Le Mans in a Ferrari

July 1, 2011

I am obsessed with racing. It’s with that in mind I’ve setup a full 24 hour race in GTR2. Always wanted to do this as it’s A) nuts, and B) something I’ll never get to do in reality.

I will be driving all 24 hours. Not all in one go of course. The rules of real sports car racing have long forbidden one driver doing a full 24 hours. I will save regularly for system stability reasons too. (Always had issues with gMotor engined sims). Plus I have a wife and kids to consider.

At time of writing I am one hour in. I’ve no idea how things will pan out. If the AI will go insane after a few hours. (Heard they sometimes do). The last time I tried this was a Spa 24 hour race I had to abandon due to the safety car being broken and not working correctly.

I will post updates on my progress. Since hourly updates would be a bit dull, I’ll wait until I’ve done a bit more. I will also detail what version, what mod etc…

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Need for Speed: Shift

October 5, 2009

Ian Bell did a lot of public relations work among the race sim community about the latest Need for Speed game, basically promising the stars from the sky. A lot of people were suspicious. After all, this was a Need for Speed game, not a series generally revered for it’s accurate physics. Now I am a sim junkie. I play GTR Evolution, GT Legends, rFactor… Hardcore sims. I love racing, and I love race sims, so when a promise is made to the community that your latest game will have something to offer hardcore sim racers, you’d best not be blowing smoke to boost sales. So I got the demo of NFS Shift. What did I find?

Graphically it’s amazing. Everything looks fantastic. I cannot fault this game graphically. We’re talking bar raising here.

Of course once we play it all falls down. Demo has Spa and a track around the streets of London. Don’t like using the demo, but I sure as hell am not buying the game given my spider sense is tingling and EA have fleeced me enough over the years.

Went to Spa in a Lotus Elise since I know Spa intimately. Been racing it in sims all the way back to F1GP, and have done 24 hour races there in various sims. It’s my second favourite track in the world after the Nurburgring.

There is something just not right with the car handling. I turned everything but anti-local brakes and traction control off. It’s like there’s a magnet holding the center of the car in place and you can pivot around it. The back of the car tries to drift at EVERY corner it feels. Heading through Blanchimont the car just felt strange, and heading down to the bus stop it was just… Weird. I’ve driven WORSE physics, but to claim these are sim physics is a huge stretch if not an outright lie.

So having discovered the physics model is fairly mediocre I figure let’s test Ian Bell’s claims of “realism”. I take the BMW. I am still annoyed at BMW for pulling out of Formula One so smashing up one of their cars will be enjoyable.  So I start the race and drive full speed into the barriers at the first corner. About 120mph. Massive accident. The visuals during the accident are amazing. Completely disorienting etc… As I said, I cannot fault this game graphically.

Car is still just fine. This is on FULL damage BTW. No problem at all except a crack in the windshield. So I do it again. Fast as I can on the straight then get the line so I go head on into the wall. Again, a massive accident, car is thrown back onto the track and then hits the OTHER barrier on the other side. Again, car is just fine and I drive away. By this point I am utterly disgusted. The gap between what was promised to the sim community and what was delivered is turning into a gaping void. This is a joke.

So, third crash I do it again. This time the windscreen is cracked all over and OH! The full damage has finally kicked in. This BMW, a car that has been head on into the barriers at between 100 and 150 mph on THREE OCCASIONS now is NOW SLIGHTLY PULLING TO THE LEFT! Someone call iRacing and tell them they’ve been bested. PULLING TO THE LEFT PEOPLE! PULLING TO THE LEFT!

I smashed the car up at least 3 more times and nothing. That was all that happened. Accident after accident after accident, and this FULL REALISM mode gave me a car that pulled a bit to the left.

Utterly pathetic. I wouldn’t even play this game if it was given to me for free as it’s too schizophrenic to be enjoyable. It has nothing to offer the hardcore sim racer as the physics are nowhere near realistic enough and the crash damage is pathetic. It also has very little to offer arcade racers as titles like EA’s own Burnout series do arcade racing FAR better.

What I find staggering is the marketing for the game are touting how it’s the closest you can get to the “racing drivers experience” or whatever asinine wording it used. It goes on to list the racing you can do, one of which is “duels”. Yes, because SO MANY professional racing drivers habitually do one on one races around circuits…That’s a critical part of the racers world…

Just a horrible experience. Couple the graphics with a PROPER sim engine underneath and you’d have an amazing game, but this is a mere sheep in wolfs clothing.

An introduction of sorts: I’ve been writing about video games for almost 20 years off and on. I’ve written for a couple of very well known gaming websites, as well as many smaller sites. Sometimes I was paid. Sometimes I wasn’t. Games are something I’m passionate about and writing about them is not something I would ever consider work, but only a fool would say “No, don’t pay me!”.

I’ve also been involved closely with a couple of developers and I’ve seen the industry from the inside. This experience is what has largely made me the jaded cynic I am today when it comes to gaming. Over the years I’ve covered stuff and garnered attention and kudos regarding issues which didn’t appear in mainstream media for another couple of years. In fact in one case an article I wrote four years ago is STILL passed around and cited in certain discussions even now. Apologies for being vague, but I long ago drew a line under that chapter of my career and have long moved on. That’s the past, and this is now. Or something suitably dramatic sounding. I have no interest in revisiting the past.

The straw that truly broke the camels back, the final cherry on the big crap cake that is gaming that made me think “Enough of this” and made me get back on the treadmill of writing about video games is this.

Forza Motorsport 3.

Apparently, upon seeing the demo of Forza Motorsport 3, a certain portion of the audience… Let’s call them “idiots” for the sake of clarity, decided that the game looked ugly.

First of all let’s start with the obvious. Great graphics cannot save a bad game, nor can bad graphics ruin a good game unless the developer tries really, really hard. Forza is not, by any stretch of the imagination, ugly. In fact, doing a quick straw poll of people I’ll call “normal”, all of whom are gamers, the consensus is the game looks gorgeous. The car models look great, the track looks great. Of course this is all opinion based off the small selection of content from the recently released demo, but if the idiots feel they can sodomize the game based on such a small selection of content, we can damn well make the idiots fall on their own swords just as easily.

Forza is not ugly. Turn 10 have not produced an ugly game. You want ugly games? Go check the indie section on Xbox Live. There you will find lots of ugly. Forza is not, by any definition of the word, ugly.

The problem is Gran Turismo. Now I love Polyphony, don’t get me wrong. I am not some deluded Xbox fanboy who dismisses everything not on the Xbox as inferior. Prior to this generation I was firmly in the Sony camp. I love Gran Turismo. I still play GT4 now, despite owning an Xbox 360. GT4 is that damn good. I don’t have the finances to be in both camps and I thought long and hard before leaving the Sony camp as I dearly love the GT series. I just felt the Xbox had slightly more to offer.

Back to the plot, for fairly obvious reasons Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport are pitched in combat together by virtue of the fact that both games essentially boil down to the same thing. That being Pokemon with cars.

“I choose you, Audi R8!”

Comparisons between Forza and GT are inevitable. The fact also remains that the one area where the GT series has always excelled is visuals. GT is also not a game you could ever call ugly. (We’ll politely ignore the interlacing problems that GT4 had in spots.) Naturally when placed against GT, Forza is going to not look quite as good. That’s like comparing your significant other with your favourite Hollywood actor or actress (depending on gender and which way you swing). Yes, said actor or actress may be better looking, but the fact is, as in all areas of life, there is a lot more to life than just how something looks and what’s going on beneath the facade is of equal importance, if not more so.

Turn 10 are on a hiding to nothing with these idiots, and it pains me greatly that they seem to be capitulating to them to a certain degree when they should just be ignoring them. Turn 10 have nothing to apologize for. They’ve made a perfectly gorgeous looking game that, based on the demo, has bloody good physics. I’ve been playing racing games for 20 years, and the fact is these days a driving game lives and dies on its physics. (Which is why I’m so incredibly disheartened that Codemasters have the official Formula One license when the company wouldn’t know how to make decent physics if their lives depended on it.)

Note to Gran Turismo fans: If you’re thinking of claiming Gran Turismo has amazing physics, then I recommend watching this so you can see how “great” your beloved physics model is, and then shutting the fuck up while quietly enjoying your copious amounts of understeer.

The problem is Turn 10 can’t win against these idiots. The game runs at 60 frames per second. If they want more detail, they would probably have to sacrifice frames per second and run at 30fps instead. Then these same idiots, instead of whining about the graphics would be whining about the framerate instead, because they will always find something to bitch and moan about.

Now anyone who knows anything about sim racing physics will know that updating at 60fps seconds is FAR better for the player than updating at 30fps. Anyone with experience of racing games, and I mean over more than a couple of generations of systems, will know how  important that is. For those who need a history lesson go grab an Amiga emulator and Geoff Crammond’s seminal Formula One Grand Prix, and try driving at the 7fps that game was locked at. (And to think I used to do full length races in that game.)

Now listen up jackasses, there is nothing wrong with Forza Motorsport 3. It is not ugly in the slightest. Not to mention the fact you idiots are whining about THE DEMO! You’ve not even SEEN the full game, and your complaints are utterly asinine.

Oh sure, Gran Turismo will look better. I can’t argue with that. Despite being a fan of the series and Polyphony though, I’d rather have Forza than a series whose release schedule can be measured in the same way they measure continental drift.

I’m excited as hell for Forza! The sad thing is these people whining, you know they’ll still buy it regardless, because that’s what the whiny little bitches do because they don’t have the balls to make that sort of consumer decision and actually have the courage of their convictions, but more importantly they’ll have nothing to bitch and moan about online and whining on the Internet defines their very existence. It’s who they are.

Invariably this demographic of whiners will be the self same people who contribute fuck all to the community anyway and just take take take. I dearly wish Turn 10 would come out and say “Fuck you” to all of them, as we honestly and truly do not need them. They know nothing. They are nothing.