Nature abhors a vacuum. Conspiracy theorists love 'em. Codemasters have taken their time in responding to rampant speculation about F1 2010's AI, and in that time all kinds of damaging hypotheses have appeared: When AI opponents disappear from view, they blip out of existence, reappearing semi-randomly when the game thinks you're in need of excitement! The speed of AI cars has nothing to with their design, engine quality or driver skill, and everything to do with their position in the field!! Pieces of Sebastian Vettel's front wing were found embedded in the back bumper of Ted Kennedy's Oldsmobile after the Chappaquiddick crash!!! What's true, what's tosh? Thanks to an official statement issued yesterday, we now know. Sort of.
It turns out a lot of the most alarming rumours were groundless. AI cars are "all physically driving the race just as the player does" their performances influenced by a swarm of factors like tyre state, engine condition and driver abilities. The way these factors influence lap times appears to be causing the perturbation, poorly balanced variables meaning drivers sometimes lap at unlikely rates. Factor in a timekeeping bug, and you've got ideal conditions for a bumper crop of 'Codies are lying scumbags!!' threads.
The statement doesn't answer nagging questions about design choices (like "Why aren't split times available?") nor does it answer perhaps the most obvious question this regrettable affair has thrown-up: "If there really was nothing to hide, why on earth did Codemasters let the suspicion fester for so long before speaking out?". Opening my well-thumbed copy of the Developers & Publishers Handbook (leather-bound 2009 lectern edition) at page 37, I read the following wise words: "A swift acknowledgement or explanation can transform a baying critic into a stoic supporter in a matter of seconds. Good communication with your audience, especially in the febrile weeks following a launch, is massively important. On some occasions, it may even be politic to apologise."
Do the Golden Joysticks do a 'Forumite's Friend' award? If they don't, they bloody-well should. Devs and publishers that listen diligently to us, and respond rapidly and meaningfully to our questions, need to be acknowledged and encouraged. Your nominations for possible 2010 winners please.