Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

It's all in the tires

This past weekend I did the usual driving on my makeshift simulator playing GT Sport. My absolute favorite thing to do - and just about the only thing I do these days - is drive the Porsche 911 GT3RS on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Cumulatively since early Summer I must’ve driven around 200 laps on the 13+ mile circuit, which is a number I aim to get into the thousands.

For whatever reason, probably a mix of boredom and curiosity, I had the urge to sample another popular racing game: Assetto Corsa. The game also features the Nordschleife and the same model year GT3RS so I thought it’d be a bit of intrigue to compare the two titles. A hefty 25GB download and $40 dollars damage to the wallet later, for the first time ever I was driving a different game that isn't Gran Turismo. 

I really should’ve switched sooner. Assetto Corsa is absolutely fantastic. Graphically it cannot hold a candle to GT (zero attempt at photo-realism here) but on driving dynamics it’s a league above. For the longest time I’ve read about how the likes of GT and Forza are more on the arcade side than pure simulation, and that has been utterly confirmed within one lap of the Nordschleife in AC.

It’s completely down to the tires. GT’s physic engine is quite excellent in replicating responses and reflexes of a real car, and in that area it isn’t far behind Assetto Corsa. What AC revealed to me that was utterly lacking in GT is proper tire simulation. Tires in GT are standardized arbitrary values with no basis of correlation to anything realistic. High horsepower road cars in GT Sport are practically un-drivable even with traction control turned on unless racing slicks are put on. 

A Ferrari LaFerrari in GT Sport will roast its stock tires through the first four gears - highly unrealistic. Even the aforementioned GT3RS is unusable in first gear because it cannot find traction - unless I put on slick tires. 

Assetto Corsa has shown me the light: proper tire model is the foundation of a good driving simulator. AC replicates the actual tires of what a particular car came with from the factory. Select a Toyota Trueno Sprinter AE86 in the game and in the setup menu it’ll show it’s fitted with ‘Street 90s’ tires. A GT3RS on the other hand is shod with bespoke ‘Hypercar road’ rubber. Good tire modeling provides a tremendous amount of road feel and information transmitted through the steering wheel. Instead of relying on muscle memory I can now better react to the minute details of what the car is telling me. 

Playing Assetto Corsa has been a revelation. I don’t think I can go back to GT Sport, as incredibly beautiful and pretty to look at it may be (I’m going to miss the sunset flares and orange glow on the Nordschleife). AC is great if you’re like me and just want to get in a car and go: all tracks and cars are available right from the beginning. 

Cheers to many more miles to come. 

It may be a GT logo on there but it's all Assetto Corsa from now on. 

It may be a GT logo on there but it's all Assetto Corsa from now on. 

The first Gran Turismo game I won't buy

I've owned and played all previous 6 iterations of Gran Turismo, and I'm sorry to say I will not be purchasing the newly released Gran Turismo Sport anytime soon. After reading the reviews, I can't justify spending the proper $60 for a game with so little content and such draconian requirements in order to play. 

The core attraction of Gran Turismo for me is the sheer number of cars spanning all eras and the numerous tracks I can drive those cars on. I can still remember the seminal moment it was to drive the full Nurburgring Nordschleife in GT4. The car and track count in GT:S is, without mincing words, utterly atrocious. Discounting all the variations, there's only about 90 unique cars in the game, a system shock to those us used to 600+ car libraries. GT:S only has six real-world tracks, which is bizarrely embarrassing especially when the main focus of the game is e-sport online racing utilizing the FIA license.

How did Polyphony manage to partner with the FIA yet only produce six real-world locations? Where's Silverstone? Where's La Sarthe? Spa? 

The online racing component also brings with it an enormous negative externality: GT:S requires a constant Internet connection in order to play most parts of the game. I did not think ill of this until I found out that even non-racing portions of the game such as the amazingly beautiful photo-mode is locked behind the online authentication wall. If Polyphony ever decides to turn off its game servers (as it has for GT5), GT:S as constituted today would be no more than a drink coaster. 

GT:S would need to the following updates before I part with my money: massively increase the amount of cars and tracks, add more single-player campaign events/races, bring back dynamic time/weather (how they have regressed on this from GT6 is baffling), and get rid of the online connection requirement for parts of the game that obviously don't need it. 

GT: Sport photo mode

If there’s one party-piece of the forthcoming Gran Turismo Sport I’m most excited about, it’s definitely the photo mode. For sure I’m also massively looking forward to driving on the new tracks and sampling the new cars - reminds me I’ve got to purchase a new steering wheel device - but for a semi-serious photographic hobbyist like me, the 1,000 photo ‘Scapes’ available looks absolutely delicious. It combines the three things I love: photography, automobile, and travel, for the mere price of the game itself. 

I never got into the photo mode in previous iterations of GT due to the pathetic and appalling “camera” output of 1080p. For someone whose starter camera had 12 megapixels - commence snickering from older folks that started earlier than I on digital - the 2.1 megapixels of 1080p is insufficient. Not to say one wasn’t able to get incredible shots in GT5 or GT6 - there’s definitely some killer gems out there - but I guess I’m more of a stats-whore than I want to believe. 

GT Sport with the power of the PS4 should change things tremendously. There will not be enough hours in the day come October.