Le Mans Ultimate's Co-Op Multiplayer Expected in “Next Major Update,” Says CEO

a group of racing cars are driving down a race track .

a group of racing cars are driving down a race track .

One of Le Mans Ultimate’s most anticipated features is the co-op mode. Racing in teams and swapping drivers will provide the ultimate online endurance racing experience. However, while the early access game launched with online multiplayer powered by Race Control, the co-op mode has been delayed.

Speaking to RacingGames, Motorsport Games CEO Stephen Hood provided an update on the current state of Le Mans Ultimate’s co-op multiplayer, hinting that the launch may not be too far away.

Multiplayer co-op release “won’t be long”

“It’s a way of providing a new experience for people in the modern world who are sometimes hard-pressed to find the time to really get into an endurance sim. It’s not something you just jump on for ten minutes,” Hood explains.

Hood sees Le Mans Ultimate's multiplayer co-op as a way of “getting into the fabric of endurance and multi-class racing, making strategic choices, and being part of a team that doesn’t require you to all be online at the same time.”

Le Mans Ultimate Hypercars assemble
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“Trying to meet up at the same time is awkward, let alone participating in a sim racing event. Lots of us attempt to do that. But I think the appeal can be broadened in the co-op mode by enabling people to drive in different stints,” he said.

After missing the early access launch, the plan was to launch the online co-op mode alongside this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans race. But “it isn’t quite ready” according to Hood and “needs more time in the oven.”

“We reviewed it in the Silverstone office just a week ago and it isn’t quite there. I’m very reluctant to just push things out the door to tick a box and say we did co-op. It must be better than what we did at rFactor 2. It’s a different way of working,” said Hood.

“We have to say no to things sometimes and take the flack for missing an internal release date. If we think it’s not quite ready and can’t stand behind it, we shouldn’t push it out. It needs a little more time in the oven. Otherwise, people might only eat half of that meal and never come back to it.”

Le Mans Ultimate 2024 liveries
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Delaying online has also enabled Studio 397 to add new features to improve the experience. “We want to put in a few more screens to make it more involving and convey the story of different driver stints, their results, and their contributions,” said Hood.

Difficulty levels will also be balanced when racing in teams, preventing less skilled players from being outpaced by their teammates. “Even though you’re taking the save from the cloud and driving your own stint, you can play it on semi-pro difficulty and your friend who practices for eight hours a day can whack the difficulty up and get a better score," Hood explains. "But you can all contribute without feeling like you’re letting the team down or overstretching yourself.”

“A lot of people might hate it. But I think there’s an opportunity to do something different that also speaks to WEC and Le Mans and the concept of multi-drivers per team. Conveying that information so you feel like you’re playing chapters of the story you understand takes a bit more effort. I’m determined to make sure the initial version is good enough for people to enjoy.”

Le Mans Ultimate 2024 livery
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As for when players can start racing in teams online, Hood is confident that multiplayer co-op will be added before Le Mans Ultimate leaves early access in the “next major update.”

“Considering we were trying to launch it in June, I’m optimistic it will be in the next major update. It might be six weeks away or it might be 12– we’re still trying to refine that. But it won’t be too long,” Hood assures. Co-op multiplayer will also pave the way for the Le Mans Virtual series to return with driver swaps.

“VR is an important component”

Online co-op isn’t the only highly requested feature that’s currently absent in Le Mans Ultimate. Since the launch, players have been frequently asking about VR support. Even though Le Mans Ultimate runs on rFactor 2’s engine, it isn’t as simple as porting VR over.

“I don’t want to bring things across automatically because it’s in rFactor 2,” Hood explains. “People think we just took rFactor 2, scribbled the name out, and wrote LMU. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Interior in Le Mans Ultimate
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“What’s important for us is that everything that goes into LMU must be a certain standard. It’s very easy to just dip into the rFactor 2 box of toys and bring it across. But it’s got to be woven into the fabric of the product, not just ported in."

"There’s a certain quality benchmark that I’m not convinced exists today by just taking rFactor 2’s experience across. Because if you start taking shortcuts, you’ll never roll back from those and it will cost you in technical debt for years to come.”

Hood went on to confirm that the final version of Le Mans Ultimate won’t launch without VR. “Before we can even call the product 1.0, we need VR in. I wouldn’t want to say it’s feature complete without VR. VR is an important component these days.”

For some enthusiasts, VR is the only way to enjoy sim racing, with the phrase “no VR, no buy” often appearing in user comments. “With VR, I think a lot of the people who claim it’s essential had a fantastic experience and can never go back," said Hood.

Le Mans Ultimate Vanwall
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"People who say it’s not essential haven’t really tried it or haven’t got on with it. The people who vote for it all the time have dropped a grand or two and are fully invested. VR has changed so rapidly and there are still more headsets coming out. The quality and clarity are amazing. I tried VR even a few years ago and it was rubbish.”

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However, the investment required for high-end headsets means VR still has a niche player base in sim racing. “I can see it existing alongside playing on a single monitor, TV, or triple-screen setup. But VR gives you something very different. I think it will be amazing to play a proper 24-hour race and drive different stints with VR. I’ve got some cool ideas for that. The quality of the headsets is there now.”

When will Le Mans Ultimate leave early access?

As for when Le Mans Ultimate is likely to leave early access, Motorsport Games isn’t committing to a final release date yet. However, Hood mused that “it would be romantically impressive if we were 1.0 on the anniversary” in February.

But before Le Mans Ultimate can be labeled a full game, several core features need to be added. “We’ve got an internal roadmap on what those things are,” said Hood. “For example, we launched without replay. We took a bit of flack for that. We must put things like that in before we can even volunteer information that this is a full release.”

Le Mans Ultimate BMW M Hybrid
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“We’ve got to improve the experience for more people so the game feels like it runs at a great frame rate. Some of the menus are laggy for some users. We can’t accept that; we’ve got to fix it. And I won’t call the game 1.0 until we fix those things. If someone’s running the game on a toaster, they’re not going to get the greatest experience ever, but we’ve got to improve it for more people.”

In the meantime, a mix of free and paid DLC will add more 2024 cars and tracks following this week's June update, which brought the BMW M Hybrid and 2024 liveries. Hood confirmed that pricing will likely be "more expensive" than rFactor 2 but "higher quality."

Porting Le Mans Ultimate to consoles is “complicated”

Looking ahead beyond the final PC release, a console port is planned at some point for PlayStation and Xbox, but this will require “more of an investment” and help from a third-party developer. “I would love to bring it to consoles. There’s a huge business case to bring it to a bigger market,” said Hood.

“Our original vision when Motorsport Games was formed was to take the best bits of rFactor 2, mix it with the Unreal Engine, and begin from there. Consoles are powerful enough to do that now. We’ve proven that even if the product wasn’t very good in NASCAR 21: Ignition,” which was based on rFactor 2’s physics engine.

Le Mans Ultimate Cadillac
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However, porting Le Mans Ultimate to consoles is more complicated. “The difference is Le Mans Ultimate is entirely our technology like the render. Bringing that directly to consoles is complicated because it was never built for consoles. When we’re updating these features, we’re making the code more suitable for the eventual transfer to consoles, which I’m sure will happen. It just takes more of an investment.”

“We need to bring another partner in, but we’re gearing up the code for that work. I think a full-fat LMU experience on a PlayStation or Xbox. I don’t buy that people only want arcade experiences on consoles. I think it’s just an access and price point. Maybe Sony or Microsoft will help us because we’d love to do it.”

Are you looking forward to Le Mans Ultimate's multiplayer co-op, VR update, and console ports? Let us know in the comments below.

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