Gran Turismo 7 has been a mixed bag to say the least, from its 5-star review to microtransaction hell and an always-online requirement practically throwing all that good will away.
My love/hate relationship with this game continues, and while I may get tempted back for a while by this week’s 1.17 update giving me the legendary Suzuki V6 Escudo Pikes Peak Special, there’s a fundamental issue that has me on the edge of break-up.
A mixture of problematic matchmaking, a joke of a penalty system and malicious players that have worked out how to manipulate said system to their advantage is sucking the competitive fun out of this game, to the point that I and many other racers are starting to question the point of even playing anymore.
So, let’s break these three issues down. As you probably already know if you’re reading this, Gran Turismo 7’s Sport Mode has three daily races each week.
Matchmaking seems to be broken
Enter a daily race and you’re put into matchmaking that is supposed to match you with players of the same or similar Driver Rating (DR) and Sportsmanship Rating (SR), so you get a matched pool of racing ability to practise and grow.
That is not always the case though, as I’ve heard of many players being mismatched, including an S-rated driver (the highest grade) being put in a lobby with E-rated drivers. In fact, I was baffled and far out of my depth by being put in an S-rated lobby once, when I’m nowhere near that grade.
The problem here is two-fold. For those like me, it’s impossible to get anywhere near these super talented drivers and you’re just driving on your own for a couple of boring laps. For those like my racing pro friend, you’re in a lobby that quickly descends into glorified bumper cars.
The penalty system is unfair and inconsistent
Rules in racing and sport in general have a certain logic to them, but most Gran Turismo players since GT Sport have probably struggled to find any sense of logic to the game’s penalty system.
For those uninitiated, time penalties are given out for a driver’s poor conduct from cutting corners and ignoring flags to crashing into other players. In that period of time, your car is forcefully slowed down to 31 mph for a set amount of time — determined by your offence.
On paper, this is good: a firm but fair way to penalize bad driving. But the problem is it's just so damn inconsistent. Sometimes, you can get punted off the track by someone who clearly used your car as their breaking point, only to see they didn’t get a penalty.
Then, at other times, you may make the slightest contact through a chicane that doesn’t impact anything whatsoever and you’re slapped with three seconds. Rather than keeping races fair, it ruins the competition with unfair punishments and turning a blind eye to downright criminal acts.
Update 1.15 supposedly "adjusted the penalty judgement algorithm so that penalties will not be applied for minor contacts," but from personal experience, it’s just made it worse with a blurred line around what a “minor contact” is.
Now, players face virtually zero ramifications for a huge last lap send and crash someone off the track to gain a position, as happened to a good friend of mine.
What an absolute cock jack herer is! Final turn at Spa, rams me off the track to get one place for himself and wipe out my whole race. pic.twitter.com/mkDfzedIGeJune 22, 2022
Players know how to manipulate the system
Speaking of “minor contact,” let me take you back to one of my favorite daily races at Interlagos in Brazil. Well, it was my favorite until this happened.
Driving flat out down the start/finish straight, I caught the slipstream of a car ahead of me and managed to slingshot myself into the lead. As we approached the legendary chicane known as the Senna S, the car I overtook was on the outside, meaning I’d have the advantage going through these two sweeping turns.
Instead, they steered ever so slightly inwards, tapped my car then proceeded to drive entirely across the Senna S and gain a massive advantage. I waited for this to be reprimanded with a penalty, but instead it was me who received a three-second penalty for apparently forcing the other car off track.
This is one of a few very cynical hacks to manipulate GT7’s penalty system in your favour and it’s an absolute killer of any interest in fair racing. Here's another good example.
It’s not just me. Millions of players have first-hand experience of this farcical penalty system or faced the sheer injustice of a bad player gone unpunished. Turns out the esports wing of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has noticed, too.
In the past, Gran Turismo has been the game of choice for all official online motorsport competitions. But in what is quite a blow to the reputation of this title as “the real driving simulator,” the FIA has chosen to use Assetto Corsa Competizione instead.
For those who still want to see GT7 used for competition, don’t worry. Polyphony still has its World Series tournament, which is supported by a sea of official motorsport brands.
So how does Polyphony fix the problem?
We need one simple feature: the ability to raise any issues directly with an independent steward. There needs to be an opportunity to report unsportsmanlike conduct or appeal a penalty directly.
Squeaky clean races are very rare to come by and my problem is not with blameless incidents because of hard racing. S**t happens. I get that.
But the community needs to have the opportunity to report and remove malicious players that are ruining the game for everyone else. Like any sport, they deserve the chance to appeal bad decisions. Simply put, online games need a two-way dialogue and with Polyphony Digital, you’re talking to a wall right now.
Sounds like an easy fix, but I get how it may be really tricky to implement. It would take quite a big team to be able to wade through the impending ocean of player reports. But I’ve given it some thought over a brownie (that I demolished out of pure anger thanks to a godawful competitor on Daily Race B P.I.T manoeuvring me), and here’s how I would do it.
- Player Reports: These need stakes of some sort – a material impact both for those who have been rightfully reported and to those who try to file a false report. The only thing you can really do is knock the player’s Sportsmanship Rating down a grade in both situations. That way, cheaters get their just desserts and players are actively discouraged from just cynically using the system to demote someone because they had the gall to overtake you.
- Penalty Appeals: This is the more interesting one. Going back to the whole “tap a player and cut the Senna S” scenario at Interlagos, what happens in the situation where this appeal is raised post-race and it’s approved? We can’t just re-run the race, and I don’t want to be in a race with this knob ever again. In this situation, the right response would be to reverse any negative impacts on your Driver Rating or Sportsmanship Rating.
I get this problem is not just something that can be fixed quickly. It’s a fundamental core issue that has the potential to kill the momentum of Gran Turismo 7 as one of the biggest live service racing sims out there.
You can see its impact, as sim racers with massive followings have been making the same complaints. But if the first few months of GT7’s release has proven anything, it’s that while Polyphony doesn’t really have much in the way of direct community engagement, the team does listen to outrage.
So please, I beg of you on behalf of all of us who just want evenings of good racing without having to deal with bellends, let us work with you to improve the community. Give us the tools to help.
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Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.