself from a management point of view and Stefano from a technological point of view,” explained Marco Massarutto, co-founder of the studio on the Traxion.GG Podcast.
“If you think that [Stefano] wrote the 95 per cent of the Assetto Corsa code. Then eventually other programmers came and they wrote very good contributions to the game with new features. But the core of the engine was written by Stefan himself and for the future, we wanted to expand the responsibilities in the team.
“Also, other companies like Milestone decided to move to Unreal Engine 4. SimBin at the time claimed that they were going [to switch] and KartKraft. So, it was looking like Unreal was a good choice for us.
“In order to test a very new engine to us – it was a jump in in the dark, especially for a very sophisticated racing game – we wanted to create a simulation with far fewer than 200 cars and too many tracks. The Unreal Engine at the time was a big question mark but we decided that it would be a good idea.”
A clear vision
As we know, this proved to be a big success, with Kunos partnering with the SRO Motorsports Group to create an official game of the venerated GT3 motorsport series.
Since its Early Access PC origins, it blossomed into one of the most popular racing simulator platforms available, spawning several downloadable content packs, racing esports championships plus PlayStation and Xbox versions.
However, this game will not be receiving a sequel in the immediate term. No, for its next big project, the diminutive studio is returning to a broader racing game – Assetto Corsa 2.
Remember, the first Assetto Corsa covered road cars, racing cars and historic vehicles, with a track list that was varied enough to include fictional roads like Black Cat County and a historic Monza – free from the shackles of a real-world series.
However, it will not be using the latest Unreal Engine 5, with Kunos reverting to type with something custom for the project.
“We are developing new technology for the [Assetto Corsa 2] engine. We will not use Unreal because we need greater flexibility,” highlighted Massarutto.
“Unreal Engine is a terrific technology and I think that games like Ride 4, Moto GP or Assetto Corsa Competizione have proven to be great games. But the way we are used to working… We like to think of ourselves as a technology provider and not just a gaming developer.
“We like to work even more on our technology because this allows us to create the specific tools and features that we need for a racing simulation.
“We are very happy about what we did with Competizione and Epic Games. But now we are developing new technology in order to fit better with our needs.”
Having the baseline code and physics in place are key fundamentals to a successful game, but it also sounds rather time intensive.
Assetto Corsa 2 expected release date
In a Digital Bros 2021 corporate report – the parent company to 505 Games, the publisher who owns Kunos outright – it was stated that Assetto Corsa 2 is scheduled for ‘an expected 2024’ release.
“It’s curious that I don’t remember where the 2024 [date] comes from. I don’t know, it could be, but definitely not later,” he said.
“We are in a phase now, where we need to imagine what the Assetto Corsa 2 could be. It will definitely be a sequel to the first Assetto Corsa, as Competizione can be considered a spin-off.
“We are working on some completely new kind of content and features. It will be a straight simulation – we are not going to change the DNA of our franchise because it will not make any sense – but we are working to make it even more interesting for a wider audience.
“So not making it more ‘arcade-ish’ but we want to include some new features that can be interesting both for sim racers and also for players who maybe never used a racing game before or they come from an arcade game and they want something more in terms of simulation.
“We are very curious to see what the reaction of people will be when we announce it.”
A fan favourite returns
“We have tried in the last two years to understand the way people play with the first Assetto Corsa today and we are taking the same direction. So, we’ll see if we can do something that will interest the community.”
Details are obviously scant at this time. With the team still working on both Competizione and Assetto Corsa 2, and full-time employees still just under 30 in total, I was left with the feeling that the project is still in its nascent stages.
But, Marco’s ebullient nature and obvious enthusiasm for the new project are evident, as is the shroud of mystery. One thing is for certain, however. Assetto Corsa 2 will include the Nürburgring Nordschleife…
“The Nordschleife shall be in Assetto Corsa 2 as a matter of principle,” chuckles the developer’s Executive Manager.
Thank goodness for that!
You can listen to more from Marco Massarutto about the origins of Assetto Corsa, the current state of racing esports and Competizione on console in the latest episode of the Traxion.GG Podcast, available on all podcast platforms right now.