Racing Games

At 3:45, I pad out to the living room and turn the television to SPEED before starting a pot of coffee. The pot's ready just as the feed cuts over to an overcast race track in Malaysia. I unmute the speakers and watch Formula 1 cars rolling off the starting line near Kuala Lampur while I sit here in the dark listening to dry English sportscasters.

Bob Varsha isn't calling this race, but when he does he usually begins by yelling like Howard Beale, "The lights are lit! Turn up your speakers, wake up the neighbors for the start of the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix!" As the five red lamps go dark, 24 cars and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment and talent blast across the starting line. It's another F1 season, and as usual I, l am alone with the racing, as are many of my scattered tribe of fellow enthusiasts.

Formula 1 racing is redesigned more than any other sport, a deadly-serious game of Calvinball run by corporate kings, racing princes, and priests of engineering. This season they instructed the new tire manufacturer, Pirelli, to bring softer compound tires than we've seen in years. The idea is that the tires will wear more quickly, leading to more pit stops and a shaken-up field, two ingredients for more passing.

Passing is a perennial obsession in F1. The interests of engineers, drivers, and fans diverged decades ago. If the goal were to create the fastest cars possible, there is a long list of banned F1 technologies that the governing body could reactivate: traction control, active suspensions, ground-effect aerodynamics, and anti-lock brakes just for starters. But the sport's development is governed by three main factors: safety, money, and spectacle. Some techs were banned because they could result in horrific accidents when they failed, others because they made it impossible for anyone but the wealthiest teams to compete. But some of these changes also made it harder to have the kind of wheel-to-wheel action fans love.

For instance, F1 cars hardly ever draft anymore. You won't find them rocketing up the slipstream behind an opponent, because the warm air from the leading cars' exhaust can overheat and damage the pursuer's engine. That's a time-honored overtaking method out the window. Their aerodynamics are so sensitive that they handle badly whenever they are near the disturbed air cause by another car, further complicating passing. This is where technology and cost concerns have led the sport.

To fix the problem, F1 has turned to what I can only describe as game mechanics. This season, F1 cars can use a pair of tools that function like speed boosts. The first is the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, which takes energy that is typically wasted under braking and cornering (in the form of kinetic energy) and uses it to build up a charge. Drivers can use that energy for bursts of extra power. The other weapon is the Drag Reduction System, which opens the rear wing and allows cars to go faster on designated straights. The catch is that it can only be used to overtake, and the device can only be triggered if the pursuing car is within one second of its prey. It's down to the pursuing driver to get within striking distance, and the DRS can help carry him past his opponent.

It will be interesting to see these devices make their debut in the next F1 game from Codemasters, if only because they already seem like they belong in a videogame alongside red shells and mushrooms. In the meantime, I've returned to my alternate life as a driver for the Lotus team in F1 2010.

It supports Track IR now, adding a layer of immersion that wasn't available last year. The effect is revelatory. Little things, like being able to lean over to glance at a mirror, or looking into a sharp corner, has already resulted in better passing and tumbling lap times. But it's really the way my feeling of physical presence of the game completes the illusion that retroactively turns F1 2010 into one of last year's best games.

F1 2010 is different from Codemasters' other games, and most any other sim-lite racer, because it take a holistic approach to its subject. Race weekend starts on Friday with the practice sessions, and that's where the opening battles take place as teams take each others' measure and that of the track. Qualifying sets the stage for race day, and has as much impact on the final results as the race itself. When the drivers race on Sunday, some confirm what they've spent the weekend proving, others to defy the odds and steal improbable positions. F1 2010 is about that rhythm: the slow build through the weekend that reaches a crescendo on the opening and closing laps of the grand prix. It's a game from a team that understands the dreams of the people who wake before dawn to watch a qualifying session.

Playing F1 2010 as the 2011 season unfolds, it dawns on me that the distance between the two is shrinking. To be a better racing series, F1 is becoming more like a game, and Codemasters have produced their best racing game yet by making it less like a game and more like a sport. I hope Codemasters can keep it up, because with every new season, Formula 1 racing becomes a brand new game.

Comments

Great description of the F1 season's crossover into the gaming realm. I'm an F1 nut as well, and the "Buttons on the steering wheel that make the car go faster" options for this year just wouldn't exist without a history of gaming. Incidentally, in a strange chicken/egg situation, some drivers actually use the game for away-from-the-track practice.

I haven't checked out F1 2010 yet, as my machine is no doubt way to slow to handle the game (and I haven't felt like going down the financial rabbit hole that is being a racing sim fan). I have logged hundreds of hours into racing sims dating back to Grand Prix 2. I may have to make the leap and get back into it.

I recently lost my career in F1 2010 due to a failed hard drive installation, and I've been dreading going back and slogging my way back to the mid-season races. But you reminded me that I played the game for the thrill of driving, not for the trophies. Now I just need to make the time for it again.

I am very interested to see when Codemasters will release a new F1 game. When I heard about KERS implementation this season, my first thought was that it's not unlike the speed boost at the expense of your shields in WipEout 3.

Which puts me on another, semi-related tangent. Codemasters did with the F1 franchise what I always wanted to see in the Wipeout racing series: something more sim-like but involving the spectacle and inner workings of the sport surrounding the individual races. I always equate F1 and Wipeout games because the back story of the Wipeout series read like the F1 of the future. Now that we see how fun playing the career along with the race can be in F1 2010, I certainly hope to see such an approach to other racing games, realistic and sci-fi alike.

To fix the problem, F1 has turned to what I can only describe as game mechanics. This season, F1 cars can use a pair of tools that function like speed boosts. The first is the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, which takes energy that is typically wasted under braking and cornering (in the form of kinetic energy) and uses it to build up a charge. Drivers can use that energy for bursts of extra power. The other weapon is the Drag Reduction System, which opens the rear wing and allows cars to go faster on designated straights. The catch is that it can only be used to overtake, and the device can only be triggered if the pursuing car is within one second of its prey. It's down to the pursuing driver to get within striking distance, and the DRS can help carry him past his opponent.

Sorry for quoting that whole paragraph, but if you had told me this was for real and not from a game, I would have scoffed at you. I admit a fondness for F1 (well, racing in general), but as I refuse to pay for cable while living alone I'm left in the dark with most racing. So, to hear that these sort of mechanics are in play in the real world just excite me while at the same time somewhat loosing my grip on reality.

I'm totally okay with that.

WipEout wrote:

Which puts me on another, semi-related tangent. Codemasters did with the F1 franchise what I always wanted to see in the Wipeout racing series: something more sim-like but involving the spectacle and inner workings of the sport surrounding the individual races. I always equate F1 and Wipeout games because the back story of the Wipeout series read like the F1 of the future. Now that we see how fun playing the career along with the race can be in F1 2010, I certainly hope to see such an approach to other racing games, realistic and sci-fi alike.

First, am I missing the boat on Wipeout? I assumed from the name it was just standard arcade stuff, but is there more to it than that?

I think there's an unfortunate tendency in the racing genre to go for sheer quantity of cars at the expense of everything else. They become really schizophrenic experiences, and I think that crowds out any sense for racing culture, or the differences in style and identity that exist among different competition classes.

Rob Zacny wrote:
WipEout wrote:

Which puts me on another, semi-related tangent. Codemasters did with the F1 franchise what I always wanted to see in the Wipeout racing series: something more sim-like but involving the spectacle and inner workings of the sport surrounding the individual races. I always equate F1 and Wipeout games because the back story of the Wipeout series read like the F1 of the future. Now that we see how fun playing the career along with the race can be in F1 2010, I certainly hope to see such an approach to other racing games, realistic and sci-fi alike.

First, am I missing the boat on Wipeout? I assumed from the name it was just standard arcade stuff, but is there more to it than that?

I think there's an unfortunate tendency in the racing genre to go for sheer quantity of cars at the expense of everything else. They become really schizophrenic experiences, and I think that crowds out any sense for racing culture, or the differences in style and identity that exist among different competition classes.

If you like futuristic racing games, then you are missing the boat! But the series is based solely on arcade-style racing. When you read the "history" of the Wipeout racing league-- specifically in the booklets for WipEout XL and WipEout 3, it reads like a historical summary of the progression of Formula 1 to the current racing league (I believe it's like F5000 by the third game). I had always felt that with such detailed lore giving "realistic" weight to the games and their mechanics, the world of Wipeout would easily lend itself to a game that dealt with the "sport" of anti-gravity racing in much the same way F1 2010 does for Formula 1.

Granted, I had always hoped, probably since I played Gran Turismo 2, that they would eventually have a GT wherein you could drive your cars around an open GTA-style city to the different tracks and pay the fees to participate in the races. Basically, I've always wanted to participate in the world surrounding the races within my racing video games.

WipEout wrote:

Granted, I had always hoped, probably since I played Gran Turismo 2, that they would eventually have a GT wherein you could drive your cars around an open GTA-style city to the different tracks and pay the fees to participate in the races. Basically, I've always wanted to participate in the world surrounding the races within my racing video games.

Dirt 2's time-consuming menus didn't do it for you?

That was actually one thing I really liked about TOCA 2, having your coach and publicist (IIRC) helping you advance your career, accepting sponsorships, choosing races. It's all the same stuff you do in racing games anyway and it's not quite what you mean (how about a rally game where you have to drive, by the rules, from stage to stage?), but it connected the driving to the larger world of racing. It also came back to inform the driving itself, when for instance your coach tells you to beat a certain racer in an event to attract organizers' attention, rather than just always finish first.

Great post! I actually record the races and watch them at a reasonable hour. My wife and kids refuse to watch them with me. I am alone amongst my family and friends in my devotion to F1.

I have been enjoying Codemasters games since TOCA 2, and Colin McRae. F1 2010 is a fun game, hope they just keep making it better with each new version.

Gravey wrote:
WipEout wrote:

Granted, I had always hoped, probably since I played Gran Turismo 2, that they would eventually have a GT wherein you could drive your cars around an open GTA-style city to the different tracks and pay the fees to participate in the races. Basically, I've always wanted to participate in the world surrounding the races within my racing video games.

Dirt 2's time-consuming menus didn't do it for you? ;)

Dirt 2's Mt. Dew-fueled X-Games Broham styles turned me off that game almost entirely.

I just want to observe that calling F1 'a deadly-serious game of Calvinball' is inspired and so accurate I can't believe I've never thought of it.

I haven't followed the sport closely for a few years now due to not having satellite television regularly, but I do always keep an eye on the results and leaderboards.

Gravey wrote:

That was actually one thing I really liked about TOCA 2, having your coach and publicist (IIRC) helping you advance your career, accepting sponsorships, choosing races. It's all the same stuff you do in racing games anyway and it's not quite what you mean (how about a rally game where you have to drive, by the rules, from stage to stage?), but it connected the driving to the larger world of racing. It also came back to inform the driving itself, when for instance your coach tells you to beat a certain racer in an event to attract organizers' attention, rather than just always finish first.

I wanted to like TOCA, but I just didn't care for it. I didn't like the way the cars handled, and the characters that surrounded you during your career were just awkward.

GRID is the game that started to really turn me around on Codies. I thought they did a better job of striking a balance between ease and realism, and each different racing series seemed better differentiated from the others than was the case in TOCA. I've heard the argument that GRID basically is a TOCA game, just focusing on different racing series and a little more sophisticated.

I do think a career mode for the F1 game suggests itself pretty readily, if they stick with it. There's a lot of lesser series, and the GP2 series is some of the best open-wheel racing in the world. It'd be neat to be tasked with climbing the ladder into F1.

MrDeVil909 wrote:

I just want to observe that calling F1 'a deadly-serious game of Calvinball' is inspired and so accurate I can't believe I've never thought of it.

I haven't followed the sport closely for a few years now due to not having satellite television regularly, but I do always keep an eye on the results and leaderboards.

Just look for Bernie 'Poison Dwarf Greedy Swine' Eccleston's latest comments about 'artificial rain', the sheer stupidity of the current points system and the fact that even new circuits like Abu Dhabi are being remodelled, and then tell me that Hobbes couldn't do a better job.

Q to 12, indeed.

You've piqued my interest. I'm definitely gonna give watching some F1 a shot. Like European futbol I like the idea of waking up early and watching something live while it's still dark out. Thanks for another great article, Rob.

This is very intriguing. I wonder if this is what they had in mind when people talk about "gamification"?

DorkmasterFlek wrote:

This is very intriguing. I wonder if this is what they had in mind when people talk about "gamification"? :)

Yes, Rob. Tell us about gamification.

Donan wrote:

Btw, back in the day they use to call formula 1 cars, because of their technology, jets on wheels. Is this still the case?

I think at this point they are more technologically advanced than most jets. That is to say, I used to hear that term as well, but it isn't quite as fitting any more.

WipEout wrote:
Donan wrote:

Btw, back in the day they use to call formula 1 cars, because of their technology, jets on wheels. Is this still the case?

I think at this point they are more technologically advanced than most jets. That is to say, I used to hear that term as well, but it isn't quite as fitting any more.

I think a couple things are in play. The aerodynamics of F1 are still astonishingly sophisticated, but the limitations imposed in that area (and others I mentioned in the article) kind of make the sport's technical achievements less impressive. F1 chooses not to be on the cutting edge anymore.

And jets aren't either. Aircraft engineering, space programs... they've been overtaken in the popular imagination by information technology and nanotech research, two things that F1 has nothing to do with. F1 is old-fashioned engineering, and engineering doesn't occupy the same position it used to.

Donan, I envy your experiences. I wouldn't want to go back to 1960's F1, but I would treasure memories of watching Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Mario Andretti... I can't imagine. Plus, F1 courses had more character in those days. Which is why everyone hates Hermann Tilke's designs.

Rob Zacny wrote:

I think a couple things are in play. The aerodynamics of F1 are still astonishingly sophisticated, but the limitations imposed in that area (and others I mentioned in the article) kind of make the sport's technical achievements less impressive. F1 chooses not to be on the cutting edge anymore.

Yeah, the process of developing the cars is cutting edge, but the cars themselves are (to be grossly simplistic) carbon fiber tubs with wheels. A team with a windtunnel has an advantage, but there are not many electronic and technological systems on an F1 car, or indeed any racecar.

Regulations are there to limit the team with the biggest cheque book (Ferrari) from dominating everything.

I started my love of F1 with Geoff Crammond's, Grand Prix 1. Since then games has been so-so. Plus I went console and have not seen a decent console F1 game yet. However with the new F1 2010 I became interested again. But I never really saw anyone talk about it. I saw good reviews at Metacritic and Operation Sports. But no one here, at least that I caught, say much about it (which was strange for we have some very dedicated racing folks here). So I'm glad to see this discussion come up and it looks like I may be buy F1 2010.

The other thing I loved about this article is in truth I've not been keeping up with F1 for a few years and all these changes mention had me first groaning, then fascinated to see how the races run nowadays. So I'll be checking out Speed to watch some races.

(as a side note, I was lucky to go to two F1 races in the late 60's. Italy's and Germany's. I actually got to go around that dangerous course in Germany in a 'normal' Porsche (at somewhat normal speeds). Pretty amazing stuff that those folks go as fast as they do on those tracks)

Btw, back in the day they use to call formula 1 cars, because of their technology, jets on wheels. Is this still the case?

doing the exact same thing. I am in Shanghai in my F1 career and learning the race track. Then I will watch the qualifiying on Saturday morning and see how the real drivers do. I race 17 rounds (30%) and it makes a difference if you race less or if you have to stay on focus for many, many rounds... I usually mess up after 12-13 rounds.

This might be a very slight derail, but where on Earth are the F1 management sims ? Last one I remember was about 2000 and was, if I remember correctly, an EA sports one - but other than that, there just seems to be nothing.

An F1 management sim would be great. I prefer the background stuff to the racing most of the time.

I'm still keen on getting F1 2010, my last was EA's F1 2001, IIRC.

Wow, I viewed some quals of the Chinese GP and the cars have changed. The front of the car has really changed. And I see that button shifting is the norm. Toward the end of my fanatical interests, almost all still were using sticks and the button shifting was new and very controversial.

I'm getting the bug. Anyone have any comment on if there are real differences between the 360 and PS3 versions? My 360 is in for repair and I don't think I can wait 3 weeks. May get this for the PS 3. (unless there's a big on-line community. But as stated in previous post, I hardly see a peep about it. ( I even checked the GWJ Racing group and zero play)

I would say go for the PS3 version solely for the use of a steering wheel. There are far more affordable options that are PC/PS3 compatible, whereas you have like two choices of "decent" for 360 under $300 and one superb option for 360 but it's really pricey (Fanatec GT2 wheel = $250, pedals another $200).

WipEout wrote:

I would say go for the PS3 version solely for the use of a steering wheel. There are far more affordable options that are PC/PS3 compatible, whereas you have like two choices of "decent" for 360 under $300 and one superb option for 360 but it's really pricey (Fanatec GT2 wheel = $300, pedals another $200).

Thanks for the info! Can you recommend first, second choice for PS3?

The Logitech G25 I heard is a good option that's reasonably priced, as well as the GT-endorsed wheel (Driving Force, I think?)

There was a thread a while back wherein people were posting some really in depth reviews of the different wheels, albeit on PC. I think it was in the iRacing thread. From what I've gathered, most any PC wheel that is USB will work on PS3, but I don't have a PS3 to tell you for sure. I got F1 2010 from a Steam sale, and found the Logitech MOMO Racing wheel (successor to the Logitech G25, for all intents and purposes) for dirt cheap on eBay. It's a fantastic wheel, especially for the low price I paid, but there are definitely better steering wheels out there.

WipEout wrote:

The Logitech G25 I heard is a good option that's reasonably priced, as well as the GT-endorsed wheel (Driving Force, I think?)

There was a thread a while back wherein people were posting some really in depth reviews of the different wheels, albeit on PC. I think it was in the iRacing thread. From what I've gathered, most any PC wheel that is USB will work on PS3, but I don't have a PS3 to tell you for sure. I got F1 2010 from a Steam sale, and found the Logitech MOMO Racing wheel (successor to the Logitech G25, for all intents and purposes) for dirt cheap on eBay. It's a fantastic wheel, especially for the low price I paid, but there are definitely better steering wheels out there.

Thanks! I'll look around.

ugh, speaking of F1. I'm a nut for F1 as well, but haven't been around lately to keep track.
Started watching not too long ago when Hamilton first showed up on scene.

I missed Dubai last year. Blah.

I need to start watching again.

None-the-less, PS3 and the G27 is the way to go.
The Fanatec looks great with customization from the factory, but that stick shift looks annoying as heck. Check out the reviews on Youtube that showcases the shifter. I don't know if I can drop 500 beans for the newest Thrustmaster that doesn't come with a shifter. Lol.

Why did this thread die? Is there another one I am missing? I searched and everything!

In order to post about this game
http://thecrew-game.ubi.com/
I didn't want to open a new thread, just yet but I will if there is enough intrest.

This article mentions just how big the world is. This sounds amazing!
http://asidcast.com/index.php/2014/0...

A race around the continent takes 4 actual hours to do.
OMG

Edit: My bad, I see now this is a Front Page article. I'll search again.