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Thread: The Future of Motorsport Simulations

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    New Member EMI GAMER's Avatar
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    The Future of Motorsport Simulations

    Found this great story on the evolution of drive games the other day, Hope you enjoy is as i did. Not my story, but alas i spend more time driving, fixing and gaming to wast my time writing stuff.!

    by Daniel Clark
    IGN AU
    When I was kid, racing games were in their infancy. The road was a seizure-inducing conveyor belt of light and dark grey strips, cars were represented by their pixellated rear ends, and tyre squeal sounded like a glissando on a two-tone glockenspiel. My joystick had one button for "Go" (in fact, one button in total) and I could veer left or right. No gears, no brake, no nuance at all. And while abstract fantasy games like Pac-Man or Pitfall! suited this brave new 8-bit world, the complex physics of motorsport had been so severely nerfed in translation that it left even an excitable six-year-old all too aware of the limitations of his Commodore 64.



    Sigh...

    Progress was agonisingly slow Pitstop to Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge to Ridge Racer to Gran Turismo in the space of 15 years. Thankfully, however, it was significant. 2D sprites and the impression of movement became 3D models tearing over virtual hill and dale. Analogue input was added, as were physics that rendered performance as the sum of vehicular parts. Cars began to look good enough to provoke the slack-jawed admiration of their real-life counterparts.

    Even so, while offerings like Forza Motorsport and GT4 represented a great leap towards realism, there were still transistors to miniaturise. The Xbox and PS2 couldn't quite cut the mustard when it came to producing realistic textures and shading, let alone handling, so there was still quite a gulf between gaming and the real thing. But then, like a raging pit-fire, Gen7 racers exploded onto the scene. First, the likes of Forza 2, Project Gotham Racing 3, and Colin McRae DiRT. Then the upgrades: Forza 3, F1 2010, GT5, and DiRT 3.

    Finally, a quarter of a century after Pitstop, my childhood fantasies were realised. I can now bask in the glow of HDTV and pilot simulated vehicles which not only look and sound like the real thing but judging from the rambunctious Subarus in my price bracket handle like them, too. The pursuit of verisimilitude is truly impressive. Individual dashboards have been recreated. Tracks have been digitised down to the graffiti on the Nordschleife. I can change gear by engine note, and each engine sounds just right, down to the sigh of a Supra's supercharger.(i'm sure he means Turbo.?)



    This is not a photograph. This is Forza 3. (Yep, it's as plastic looking as the real thing)

    So, where to from here? At this zenith of visual acuity and physical realism, eking a few more polygons from ageing processors seems superfluous. A choice of four turbo upgrades doesn't add much to the prior three. Naturally, such augmentation is inevitable, and not unwelcome, but I can't help anticipating that seeing the warped reflection of my Zonda Tricolore in the prancing horse under heavy braking at Turn One isn't going to add an enormous amount of enjoyment to ducking up the inside at Mugello. In fact, from where I'm sitting, the greatest boost to simulated racing, at least in the short term, lies on this side of the TV screen. This is precisely why it's so disappointing that peripherals have never been more thin on the ground and, furthermore, that the ones in existence haven't evolved significantly in ten years.

    Racing is all about feel - making the vehicle an extension of the self. Needless to say, a pad isn't quite up to it. Aside from the lack of force feedback - which describes, in a tactile sense, what kind of job the front tyres are doing at overcoming a car's momentum an Xbox 360 control stick, for instance, has roughly 5mm of travel in any direction. Given that a steering wheel will need to be turned up to 150 degrees on a nasty hairpin, each 30 degrees of turning precision will be attributed to a mere millimetre of travel.

    You may have noticed, in onboard F1 footage, just how hard each driver must fight for control in reality, making a rapid series of corrections around almost every corner - an impossibility with a tiny thumb-stick. Even surgical robots would struggle to be as precise. In fact, using a pad, the only reason anyone can stay on the black stuff at all is because the car's front-end has been dulled to suit what is humanly possible. Cars are generally not car-like at all, but handle more like flat-bottomed punts with an outboard motor - possessing vast forward momentum which isn't terrifically troubled by rapid and contrary steering input. Imagine travelling along a straight at top speed in a racing car and turning the wheel 60 degrees to the right (2mm of control-stick travel), correcting immediately back to the left 120 degrees before centring. You'd be into the wall. On digital asphalt, though, that's merely the recipe for a fish tail.



    "Arrrrrrrrggghh!"

    The implications are twofold. Firstly, wheels make racing sims far easier and more satisfying because they provide more nuanced control. Secondly, however, they don't add technical realism, because the game has been designed to run with a crude input in the first place. What they do is harvest the maximum of available realism programmed into the game.

    Having said that, sports cars, super cars and racing cars are so incredibly difficult to drive in real life (an F1 car is literally impossible to drive for a layman) that having them tamed for the lounge room isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, these vehicles can be real handfuls but at least with a wheel, you truly feel like you are driving them, rather than just hanging on for dear life. The jittery corrections required to pilot an LMP car around the snaking corners of the Circuit de la Sarthe become manageable, as do the long sweepers the held corners which are incredibly hard to pull off on a thumb-stick at 200kph; let alone while trying to pass. Using a wheel also adds to engagement with the game in a psychological way, being akin to the rush of delivering lines on stage during a dress rehearsal. The whole enterprise feels more affecting, more real.

    Given the importance of these peripherals, then, it's disappointing to see how few and far between they are, and how expensive the deluxe models have become. 15 years ago there was a wheel bolted to every PC desk. Now, they are the exclusive tools of the hardcore. No doubt analogue thumb-sticks had a lot to do with this, but as I've said, they ain't nothing like the wheel thing. It's only with consumer support, however, that we can once again see the rise of the racing peripheral a condition not only necessary to make games more fun, but to encourage game developers to create better games. Only when their efforts become widely discernible, and therefore capable of being appreciated, will they make the next quantum leap in simulative thrills and spills.



    We said steering wheels. This doesn't qualify.

    With a horde of wheel-equipped gamers out there, there'll be incentive to keep pushing the physics of sims, rather than following the current trend of focussing on sheer numbers of cars, tracks, and cosmetic upgrades. Essentially, what I'm proposing is a dialectic between gamers and developers towards the evolution of racing sims. So if you care at all about the genre, why not purchase a membership to The Steering Committee. After all, when the red mist descends, the only cure is a fistful of leather.
    ________________________________________
    Daniel Clark is an Australian freelance gaming journalist based in Melbourne, Victoria. He aspires to one day re-launch Mean Machines magazine. Take that, IGN!

    Article ripped from IGN http://au.xbox360.ign.com/articles/119/1192686p1.html kudos to you Guys.!
  2. #2
    Member striken2o's Avatar
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    plenty of new wheels coming to the market in the coming year
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    really? whats coming out? im heaps keen on getting a Thrustmaster ts500 or whatever number it is lol
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    Member ALF487's Avatar
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    prices?
  6. #6
    New Member EMI GAMER's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ALF487 View Post
    prices?
    We have had a poke around for prices...still unsure of what the AU$ prices will be on these (if they release locally). Generally, Fanatec Wheels in AU are really over priced... but they are awesome!

    From what I can see around the net and based on previous pricing on similar wheels, expect these to be around the $900+ mark, perhaps more! (prices for the ClubSport and Forza models will vary)...serious dough for a wheel...

    Here's some more info for on the wheels for you:
    http://www.fanatec.de/html/index.php?id=260&
    http://www.fanatecwheel.com/wheels

    if we get word of actual costs, we will let you know..

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