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Alex Clarke asks what is real in this feature.

By Alex Clarke
17 November 2001

We have all seen the likes of Hasbro/EA/Papyrus/ even (cough...eh-hem) Codemasters try to put as real a physics model and characteristics into the games we most enjoy. At what level did your driving game become a "simulator"? I can answer that, now... It was when GP3 was launched.

Yet, we demand more. From reading the comments in Sim Race Forum, it is apparent that the thrust is being driven toward more realism in the gameplay; in the physics and in the aesthetics.

I have purchased over 20 racing games in an attempt to find the one with the parameters that work and challenge me. This is an expensive method of research as the demos never really do justice to the release version.

I do, however, remember those early ventures. When I sit back nostalgically, thinking of the time I was qualifying on a BBC micro B. "Pole Position" I think the game was called, it had the kind of graphics a twelve year-old hobbyist programmer, with today's technology, would find difficulty regressing back to. But at the time it was considered the leading edge of excitement and gaming.

I found myself kind of awe struck when I first got my hands on GP3. The likes of the legendary Mr. Crammond have dared to cross the boundary from game to sim. Look at how much he has achieved providing the ground for many happy racers to come out of the virtual pit lane.

Though I do feel it should be understood, those like Geoff, do not just write a program and then chuck it out.

Without even thinking yet about gameplay and physics, programmers have to steer their intended program around the technological minefield that could threaten its ability to sell within the scope of the intended platforms. In our case, they have to look at the breadth of PC technology, accessories, advancement and development in CPU's, graphics cards, wheels etc. This minor element is just to make sure we racers are in a state of "happiness mode" when we receive our game and attempt to play it. The workload must be horrific and the margin for error massive. That's why we see so many patches, updates and upgrades. Though there are those who can completely forget which planet they wrote it for.

I would love to list some of the turkeys here, but I think I would be branded as an immoderate person.

So here in 2001, where are we?

Here we are, on the brink of seeing some exciting new releases to come out of some of the greatest players in this field of endeavour. We wait with all anticipation and eagerness for the next instalment of sim precision, set to challenge all. You must remember the day GP3 took on a storm when it was first released. The reviewers were "wide eyed" and all enthusiastic when it first appeared, they raved about the successful execution of GP3 and praised the producers very highly indeed. But this is only a game isn't it? Well for a moment ask yourself this... Could you really drive a real F1 car?

Could you really drive an F1 Car?

I had always wondered what it would be like to really drive in a Formula One car. The question on my mind has always been; "If I got out of my everyday car and stepped into an F1 car, what would really happen?"

Dispassionately, I thought it would be this... I wouldn't be good managing the power and would probably do donuts on the first push of the accelerator. I would not be used to the steering, speed and handling of the machine so would most likely come off at the first bend.

When I first got my sticky fingers on GP3 and installed it, I decided to start with all helps turned off as an experiment. I wanted to see how I would cope. Miserably was the answer.

Guess what happened to me when I first drove GP3? Yes! I was donutting on the grid, yes! I became a heap of spares on the first bend. It took me over a month like this to do one full lap without incident...I remember thinking "Man, this has got to be close to real". This was good measure indeed, as it challenged me considerably.

Perhaps in the spirit of good Theatre, Geoff probably thought ".... leave them wanting MORE" Further down the road, since its first release, we are becoming ever demanding for more realism, more adjustments, more complexity.

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