Cars that race the IndyCar series are very different from Formula One vehicles; minor things like the engines, tyres, car shapes and chassis but, most importantly, IndyCars are bristling with more cameras than the assembled paparazzi outside Balmoral. Theres the one that peers over the drivers right shoulder, like in Formula One; but theres also one that looks out of the gearbox, another one under the front nose fin, one designed to examine the way the suspension bobs up and down in an entertaining fashion... in fact, anywhere you can sell sponsorship, put a camera. (Wed like to etch Briter Whiter on top of the fourth cylinder. Certainly sir, Im sure we can squeeze a camera in there, thatll be two hundred thousand dollars please.)
TV is what drives IndyCar racing, not a council of lawyers and beaurocrats like fisa. Which, not surprisingly, makes it a hundred times more exciting to watch than Formula One. Papyrus Publishing Inc. has realised this strength in its follow up to the ancient and fabulous Indy 500 and tried to make the new game as much like interacting with the tv coverage of IndyCar racing as possible.
Since our customer has seen televised coverage, we have based our simulations look on the actual colours, camera angles and even the fonts used on TV, explains Dave Kaemmer, programmer, designer, IndyCar nut and, when hes not busy with the first three, Vice-President of Papyrus.
A hard act...
Following a game as successful as Indy 500 is not easy. It had four key strengths: it was the first driving game with a realistic physics model, the frame rate of its polygon graphics was high, the action replay facility was fantastic, and the cars were fully adjustable, giving endless.hours of tweaking for the committed enthusiast. Its main drawback was that driving action was limited to one oval course.
IndyCar Racing offers all the strengths of the original, but in an updated game environment that includes multiple tracks, souped-up graphics and a long and approving look at the best elements of MicroProses Formula One Grand Prix. But the structure of the game is much the same as before: theres not a great deal you can do imaginatively with the structure of a racing simulation, after all. I not really much of a game designer. says Kaemmer, With a driving game, its pretty much there already. Youll be able to practice courses, play a single driver racing an entire season, carry out pre-season testing etc. It'll be fairly similar to Formula One Grand Prix.
Where it differs completely from Indy 500, is in the variety of the courses on which to race. Papyrus has secured the official licence to use all 16 IndyCar tracks, which include superspeedways, short ovals, road courses and city circuits. The initial release will include up to eight tracks (one or two of which will be forwarded to buyers when they register the game - a great idea), to be followed by one or more additional track disks to give the full set.
We have researched the tracks very carefully, visiting some courses with cameras, studying course data for others. At some of the courses - like Laguna Seca - they still have the original survey blueprints which have all the precise measurements like corner radii mapped out. us Geological Survey maps were also consulted to ensure the topography was accurate, and video and stills cameras used for adding veracity to the track-side objects. In-car footage also made very interesting viewing for us. It allowed us to check the road cambers in particular were correct.
Not only is the track modelled accurately, but even the positioning of tv cameras around the course is absolutely spot on, adding even more to the reality of the game. When you watch a lap on tv replay mode, if you half close your eyes its like watching a broadcast. Except that its you driving. In the final game, Papyrus is planning to make the tv replay mode action-sensitive: the cameras used will vary from lap to lap, itll zoom in on crashes and zoom out to view passing manoeuvres. Youll also be able to save these replays on the hoof for later viewing. The blimp view - essential for viewing crashes - is still there too. The replays are much more attractive to watch than the original Indy, thanks to the fabulous texture-mapped cars.
Texture mapping gives a great sense of speed. explains Kaemmer, Simple polygon modelling is okay, but its not as gripping to watch. To see the difference it makes, you only have to view an action replay from the gearbox view out of the back of the car. The sense of speed is awesome, thanks to the striations on the track. Texture mapping also allows details such as sponsorship decals, billboards and other objects to be brought into the picture. Even drivers helmets will hopefully end up with drivers individual colours.
I like driving in my car
Unlike the closely guarded home-made cars raced in Formula One, you can buy an IndyCar off the shelf. A very large, expensive shelf, usually in Britain, as it happens. March and Lola, Penske and possibly even Galmer chassis will be represented, with engines from Cosworth, Chewy, Buick et al. Each chassis will have around four or five major variables which will alter the way it handles; explains Kaemmer, things like the centre of pressure, where the downforce acts on the car.
The physical principles of racing car design obviously fascinate him, and the realism of the driving model is probably the most important aspect of the game. This time, drafting (getting a tow from the hole punched in the air by the car in front) and turbulence (like flatulence but from the messy air left in the wake of a car) are both included, as.are camber and altitude change effects. For example, grip will be better in a bend at the bottom of a hill than at the top where the change of altitude reduces adhesion. Ive read books on racing car dynamics from front to back and then back to front again, admits Kaemmer, and actually, theres a really good uk magazine I get called Race Car Engineering. But at the end of the day, its the feel that counts. When you have an accurate physics model, you actually come across the same handling problems as race car engineers. There will also be improved weather effects, including that of hot weather on tyre behaviour and rain and wind on general handling.
In the quest for the best control system Papyrus intends to pack IndyCar Racing with dedicated support for many different hardware set-ups. Apart from keyboard and mouse, the game will support a number of joystick configurations - a second joystick for the throttle, yokes, pedals and so on. There is also a rumour that Papyrus is teaming up with a well-known controller manufacturer to produce a custom steering wheel/pedal set.
There is also to be two player support in the form of both serial and modem head to head options. The exact form this will take is unclear, but Kaemmer is quietly confident that it will work well. There are even plans afoot for a multi-player capability in a later version... Anyone fancy a spot of networked car racing?
Sound support should also be comprehensive with the present early samples sounding hot already. Car engine notes are calculated precisely according to a mathematical model of doppler shift, which should be useful to let you know when Mario Andrettis halfway up your tailpipe if you didnt spot him in your mirrors.
Speaking of the other drivers, Kaemmer has just drivers, Kaemmer has just begun work on the Artificial Intelligence routines for the other cars. Rather than have them glued to a single racing line (which is how Formula One Grand Prix feels), hell be compiling a number of alternate driving lines. Cars will be able to hop between them as circumstances dictate. And - joy of joys - back markers will sometimes move over for you. Should you lose track of the driving line yourself, the texture mapping on the road surface will include rubber skid marks which are thicker on the racing line. Very clever stuff indeed.
So wholl like this game, then?
Anyone who enjoyed the original Indy is going to be drawn to this one like Nigel Mansell to a big cheque. Apparently Indy 500 had a comparatively large following in Europe,despite the subject matter. Americans didnt seem to be as receptive to the complexity and depth of the game. IndyCar Racing builds on the depth but hopefully adds some decent driving aids for the beginner. If the easy learning options work well (they werent implemented in the preview build), the crashes are spectacular and frame rate fast enough, this could just be the new benchmark racing game.
Download Indycar Racing
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Okay, there's not a lot to say here. If you're into serious car sims you must own Indycar by now, and you'll probably be bored with most of the tracks (seeing as they're nearly all ovals). Yeah? Well, here's a newsflash: of the seven new tracks in this upgrade, only one is an oval. Hoorah! (Unless you're actually into ovals, of course, in which case make that a 'boo!').
But anyway, so what are the courses like to drive? The answer to this is 'brilliant'. At least a couple of them rank alongside the excellent Laguna Seca, which you'll no doubt be familiar with by now, and the rest are easily as much fun as, say, Portland International. Oh. and there's that really 'weird' track, too, the one you'll have seen if you regularly watch Nigel Mansell's Indycar Racing. It's the one that's actually an airfield: Cleveland Lakefront Airport, to give it its full title. I've always wondered what it must feel like to race on roads that wide, and now I've got an idea: nightmare. But enough descriptive stuff on the courses, because I've created mini storyboards for each and every one of them. What I will talk about, however, is the evil face of 'creative' marketing peering greedily over the proceedings.
Cash, cash, cash
They're at it again, the jolly software vendors. Capitalism rules, okay. And I'm not talking about this being an add-on disk, either. The courses are so good that whether or not you think the entire season's tracks should have come with the original game (like they did in'Microprose Grand Prix), you'll still be forced to conclude, at the end of the day-that you've got your money's worth. So we're all happy there. But (yes, there's a but), you may or may not have noticed this, but when you take the number of tracks from the original game, and add it to the number of tracks on this add-on disk, the result is 15. The thing is, though, that the real-life Indycar season actually has 16 meetings. And yes, you would indeed be correct (well done) in deducing from this that very possibly one of the tracks has gone walkabout. But the questions are as follows: (a) which track has gone walkabout, and (b) where exactly has it gone walkies to? See if you can guess the answer to either of these questions before continuing.
Given up yet?
Right. The chances are high that you'll have guessed the answer to the first question, but I doubt very much if you'll have sussed the second. Here goes. The missing track is the so-called biggest event of the year on the Indycar calendar: namely the Indianapolis 500. Quite an omission, even if it is just another boring oval (and yes, I know the Yanks cream their pants at the mere mention of the place). But why is it missing? Surely the money people at Papyrus or wherever didn't really think they could get away with releasing it as another data-disk, all on its own. Did they? And the answer to this is, believe it or not, 'sort of.
Ready for the bad news?
If you're a die-hard completist (or an American with creamed-up undies), then don't close your wallet just yet, because there is indeed going to be yet another add-on, turning the Indycar phenomenon into a rather expensive trilogy. How the next 'package' works is as follows. It's called the Indycar Paint Shop. What it allows you to do (and I haven't seen it yet, so I can't slag it off too much, and I'm guessing a bit), is to customise the graphics of your car. Changing the basic colours is obviously an easy thing to do, so I assume you'll also be able to design your own bitmap decals and so forth. (A Happy Shopper or Londis sticker on the side could be amusing... or Patel's Newsagents, or just a really crap picture of an elephant or a hen.) You get the idea, though. It means that when it comes-to running through the replays, you and your chums can also chortle away at the latest 'joke' that's been plastered over the rear wing.
But is it worth forking out for? Would you buy it as a stand-alone? The money people involved here obviously felt that maybe some added inducement might be in order. You'll have guessed what's coming because I've pretty much signposted it, but for what it's worth, here's what the blurb on the press release I'm holding says: "The Indycar Paintshop. All the pros need to have their own colours, and now you can design and have yours too. But once a professional has his colours, he needs something to show them off on, so what better place than the most famous Indycar racing track of them all - the Indianapolis 500!"
It's pretty naughty, isn't it? Still, at least Virgin isn't taking the piss too much regarding the price of this 'extra' add-on: the Paint Shop/Indianapolis 500 combo is going to cost $9.99. (Let's just call it a tenner, eh?) So time for some maths. The add-on disk we're already looking at here costs 18 quid, which means the tracks cost about $2.50 each. Assuming the Indy 500 track is also worth $2.50, then the Paint Shop program (whether you want it or not, by the way) is going to cost you $7.50 -which isn't exactly going to break the bank. It's not so bad when looked at like that, I know, but the basic principle is still galling... and having said $7.50 isn't going to break the bank, well - not so if you happen to be on the dole. ("People on the dole shouldn't be allowed to play computer games! They should be busy looking for work, even in the evenings and on Sundays!" - Sir Bufton Tufton MP.)
And so on...
Forget the imminent Paint Shop program for now though, and let's just pause to sum up exactly what we've got here, and it's as follows: six rootin' tootin', new road circuits and a snoozy, yawny oval. (Oh, and an automatic indycar.exe upgrade that means when you blow a tyre in practice, you no longer need to whip off to the garage and get it repaired. You just simply press escape, then return, and your car is fixed and still in the same position as when you crashed: i.e. no more having to start back at the pits.) All in all, and creative marketing aside, it's something of an essential purchase. Totally brilliant.