31st August 2023

Le Mans Ultimate UI Preview and Update from Head of Studio 397

Le Mans Ultimate, which was announced at the Centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, is in the thick of development. The title is also the official game of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the latest simulation product from Studio 397 and will feature some exciting developments and features to enhance the sim racing fraternity’s experience as well as enabling a new generation of racing fans to pick up the game and enjoy.

We have managed to sneak a few work in progress screenshots from the studio. The user interface (UI) is taking shape, and begins to show some of the refined user journey, and we can also reveal that Co-op Mode and Championship Mode will be in the game from launch, enabling you to take on some of the most revered races in a solo effort or with your friends. 

The Le Mans Ultimate game build is under the careful and watchful eye of Dom Duhan, Head of Studio at Studio 397. We are very lucky to get some time with Dom, as he takes us behind the scenes with the development of the game and what we can start to look forward to later this year.

You can also Wishlist Le Mans Ultimate on Steam now: https://bit.ly/LeMansUltimateOnSteam

Q&A with Dom Duhan, Head of Studio 397

Tell us about your role at Studio 397?

I’m now heading up the studio, so that means I make coffees and organise meetings for the clever people to do the work and also act as Sunbros personal assistant.

Everyone who is working on Le Mans Ultimate is a massive motorsport fan. Do you have any Le Mans memories yourself or a favourite moment?

I do, I have been to Le Mans a couple of times. It’s hard to convey how incredible an experience it is  the build-up, the music on the formation lap, the French marines abseiling over the grid, the parties around the circuit – it really is a festival of motorsport.  I also have a huge love of Group C, for me this was the pinnacle of sportscar racing, and I’m incredibly excited to see that we are entering the next golden era with LMH/LMDh Hypercar class.

How is development going? Are you happy with the progress? Have there been any challenges?

We have been making good headway building on the rFactor engine – one of the strongest cores in sim racing, we have many new features as well as a significant amount of content in production. Developing separately away from rFactor 2 provides us with much more freedom – we were often hampered with rFactor 2 supporting a live product and one with 10 years of legacy content and mods.  There is much to do, but much to be excited about.

What exciting and interesting things are you working on?

We have a huge list of new features we want to add. However, there are very cool features we are looking to add from the get-go and bring in more features over time, as we see this title having a longer lifespan compared to that of an annual game you get with some other series. We know that people often struggle to find time with endurance races, so allowing them to go at their own pace and share the experience with friends is key. Our new co-op mode allows players to add friends to their virtual team and race for the win by combining stints together in a fun and engaging way, all over a month-long period. Our new online portal – RaceControl, will focus on multiplayer features allowing users to enter into special events and daily races – prepare to rank up!  Not only that, our plan with RaceControl is to allow users to easily host their own servers.

Our new co-op mode allows players to add friends to their virtual team and race for the win by combining stints together in a fun and engaging way.”

Dom Duhan – Head of Studio 397

That sounds really interesting… go on… can you tell us anymore?

We’re also known for our physics and having been a sim racer for over 25 years I know that physics and feel is the most important part of sim racing, our engine is already one of the most comprehensive and building on that to extend some of the features is key.  We are working with the major OEM’s who have provided us with an exhaustive level of data to replicate the cars, not just that, we have direct feedback from engineers and teams to nail the feeling of the cars – it’s obviously something we did with rF2 as well, but this is a new level of collaboration.  You will be driving the most realistic versions of some of the coolest cars on the planet.  Not just that, we have worked with heritage partners to recreate the physics on some other incredible cars from yesteryear – keep an eye out for that 🙂

Our tyre model, generally seen as the strongest in sim racing will be improved with additional elements.   The tyre model is incredibly complicated, for instance, it takes 24 hours for our machines to compute the tyre output for 1 tyre alone – the level of complexity in the model is profound.  Our hybrid systems which we began to introduce for the BTCC cars has been expanded and will faithfully represent each car – managing your virtual fuel tank and car balance will be a key part of your race.

The environment team is working hard on a number of areas to improve circuits. Players can look forward to seeing the latest version of Spa and scratch builds of Portimão and Fuji soon, once again leveraging laser-scan technology and recreating the circuits with every little detail.  The circuits will make use of the incredible real road 2.0 development we made for rF2 with some new adjustments to make it even more realistic – including rubber and water build-up on the track surface and separate track and ambient temperatures.

We are working with the major OEM’s who have provided us with an exhaustive level of data to replicate the cars, not just that, we have direct feedback from engineers and teams to nail the feeling of the cars – it’s obviously something we did with rF2 as well, but this is a new level of collaboration…”

Dom Duhan – Head of Studio 397

Our car team have their work cut out building new cars, some not seen before in sim racing.  I know they are super happy to be building some of the coolest cars ever made and with the exclusive access we have had with the teams, they have captured every inch of the cars which will be represented in Le Mans Ultimate.

Visually there will be a step change with some new additions to the engine and new rendering models, and there’s so much to cram in! – …Admin is running out of characters Dom! 🙂

Le Mans and Sports Car Racing have some unique characteristics – what are you looking to add to create that extra bit of magic?

Endurance racing is all about the team, so you will need to think carefully on which driver you replace, will you be the carrier? Or have your platinum driver carry you as a bronze driver. You will be performing driver swaps with your AI team mates, the AI sessions will be simulated meaning you can jump into your stints and compete for the full race – of course, you will be able to save where you get to as well.

Endurance racing is also about management, planning your stints, looking after your limited tyres and to get P1 through pace and intelligence.

Single player modes will have quick race for a quick fun experience but also championship mode, racing each round and competing in GTE or straight into the Hypercars – the choice will be yours.  Not just that, performing in a championship can help your online career too.

We also want to bring some of the atmosphere from endurance racing, sounds are an important part of any sim but capturing that environment sound of a French commentator over the tannoy at Le Mans or an Italian at Monza – we want to bring more life to the platform to capture the experience.

One of the big things for Le Mans Ultimate is to improve the accessibility and user experience – can you tell us more about that?

Well firstly, Le Mans Ultimate is a sim racing title essentially, that doesn’t mean however that casual racers are excluded, not at all, we want to encourage new players into the scene and to the game.

Most of our team have grown up on sim racing and I feel many people see user experience as a dirty word for sim racers, we know that’s not true as we want people to spend less time in the UI and more time driving!  Our new UI caters for the sim racing audience but will also aim to support new users who may not have sim racing experience. We aim to have presets for newcomers to get their heads around car set-up and refine it as they improve, while at the same time allowing those at the top end the chance to customise their own set-up.

Le Mans Ultimate – the official game for the FIA WEC and 24 Hours of Le Mans will be released on PC to begin with. There have been a lot of questions about it coming to console?

Our focus is the PC at this stage, we know that PC’s have been traditionally the only platform that can run our physics engine to a great degree, however, the latest generation consoles can also now do it.  We have had many comments about delivering on console and it could be an option at some stage depending on how well the game does.

Finally… are you going to put colours to the mast? Who do you think is going to win WEC this year?

I am very much on the fence – we want to keep our good relationships, there’s no way I’m answering that

Like what you read? There is more to come… make sure you Wishlist on Steam today: https://bit.ly/LeMansUltimateOnSteam

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