Alternative Modding Databases

As elaborated in the last post, CTDP had a few reasonable doubts when SimRaceWay opened and we took the cautious way. This post is not about SRW, but about ideas it inspired. Today I will focus on some technical starting points, tomorrow we take a look at some philosophies involved in such a Modding platform and the day after tomorrow I will present a starting concept I worked on last year, but didn’t continue.

rFactorCentral rightfully was a great site for browsing through the vast amounts of Mods this community has to offer. It was great to search for the series you like, to browse, to stay informed, to find surprises. As rFc is a living zombie today and SRW not being able to fill the void left behind. Me and many others wondered, what could possibly fill this position. The rFactor Community is in a stale situation right now, as everybody is waiting for news about the successor rFactor2, so the loss isn’t big right now. Rob provides great news with his blog. Still the need and the benefits from an extensive Mod Database are still there and so I’d like to present some ideas I collected talking with people from various Modding teams, from the community and some outsiders.

Personally, we decided not pursue these ideas, as we are focused on Modding and the community needs more people than us to step up and realize good ideas. So even though we know we don’t want to be the one implementing them, I thing it’s worth spreading those ideas.

Obviously many of my considerations in this and the upcoming articles are centered very much on the perspective of Modders. Excuse this subjectivity, but as this is a blog about Modding this is all too natural.

The only alternative developed so far is rFactorPlanet. Frank is nice guy and did a good job recreating the basics you would expect from such a site. He doesn’t necessarily envisions the same things I’d expect from such software. This is fine, pluralism is great and there is room for others.

Technical Solutions

I spoke with several people about the technical site and the expectations in such a system. The latter are a different topic, but about the technical realization, we found several solutions, which could deliver good results in a reasonable amount of time. The first step would be deciding on the software and see what possibilities there are to implement a Modding Database.

In my discussions I found there are three approaches, which could be used. Each has different requirements, for example in required technical skills ranging from either program something on your own, or to see if you can use something of the shelf.

  1. The individual approach: Develop yourself a system of your choice. Using frameworks like Ruby-on-Rails or Symfony can make this an easy and quick process given the experience.
  2. The out-of-the-box approach: Use an existing repository system, that is developed outside and just needs to be maintained and updated once in a while. Such a system is for example Mozilla AMO most famously used in the Firefox Addon Repository
  3. The customization approach; Basically, you have a much bigger system, which you can configure as an Modding Database, but you have a lot more choices and freedom doing so, thereby also increasing the amount of work you have to put into it. Apache ACE, in rough is an enterprise software for building modular solutions.

Each approach has it’s  own merits and advantages. This only takes a look at the technical realization, not about the way it is run. The philosophy of such a project – the range, the spirit and the ethics are a whole different story.

I will leave with just this rough overview for the technical directions you can take, I will elaborate on one solution in more depth later. Tomorrow we continue looking at the philosophies you can pursue on such a platform. This covers a look at the interest groups, interaction with the community and some commercial considerations.

File “SimRaceWay” still not closed

So far CTDP never used this Development Blog to discuss the politics of the SimRacing community. One of the big examples in the past year was SimRaceWay. We would have liked to close the file by now, but unfortunately SRW keeps hitting us on the nose.

CTDP on SRW in November 2009
CTDP on SRW in Nov 2009

Let’s rewind to summer last year. SimRaceWay was announced as commercial replacement for the aging rFactorCentral. Being barely moderated and discontinued, it could have been a nice restart, however the commercial aspects of the site raised questions. Were Mods driven in commercial Races? What is the business model of SRW? And most simple question, do they make money on Modders free work? Direct contact failed and the responses in their forums were often only vague formulaic answers. CTDP among other Modders were cautious and decided to withdraw their Mods from the upcoming site. We wanted to wait till the thing is launched and the site is running before participating. After all SRW had many good ideas and quite some potential if done right.

After our withdrawal, more Modding groups joined and it escalated in a boycott of the new website. I can’t say how many Modders actually went through with it. SRW didn’t make it easy.

CTDP on SRW in January 2010
CTDP on SRW in Jan 2010

The new site was supposed to launch in early September, but apparently technical problems postponed it and the powers that be decided to only invite a fraction of the user base. Even if not intentionally, it was a great move, because no Modder could log in to see if his wish of removal of his Mods could be checked. Once CTDP had access it was clear, that our mods have not been taken down as requested (and are even available in the HTML-source to this day).

This is were the annoying part begins. Modders wanted to get a clear picture of what is to be expected of the new SRW. Their free work will be integrated on the website in a commercial context and driven in events, so I think this is a valid question. Instead of embracing the question in a respectable manner, SRW locked down and to this day prefers to act behind the Modders back. By having our Mods on their website, and by readding them every couple of weeks, after we request to take them down, SRW brought themself in a position where CTDP is fed up. As I said we were cautious when the site launched and we wanted to give it a chance to proof itself and its potential. We were not malevolent, and we did not have outrageous demands except for knowing how our work is being used. By ignoring our request to remove the mod from the platform, SRW keeps opening this issue over and over again. I could imagine we would have found an agreement by now, however by repeatedly hitting us over the head this way, SRW is obstructing any chance by their own hand.

CTDP on SRW in February 2010
CTDP on SRW in Feb 2010

Browsing SRW is not a bad experience. Despite some technical issues and the slow speed, they incorporated many good ideas. The site is not bad and I’m sure there is common ground. We always said we would revise our decision once the picture is clear, but the way SRW keeps disrespecting the decision we have taken so far, they don’t make it easy to reconsider. This is not a way to make us change our mind and certainly don’t make us friends. On the contrary it is disrespecting our work, downright annoying and legal steps are already being considered.

Is a little respect towards each other to much to ask?

Update 27 Feb 2010 – 12:36 GMT: SRW has reacted by taking down the linked Mods. The open question is for how long…

Wrong sponsor in the wrong time

During our work on the 1994 mod, there are always new things you can learn. Apart from new experiences on the technical side like modelling joint lines, you also learn a lot about the season itself and the teams and drivers involved. Today, Dahie was told a story about the Pacific Grand Prix team, that seems to be quite a weird coincidence. It took place during the San Marino Grand Prix but as the deaths of Ratzenberger and later Senna dominated the headlines, hardly anyone has ever heard of it.

As 1994 was a time when the Formula 1 was not as professional as it is nowadays, the small teams such as Minardi, Simtek and Pacific were desperately looking for sponsorship money which resulted in different liveries from race to race, which you can see in this post concerning the Simtek team.

For the race in Imola, Pacific Grand Prix has persuaded a cigarette company called “Black Death” to sponsor the team. Their logo featured a skull and apparently a crossbone, which cannot be seen here though.

As the stickers for the cars didn’t arrive in time, the Pacific team ran the cars without the new sponsor on Saturday, when Roland Ratzenberger died. However, they seem to have arrived later that day and were ready to be put on the racing cars but for obvious reasons, the Pacific team declined that offer by now. “It’s actually a very difficult situation.” explained Pacific’s Graeme Glew. “The backing could be a saviour, but obviously it would have been inappropriate here.”
The “Black Death” company never appeared in Formula 1 after this incident. Quite an ironic story, isn’t it?

Thanks to Felix Schönhofen who brought this story to our interest.
Sources: The AUTOSPORT Bulletin Board and Rally Racing Nr 6 June 1994

ePetition zur kostenfreien Erstabmahnung

Even though we keep this blog English, this posting is targeted especially for our German audience. To sum it up short: In Germany an political online-petition started, which proposes a new regulation for cease and desist orders. Over the past two years a business around written warnings demanding high fees from the victim for license and copyright violationshas developed . The request is to establish a new procedure in which lawyers have to contact the infringing party and ask to settle the issue in a given timeframe, without accumulating enormous layers fees. As this is a topic, which is very close to the Sim-Modding community, we want to bring it to attention.


Es gibt eine neue ePetition auf den Seiten des Bundestages die sich für Kostenfreiheit bei fristgerechter Beseitigung des Abmahngrundes einsetzt. Kurz gesagt geht es darum im Falle einer zB urheberrechtlich bedingten Abmahnung im Internet und der Aufforderung der Beseitiung des Vergehens, nicht trotzdem auf maßlos hohe Anwaltsgebühren sitzen zu bleiben.

Die Petition ist eine Antwort darauf, dass in den letzten Jahren sich regelrecht eine Industrie zum Abmahnen von Marken- und Urheberrechtsverstößen entwickelt hat, die besonders in der Bloggerszene zuschlägt und Autoren sofort mit enormen Abmahngebühren mundtot macht.
Bei den Bloggern vergeht kein Monat, wo nicht eine weitere große Abmahnung als Welle durch die Szene geht. Meist geht es um fast schon triviale Verstöße. Jack Wolfskin mahnt ab, weil jemand Tiertatzen als Motive anbietet, die Stadt Augsburg mahnt einen Blogger ab, der nachfragte ob er unter einer Domain schreiben darf, die sich vom Stadtnamen abgeleitet hat. Beides Fälle der letzten 4 Wochen. Oft ist der Verstoß trivial und kann schnell beseitigt werden, jedoch wird derjenige dennoch mit oft Gebühren im Wert von mehreren tausend Euro als Anwaltskosten belangt. In Beiden oben genannten Fällen wurden die Abmahnungen aufgrund des öffentlichen Drucks und der resultierenden schlechten PR wieder zurück gezogen. Das sind jedoch oftmals Ausnahmen und Kulanz der Unternehmen, die einen größeren Image-Schaden vermeiden wollen. Der Streisand-Effekt greift hier zwar sehr gut, jedoch ist er keine Garantie und ändert es nichts am Grundproblem, dass die Abmahngefahr aus zu ufern droht.


Diese Petition ist auch für die deutsche Modder Szene äußerst interessant. Modding ist eine Grauzone. Die Gesetzeslage ist nicht eindeutigt, diejenigen die wir bisher gefragt haben, haben uns das bestätigt, dass es keine Sicherheit gibt, nicht doch irgendwann auf eine Mine zu treten. Modding basiert weitgehend auf lizensierten Inhalten. Seien es Logos, Markennamen, oder Designs. Modder arbeiten in ihrer Freizeit mit Lizenzen, für die Unternehmen mitunter Millionen ausgeben, um diese Verwerten zu dürfen. An eine kommerzielle Ausnutzung dieser Lizenz ist gar nicht zu denken. Daher hängt beim Modden immer ein Damoklesschwert über dem Modder, da er sich nicht sicher sein kann, doch irgendwann ein Schreiben zu bekommen.

Auch bei uns im CTDP ist dies ein Thema. Letztlich ist dies für uns alles ein Hobby und weder wollen wir jemandem auf die Füße treten, noch verfolgen wir kommerzielle Interessen mit unseren F1-Mods, trotzdem steht immer die Möglichkeit im Raum, das jemand unsere kostenlosen Mods als geschäftsschädigend vom Netz haben möchte.

Ich möchte noch ein kurzes Beispiel bringen, dass auch aus der Simracing-Szene kommt. Vor wenigen Wochen wurde Batracer nach einer Abmahnung von Ferrari offline genommen. Hintergrund war, dass Batracer Ferrari-Logos in seinem System platziert hat.


Wir möchten auch durch dieses Posting die Aufmerksamkeit kurz auf dieses Thema lenken und euch bitten diese Petition zu unterstützen. Die Anliegen, die die hier verfolgt werde sind nicht nur für jeden, der im Internet mit einem Blog aktiv ist, sondern auch besonders für Modder interessant. Wir betreiben Modding als Hobby und es wäre wünschenswert nicht die Angst einer Abmahnung im Hinterkopf zu haben. Die Forderung dieser Petition würde zumindest dafür sorgen, dass im Falle einer Abmahnung keine finanziellen Abgründe auf Modder zukommen würden.

Daher bitten wir euch, diese Petition zu zeichnen und das Thema weiter in die Community zu tragen.

Relevante Links:


On this Saturday a year ago, we released F1-2006 for rFactor.

Personally, I was sitting in my university to upload the mod to our mirrors and members for the release in the evening. I had a cold and was sitting in the unheated arboretum on the campus, wearing two pullovers and two jackets. The road outside was blocked for several kilometers because of a yearly Nazi-idiot-demonstration, which is held in this district of Berlin. I didn’t see how large it was, but I bet there were more police swarming the streets than demonstration members. The university was open and few individuals thought it was fun just to roam through the empty halls without doing anything. Gladly I found a spot, where I wasn’t bothered – with a cold, fever and a killing headache I did not ask for any confrontation.  So I was sitting on my spot, preparing the release as much as I could, while outside hell was going on, you could hear the surrounding helicopters. Several hours passed, I watched at least two episodes of House MD, waiting for the upload to finish. 500Mbit are not enough! When I left, everybody was gone outside and everything looked like nothing happened.

I went back home, drowned myself in tea and the FSR Promotion Race began. I was phoning with all members in the team. Originally I was scheduled to do the interviews together with Andy, but my voice was loosing me and my headache only got worse. During the race I was just trying to hold out and wait to flip the release switch. I was just glad when we gave the green light and the mod was release. Everyone in the team was celebrating in our team chat, except me, who wanted to bang his head against the wall – you know bigger pain numbs the milder pain. Some pills later I fell asleep.

The next day I stayed in bed, recovering from the exhausting day before and from my cold. I’d call this commitment, don’t you think? 🙂

Car designations in 1994

Car designations, chassis-types are a nice way to identify the specific car of a season and it’s a nice way to have synonyms when writing about it. However, they are a pitfall, if you aren’t too deep into the background of the series you are writing about. Since I don’t have all types in my head, I try to avoid them. Even though, I don’t endorse it (hey do what you want 😉 ), articles from the devblog are quoted and sometimes wrong information are added. Please do your research or ask us before you guess what designation the car in question has.

Why do I bring it up, there were some confusions between the Lotus 107C and 109 and the Minardi M193B and M194. Both were driven in 1994, usually after the big reglement changes after spain, many teams brought B-Versions to the next races. Lotus, Sauber and Minardi did so. Ferrari also brought a major overhaul of their car in Canada. Often this was accompanied by livery changes.

Quick rule of thumb: Right now we only work on the cars with the Specifcations of the first 5 races. If we post pictures, it’s always the early spec of the car. So if you look for the official designation. Consider this please.

DDS-Utils on GitHub released

This story is a little bit off topic. It’s not 100% related to CTDP, however a small project of mine, that came from my work at CTDP.
I painted cars for several years and there were always a few things that bugged me. Since the release of rFactor I had to deal with DDS-files. DirectDrawSurfaces is a texture format for DirectX and it is not wide spread outside of DirectX and among graphics applications. There are plugins for Photoshop, gimp and Paint Shop Pro, but as soon as you don’t use any of those you where screwed. When I moved to Mac, I was missing my most simple tools to open DDS-files, which got me pondering and looking for ways how to write my own utilities. Continue reading DDS-Utils on GitHub released