What do people actually want from Frontier re: support for "racetracks"?

I've been seeing a lot of discussion over the past month or so (in part off the back of the new beginner training experience FD showed recently where you have to fly through a series of gates) about the idea of the game explicitly supporting racing and/or the idea of race tracks. I've even been cited a few times as being a member of the community who's specifically very interested in this.

Now first, just to set the record straight on the latter, I'm not 100% sure that I am actually that interested in Frontier doing something in this regard. The thing is, with the Buckyball Races (and others, e.g. the recent Scully Powers 500 SRV race) that I take part in - I actually really like that they're community created because the community side of it all (the invention, planning and creation of the race) is really fun (even things like the creation of the race banner that you can currently see in my forum signature here). I love that races (when they crop up) are something special which pique people's interest and draw players together on platforms such as the forum or discord. And I love the ongoing discussion on those social platforms during the race (the jovial taunting of other racers, the sharing of race tips, the welcoming of new players to the world of racing and just the general banter). If there was, for example, an automated race track in-game (with timing gates and an automatically updated leaderboard for example), would we lose a lot of that? (not that it would prevent us from continuing to create our own races of course). And the sort of racing an automated in-game system would provide would be very limited compared to what the human imagination can create. We've had "triathlon" races involving Ship, SLF and SRV stages. We've had races built around the roleplay of being an emergency ambulance service. Races with bonuses for things like docking backwards, overheating dramatically, and posting messages in local chat while flying through Buckyball holo-ad's. I've done over 60 Buckyball Races now and no two have ever been quite the same.

Anyway, on to the second point.

The Buur Pit recently tweeted a video I've just made of me running the Scully Powers 500 course in an SLF with a plea for Frontier to build planetary race tracks.

Oh, and here's the race as originally intended - as an SRV course.

So, my question is ... what do people actually want from Frontier in this regard? Do you want them to create one (or more) automated race tracks? Would you want those to be at actual locations in the galaxy or would you be happy if they were self-contained and accessed from the main menu (e.g. like the training/challenge scenarios). How about the ability for us to plant our own "gates" and create our own courses? Should those gates be automated in some way (detecting if you missed them) or would simple physical representations of gates be enough? (i.e. places where player groups could hold and marshal their own races?).

One quick thought of my own on the subject of race gates and how you tell if someone went through one or just close to one ... perhaps there could be a glowing force shield wall and the only way through it is to go through the gate? If you miss the gate and hit the shield wall you die (or maybe just lose 50% of your hull? or just get slowed back down to a standstill?). How about if people like the Buur Pit crew want to film the event? You wouldn't want the shield wall to obstruct the camera ship. Maybe the wall only activates for ships who fly through the start gate?

Anyway, you can see the sort of things that I think of when the subject of racing and race gates comes up. So what are your thoughts on this? Let's have a discussion.

P.S. oh, and do click the "HOT OFF THE PRESS" race banner if you're interested in getting involved in the latest Buckyball Race (being run in association with Sagittarius Eye magazine) which kicks off in just over a week's time.
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We shouldn't be asking for a system like a map builder - that's utterly unreasonable (imho :)) and requires too much work from FDev, but I'm wondering if there's value in them (for example) placing a city scape down (like scully's in the videos above) but making the track go all the way round and stripping some of the obstacles round the edge out. Anything that blocks the track basically but leave in signage, and arches etc.

It's still work for them obv. but not nearly as much as a "build your own course" system - thats a developmental horror story.

FDev would "just" need to edit a prefab (the city) and remove some stuff and make the track segments go all the way round and connect. It's not as simple as that I'm sure but that's the principle.

All of sudden we have a race venue and new community focal point for this stuff.

Its construction would make a great community goal as well imho.

I don't think we need any scripted mechanics etc. in the game ...that's just more work and too restrictive on the events, that players drive anyway. We can self manage that stuff no problem, but a venue (or two) would be awesome.
The cynical side of me says no, I don't want FD making races because they will find a way to turn it into a grind and/or a multiplayer disaster and/or PVP gankfest location.

Or all of the above.

The positive side of me says sure, let them have a go at it, maybe they'll give us a fun addition to the game.

A nicely laid-out race with rings to fly through might be interesting. Then again, it might be boring after 3 minutes. Hard to tell.

I have no real suggestions myself, I guess. :p
Yep. A few venues would be tops. Nothing automated, as its less likely to happen.

I find it difficult to believe that any human society wouldn't have a few gambling race circuits. Disappointing we don't already have a few..
I've never actually taken part in a race, but seen plenty of your videos, Alec. They're awesome, keep up the good work!

I'd be up for in-game tracks; however, I much prefer the idea of player-built tracks. There was talk recently of base building, is this going to be a thing? If so if players could purchase a start, intermediary and end gates, that would be really, really cool.

There's a moon near Shinrarta that has a massive creater; down one side of the crater is an absolutely beautiful meandering set of hills - I spend an afternoon once just peeling between the hills, making my way to the bottom. I always wanted to do a race there where you weren't allowed to use boost to force you to go between the hills... I'll take a look next time I am in game.

Either way, back on topic, yes please, in-game race courses, player defined or not!
More installations like the 'Squirrel's Nest space bar' would be great.

Interesting places to fly around that players can use for checkpoints.

Fdev creating races/leaderboards may well end up like CQC unless access to it is part of the game.
I'm maybe a bit weird in that I entirely agree with the first part of Alec's post.

I'd prefer for FD not to try adding racing built into the game, certainly not unless it's a spectacular set location.

I've always enjoyed community created content the most, and the unofficial nature of the racing we have eg Buckyball and r/EliteRacers, plus the fact that boosting in and out of stations is a bit naughty makes it more appealing.

And as Alec said, I like that every race is a bit special, with the personal touch that the organiser adds to make it different.

For the same reason I'm enjoying helping Operation Ida much more than 90% of the trade cgs I ever did - and the one or two that I liked as much were great because of the community contribution.

Adding the in ship clock and racing paintjobs was very nice of FD though.
I've always enjoyed community created content the most, and the unofficial nature of the racing we have eg Buckyball and r/EliteRacers, plus the fact that boosting in and out of stations is a bit naughty makes it more appealing.
Boosting in and out of stations is naughty? is that why they fine me for those minor brushes (that often enough cause ME to blow up mind you) against ships not smart enough to get the frack outta my way?

(Sorry for the OT, my willpower was not up to the challenge)
I think it would be cool if there was a proper racing series within the game with points system and all that jazz. GalNet should of course have a "sports section" where you could check the latest results and current standings. How it could be done, I'm not sure. But CQC is already there so maybe it's inner workings could be brought to the actual game so it wouldn't be a separate game mode.

Or maybe FD could just create the racing venues but everything else would be left for the players to do/organize.

Or just put out some additional tools for players to create tracks. Maybe with beacons. First you'd drop a Start beacon, then little checkpoint beacons along the desired route to create a track. Competitors would then scan the Start beacon, which would activate the rest. Or something. I don't know.
I was thinking of a simple option - a type of limpet (yay, another limpet!).

When dropped, it would project a (cylindrical?) marker field. Diameter TBD, height TBD.
If a ship or SRV penetrates the field it flashes to show the marker has been reached. If it doesn't, then you missed!
I imagine it would be similar to shield effects.
Don't think we would ever get timing gates/ finishing lines etc, we'd have to do that ourselves...
Free Like's all round, great suggestions so far.

I guess what I'd prefer is more tools (more sand castle moulds in the sandbox if you like) that we can use to create our own emergent content than for FD to attempt to prescribe how racing should be. The idea of those limpets @MadDogMurdock suggested above is a great example of this. Give us race gates and that's (possibly) all they can ever be - race gates. But give us some kind of general waypoint marker and that could be a race gate, a geo-cache for some kind of treasure hunt, a POI for some roleplay storyline. Interesting. In my own line of software development I will often look for a broader solution to a specific problem that can be repurposed to address all sorts of other things in the future. That's the kind of thinking I'd encourage from Frontier.

That said I also like Buur's simple solution (i.e. FD not wasting too much time on this) of simply creating one or two racing assets - just variants of the bases we already have - that can act as hubs for community races. The tunnels through space bars like Squirrels Nest are great for this (oh, and @UmbraRex, check out my ship-docks-cqc-structures-and-other-new-in-game-assets thread, there are loads of these already in game) but having a few planetary locations with more tunnels and/or navigable circuits that can be used for this purpose would be an awesome addition to the game too. Anything like that just adds to the diversity of the galaxy and helps to give character to different areas of it (something the game could always do with more of).

Oh, and @Old Duck - I think your fears are unfounded. Adding more gameplay options doesn't make the game be THAT kind of game, they're just more options. Adding all the new mining stuff didn't, in itself, make Elite be a mining game (although arguably the price of Void Opals kinda did ... but that's another argument best left out of this thread I think). As long as any racing additions Frontier made didn't dramatically alter the general flavour of the game (and I very much doubt they would) then Elite will continue to be many things to many people.
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I know it probably won't be "enough" for a lot of people but all I'd really want are a few "tools" which'd allow people to demark courses and judge completion.

For example, the simple ability to demark a series of waypoints - on planets surfaces, through persistent POIs and across multiple star-systems - and then set criteria regarding completion of each one.

The biggest problem, and I don't see a way around this without significant work by FDev, is that ideally you'd need to have some kind of "camera view" of the entire proposed circuit so you could move around it and accurately demark the course-limits of things like canyons, surface-bases and even planetary rings.

On the assumption that was possible, demarking the course would be as simple as travelling around in a ship/SLF/SRV, adding markers and then clicking some kind of drop-down menu to define the characteristics of each waypoint, including things like how closely a racer has to pass the waypoint, whether they have to do anything at that waypoint (land, take-off, board SLF/SRV, collect/deliver cargo, destroy ships/skimmers, harvest mat's, mine ore etc) and what the penalty is for failing to complete the task.

In my head, a good racing system would allow people to create races for specific things such as SRVs or canyon-racing ships AND it'd allow for the creation of "marathon" races that involve multiple disciplines, compelling competitors to build ships that can haul cargo, mine, deploy an SRV/SLF, engage in combat and travel efficiently.

Might sound like a lot of effort but it seems like you're going to need the same basic tools to allow for the creation of even the simplest "circuit" so it'd only require a small amount of extra work to develop those tools a bit more to allow a much more diverse array of options.

The main thing, though, is going to be creating a tool that allows somebody to place the waypoints accurately, both on planet surfaces and in space.
How, for example, could somebody drop into a planetary ring and then mark, say, a 50km stretch of that ring as being part of a racing circuit and ensure that racers couldn't just fly above/below the ring instead of through it?
Equally, how could somebody drive an SRV through a thargoid surface base and ensure that racers followed their route?

I guess the simplest method would be that you just fly/drive a vehicle along the course and deploy some kind of "marker buoy" whenever it's appropriate and then you'd go to the "contacts" HUD, select it and that'd bring up some kind of sub-menu that allowed you to define all it's characteristics.
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