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Benchmarking iRacing and Rennsport with Apex Racing

Stormforce Gaming proudly operate in partnership with Apex Racing who compete in the 2023 Porsche Tag Heuer eSports Super Cup series and the ESL R1 Rennsport Championship as well as a host of other high profile Sim Racing events across the globe.

Apex Racing Team are one of the UK’s most prolific professional Sim Racing teams featuring a roster of championship winning driving talent. At the start of March 2023, we travelled to Apex Racing HQ to undertake a full day of system testing in a variety of Racing Simulator scenarios. We wanted to put sample systems through their paces in Simulators that the team are competing on.

Apex Racing play a huge part in the UK Sim Racing community offering a bespoke facility in Corby UK that plays host to multiple professional level racing simulators, Esports competition simulators and full broadcast, media and race control facilities. Apex Racing also offer driver training, setup tuition, leagues and a host of other services that bring enormous value to the Sim Racing community through competitive experience.

As Sim Racing enthusiasts ourselves, a visit to Apex really showcases the level that professional Sim Racing has risen to and emphasises how exciting this collaboration is for the Stormforce Gaming range. Every simulator that Apex use includes state of the art VRS simulator components including Direct Drive wheel bases and pro level load cell pedals.

A key element of the partnership between Stormforce Gaming and Apex Racing is research and development. We plan to have every key system within the Apex Racing Simulation suite operating on high performance Stormforce Gaming systems. These systems will be available to buy via Apex Racing as part of a simulator package with built in computing hardware or from Stormforce Gaming as a standalone ‘simulator focussed’ performance system.

Apex are currently competing on a variety of hardware but their main competitive systems use NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB Graphics cards and i5 processors. Whilst these specifications are relatively modern, the demands from modern simulators are always changing. New simulators present new hardware demands and our objective as hardware suppliers for Apex Racing is to ensure that the team has access to the best fitting performance hardware from our key brand partners.

 

The opportunity to work with Apex Racing has given Stormforce Gaming access to valuable feedback from their team members. Having discussions with professional Esports Sim Racing drivers around what their performance targets are is eyeopening. Whenever we have tested simulators on our performance systems, there is always a preference to max out as many key visual settings as possible in a bid to try and maximise immersion.
Immersion is usually shunned for higher performance when it comes to competitive driving. Turning off mirrors, screen reflections, particle effects and other non critical settings can provide fairly substantial performance boosts in Simulations.

 

iRacing is one of the most popular simulators on the market currently and due to the long standing tenure of the Sim as a cornerstone of competitive Esports and competition driving, there is a LOT of information available to us when testing performance. The Apex Racing team all have a huge amount of experience in the Sim and before testing even began we had a raft of valuable information available to us. The team provided guidance on what methods they use to optimise performance in iRacing and our testing was carried out on a single 1080p monitor and triple 1080p monitor configurations. The reasoning behind the single and triple monitor comparison was to check what level of performance drop we would experience when using three screens.
All tests were carried out using a full grid of the same 911 GT3 car on the same track for each test.

Rennsport is an unreleased Simulator still in development. Running on the Unreal Engine 5, the Sim has a huge level of detail already and is gearing up to be one of the top sim titles available when it releases. Apex Racing compete in the ESL R1, a competitive Esports platform that runs on Rennsport where each team offer integral feedback to the Sim developers to assist with realism, balance and overall performance. As Rennsport is not available to the public, the Apex Racing team were able to give us a good level of insight from their competitive driving in the Sim. As Apex will be using Stormforce systems to compete in Rennsport in the future, it was of paramount importance to ensure our system specs would power the sim properly. We were limited to testing on a single 3440 x 1440 monitor for our testing as Rennsport does not currently support triple screens at the time of writing.
Please keep in mind that our testing within Rennsport is carried out alongside Apex Racing for product development purposes only. All testing is carried out on the latest build but performance information is likely to change as development on this simulator progresses closer to launch and official graphics driver support assists in performance optimisation.

Performance Testing Methodology

For both Sims tested:

  • All FPS numbers were generated from the built in FPS counter for both simulators.
  • The low and high FPS numbers were generated on the first lap where traffic on screen was at its highest

For iRacing testing:

  • iRacing ‘Optimised settings’ were a pro driver display configuration used by the Apex Racing team to represent their typical competitive settings.
  • Max Settings was
  • The average FPS was established over a formation lap then 2 more laps to ensure that more realistic load scenarios could be checked.

For Rennsport testing:

  • The average FPS was established over an out lap plus 2 more laps to ensure that FPS counts and performance behaviour was repeatable.
  • We sadly ran out of time to test Rennsport on the 3070 system at any other setting other than what the team were using for competition.
  • No DLSS upscaling technology was enabled for any of our testing within Rennnsport. DLSS options are available within the sim.
  • Rennsport testing was carried out on a practice lap scenario as no AI was available in the early build we were using.

 

For this test we were setting baseline performance figures on both simulators. The system we tested on was similar to the specification that Apex Racing compete on so the numbers we were trying to generate were as close to what the team sees as possible. After much review, we got feedback that the performance on offer was almost in line with their current systems. We observed higher FPS jumps on the single screen iRacing tests with the grouping of FPS results being much tighter when the burden of triple screens were activated.

Rennsport provided us a good baseline of reference in this test. We noticed here that there was a significant FPS drop around the Nürburgring T7 hairpin but this was consistent across all of our testing on each system. This accounts for the FPS low in each of the tests we performed.

 

The 4070Ti testing was what we considered may be the sweet spot for Apex Racing’s performance needs going into the test. iRacing showcased that triple screen performance on the Apex Racing optimised graphics settings was likely more bound to CPU performance. The quantity of cars on the track in our ‘maximum load’ scenario was probably accounting for a lot of CPU resource but also the jump in performance we were expecting between the RTX 3070 and RTX 4070Ti wasn’t quite as stark as we anticipated.

For Rennsport, the 4070Ti provided excellent performance figures. The early build of the Sim showcased itself well across all 4 of the graphics presets with very playable performance figures being present even at Epic settings.

 

The RTX 4080 system we had on hand was always going to provide the best performance but it was critical for us to understand if the extra power that the 4080 offered was really needed. The max FPS on offer in iRacing from the 4080 system wasnt that much higher than the 3070 system we tested, however a key point to note from all of our testing is that the average FPS presented by the 4080 was always the most consistent in iRacing tests. This contributes significantly to the smoothness of visual presentation for the simulator.

On Rennsport the uplift in performance on the RTX 4080 showed a performance bump which was respectable over the 4070Ti but wasn’t as large of a delta as we were expecting. We attributed this to the build for the sim being an early build that perhaps doesnt take advantage of the card as well as it could but also that the screen resolution of 3440X1440 would be playing a big factor in performance scaling. Once Rennsport is capable of running on triple screens, the extra headroom that an RTX 4080 provides will be far more noticeable as the card will be able to take advantage of its higher VRAM capacity on a larger resolution.

 

Conclusions and Further Testing

The testing we carried out has set a clear baseline of performance expectations from the team as well as providing us with valuable metrics for performance that each of the Apex Racing drivers looks for. Whilst their personal graphics settings varied, there was much commonality between the drivers with preferences like mirror quality and other cosmetic settings being disabled in preference of higher framerate output.

Each of the systems we tested gave us valuable data on what Apex Racing need to compete in events as well as how we can develop system specs that will meet their needs. With Apex actively competing in competitions right now, we will continue requesting performance data from them on existing equipment as well as providing evaluation units with different CPU, RAM and Storage configurations to properly evaluate all of the available hardware brands that Stormforce Gaming partners with.

Following on from our day of on site testing, our hardware specialists are now conducting extensive in house testing on a wider variety of hardware configurations to fine tune the hardware setups that Apex Racing will be using in future.

Stormforce Gaming would like to extend our enormous gratitude to Apex Racing for the hospitality shown to us as well as the valuable time dedicated to us by their team, especially Jon Robertson and Alex Simpson who dedicated their day to driving and feedback for us.

 

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GeForce Experience Guide Banner

Get more from your system with NVIDIA GeForce Experience and Shadowplay

NVIDIA GeForce Experience is a free software suite designed to make everything about gaming easier.

Everybody wants an easy life. When you’re gaming, you need everything to be quick, convenient and easy to use. There is nothing more annoying than making a great play, performing a brilliant overtake or scoring a game winner and not being able to save the moment quickly. As gamers, we have all experienced that frustration of getting a new game that refuses to run well on your system no matter what graphics settings you try. PC Games have a lot of graphics settings that allow you freedom to tweak the visual presentation of the game to your liking. If you want high framerate performance, or lower framerate with visuals cranked up to max fidelity there is always a balance to strike. Unless you have a system with a RTX 4090 in it, then just crank everything to max settings.

The thing is, time is precious and most people don’t have more than 10 minutes to spend setting up graphics settings. Frustratingly, most games have built in default settings where they will identify your hardware and throw the settings to whatever default the game thinks will work. Always far from optimal.

NVIDIA GeForce Experience is a software tool that is designed to add value, usability and features that gamers need. Your gaming system should be easy to use and GeForce Experience simplifies a lot of the processes involved in maintaining your graphics hardware as well as giving you many options to maximise the features your graphics card can offer you.

If you have an Stormforce Gaming system with an NVIDIA graphics card, we recommend that every gamer uses GeForce Experience to help maintain their system.

You can download the latest version of GeForce Experience here

When you finish installing the software and first boot up, it is recommended to set up an account with NVIDIA to make logging in, saving settings and linking external accounts like discord and youtube to activate extra features easier.

 

Using GeForce Experience to optimise game settings

The homepage of the program presents a tile grid of all of your installed games. If you have games installed across many storage devices then hit the three dots in the top right hand corner of the app and click on ‘Scan for games & apps’. This will then populate the homepage with all of your installed games so you can manage settings from here.
From this point you can either click the same three dots and select ‘Optimise all games & apps’ or click on a tile to select a game.

Either launch the game or select ‘Details’ to go into the menu and look at a granular breakdown of every graphics setting that the game offers.
You are presented with a slideshow of screenshots that have green boxes you can hover over. This will explain simply what each graphics option does to the visuals of the game. You can usually scroll through a few example images that showcase each setting in a way that is easier to understand. This is much better than going into the graphics settings each time to test each setting and seeing how much of an impact each setting has on performance.
Half way down the screen is a bright green OPTIMISE button. This will instantly take an NVIDIA profile that is built up of mass user data and applies the best settings to the game. In most cases, this will present the most balanced mix between visual fidelity and framerate. Clicking on the spanner icon next to the green OPTIMISE button will give you an additional menu that lets you fine tune your screen settings and how you want to balance optimisation between Performance and Quality. For most people, the default settings are absolutely fine.

Once you have done this. you can launch the game from the game launcher or direct from GeForce Experience by hitting the green LAUNCH button in the top right hand corner.

 

Download and Maintain Game Ready Drivers

NVIDIA regularly release driver updates that boost performance, add features and optimise more and more games. In the old days, the best practice was to uninstall old drivers, use display driver uninstallation tools to remove remnants of old driver packages. In general, this was a real pain. These days things are thankfully much simpler. GeForce Experience gives you a simple panel that allows you to manage driver package rollouts on your system very easily.

Start by clicking DRIVERS on the top left of the GFE app. This will put you onto the driver page which shows what driver updates may be available. Typically, this page will include a few different links. You can click on the ‘Learn What’s New’ tile to bring up a full list of changes that the driver brings. There is also a synopsis of what features the driver focusses on below the banner.

From this page you can Check for Updates manually, download new drivers and when the latest package is downloaded, you can hit ‘Express Installation’ to update the drivers on the fly.
This will update your drivers whilst keeping your settings the same. No need to go and reconfigure anything like G-Sync or your Shadowplay settings.

The best part is that you don’t even need to restart your system. Once the installation is finished you can jump straight into a game. It is a good idea to go back to the home page on GeForce Experience and optimise your games before starting as the new driver may have some additional optimisations that improve the settings that can be used in game

Share your greatest moments with NVIDIA ShadowPlay

ShadowPlay is a built in broadcasting tool that works within NVIDIA graphics drivers. When you are in game, press ALT+Z to bring up the NVIDIA GeForce Experience overlay. This will allow you to access all of the different in game capabilities of the GeForce Experience app. From here you can access the settings and configure each feature to different hotkeys as well as capture gameplay footage and save screenshots.

Go to Settings (the cog icon) and scroll down to video capture. This will allow you to configure how much gameplay footage ShadowPlay caputres continuously. Remember that the higher the framerate and resolution you capture, the larger the files will be when you save them. It is worth while setting the capture timeframe as 5 minutes so you can get a useable video clip to edit later on. You can also set what sounds are recorded. Useful if your teammates are talking and you want to include or remove that element of audio from gameplay footage.

You can go to the Broadcasting tile and use this to upload straight to Facebook, Youtube and Twitch. This allows you to stream gameplay footage directly captured from your GPU with minimal system overheads.
For gamers who just want a rolling highlight reel, the instant replay feature is super useful. Turning Instant Replay on will continuously capture the last few minutes of gameplay. Hitting Alt+Z when you want to save the last few moments of gameplay is a really useful shortcut and all you need to do is click the instant replay tile and hit save (or ALT+F10). This will save your video into your Videos folder in Windows meaning you can just access it later and get straight back into the game.

Nvidia Highlights is a feature available in some games. This uses ShadowPlay technology to automatically save highlights that the game picks for you. Most games that feature this contain the option to turn this on or off in the in game menu.

Learn more about how to get more from your system with ShadowPlay HERE

When you have your videos saved, you can go back to them and use the in game footage to make clips of great plays or interesting replays. Whatever you want to capture, ShadowPlay gives you the power to save gameplay without the need for any additional capture hardware.