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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gran Turismo as a Simulation Racer

John Marine | 9:58 AM |
Gran Turismo's heritage has always been in the realm of simulation-based racing. Gran Turismo, of course, is not the ONLY sim racer. The more hardcore set will argue against Gran Turismo titles as being definitive sim racers. Many sim racing fans will say that a Gran Turismo game doesn't compare to sim racing titles like iRacing, rFactor, the SHIFT series, the ToCA Race Driver series, almost any SimBin racer, or the upcoming Project C.A.R.S. So how does the Gran Turismo series compare as a simulation racing game? While I will not do any direct comparisons between GT titles and individual racing games, I will mostly discuss how Gran Turismo compares to most sim racing games in general.

Ready? Let's go!

--- What is a Simulation Racer? ---

As a blogger discussing a certain niche, it is best to understand my audience and tailor my material around my audience. So therefore, I must educate my audience who may not be familiar with what I am about to discuss. You may skip to the next section if you are educated already on simulation racing games. Otherwise, stay with this section.

Not all racing games are created equally. An arcade-style racing game is purely about the joy of driving and does not put an emphasis on any hardcore realism. A simulation racing game is the opposite. Simulation racing games feature the most intense and most realistic driving experiences. Driving dynamics, racing mechanics, and various other settings are much more realistic than most arcade racing games. In terms of difficulty, a simulation racing game requires more real-world style skills to win than with certain arcade racing games. Proper driving technique is required to win. So if you could bump off of walls and drive on the grass in an arcade racing game, these things could debilitate you in a simulation racing game. Depending on the simulation and its level of difficulty, you may suffer penalties or damage your car while racing on the track.

Anyone whom has played a Gran Turismo title is already well aware of what the Gran Turismo series provides as a simulation racing game. You have to tune your car properly to have a better chance to win the race. Your racing strategy has to be precise. Winning in a simulation racer requires a lot of real racing technique from you and out of you to win.

--- Gran Turismo as a Simulation Racing Series ---

So how does the Gran Turismo series stack up as a simulation racer going up against other simulation racing games? Some debate is sure to happen if I can get a more loyal audience of "John's Gran Turismo Space" involved here.

Gran Turismo as a Simulation Racing Game.

Gran Turismo has always involved elements of real racing. You don't rely on shortcuts or any certain powerups in a Gran Turismo game as you would have in a traditional arcade racing game. The level of challenge and the driving dynamics all indicate sim racer. Meticulous levels of detail in driving dynamics and various internal and external factors help shape Gran Turismo as a sim racer. People even set up driving rigs to simulate a realistic racing experience. Some of these people even play Gran Turismo 5 using a steering wheel and a driving rig. So obviously, Gran Turismo 5 is a racing game that can be enjoyed even with a special driving rig setup.

Sim racing purists would argue that real simulation games simulate various factors- including damage. The damage in Gran Turismo 5 seemed comical to some hardcore racing game fans. Proper and realistic driving mechanics also make a sim racer a pure sim racer. GT5's driving model is a vast improvement from Gran Turismo 4's driving model. However, some pure sim racing fans would favor a driving model to satisfy both casual racing gamers and hardened sim racers alike. What is the best way to please a hardcore sim racer? Add as many unforgiving elements that can be toggled or altered. Make the steering harder. Make it tougher to keep the car on the road. Make the consequences more severe if you even think about wall-riding. Basically... make a racing game as difficult as possible, yet realistic. Racing games that even offer a little leeway can be considered a bit soft by some discriminating fans.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember- no matter how realistic a racing game is, you can never simulate EVERYTHING... even including injury or death from crashes and damage. So there are some limits you have to set on how realistic you make everything. What matters is how realistic and true-to-life you make the racing and driving experience in molding your racing game. Depending on who you ask, the Gran Turismo series has either done enough to be considered a sim racer, or not enough to be a true sim racer.

Gran Turismo vs. Most Other Sim Racing Games.

(This section does not compare GT against specific sim racing titles. It is more a general look at GT vs. most other sim racing titles.)

Welcome an area where the most debate will happen, because while Gran Turismo games are sim racing titles, many of the hardcore set will argue against Gran Turismo being a TRUE simulation racing game. In fact, Gran Turismo games would be considered a very soft simulation racer to the hardcore set. The hardcore sim racer crowd would argue that true simulation racing games simulate almost EVERYTHING. Racing games that offer the most intense and most unforgiving experiences are often praised heavily by simulation racing game fans.

I don't think there will ever be a console-based simulation racing game that will surpass any PC-based sim racer; and it's very unlikely a Gran Turismo title will do so. PC-based sim racing games allow for much more calculations and parameters to deliver a more accurate racing and driving model. That's why you see so many people praise games like iRacing, almost any SimBin racing game (like the GTR series and the RACE series), and games like that. These games offer experiences a console-based racing game may or may never duplicate or better. For those who have played a variety of racing games before, the only real console-based racing game series to offer the best possible sim racing (though they are also offered for PC) is the ToCA Race Driver series.

Another aspect of sim racing games is the ability to actually calculate and take advantage of so many elements. It is not easy to manage so many things at once unless you have a solid base towards making all of the needed calculations. A game has to be programmed in such a way to take advantage of both the game's engine as well as the system's processor. I even hear of people who look for actual telemetry and measurements to accurately re-create the physics and other characteristics of cars found in add-on cars for most sim racing games. No matter how great of a console you have, PC-based racing games will almost always trump even the best console racing games since you can do so much more. That's why if you go to certain automotive shows or whatever, you will see various PC simulators of racing games. Or have you seen a console-based racing simulator at a certain show?

Are Gran Turismo Games Okay as is (on a Sim Front)?

I would definitely say so because if you make a Gran Turismo game too unforgiving for a casual racer, you make Gran Turismo much harder, even though a hardened sim racer would gladly accept the enhanced challenge. You can certainly enhance the driving aspects to make it more realistic. There is always room for improvement (why do you think I make blog posts like these?).

This is why I love the Gran Turismo series as a sim racer- everything is challenging without being extremely challenging. I enjoy playing rFactor as far as pure sim racers are concerned. I feel most comfortable, however, playing Gran Turismo games. Certain pure sim racing games are realistic and exciting, but sometimes too hardcore to just enjoy a casual drive. So I love racing in Gran Turismo in times when I don't really feel like playing a really serious sim racing game. Also, a lot of sim racing games are mostly fixated on specific kinds of vehicles. So you never could (for example) enjoy racing a peppy economy car as much as you could a powerful Group C prototype or a Group B rally car. Gran Turismo has the "little of everything" that makes it so much more enjoyable to me than most sim racers primarily concerned with certain categories of car.

Final Thoughts.

In no way have I ever said I was a hardcore sim racer or that I prefer hardcore sim racing titles. All I am suggesting is that Gran Turismo games are that "just right" kind of sim racer that is accessible to everyone. It's the only greatly accessible sim racer besides Enthusia Professional Racing (which is a great one despite being so underrated) or the Forza Motorsport series. Gran Turismo titles are only not considered true sim racing games if you feel Gran Turismo doesn't offer too much to challenge the most hardened sim racer.

Always remember that you have various kinds of people in regards to anything. You have the casual racing gamer who just loves going fast and pushing his/her skills to the limit. You have the hardcore racing gamer who enjoys racing and often times prefer the most realistic experience. And then, you have those who are somewhat a hybrid or in-between racing gamer who loves both casual and hardcore sim racing experiences equally. I am more of that in-between racing gamer who leans more towards the hardcore set while not being overly hardcore. In the case of Gran Turismo and how you perceive it as any sort of sim racer, opinions vary. Some will call GT soft compared to more intense sim racers. Some will kindly put Gran Turismo in the same league as any other true simulation racer. However you feel, I think many of us will agree that Gran Turismo is a proper simulation racing game. A lot of us would rather play a Gran Turismo title more than any illegal street racing arcade game or some crash-heavy racing games.

Level of sim racing quality notwithstanding, Gran Turismo games are VERY much true simulation racing games. Gran Turismo remains a marvel in simulation racing even if it isn't as intense or realistic as some other sim racing games. GT can always use improvement in driving dynamics and driving physics. While GT can use improvement as a simulation racer, it can't get much worse. I would even go to the level of saying there is no shame in calling Gran Turismo games as your favorite simulation racer.

So what do you think about the Gran Turismo series as a sim racer? Does it do enough to be a great sim racer? Do you think this game series could offer more sim racing elements to please even the most hardened sim racing fan? Your comments are welcome. Thank you for reading!

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