Incredible! I can remember hardly any game which is (nearly) 10 years old or older and is still in use in such a professional way as F1C is.
Of course there are a lot of games which are used at retro games LAN parties or whatever. But F1C is still used in leagues, it’s still improved and still there are people which release Mods for it. Of course the community was bigger once and the Mods came out of the pipeline nearly every week, but that there are still people on it is really impressing. To be honest, we could say that F1C was a milestone for the gaming community. Since then the popularity of Modding, especially in Racing raised into somewhere Felix Baumgartner only could dream of. And for the milestone itself it dropped deeper then Felix Baumgartner could dream of too. But why F1C was such a milestone, what lead into the poularity of F1C? Why it’s all gone and where will it lead?
Let’s go back on Day Zero. A game called “F1 Challenge 99-02” was released on June 23rd for PC by the gaming giant EA Sports. Developed by ISI, a leading studio in racing games and a big advertising program in Europe it was long expected. And when it was there, finally, it fulfilled the the expectations in a enourmous way. IGN gave it as rating 90% of 100, German GameStar Magazine gave it 89% of 100. The Graphics were once again a little bit improved compared to prequel F1 2002, the physics were absolutely realistic and the AI behavior broke all records. Back in these days F1C was THE racing game ever.
And the success of it raised. A modding team called “RH”, known from F1 2002 already which brought some of the original game developers together, released their F1 2003 mod on July 30th 2003. It was probably the fastest released mod in a racing game ever. Another group, CTDP, followed with their F1 2003 mod in January 2004. The first modding Team battle ever raised. CTDP vs. RH, Quality vs. Quality. The community nearly raised a war about which one must be prefered. While CTDP had a bit better quality, RH was made for the slower PCs. CTDP gained the nickname “Crash to Desktop Project” while RH succeeded a bit more with their 2003 Mod.
But it all turned in 2004. While RH struggeled to release their F1 2004 Mod and has not released it until April 2005, CTDP released their 2004 masterpiece already in November 2004. The success of CTDP F1 2004 was incredible. With their own ingame Menue in Carbon style and a complete new level of car modelling, texture quality and level of details they made it finally to a highly respected modding team. When finally RH came up with nearly the same quality of cars and a new made ingame Menue no one really cared. And the success of F1C was at it’s peak.
August 31, 2005 the unofficial sequel to F1C came out, rFactor. Developed by ISI too, it brought a complete new game engine (the legendary isiMotor2 engine), a whole new level of graphics and physics aswell as new options in modding and it was absolutely clear that this is the new leading racing game. But because it came too late in 2005, the big modding teams as RH and CTDP continued Modding for F1C. CTDP released again their F1 2005 Mod before RH at November 26, 2005. RH followed on March 05, 2006. This time the modding team had a draw. While CTDP was indeed the mod with the better quality it had no chance to survive against RH in the aspect of running smooth and nice on every PC. And in late 2006 a third concurrent shown up, the underdogs from SRM with their 2005 Mod. A great, but heavily underrated Mod by the way, which (except of the Helmets) had the same quality as RH.
As it was clear that rFactor will take over now the dominating role F1C had in racing games for at least two years the big Teams made their step over to rF too. CTDP and RH tried it, CTDP released their F1 2005 for rF on August 7, 2006 while RH came to an abrupt end. They raised again in 2008 when GGSF1 released his F1 2007 mod on the base of RH 2005. But the original RH quitted long before. CTDP struggeled to make it to CTDP aswell. The F1 2006 mod came one year too late, in 2008. Nowadays they struggeling even for members.
And that was the chance for F1C to raise again. A guy with the legendary name CrashKing released his F1 1996 mod alone. And let his 1995 Mod follow after it. The GP2 2005 mod by Team GM was released, and much more mods followed. The community changed for the first time. Now the dominating Teams, RH and CTDP, are gone and the community itself was now under the pressure of releasing Mods. Some of them raised themselfs to a legendary status like CK did and others failed. But the long awaited F1 Mods never came. Why? There was no particular reason for it. Teams like VirtuaLM and SimBin formated themselfes and made their way in the GT and Le Mans classes, GMT brought a DTM Mod and a WTCC mod followed too. Pre-1999 Mods were released really fast, Racesimulations became the new centre of F1C modding. But nobody except of GGSF1 tried to make an F1 mod. The leechers raised.
A dominating role in the last and still ongoing era of F1C was the leechers era. F1Mania released their CTDP F1 2006 conversion in 2007 without permission and since then the leeching teams were formed as mushrooms coming out of the ground. HLT as one of the biggest, VMT, SMT, VB, F1HU, KB, KC, AMT, SL, LMD. Especially since 3DSimEd allowed it to convert Codemasters F1 Cars in an easy way in 2010 the leechers were on a pretty good way to ruin the game and bury it after seven years. But then one man came and saved it: Armos. He was a leecher aswell, but finally decided to make a legal F1 2009 mod. To be honest, his cars were not the best in quality. But he raised F1C for a yet last time. He contacted GGSF1 to build an F1 2009 mod within the base of GGSF1s 2007 Mod and finally released it in 2010. A 2008, 2010 and 2011 mod followed. JasonXP brought us the 2006 Season and David Marques finally completed the gap of missing cars from 1989 to 1994. Finally we were able to play all F1 Seasons from 1979 to 2011 onwards. The probably bigges amout of Seasons a game will ever have! But the success of Armos’ (and others) F1 mods has not stopped at F1 only, Carlos12295cf released his GP2 2005-2007 Seasons and 2004 F3000 mod while a GP3 mod is underway since then. Things looked promising.
Then the shock: The centre of F1C modding, Racesimulations.com, closed it’s gates on December 5, 2012. Armos gone in July before, leaving an unfinished F1 2012 mod and a NASCAR 2011 mod. The community was dead. For the first time ever the F1C community was not able to communicate at a centre. Several Racesimulations.com replacements raised and finally Race4Sim made it, starting on February 1st 2013 as a new centre for F1C. Even if the leechers continue to do their work and even if R4S was forced to set up new permission rules F1C is alive – again. And will make it to it’s 10th anniversary for sure. Not because it is still the best game out there, definetly not. But because of some man which raised it again and again. Because of people who love it and live it. Because of people which dedicate their whole free time to it, because of moderators which patently showed people what is right or wrong, because of people paying whole sites to let it be alive.
Let’s be honest, the chance of F1C getting it’s 20th anniversary with a community which is that big is pretty small. I’ll doubt in a serious way that F1C will still be inproved in 2023 as it’s done today. I guess I will still play it, but I’m also sure the mods will stop once. Maybe not in the next few years, but in 2020 at least.
We should thank all the people silently which had done so much for F1C and play it. As long as Windows can support it. Because they gave us a lot. They gave us modding as it is nowadays, aiming for perfection. They showed us that still a nearly 10 year old game can be amazing. They gave us the biggest content a racing game will ever have. They formed EA Sports’ F1 Challenge 2013.