Total Immersion Racing
Look At Me! I'm driving a car! In a game! Big deal, people have been doing that for decades. What does that tell you? Either that people like pretending to drive fast cars, or that developers have no imagination. Whatever the case, you're about to be offered another racing game in the shape of Total Immersion Racing, which hopes to do exactly what it says on the tin.
Those responsible are Oxford-based outfit Razorworks, better known for their great big choppers. We don't mean that they have particularly large penises, or even unwieldy 70s bicycles; rather that they forged their reputation by developing helicopter games. TIR represents something of a shift in focus then, as project manager Kevin Bezant explains.
Basically we needed a change. Our last flight sim, Comanche Hokum, took us about as far as we wanted to go. The game received excellent reviews and won some awards, so it was good to end on a high note. As a result of developing flight sims the team is very strong in real-world physics and advanced Al, so the switch to car racing games felt like a natural step.
Bad Man's Wheels
Nevertheless, it must be an onerous task to attempt to come up with something original within the overtly crowded racing genre.
It's very hard, agrees Kev. It's all too easy to underestimate what goes into making a car racing game. When we were developing flight sims we had a team of eight people, now we're developing car racing games we've grown in size up to 20 and that doesn't feel like enough.
Moving on to specifics, the game will feature an array of expensive automobiles, lovingly modelled on the real thing. As Kev says: All of the cars are genuine. Some manufacturers have been more involved than others. BMW for instance were very particular about its cars and gave us a lot of feedback to help get its cars right - and the cars are much improved for it."
A host of fancy cars would be no use with nowhere to drive them, but thankfully TIR will be rammed with all manner of high-speed circuits. According to Kev, There's a mix of real and made up tracks in the game. The real tracks are built from CAD data supplied by the track owners. Also we've visited all of these tracks and taken photos and videos so they are very accurately represented. For instance, if you drive the Hockenheim circuit you'll notice the very high camber around the Motodrom section. This's how it is in real life and not many games have included that camber. Monza is another track that we're particularly pleased with, as we've captured the crumbly, antique feel of the circuit. I've seen Monza in some games where it looks as though it was recently constructed."
Why Are People Grudgeful?
Crumbly tracks aside, much of the pre-publicity of the game has revolved around the allegedly revolutionary artificial intelligence. Tell us all about it Kev. Unlike other racing games, TIR has a totally innovative Emotion Al engine. Normally, any personality a computer-controlled opponent shows is scripted, and therefore it's the same every time you play it. In TIR however, everything changes as you race, so if you're driving round the track like an idiot and cutting other drivers up they're going to get annoyed and probably have a go at you. The emotional state of the drivers towards you will be shown graphically just above their cars, with green indicating they haven't got anything against you (yet), to red, warning that they're well and truly hacked off. In the Career game the Al drivers will carry grudges against you and other Al drivers from one race to the next, which can really affect your performance. If you've worked an Al driver into a state of being fully grudged up', watch out, as they'll be actively looking to get you.
There you have it then, a vindictive racing game with authentic cars and a very high camber on the Hockenheim circuit. We've played an early build, and were more than moderately impressed. More jerky than the Notting Hill Carnival, but with some optimisation it could be a good laugh. The cars are particularly chunky and robust - fittingly so, considering they're indestructible - and while the handling needs a bit of tweaking, TIR is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the European racing game mountain.
Total immersion though? How is that going to be achieved? Kev? Through the whole race driving experience. Hopefully people will notice their opponents aren't running around on rails and that something else is going on out there. Personally I've only managed to reach Immersion Level 8 -it's not safe to go to levels 9 or 10 without someone else present and only the foolhardy would even attempt this without Immersion Insurance. You heard it here first.
Download Total Immersion Racing
Empire September 2002 -- Empire is tight-lipped about their new Le Mans-style racing project. We do know it'll have 18 licensed vehicles, including prototype machines and real tracks from around the world. Like the title implies, they're hoping it'll lull you into a racing trance in which time and reality have no meaning. Yeah right. Just make it fast and fun, OK? Oh, and white you're at it, think about changing the name, too.
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