October 6, 2023

Henrique Alves on Online Racing in GTRevival

If you’ve been around sim racing long enough, you’re probably no stranger to Henrique Alves, the founder of Sim Racing System, the one-stop online racing platform. Henrique is a new addition to Straight4, tasked with bringing all the concepts that made SRS into a global online racing phenomenon to GTRevival … with a few twists …

Can you talk us through the SRS website: Where it started and what the ambition was?

HA: SRS began in 2015. I was already a league manager in the Portuguese sim racing community at the time, and I quickly realised there wasn’t anything like Sim Racing System on offer. I mean, a few years earlier, there was a big website, Race2Play, that did a similar thing, but when that shut down, there really wasn’t anywhere where sim racers could get on and simply race against people of the same level on one platform. A place where you had your ranking tracked, and your results, and championships, and so on. Except, obviously, for the big American one!

I had experience managing leagues, as I said, so I started thinking about how I could develop a system in 2015. The idea was, how can I create an alternative to—let’s say that well-known American product—with, you know, schedules and leagues and points and championships and everything else. The main goal was to provide a system for everyone, and to ensure it remained free for all players.

Gradually it became the place where you could race against drivers of your skill level in dozens of different titles because I was never tied to a single title. I started up with Stock Car Extreme by Reiza, added Automobilista, and then we just kept expanding to include more and more sims.  

How many users did you have at peak?

HA: Well, there have been some very populated years. The numbers were slowing down a little before the pandemic, then they peaked again during the pandemic. But at that time, I mean, the best results would be about 4,000 unique users per season. By season, I mean a competition that would last 6 weeks. And we had around 26,000 registered users.

We also had global rankings and leaderboards and so on. Basically, the way the system worked was that everything you did inside the platform counted. In other words, every race belonged to a given championship and you had the 6-week season, each week with a different track.

You could run multiple times a day—so you could race from Monday to Sunday—as much as you liked. But to make things fairer, I soon adopted a model where there was this limit that, after 5 races, I would average the results of the best finishes for that week.

There was also a rating or ranking for all players, a single value number that included performance and what people usually call a “safety rating”. What that meant was, when you had multiple entries for a session, there was a distribution across multiple servers, and this was how we split them in a combination of rating and performance on that given championship.

And were the players happy with the rankings?

HA: I think that players are never happy! But joking aside, the thing is, and I’m looking at the table right now, it works when you have enough users to support it. I mean, if you have 100 players or even 50 or 60 per session, the ratings make sense. And when you look at the top of the table and you see the top rating drivers as I’m looking at them right now, all these players are high level, so yes, the concept absolutely worked as desired.

And so we come to how you got involved with Straight4 ...

HA: As I was saying, I’m looking at the ranking table here at Sim Racing System and I see number 5 on the top of the leaderboard is someone named Austin Ogonoski, who, of course, is the game designer at Straight4 for GTRevival.

I was approached by Austin some time ago, and asked if I would be interested in joining Straight4 for this project. You know, for quite some time, I’d been thinking what it would be like to be on the side of the development process, working “inside” the game and being able to develop things directly from “source”, so to speak.

I was immediately interested in this opportunity. And when I was then invited to look at the project and the goals, I was convinced that this would be a great challenge and that I would love to be part of the project.

It’s been a month or so that you’ve come onboard—what are your initial thoughts?

HA: Yes, I think, although it’s a different product in the commercial sense, the ambition with GTRevival is to create a platform for racing that adds something special to a driver’s virtual career. The drivers will experience a good competition, have good races, and, most importantly, also enjoy a competitive system while seeing the evolution of their sim racing career inside the game.

In that sense, I’m pretty convinced GTRevival will be a solid alternative for, you know, the current leader in the sector.

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