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Friday, April 8, 2016

Driving Simulators and Physics

John B. Marine | 8:46 PM | |
Regardless of what a racing/driving game offers, it begins with a solid physics engine. People create driving simulators based on a variety of variables. You can even create and test machines in Blender and Unity3D among others. The process is different across a number of different game engines, but it is entirely possible to create your own driving simulator or physics engine as long as you are proficient in coding. Or you may entirely get a physics system for a certain game engine for free or for a fee.

You can make your own tracks for various games, but I am focusing on adding custom vehicles to games for this blog post.

Driving Simulators and Physics

racing driving simulator
^ from: - A racing/driving game is only as good as the physics and engine provided for it. Variety in driving dynamics across a number of vehicles is key to providing the most unique driving experiences regardless of the game.

You may have your dream vehicle in your mind. Imagine trying to give life to that dream machine. One way to bring your dream machine to life is to put it in a certain racing/driving game. In today's modern landscape, people take 3D models and give life to them with a combination of solid coding and great 3D modeling. Just about anyone (even you!) can make at least a semi-decent driving simulator. Or at the most, you can model a 3D vehicle and be able to place it in a game to exist within a certain game environment.

Various game environments are different in their execution of driving physics. Even games not meant to be the very best in vehicle dynamics still have their own physics models to demonstrate any number of situations. Think about the Grand Theft Auto series here, especially "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" and later. "GTA Vice City" has not only its own driving model, but also models for motorcycle riding, watercraft, and even helicopters. Later titles in the series, such as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," included vehicle physics for planes in addition to its already diverse profile of controllable vehicles. The GTA games were not meant to be the most ultra-realistic in any sort of dynamics. So in no way would (for example) GTA's driving physics challenge the likes of a Gran Turismo or a Forza Motorsport. Then again, they don't have to. The main point of a driving physics physics engine is to offer an experience unique to and distinctive to that game and its driving model.

In the sense of developing material to exist within a certain game engine or set of driving physics, results may vary. Does one seek a model that allows for some of the most realistic and engaging behaviors controlling vehicles? Does one seek a model that offers a completely weird experience? When you have played loads of racing games like I have (including non-dedicated racing games), you basically become accustomed to a variety of different engines offering different experiences. If you are able to adjust a certain driving physics engine, you could able to set your own tweaks by changing certain variables. Or if you are really adept, you could tweak the driving model of the game engine itself to your liking. Most games will only allow you to adjust certain driving dynamics as far as possible. Again- results may vary.

I began thinking about this topic as I was trying to envision bringing my 3D model cars to life. I started seeing different YouTube videos demonstrating certain driving physics engines.

What Are My Options?

So you want to put your vision into a racing/driving game? The simplest way is to develop and code a 3D model to be used into a game. This is best for games that allow for the inclusion of models made by others. Depending on what you are going after, the first thing to wonder is what environment you want your model to appear in. For example, you may develop a 3D vehicle to exist in a Grand Theft Auto (especially GTA3 or later titles) game. That means you have to create some vehicle that fully adapts to all of the nuances of a GTA game in this case. Making a car for a Grand Theft Auto game means you have to consider making a vehicle with a visible interior. You have to also consider vehicle damage as well as the placement of actors. If you have played any Grand Theft Auto series games, you may realize that you have to be in certain vehicles requiring a certain number of people. So if you are required to find a vehicle that seats four and you get into a vehicle that only seats two, you'll need to find something to properly seat various actors.

There are a host of different racing games where you can import custom models. Among others, you can make models to put in proper racing games like rFactor, almost any SimBin racing game (like GTR2), Project CARS, Assetto Corsa, SuperTuxKart, TORCS, Speed Dreams, and others. Consider these titles if you are thinking about putting your creations in proper racing games to be raced. Be sure to know some of the different things involved in trying to import your own models and creations into such games. In addition to games with proper vehicle physics, there are some who try to make controllable vehicles for games that are not necessarily about certain kinds of vehicles. For example, a drivable car for a flight simulator. Certain game engines allow for any variety of mods against what the mod normally entails.

You have one last option, which can either be the most rewarding experience or the most difficult experience- make your own driving physics simulator or use an already available physics simulation package. The biggest advantage of using already-made physics engines is that you can make your own vehicles and be able to test them in a variety of situations.

Vehicles in Physics Simulators.

Another kind of simulator for vehicles are various physics simulators. Rather than racing or driving, you are simply providing models to exist to be driven hard or wrecked. Games such as SpinTires and BeamNG Drive offer these physical touches. Using BeamNG Drive as an example, BeamNG Drive is told to be a soft physics driving simulator. You can take any given vehicle and drive however you wish. Most of all, you will note varying levels of damage. You could literally create a vehicle that falls apart and gets ripped apart easily and (more importantly) realistically.

The Driving Physics Themselves.

Unless you develop your own game engine, you can apply pre-made driving physics to any game engine or any game engine to test out driving physics or simply enjoy a unique driving experience. Most driving physics stem from a variety of coding ranging from C++ to JavaScript to even XML. Certain driving models have certain variables that determine how deep the driving model is. For example, a lot of driving physics have variables regarding power, torque, suspension geometry, mass, and more. Some physics models even have variables relating to the placement of items to offer that extra feel of advanced physics. How in-depth and complex a driving physics model can be depends entirely on how much actually goes into coding and executing the driving engine.

Considerations for Driving Simulators and Models.

One of the most important things to remember about driving simulators is to consider all of the different variables to make a certain vehicle fit right in with any other. So if 3D models have to have a visible driver and have an active driver in it, you are best to create a model that allows for these to happen. If you know a vehicle in a game can be subject to have bullet holes and even catch fire, you have to develop your model to take advantage of these features. You could get away with some racing/driving games that don't require having visible interiors or visible/animated drivers. However, you may still need to define certain parameters to properly define certain variables in the game.

Now that you have somewhat an idea of the execution of a driving physics engine, it is now time to discuss some of the internals of such driving models.

Driving Simulators: Variables and Programming

Trying to code certain machines can be a hassle. Depending on the complexity of a game engine or a certain physics model, trying to program certain variables can range from simply coding the different bits that define a vehicle to trying to define all of the visual and physical variables of a vehicle.

One example of coding vehicles to be in a game can be found with SuperTuxKart. All machines made for the game must have a "kart.xml" file to it defining all of the placement of parts as well as the models for the vehicle and its driver. When looking at a sample file for STK, you have variables defining the driver model, the driver's vehicle, the boost exhaust pipes, and the location of the wheels (or treads for track-driven vehicles like tanks or snowmobiles). Editing another file will affect the driving dynamics.

Some other games are more complex. TORCS and Speed Dreams are two examples. The good thing about these two games is that you don't need to provide a model pre-made and pre-rigged with tires because the tires are provided. You still need to code the placement of each of the tires.

Up next is a look at driving simulators and examples of certain driving dynamics being tested.

Driving Simulators: Examples

This section features a host of different game engines and several different tests. Look at these videos if you have time on your hands to view them. I would like to thank all of the channels that allowed their videos to be embedded.

Driving Physics Simulators.

One of the most popular physics simulators is BeamNG Drive. It is a soft-body physics simulator where you can take a perfectly fine vehicle and turn it into scrap metal with ease. If you think the Burnout series has amazing crashes, believe me- BeamNG Drive makes Burnout look like child's play. Here is a demonstration of some of the wicked crashes in BeamNG Drive:

^ BeamNG Drive Random Vehicle #40 Crash Testing #153

Driving Physics Engines.

Let me give you two examples here. One is the popular Randomation Vehicle Physics, and the other is the also-popular Edy's Vehicle Physics. Both are driving physics engines for Unity3D. Take a look:

^ Randomation Vehicle Physics 2.0 for Unity 5

^ GTA4-style car physics in Unity3D - part 5 - by Edy

Driving Physics Tests.

Some people simply put together driving physics simulators in testing them. Some of these tests merely involve a dummy model primarily used to test the driving capabilities of vehicles. I chose this video as a demonstration of a driving physics test using either a certain program or a program compiled. Check this out:

^ Unity 3D Simple Driving Physics / Collision test

These only provide examples of putting driving physics into action.

For More Information...

For more information on the Randomation Vehicle Physics or Edy's Vehicle Physics, visit the following sites:

Randomation Vehicle Physics 2.0 and Randomation Vehicle Physics 2.0 (Unity Asset Store)
Edy's Vehicle Physics and Edy's Vehicle Physics (Unity Asset Store)

I may add more material in edits if I find anything else interesting and relevant.

If you create your own racing or driving game physics engine, I salute you as far as this post is concerned. Feel free to enjoy your driving experience to the max! Maybe those of you looking to create your own driving physics engine will have gained some inspiration after viewing this blog post. If this describes you, good luck making your own quality driving physics engine. Thank you for reading! Take care and be well.

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