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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

15 Years of Gran Turismo

John B. Marine | 1:26 PM | | | | | | | |
Fifteen years of Gran Turismo! Fifteen years of a game franchise that would basically become the gold standard of realistic racing. I have endured a great deal of memories with the Gran Turismo franchise. This blog post is a look at my own experience with GT in this 15th Anniversary. For people who may be visiting "John's Gran Turismo Space" for the first time ever, here is your chance to know my story regarding the GT franchise.

--- 15 Years of Gran Turismo: My Story ---

With Gran Turismo celebrating its 15th Anniversary, I figured it is time for me to share my story with this franchise. A lot of the key points of my GT experience will be separated.

• Back in 1998 or so, I bought a PlayStation at a pawn shop for about $60 US dollars. The first game I ever bought for it was Gran Turismo. GT1 was a game I had play-tested at a Best Buy once. This tour of duty I was about to embark on for GT1 was going to be a lengthy and complicated one. I still remember trying to drive cautiously with rear-wheel drive cars. Certain license tests really drove me crazy (no pun intended). Eventually, I would just buckle down and drive the wheels off of every car I owned in Gran Turismo 1.

• My experience would later shift to Gran Turismo 2. If GT1 was a challenge, I imagined GT2 would be even more so. A lot has changed including the debut of rallying. I kind of didn't enjoy GT2 as much as I did GT1. There was still plenty of fun to be had. I was really loving the enhanced array and appeal of cars in Gran Turismo 2 compared to GT1. I also enjoyed going at speeds faster than what I almost never did in GT1 (except for the Megaspeed Cup). For as much as I liked GT2, I always felt GT2 missed a number of things that would make it better than GT1. I found it the most disappointing GT I've played yet.

• When the PlayStation 2 came out, it was priced at about $300 US dollars. I so wanted to play Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec. I got both the PS2 and GT3 for Christmas in 2001. The beautiful graphics and updated play mechanics of GT3 kept me busy for quite some time. After a while, I mostly felt GT3 was more like a pretty GT2... with much less execution. When I won my first Formula car in GT3, it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking of Gran Turismo. It made me envision if the series could possibly explore some new avenues to enhance the series for years to come. That leads to the next title...

• I wanted to follow news on Gran Turismo 4. What I did was join a message board called GTPlanet. I saw a handful of pictures and magazine scans showcasing the latest news on GT4. I joined GTPlanet on December 5, 2003. It has basically been my online home since (as well as my favorite forum). It was much better than some other message board I was previously a part of, where I was mostly treated like chopped liver by a group of people.

• As news on GT4 was coming through the pipeline, a new racing game was coming along when some people seemed disappointed with GT4. This game- Forza Motorsport- looked to woo over GT fans to the XBOX. Part of peoples' frustration with GT4 was in the fact that the much-promised online play was dropped for GT4. Also, people thought GT4's lineup of cars was severely lacking compared to the cars offered in Forza Motorsport. At times, I even had to keep people interested in GT4. I wanted to play GT4 as much as everybody else. I just hated for people to worry about certain things inconsequential to whether or not GT4 really becomes a classic.

• Gran Turismo 4 was well worth the wait. While it may have not seriously blown me away, the amount of action and enjoyment were well received by me. The one thing I hated was how so many people hated that GT4 didn't have supercars. I had to keep telling people- the supercars are there. As if people thought GT4's lineup of cars were Japan-heavy and lacking supercars. So... Pagani doesn't make supercars? The Ford GT isn't a supercar? The Saleen S7 is not a fake sports car? The Mercedes-McLaren SLR is just another luxury car? I was mostly upset that people think Ferrari and Lamborghini and such is REQUIRED for a racing game to be great. Complain about the lack of true online play for GT4, but it was still a great game. People had too many complaints and not enough convincing that this game is really better than what most people made it out to be. I eventually just got tired of GT4, but I still thought it was better than a lot of people thought of it.

• The PlayStation 3 was in kiosks at stores starting around 2006 or so. This (then) nearly $700 USD console was too much for a lot of people to afford. You had a reason to care about this console when a game called Gran Turismo HD was created for the PS3. GTHD stemmed from the Vision Gran Turismo video unveiled at E3 once. The kicker for GTHD was the fact one manufacturer made its debut to the Gran Turismo franchise- Ferrari. How many years have most GT fans wanted to see Ferrari in the game? That opportunity came, and the deal was sweetened when "Gran Turismo 5: Prologue" became the first Prologue us Americans would get. As of this blog post's initial posting, I have NEVER played GT5P.

• I have also never played Gran Turismo PSP- which was meant to be a compliment to GT5. You could unlock cars in GTPSP, then take your earned cars to use in GT5. I played this game one time at a kiosk at a Fry's Electronics store, and I felt this could have been a more complete title. My PSP experience is very limited and poor.

• In the time leading up to GT5's grand debut, there was a time when I played a kiosk demo to GT5. I posted first impressions of my kiosk experience on "John's Blog Space." Little did I know that my blog post would generate extreme amounts of traffic from various sites- including my friends on GTPlanet. I could only hope that GT5 would surpass my modest expectations based on the kiosk demo I played. That post remains one of the most-viewed posts on JBS as well as moments where I've gotten the most traffic to JBS.

• It was November 2010 when Gran Turismo 5 was released. I was still on my PS2 playing GT4 around this time. Any impressions I got on GT5 were from online reviews and online videos. At times, I had my doubts about GT5 before actually playing the game. I didn't get my PlayStation 3 and GT5 until June 2011. After playing through most of the game, most of my fears were confirmed. The more I thought about GT5 over some period of time, the more I began to feel that GT5 disappoints harder than GT2 did for me. Even with online play and a very stacked lineup of cars, something inside of me still thinks this game could have been infinitely better.

• GT Academy [USA] on Spike TV was something I experienced in November 2012. GT Academy is the reality TV show challenge that takes Gran Turismo gamers from gaming to pro racing. I didn't catch every single episode of the 2012 competition, but I got a general idea after I was eventually drawn to seeing this show. It made me ponder a bit more about if elements from GT Academy could possibly make Gran Turismo a bit more fun to play and enjoy.

Regardless, I have been more than proud to be part of this 15-year thrill ride by Polyphony Digital. I enjoyed every car, every mile/kilometer, every Credit spent, every car wash, every wheel change, every tuning part... everything. I wouldn't trade these experiences with anything else in racing games.

--- 15 Years of Gran Turismo: What's Next? ---

I really think Polyphony Digital should think about what GT5 offered and try to make great improvements to make the next GT much better than GT5. GT5 was good, but I hope GT6 can be better. I even explore ways GT can be better here on JGTS. I really think Gran Turismo needs to take a much harder approach on racing and driving. I am not saying "let's make GT into a proper racing sim," but "let's make Gran Turismo just that extra bit better to be a classic." How GT eventually gets to that level depends on PD and some other sources.

My own thoughts are on how to improve the flaws GT5 had so that the next GT will be infinitely better than GT5. Improve on the flaws while also making the next GT as solid as possible. Introduce more racing series. Bring on many more cars. I don't work for Polyphony Digital- all I am hoping for (as a fan) is for the next GT to be several steps ahead... rather than running backwards.

Nonetheless, congratulations to Gran Turismo on 15 years of existence. I only want the series to continually expand and improve. Not sure how long Gran Turismo will last as a Triple-A franchise, but I want this series to last for a long time. How do you feel about 15 years of Gran Turismo? Let me know with some comments. Thank you for reading!

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