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Emulation (Games) Classic Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Real Racing In the Virtual World 170

zebadee writes "The BBC has a story about a company aiming to pit gamers against the professionals. iOpener Media has a patented system that sucks in real-time GPS data from racing events and pumps it out to compatible games consoles and PCs. This means you can race in real-time against the like of Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. The company also claims to have an AI that solves the problem of overtaking and crashes." It would be great to see this applied to historical events and other game domains, too -- like trying to beat Amundsen to the South Pole, using best-known weather data.
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Real Racing In the Virtual World

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  • I'm pretty sure... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BZWingZero ( 1119881 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:01PM (#23773361)
    I'm pretty sure the Rocket Racing league is planning something similar.
    According to the Wikipedia [], they are planning a game which will allow people to compete virtually along with actual racers.
    • Wasn't this done years and years ago? There was some software in the late 90's that did just this. I remember it being advertised in PC Gamer and the like. I think it used CART racing data, or possibly Toyota Atlantic. Can't for the life of me remember the name though.

      And it's easy to beat Lewis Hamilton. Just make it out the pitlane in one piece.
  • by gapagos ( 1264716 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:03PM (#23773375)
    I mean it requires so much investment in live distribution of data and all that stuff, for probably a poor recreation of the actual professional performance...

    What's wrong with a little delay, let the programmers watch the replays and all reliable information to create an accurate "Ghost" representation of the professional racer that can be later downloaded through a bonus pack or something?

    That sounds so much easier to do, cheaper as well, and now that I think about it... why wasn't this thing thought of before? It doesn't need to be live at all.

    Although I agree that live would probably be more exciting... but does even 1% of racing gamers actually KNOW precicely the days and times of each race start around the world?

    Like last weekend was the Montreal F1 Grand Prix, and I believe that the official race was on Sunday, but I have no clue at what time it started, and the city is barely a 1h30 drive from mine, for hell's sake...
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:13PM (#23773471)
      A major limiting factor for any RealWorld racing etc is self preservation. In other words, the risk analysis to determine how fast you are prepared to drive without killing yourself.

      The virtual world racers have no such risks.

      • by gapagos ( 1264716 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:18PM (#23773509)
        That is totally true.
        Although imho you would replace "killing yourself" with "destroying your employer's vehicle which costs millions of dollars and forever to repair".
      • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )
        True, though this effect can be lessened by increasing the penalty for killing your virtual self.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by dogdick ( 1290032 )
          Like the disk breaks and you can't play anymore.
          Solved, I win. THats brain power in action. Now, to just retrofit all those Ps3s, xboxes and pcs with a mechanism to break the disk and trick people into buying it...
      • by Samah ( 729132 )
        Solution: If you "die", the game deletes itself from your hard drive, forcing you to reinstall. That gives you a pretty decent reason for self preservation. ;)
        • Solution: If you "die", the game deletes itself from your hard drive, forcing you to reinstall.
          When cylons die, they just download again. Same concept?
      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @12:24AM (#23774331)
        In other words, the risk analysis to determine how fast you are prepared to drive without killing yourself.

        Unlike games, and street racing, in professional race conditions, drivers are usually going as fast as they can go without losing control. The question is more about control (holding the line, maintaining ideal friction during turns), and efficiency (drafting, tire wear, fuel). Its really not about going faster. They're pushing the car as hard as they can.

        In my limited race track experience the gas pedal is usually floored, except when the brakes are floored. And choosing when to switch from one to the other is part of holding the line. The only exception is through tight S-curves - where you are still going as fast as you can go while holding the line go without your wheels losing traction.

        There is rarely a situation where a driver could be going faster, and not be immediately involved in an accident.

        Risk analysis is a factor, to be sure, but good professional drivers are pretty good at getting right up against the edge of losing control without going over.

        Personally I think the vast majority of gamers will lose to the pros everytime if the simulation is any good. It is much harder to gauge where the control line is in a video game... you don't have the g-force feedback, nor the feel of the tires that you'd have in real life. A pro driver can tell the difference without even trying between wet track, dry track, tell his air pressure is off, how worn his tires are, how warm his tires are, and how tight a turn he can take at what speed without slipping more than 10-15% based on all that ... when was the last time you played a game where that was really relevant...or that you could really tell the difference?

        For the gamers to stand a chance the simulations will have to be markedly more forgiving than the real world... and that sort of defeats the point.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )
          How about crash metrics? If the crash is bad enough they're out for the season. If not so bad their out for the race our out for however long a "typical" pit crew would take to get that car back on the track? (I fully support a full body suit and VR with true impact at real G-Force level for this bugger just so I can watch them but I'm a crotchety old bastard.)
      • by KGIII ( 973947 )
        With F1 cars the data transmitted is insane. This strikes me as one of the projects FAR MORE suited for F/OSS than proprietary. Yes, yes this is me saying this.
      • by Burning1 ( 204959 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @01:24AM (#23774661) Homepage
        Have you ever raced? Because I have.

        A racer interested in self preservation usually only reduces his speed by about 5%-10% of what is theoretically possible. Most motorcycle racers use lines that provide space to recover if they exceed traction limits, usually at the cost of position or lap times. Most racers use a delayed apex line that allows the driver to get on the throttle hard and early. If the vehicle does start to go out of control, there is usually plenty of room to recover.

        Because exceeding the limits can be recovered, and because it usually reduces lap times, I highly doubt that being able to run near maximum speed would provide a significant advantage. After all, a casual gamer is just as likely as a racer to botch a corner and go off-line. If doing so hurts lap times badly enough, there is not a real advantage in getting so close to the edge.

        The biggest advantage a simulated racer will have is that simulations tend to be a little watered down from reality, and are usually more predictable. Top gear had an excellent video on the matter, where Jeremy Clarkson attempted to beat his GT4 time in reality using the same car (Acura NSX) and course (Laguna Seca.) I'm sure you can find the video on YouTube.
        • by Doctor O ( 549663 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @05:55AM (#23775785) Homepage Journal
          ...can be found here: []
      • Doesn't that apply to pretty much all computer games?
    • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:17PM (#23773503)

      let the programmers watch the replays and all reliable information to create an accurate "Ghost" representation of the professional racer
      I think doing time trials against a professional ghost would be interesting, but actually racing against them is worthless. Once you reach them (or they reach you), and the AI kicks in, you're no longer racing the professional, but against the AI.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dogdick ( 1290032 )
        The ghost person also doesn't know you are next to them, so they won't try tactics that slow other racers down in real life. Of course the AI could do it, but then its not real, and it would also affect where the ghost racer is . . . then the GPS would be off. Wee.
    • I knew it started at 3AM Melbourne time. If you are into that sort of thing, you know it. Because its not as if its hard to find out. even converts it to your local time for you!
    • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @11:44PM (#23774107)

      Although I agree that live would probably be more exciting... but does even 1% of racing gamers actually KNOW precicely the days and times of each race start around the world?
      I'd suggest the opposite problem: the people who would be most interested in this, would be actually watching the race rather than playing games.

      P.S. Lewis Hamilton, please stop crashing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:04PM (#23773387)
    Feed the GPS data from cars stuck on the 405 in LA into the on-car computers during the Indy 500.
  • Especially given that the real drivers have to worry about crashing and losing a car whereas the gamer can just restart. On the other hand, perhaps it can help the driver himself since he can't be on the track 24/7.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:04PM (#23773399) Journal
    This would make The Oregon Trail new again!!

    Or how about, Poll Chasing With the Best: On the Trail With Barak and Hillary.

    Or Across the Ocean With Thor Heyerdahl: The Rowing Game.

    Maybe from historical data we can recreate the spreading pattern of the black plague. Across Europe: A Flea's Tale.

    The potential is limitless.
  • Not to begrudge a person of their fantasy, but following a bunch of dogs in the Antarctic at 10 miles a day sounds like it might be a niche market for this device. Real question... Is this a unique enough idea to be patented?
    • Is this a unique enough idea to be patented?
      I don't think its too bad. Certainly a hell of a lot better than a crapload of other stuff that gets patented, but that's not really saying anything.
  • by arthurpaliden ( 939626 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:05PM (#23773411)
    You could actually go to the cantina and see that Han Solo actually did shoot first.
    • I wonder if I could beat Han's time for the Kessel run.

      P.S. Anybody know the conversion factor from parsecs to hours?
  • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:06PM (#23773417) Homepage

    It would be great to see this applied to historical events and other game domains, too -- like trying to beat Amundsen to the South Pole, using best-known weather data.
    This is horrible, this idea.

    The possibilities are interesting, but the most exciting idea you can think of is a game where you spend 3+ months riding behind sled dogs across the Antarctic tundra? Sounds like Penn & Teller's Desert Bus [].

    I mean, don't get me wrong, Roald Amundsen was an interesting guy with a great story, but that doesn't mean it would make a good videogame.
  • Would this Race-To-The-Pole game also include simulated frostbite?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:12PM (#23773463)
    You can't really call it a race when the gamer sees and reacts to the real drivers, but the real drivers don't see or react to the gamers, can you?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CptPicard ( 680154 )
      They claim to have some sort of adaptation AI there, but one would still have to keep the world in "sync" over longer periods of time... otherwise differences would just accumulate. So I suppose if some computer car needs to slow down because of you, it will just magically accelerate back to its current position or something... doesn't sound too realistic :)
    • Easily fixed. All you need is a few RC cars.
    • Sure you can. It's called Gran Turismo 1,2,3 and 4. The longest, loudest and most universal complaint about the AI is that it behaves like the gamer isn't there. If the Gran Turismo series can have such stellar sales despite this, I don't see that it would be much of a problem for this game.
    • by mgblst ( 80109 )
      You could have normal AI take over when a played gets near, or does something to affect the live player, and then when the player goes away, it returns to the live position.

      Not really that hard when you think about it.
  • Worthless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chanrobi ( 944359 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:23PM (#23773531)
    As a fairly new but hardcore motor racing simulation fanatic (F1 challenge, rFactor, GTR2, GPL) this article is just a load of hogwash. First, simply pumping the GPS data from real racecars into an online track is useless. Why?

    Because you cannot replicate exactly

    1) the track itself, the bumps, kerbs, asphalt, track layout
    2) track conditions at the time the gps data for the "real" racers cars, ambient temp, track temp, rubber laid down by previous sessions, debris etc.
    3) car setup (good luck getting real time telemtry of all the parameters of the car from the real F1 teams), this would reveal too much information to competitors

    These 3 factors combine to change grip and ultimately laptimes.

    As anyone who has raced competitively online will tell you - lap times in the virtual world is incomparable to real world runs with the same cars, same track. As a small example, some of the best line sim race drivers in the world are doing = 1.17 laptimes on the '02 version of silverstone in F1C. While the fastest lap in the real world was a 1:18.9.

    Almost 2s difference. Which is huge. This is one example of many. The only way this situation can be rectified is by making a hyper realisitc simulation that has never been seen before or, start fudging grip, engine power and other statistics. Which by the way the article says it won't do because "it defeats the point". Yeah right.
  • by elynnia ( 815633 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:32PM (#23773591)
    Jeremy Clarkson did an interesting segment on Top Gear a while when he drove around a racetrack in the very same car but once in Gran Turismo 4, and then in real life. []

    He points out that no matter how realistic a game is, it is just not a real-life experience:
    "The one thing I've learned today... is that you can have the skill to get this car around here in 1:40, and it could do 1:40... [but] it's that part of your brain that makes you frightened."

    Of course, games are essentially there to entertain, and I'm sure that a lot of people will enjoy racing against the professionals from the comfort of their own couch. But just because you can play Guitar Hero and have a blast of a time doing so, it doesn't necessarily mean you can play the guitar.

    Aly =]

  • I see a big hole (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:38PM (#23773625)
    The real-world racers will not be reacting to the presence of the gamers. Hitting Speed Racist's car in a video game won't cause him to spin out in real life, though that would be a great WTF moment if it did. At best this will be like singing along with a pre-recorded tape, it'll look good but it won't be the same as actually performing with a real band who can improvise and react to your own performance.

    Actually, this is making me think of the old Captain Power toys where you could wave the fighter at the screen while the show was on and your ship would "explode" (pop apart due to springs) if it got "hit" by an enemy robot. The funny thing is, those Captain Power toys would be entirely kick-ass today with our gaming systems and 3D controllers. The fighters were held by pistol grips with the part. For a modern version, make the pistol grip a detachable mount containing the electronics for a wireless controller for a system like Wii or the 360. The fighter part can be a stand-alone toy that can also be mounted atop the controller when playing the video game. From there, the fighter's attitude would control the action on the screen. The toy would respond to what's going on with appropriate vibration, lights, and sound effects. When sufficiently damaged, the whole thing can sproing apart just like Captain Planet's fighters did. And to really merchandise the situation, the game itself would have full storylines to go with each fighter and presumably the character that goes along with it. So you beat the game once with the blue fighter, that's nice, but the red fighter has a full story arc to play through as well. The game is included in the box with the fighter, essentially the same game each time but with different cinematics to go with the new character.

    Something like this would be very successful.
  • by GMThomas ( 1115405 ) on Thursday June 12, 2008 @10:54PM (#23773753) Homepage
    "like trying to beat Amundsen to the South Pole, using best-known weather data." I've always wanted to play a game where after twelve hours of doing the exact same thing in a region that looks exactly the same no matter where you are, you still haven't gotten very far! The left arrow key will make you step with your left foot, and the right arrow key will make you step with your right. Careful not to hit one twice in a row - you will trip! Don't trip too much, or you might lose! Also, don't forget to rest and eat. Repeat this a few dozen times!
    • If you stop eating, you're not racing Amundsen. You're racing Scott.
  • What if you're dealing with a Road Rash type game where you can get out of your car and run around on the track? Would the AI simulate the driver running around on the track swinging a chain at the other drivers as they speed by him or what? I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
  • As has been mentioned, in game you can do much faster times than real life drivers, and getting live telemetry from the cars during races might be tricky.

    So why not use delayed telemetry? And maybe use endurance racing instead of formula racing? Most endurance races have different classes of vehicles, so you're constantly "fighting" traffic (especially if you're in the fastest classes), gamewise you could have to earn your way up from GT2 to GT1 to LMP2 to LMP1 (to use Le Mans standards).

    Le Mans alone would
  • by JTMoon ( 952394 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @12:18AM (#23774295) has been hosting matches against the opening moves of real historical chess matches.
    You can play against chess champions of centuries past or the modern day. (you have to pay to play against historical players, you can replay historical chess matches for free).

    I think this is an awesome idea for games.
    Of course, the constraint is a limited number of games where this is applicable (for example, it wouldn't make any sense to play against the replayed opening moves of a Halo 3 match...)

    • Pretty much every computerized chess at this point does that. I think it stems from playing Sargon chess on my GameBoy and having it take hours and hours to make moves in an opening. If I'm following a traditional opening why not let the machine just go with the tried and true methods instead of having to reinvent the wheel? So regardless if the opening is traditional or something that is a bit off-beat but historical really doesn't matter.

      It's not unlike bots in CS:S... If you play the same bots on the s
  • There's no risk, so why would I want to go around an oval hundreds of times with people who can't see me (and probably won't even 'hit' me because of that). Unlike the people I'd be going against, I have no reason to worry about snapping my neck or being in a burning aluminum cage if I screw up, so I'm going as fast as I can, perhaps saying 'oops' if I hit a wall. Besides that, real tracks are boring as hell.
  • ... like trying to beat Amundsen to the South Pole ...

    That may take some time.

  • by Eternal Vigilance ( 573501 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @05:48AM (#23775767)
    Though with one slight change to the rules - first one to finish loses. :-)

    "This fantastic result was a complete team effort. We really spanked the competition today."
  • Virtual Racing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stooshie ( 993666 ) on Friday June 13, 2008 @05:53AM (#23775781) Journal

    I remember a company here in Dundee ran a website that had virtual horse racing. You could buy a virtual horse, train it, buy virtual food, race against other horses and get monery back for winning. They even had a full time employee whose role was purely to commentate on the races.

    It was so successful that a totally separate company set up in the US just to buy virtual horses and race them and they made a profit.

    That was at least 4 years ago.

    In danger of being a little off topic, but kind of thought it was interesting.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein