27 July 2001
Recently, Grand Prix 4 has been announced by Infogrames for a scheduled release in the first 6 months of 2002, whether this release date will be upheld we don't know, but the main thing is; Grand Prix 4 is coming.
One of the main improvements in Grand Prix 4 over Grand Prix 3 is that there will be a brand new graphics engine to accommodate the latest 3D cards. This is good news as one of the main criticisms of Grand Prix 3 is that the graphics are so poor, especially when we have graphically excellent sims such as F1 Racing Championship.
The reason why Grand Prix 3's graphics are poor is that they are not fully "3D". They actually use a strange method of 2D graphics "turned into" 3D – it is very difficult to understand and explain, but the engine is most definitely not fully 3D, and this is why graphics card based on the Kyro II chip will not work with Grand Prix 3.
For Grand Prix 3, Microprose and not Geoff Crammond were responsible for programming the 3D graphics engine, whereas Geoff concentrated on the software graphics mode. I have a hunch that because a software graphics mode was developed, the hardware accelerated graphics were held back by this.
I am unsure why Microprose chose to create the 3D graphics engine in this way, but I think it may be to do with the way the entire game is programmed. Don't forget that Geoff Crammond began developing Grand Prix 3 in 1996, when 3D accelerated graphics were virtually un-known.
Because the graphics are programmed in such a way, Grand Prix 3 is very processor intensive. You can have the best graphics card available on a 300mhz machine, but because the processor is slow Grand Prix 3 will run at a low framerate. Just as you can have a 900mhz machine, with a poor graphics card but Grand Prix 3 would run a dream!
However, this will not be a factor in Grand Prix 4, as the graphics engine is going to be brand new, and most likely not programmed in the same way as Grand Prix 3's is.
So, will this mean that the system requirements for Grand Prix 4 will actually be less than Grand Prix 3's?
Simulation games always require a fairly powerful processor because of the number crunching they have to get through, but if they don't have to worry about the graphics as well, then the processor will not have to be so powerful. We have seen this with GeForce cards, which reduce the load on the processor as the graphics processing is done using a processor on the GeForce card.
Perhaps with Grand Prix 4 we will see what we see with many FPS (first person shooters) games; the frame-rate increases with a better graphics card, rather than a better processor. For example, in Grand Prix 3 you need at least a 700mhz machine to get a frame-rate of around 25fps. But with a new graphics engine, who is to say in Grand Prix 4 we won't be able to get 60fps at 700mhz with a decent 32mb graphics card?
If that turns out to be true, the system requirements for Grand Prix 4 will therefore be less than Grand Prix 3.
We can't be sure that this will be the case, it all relies on Microprose creating a proper 3D-graphics engine this time, and if it happens we may see the system requirements falling.
Who knows? We'll just have to wait until next year to find out...