netKar Pro (also nKPro) is an online racing simulator that is developed with an emphasis on realism. It provides advanced features such as a complex tire model (visible dirt, tire wear and flat spots, that influence the car's handling) and a fully interactive cockpit such as those seen in flight simulators.
netKar Pro debuted at a fair held in Lanciano (Italy), February 24–26, 2006. Version 1.0 was released for download on April 10, 2006. Developers worked with companies involved in real car racing such as Sparco (design of steering wheels, helmets and driving suits), AIM Sportline (official and fully functional AIM data acquisition systems are reproduced in netKar Pro), Cooper/AVON Tyres , Brembo (braking systems), BETA Tools; they worked also with a Formula Three team Target Racing, with the race engineer Andrea Quintarelli and the driver Riccardo Azzoli (Formula Gloria, Formula Renault and Formula Three).
The success of its free predecessor netKar Namie, and the anticipation created by previews of netKar Pro in the press, led to high expectations from the simracing community. However, this initial release and the subsequent patch were negatively affected by many bugs hampering gameplay, and therefore was received reluctantly by the sim racing community. In the summer of 2006 it was announced that netKar Pro and BallRacing Developments Ltd - developers of hardware and software for the professional racedriver and simracing community - have joined forces "to co-develop the next generation of motorsport simulation" .
BRD are using netKar Pro to help with the running of their Formula BMW team, as their version of netKar Pro has a Formula BMW car programmed in it, though it is unlikely the public will ever see this car. Also they are running a version of the Osella PA-21 car and Hill Climb addon, which at some stage will be made available to the public.
In October 2006, the netKar Pro development team released version 1.0.2, a patch that improved the multiplayer experience and fixed several other bugs present in the previous two versions. However, version 1.0.2 still had its issues. Still a very controversial game, the online racing community for netKar Pro is rather thin compared to other sim racing games, and contact with the developers has been sparse.
Jaap Wagenvoort - a member of the online netKar Pro community - has been issuing Community Updates on many forums, trying to help improve communication problems between customers and Stefano Casillo, the game's main developer. Version 1.0.3 of the simulation was announced immediately after the release of 1.0.2, but its release was delayed multiple times due to other projects and technical problems during the development. The other projects also helped improving netKar PRO as it allowed the netKar Pro development team to validate the simulation data with Formula One engineers.
During the development of version 1.0.3 a lot of infrastructure related problems were identified and required solving in order for version 1.0.3 to finally be what the simulation originally set out to be. On December 28, 2008, version 1.0.3 of netKar PRO was released, over two years after the previous release. This was a free upgrade for existing customers.
Version 1.0.3 improved the multiplayer experience and increased the stability and performance. Also, new features were added like an anti-join lag feature. Much to the pleasure of the community, flatspotting was also reintroduced to the simulation. Version 1.0.3 was positively received by the simracing community.
During Summer 2009, Kunos Simulazioni announced that the next version of netKar Pro, dubbed 1.1, was to be released through a three-stage Public Beta in an effort to iron out all the bugs before reaching gold status, through the help of the community. A new bug reporting feature was added specifically for this purpose. This was meant to address concerns in the simracing community that v1.1 might have seen the same fate of v1.0 which remained unplayable for a long time for many simracers.
Stefano Casillo also made it clear that a new course was about to start, with a more professional approach to developing software, abandoning the previous one-man-band nature of the project and forming a true, dedicated company (Kunos Simulazioni).
The main aim for 1.1 was to attract new users, and bring back long time players that had lost interest in the project due to it being stagnant. This was to be accomplished by making netKar Pro more accessible without losing its commitment to realism and faithfulness, offering new content, and improving usability. A time-limited discounted offer was also made available.
Beta 1/3 was released in August 2009, and featured:
During the Beta 1 period, new netKar Pro licenses were sold at 19.90 € instead of the full price of 36 €.
Beta 2/3 came in early September, bringing a new car, the Abarth 500 Assetto Corse, and a new fictional track called Aosta, while at the same time fixing many bugs that affected both the handling of some of the cars and the new UI.
The 500 Assetto Corse received much praise from both users and professional reviewers, while Aosta, despite bringing much needed variety to the set of existing tracks, attracted both praise and some criticism because of its high hardware requirements, and an annoying bug that made parts of the grass appear black on a significant number of systems. As of December 2009 Kunos Simulazioni has not released a fix to this problem.
During Beta 2 licenses were initially intended to be sold for 24.90 €, though at a later date Kunos Simulazioni cut the price back to 19.90 €, the same as Beta 1.
Beta 3/3 was released on 16 January 2010. Although it was expected to only contain bugfixes and a revised replay interface, it contained other minor additions, such as: audio levels control, enhanced chat, tweaked differentials and coast torque, plus many usability improvements.
Version 1.1 reignited interest in netKar Pro, but the hopes for a new course for netKar Pro started to dwindle in Autumn 2009 when Beta 3 failed to materialize. The netKar Pro community later independently discovered that Kunos Simulazioni had been busy preparing a free, modified version of the simulator containing only the 500 Assetto Corse, which was to be used in an online competition sponsored by MTV Italia.
Kunos Simulazioni failed to communicate what they were doing or why Beta 3/3 had been put on hold, so the MTV/500 release came as a negative surprise to the community. Harsh criticism ensued: Kunos Simulazioni was accused of abandoning a half-finished netKar Pro v1.1 (repeating the mistakes made with v1.0), and at the same time release for free the 500 Assetto Corse, which was previously only available to paying, licensed customers.
Marco Massarutto, Product Manager of netKar Pro, who acts as a spokesman for Kunos Simulazioni along with Casillo, replied to the criticism explaining that the MTV/500 package was actually a dumbed-down version of netKar, only intended to be used within the boundaries of the promotional event.
The netKar Pro community had to wait until 2010 when v1.1 Beta 3/3 was released on 16 January 2010.
There are currently no release dates set for any of these updates.
netKar Pro current line-up is composed of 5 cars: