I was cleaning out my office a few days ago and under the mounds of paperwork an old memory was revived. I found my collection of old racing games and simulators from years ago. I flipped through the pages of some of the manuals and read the system requirements and kind of chuckled. Back in the day, 16MB of ram and a 1MB video card were considered state of the art, and hooking a steering wheel to the computer made your house the local hangout for everyone. Then, I got to the back of some of these manuals and started reading the credits. Some of the names from 15 years ago are still involved in sim racing development. Ironically, I thought of the idea for this article before the release of iRacing 2.0 which truly is the next generation in sim racing, so I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about where sim racing has been, where it is, and just where it might be going.
What does this have to do with hardware you ask? If you ask me one hand feeds the other. Without sim racing, we probably wouldn’t have all these fancy steering wheels we see now. By the same token, if we didn’t have all the advanced computer hardware we now have, sim racing probably would not have advanced to the point it provides us with such a life-like experience. Now we see things such as force feedback, multiscreen technology, 3D vision, and multiple core processors, just to name a few. It makes for a good discussion either way, but sim racing has pushed hardware to a new level, and advanced hardware has pushed sim racing to a new level.
“We can all look into the crystal ball and say what we’d like to see as the next step in the evolution of sim racing . . .”
One thing sim racers and computer users in general forget is that any function our systems perform is based on a set of complex mathematical calculations. If we take a look at iRacing’s New Tire Model, it’s a perfect example of where we are today. Friction, heat, driving style, weight, and track surface (just to name a few factors) are being dynamically calculated. These calculations help produce the feel of new tires versus the feel of 40 lap old tires. Yes, that is a simplistic example and we need to realize many factors come into play in getting that life-like feel we desire. However, no matter how it’s done, it’s all based upon thousands of numerical calculations occurring in our multicore processors. Ten years ago such a task would have been much more difficult if not impossible with only a single core processor.
We can all look into the crystal ball and say what we’d like to see as the next step in the evolution of sim racing but, to tell the truth, does anyone really have the “right” answer? It’s nice to see the development of motion cockpits that attempt to give us a life-like feel of a race car in our living room. If I had to choose, I would say that’s what we do next. Put the body in motion and find out if we can simulate 200mph down into Turn One at Talladega. I’d like to do this in the comfort of my living room — without also experiencing the 150 degrees that comes from sitting at the wheel of a stock car on an Alabama summer day!
I realize in many ways I’ve just touched on how technology and sim racing relate. I could pick and choose things I’d like to see, but that would be like trying to decide on the color of carpet in my house. What do you see next in the crystal ball for the sport known as sim racing?