In June 2018, an innovative new esports initiative began in conjunction with the ABB FIA Formula E Championship series. This is FIA’s electrically-powered version of the F1 season, which features a small number of teams and drivers, with their electrically powered vehicles, battling it out across the globe throughout the season to see who comes out on top.
While this was initially felt to be tokenism from FIA, whose F1 season is not the most eco-friendly sport in the world today, the truth of the matter is that in four full seasons, the Formula E Championship has grown into a spectacle in its own right. It now has a burgeoning fan base as well as coverage across many TV channels across the globe.
However, one of the most intriguing developments in Formula E, certainly from an esports perspective, came with the announcement of the Formula E Live Ghost Racing game. The title was produced with the assistance of the gaming company Virtually Live.
The game was given a somewhat muted launch back in June, perhaps why so many people were not aware of it. But could that change?
What is Formula E Live Ghost Racing?
Before we explain exactly what Formula E Live Ghost Racing is, we need to first explain some of the key technical issues that underpin this particular game and how they have been utilized by the designers to produce Live Ghost Racing.
All current Formula 1 and Formula E cars have on-board computers that measure many different components of the race car’s performance. This can range from their position on the track (which uses GPS technology) to beam back to the pits as well as all the information engineers will need about the vehicle and how it is working. All this information is encompassed in the term “telemetry.”
What Formula E and Virtually Live have done is use certain aspects of this telemetry and incorporate them into software that runs in real time throughout a race. By replicating the teams and drivers on the track graphically, as well as the track itself, the end result is a replica of the actual race being played out on screen.
Added into this is the “ghost driver.” This is the player who has downloaded the software and wants not just to watch the race on screen but actually participate against the real drivers in real time. What then happens is that the player’s vehicle is placed in the race as a “ghost” vehicle. This phrase describes a car that doesn’t interact with its surroundings or other vehicles.
The player can then play the game using the standard controls and, in effect, race against the real drivers competing. In terms of realism, Live Ghost Racing is as close to racing against the professionals as you are likely to get. You can register yourself to give it a try by clicking on this link.
Will Ghost Racing have appeal for esports?
In marketing Ghost Racing as an esport, there are many hurdles to overcome before broad popularity.
The first notion is one of general appeal. While watching two top CS:GO teams battle over a trio of maps is an established attraction, watching an individual you don’t know at all compete against real-life drivers is not going to have broad appeal.
If an esports fan is interested in the race, they are probably more likely to watch it live on TV anyway. With the focus of Live Ghost Racing being on the individual experience against the drivers, it is hard to see how that could be overcome.
Certainly, the F1 Esports Series has shown motor racing can be hugely popular as an esports event, but this is an esports series that has been set up to include the best esports drivers and to be streamed live, much more in keeping with a standard esports tournament format.
Perhaps though, this is FIA’s approach. They have the appeal of the F1 Esports series, which will cater for the mainstream esports fan with an interest in motor sports gaming and F1, or both. Then, the Live Ghost Racing option in Formula E offers fans the chance to actually race against the top drivers. The experience is more personalized.
There is no doubt Live Ghost Racing is an outstanding technical innovation. It also bears massive appeal for the many fans of racing car simulations and games. Yet in terms of esports, it is going to struggle in our view.
That said, there is plenty of potential using this technology, or adaptations of it, which could see future use in esports. That may be the most exciting thing for the esports community. Live Ghost Racing gives us a glimpse at what the future could hold.