Archive for Juli, 2008

variation is evil

Dienstag, Juli 15th, 2008

i’ve spent last week preparing the new elise cup so that i can start a new season. i have limited the amount of fuel by resizing the tank so that the pack must pit, even for this short distance (22-25 laps) this will give the cup a more sprint series like feeling and i hope this will mix the field a little bit more, and well – it’s great entertainment for the visitors 😉

then i’ve started a practise session and even i’ve got a very comfortable feeling, i’m still more than 1.5 seconds behind the leader. i know, the ai in gtr2 is very strong in practise and qualify sessions but that the difference is that big is a little bit surprising on this 1:41 track. so i’ve started to analyze my lap and sector times to see if it is related to the setup or the line. by applying some of my 6S tools i’ve found that i’ve got some problems with consistency at 4 different positions of the track. the best consecutive sector times are about 1 second faster than my best lap and the theoretical best lap would be a 1:39xxx. so my goal was to get somewhere close to a low 1:40. by focusing myself to the 4 spotted areas (three corners and one straight). i’ve payed more attention to brake point and turn-in point and to the acceleration point. for the straight, i was looking if the variation comes from the last corner exit or from a wrong brake point with some idle phase until turn-in (funny, it is the start-finish line). since the turn before the straight was kind of constant i found that i’m exiting the turn at different positions and that the brake point varies for the first corner. by forcing myself to a better line for the last corner and by setting the brake point more towards trail-braking without using the throttle before the apex i’ve got kind of stable sector times. and viola, a few laps later, i was able to stay within the 1:40xxx range without many hazzles. by softening the front swaybar once more and decreasing the air inlet the car started to be very fast in bends as well as on the straights. so i went for the qualifying, keen on getting a start place somewhere between 10 and 20. fuel for 3 laps and heading to the track wasn’t a big deal. i forced the car thru the first lap to get the tires as hot as possible and by steering the car as sensitive as possible thru the last corner i flew on the start-finish line towards the first corner. brake point – perfect, turn-in – perfect, right-left-right and apex – a little bit disturbed by an other car but i tried to use the slipstream to get the car out of the bend as fast as possible. unfortunately, another car, same story, slipstream until corner 6 (the one after seat), outbraking, snip back onto the racing line just a meter in front of the opponent, hitting the apex synchron with the throttle and out for my weakest point, the last left-long right until it comes down to the last right corner. everything went fine, the outer tires were touching the curbs as best as possible and event the last right went close to perfect. shifting to 6th gear, flying to the finish line took endless seconds but then – new best lap – 1:39.534 – i was blown away. within 1 day an improvement by about 2 seconds, that’s what i call amazing. at the end of the quali session, i’ve got place 4 to start from and this was far more than expected. the race itself was really entertaining. since 22 of the 26 cars were able to stay within 1 second during the quali session, it was always tight, no chance for mistakes nor relaxing around the track. battle for a top 3 position forced me to drive a very aggressive line and so a visit to the gravel was unavoidable. unfortunately, the limited fuel wasn’t able to force the cars into the pits, since the race length is calculated by time, not by laps and the new elises are way faster than the original cup which decreases the lap count and so no need for pitstop. i have to change this for the next race. back to position 9, i’ve started to fight myself back to the top 3 but attacking the leader forced me again to leave the racing line but i wasn’t successfull and lost the 2nd place, to finish 3rd. whatsoever, i’m lucky with the 3rd place as well, it’s a cup and so more than one race.

review – race driver:grid

Dienstag, Juli 8th, 2008

due to the high temps in germany, i was not really in the mood to spend time seriously with gaming. but i found the demo of ‚race driver: grid‘ from codemasters on a magazine dvd and thought, let’s give it a try. i have read that this game is quite demanding in terms of hardware requirements and so i was kind of interested to see how my system is able to handle the game. the installation of the demo took some time but was showing some nice screenshots of the game. after the installation, the game is placed in the games section of vista, so no seperate menu item. there is no external setup, everything is done inside the game. usually, this is quite nice because you do not have to leave the game for changing the settings for graphics or sound but the game requested restarts (of the game, not the system) for most of the changes which takes some time and makes no difference to an external setup. anyway, the settings for graphics are very high level, as well as for sound and controller. there is no chance to switch to a specific soundcard nor controller and most of the settings are more like on/off, low/med/high. the demo provides 3 races – race track with a bmw 320, drift with a nissan sylvia and street race with a ford mustang. the overall game navigation is quite nice but very console-ish.

without any doubts, the game looks nice. the scenery is quite detailled and the objects placed everywhere are giving the tracks a ‚life‘ touch. the objects are detailled, breakable (if you can reach them) or animated (eg: people). the lighting is related to the time of the day or the location and adds a nice touch to the scenery. an eyecatcher is the package of effects. the game is using hdr effects a lot and so there is a lot of shiny reflections, blooming, pupil adaption simulation, sparks, smoge, back fire, broken mirrors/windows, scratched or broken body parts and so on. the cars are detailled as long as you watch them not in the rear view mirror. here they become very boxy and all those mentioned effects are gone as well. this is very pitty, especially for the drift events where no smoke is visible in the mirrors at all and to look at the mirror during a race is so disappointing, you feel yourself set back to the late 90s.
the overall mood of the graphics is kind of flat, not as colorfull as sega rally. if i compare the game graphics to photos i’ve shoot at races or other car related events, it could use some more saturation.
the interior of the cars is very well done. lot’s of details, different gauges, steering wheel, legs, pedals and so on, this is very impressive and for me, it set’s a new standard for car interiors. this comes in very nice, especially during the replays because you’ve got different camera positions inside the car as well.

hm, this is a little bit difficult. the setup is strange, you’ve got the choice to use hardware acceleration or not, whatever this means. on my xfi card, this means, 5.1 or not, on different other soundcards, i don’t know. there is no option to select your sounddevice as well. this is really not very user friendly.
the sound coulisse is not bad, a lot of environmental sounds, bounces, gearbox noise and tire squeaks. but, especially the sylvia or the muscle car comes quite flat in terms of engine sounds. i expect more presents for the engine for a game which offers this amount of effects overall and the balance of the volume for the different sound effects needs more attention as well.

same here, no choice to select a specific controller. you’ve got 2 profiles, standard and custom and as the name is telling this, the custom controler setup can be used to create an input scheme which fits to your needs. by whatever reason, i was not able to get a usefull forcefeedback on my momo race. the wheel is without any resistance or rumble effect. sometimes, during heavy bounces or very fast steering actions, there was something like an effect but this is far away from the very first forcefeedback titles back in the windows 95 aera. not sure if this related to the demo, vista or the wheel. overall, there are some deadzone and linearity settings, which is nice and stands out of the other settings for the game. the response to throttle, brake and steering is good and direct and provides control over the car. overall, this game is best driveable with a controller, especially the drift race requires very fast steering actions and this is going to be kind of demanding with a wheel. but this is typicall for arcade titles and with some tweaking and a more ‚lookahead‘ steering style it is fun as well. fortunately, the throttle and brake is very sensitive, so it is not this pure ‚button-like‘ throttle/brake driving style.

this may be a little bit disappointing for the ones looking for a more sim-like racing game but this is codemasters. race driver:grid is arcade pur. for me, it is in line with nfsu2, nfsc or sega rally. basic load balancing, understeer/oversteer but very drift-ish and forgiveable. the opponents moving around like they haven’t got any physics at all and even a heavy crash isn’t really able to push them or you out of the track. sometimes, the opponents spin, as you do as well if you steer in too fast, but this is really just something that happens because it is the intention and not a result of a physics engine. other parts on the track breaking, fallling down or flying some meters after a hit but this is already seen in titles like burnout2 as well. overall, the feeling of the car is kind of ‚weightless‘ and it reminds me a lot of other codemasters titles like TOCA or DTM Race Driver. acceleration and decelleration is done within a blink of an eye and there is no major slow down in bends. the opponents are often really bullish, they turn in into a bend without paying any attention to you and so you find yourself often in a situation where you get rammed with full force. it is not really possible to drive without any demolition and if you want to win at higher difficulty, you have to add some brutality to your style, like in former codemasters race titles before. it seems like this is a mandatory part to present the damage model 😉 overall, the pack is suffering from rubberbanding, it is no problem to catch up if you are a couple of seconds behind and it is not really possible to get rid of the pack, the biggest advantage i’ve had was a 18 sec gap in frisco and 15 seconds for the other race (serious difficulty, no driving aids).

it is a nice, fast paced arcade title. the presentation is nice, the advertised volume of the game sounds interesting, the handling is easy (even if the drift race needs some training). the demo isn’t really presenting the options you will get in the full version so you have to read around a little bit. i’m not sure if this title is worth the full price. compared to forza (xbox) or forza2 (360), it comes in a little bit low, because there is no real tuning nor parts shop. the graphics are nice but tend to be unsharp or boxy. this is a strange effect because sometimes it looks like i’m playing the game with 800×600 stretched to 1280×768. on sloped tracks, this leads to a loss of orientation and turn-in’s becomes a little bit tricky. the performance is quite well, i get constant frame rates above 50 fps, with 1280×768/4xaa and everyhing on max on my 3.6ghz dual core with 8800gt (overclocked as well). for 20-30 euro, this is something to consider if you need something to relaxe after a hard day at work but for full price, well, you have to be focused on arcade racing.