As last Friday’s A2Z came without a ‘miniature interview’, here’s a rare standalone one by way of compensation. Beyond the break, Stefano Casillo, the renowned realism merchant behind sims such as netKar Pro, Assetto Corsa, and Hydrofoil Generation, fields a few of my questions.
THC: Do you think your life would have panned out differently if your childhood had been Commodore 64-free?
Stefano: Probably, yes. It gave me the opportunity to become familiar with this thing called a computer that eventually turned out to be quite important in my life :P.
I think it also created the association between programming and “fun” for me, I didn’t have access to many games on the C64 so programming was almost the only option to extract fun out of it. It’s always an advantage to be exposed to something at a young age (10-12 years old for me) as the brain is super quick to learn new things.
I was really lucky. My life was not heading in a nice direction between my going nowhere musician career and lack of formal education. The fact that I could code gave me a chance to make a living out of something I enjoy and it can all be traced back to the moment I watched WarGames and thought: “Yep.. I’d like to do THAT”.
THC: There was quite a gap between the release of netKar Pro and Assetto Corsa. How important to the strength/success of AC were the relatively obscure projects Kunos Simulazioni completed during this eight year period?
Stefano: Ferrari Virtual Academy was an essential step in the history of Kunos Simulazioni for a number of reasons. Firstly, it kick-started our relationship with Ferrari that eventually resulted in all the collaborations KS had and still have with them from licenses in Assetto Corsa to internal projects in Ferrari. Being a partner of one of the most recognizable brands in the world can open a lot of doors by giving you instant credibility.
And secondly, it was at the beginning of Ferrari Virtual Academy that we touched base with Aris Vasilakos to ask him to come back (he was part of the team that made netKar PRO but left after few months) and help us with the physics in FVA. He is an essential part of how Assetto Corsa drives. I can’t even imagine an Assetto Corsa without Aris being part of it.
THC: I imagine you wouldn’t have embarked on Hydrofoil Generation if you hadn’t been confident you could sim multihulls convincingly. When it came down to it, was the task easier or harder than you expected?
Stefano: Oh way harder. I guess we always tend to underestimate how hard things we don’t understand can be. Good old Dunning-Kruger at work I guess.
When I started I literally said “How hard could it be? It’s just wings under water”. For sure a sailboat (even a foiling one) is a much simpler object than a car: less moving parts, there’s no engine, gearbox, clutches, differentials, suspensions and so on. But when it comes down to driving on the limit every tiny number becomes important and that’s where the interesting stuff happens, all the straight lines start to bend and the result of the relationships between your formulas becomes really hard to predict and control.
THC: Ever been tempted to make a flight sim?
Stefano: Oh yes! Flight sims are the reason why I got into simulations in the first place. That idea of facing software that would challenge me beyond any other “game” could and that, at the same time, would teach me something that could be useful in real life, has always fascinated me. Funnily enough my starting point for Hydrofoil Generation was some code I wrote for fun that simulated a WWI airplane. The highlight of my very first stream of Hydrofoil Generation is still on Twitch and you can see me flying around in a Sopwith Camel shooting down stuff.
I did play with the idea of making a WWI flight sim, I love those planes but the market is pretty well covered there with games such as Rise Of Flight and IL2: Flying Circus. They set the bar pretty high if you want to compete with them.
For Jaxx Vane Studio’s first project I needed something smaller to approach, after all we’re a strong team of 2 and foiling/sailing looked like the perfect opportunity to do something that has never been attempted before. It’s the first time that the general public has the chance to try foiling sailboats in a simulator, whatever the outcome of Hydrofoil Generation will be.. we’ve already made history with it :).
THC: If you could spend a day hurtling around Vallelunga in the car of your choice, which car would you choose and why?
Stefano: Something from the Twenties or Thirties I guess. An Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 or a Blower Bentley, something like that. I just have a thing for old things… cars, planes, boats, watches, guitars.. the list goes on and on.
THC: Name a game, either released or upcoming, that you think deserves more attention.
Stefano: Sadly, I don’t play that much, as every time I play a game and see something that excites me, I close everything and start coding. The last game I played a bit lately is Stray, hardly an underdog (pun totally intended). Project Zomboid is another game that always catches my attention on Twitch but I also wouldn’t call it underrated.
There is a less well-known game that fascinates me called Sailwind. It’s an open world sailing game with a strong sailing simulation element. I like the approach and the bravery in going for something like that. I’ve watched many videos on Youtube about it, and bought it but not launched it yet. I am scared to just in case the temptation to open Visual Studio and start my own “pirate simulator” becomes impossible to resist.
THC: Thank you for your time.