First Corner Blues

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  • ForestRed 4 Jan 2010 17:42:10 2 posts
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    Monaco, Sunday May 16th 2010.

    Formula One's big glamour day of the season, notwithstanding a race round an aerodrome in Northamptonshire. Jenson Button lines up on pole position (it's fiction - bear with me), with Lewis Hamilton alongside him. Further back we find Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa.

    The drivers line up after the parade lap, one light, two lights. The crowd holds its breath. Three lights, four lights. Engines rev shrilly. Five lights, go! Button and Hamilton are both away well, but so is the chasing pack. The leaders break into the first corner. But Schumacher is going for it! Breaks are for girls, and who needs them! He's pushing 160mph as he rear-ends Hamilton, who in turn collides with Button, who ploughs into the barrier at the end of the straight. Race over for the first two, but Schumacher only has minor damage and heads up from St. Devote into Casino Square in first position.

    Chicago, Illinois, Sunday May 16th 2010.

    RudeB0y fires up Forza III on his 360, and finds a game. He's 4th on the grid, behind Kn08slay3r, Mr_gr1nd and Big_jo3. As the lights go, all four get away well. Mr_gr1nd is first into the first corner and breaks early (aware that his breaks are probably still cold). Big_jo3 sees that he's on the breaks and takes a similarly cautious line into the first. RudeB0y is having a look up the inside, but decides it's not worth the risk and slots into third.


    We've all been there, we've all seen it, but it never gets any less annoying. First corner blues are a symptom of pretty much every race game everywhere. Developers spend years fine tuning performance to the point that if we break wind the additional uplift created causes a slight loss of grip. Yet all of the work is ruined every time by the same problem - a problem that resides somewhere between the sofa and the controller.

    So what's the answer? Here are half a dozen suggestions we came up with.

    1. Collision Avoidance. Get the software to detect anyone driving erratically and briefly turn them into a ghost. This worked to some degree with GT5 Prologue, and certainly gives anyone driving in a sympathetic manner a chance. Or turn all collision off for the first 20 seconds of a race. It neuters the whole experience, though. Some races, especially F1, are all about the first corner.

    2. Realistic Damage. Schumacher and co have one good reason for breaking at the first corner - if they don't their race is over, and they face everlasting ridicule and abuse (a bit like being on Modern Combat 2 Multiplayer). Unfortunately if this was the case most of us would never finish a race anyway.

    3. Black Flag. Anyone who causes an avoidable first corner collision is black flagged and dropped out of the race (and session). This should provide some sort of deterrent, but again there's probably a grey area - did the cars in front break too early? Did someone swerve into your line even if it was at a reasonable speed?

    4. Hell's Kitchen. If you don't like the heat, stay out. It's a fact of life and there's always another race. But the same thing will probably happen next time anyway.

    5. Fight Back. Back off at the start to stay mid pack, and then hard on the gas. Watch them fly as you use the car in front as a breaking mechanism for the first corner, then laugh manically as you see them spin off into the far distance.

    6. Keep score. Don't penalize the perpetrators, and instead give points to safe drivers. Anyone who gets shunted before they shunt could be credited, and slowly a score could be built up showing good starts. Display this on the session screen before a race to see who can be trusted. Insurance companies reward good drivers through no claims bonuses, so why can't racing games do the same?

    7. Rolling Starts. Used a lot in real life, but where's the fun?

    Some will argue that the cream always rises to the top. And so it probably does. But for the sake of the rest of us trying to scrape a personal best 5th place finish take it steady next time you're heading into the first corner. In the meantime I'm sticking to the Christmas Scalextric.

    Happy New Year!

    ForestRed
  • GloatingSwine 4 Jan 2010 18:05:29 2,668 posts
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    2 & 3.

    Racing sims have needed a penalty system for a while now.
  • Concrete 4 Jan 2010 18:11:05 574 posts
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    Registered 13 years ago
    Interesting points, what about introducing meta game elements, such as a ranking system that flags players with more "aggressive" driving styles?
  • Doomspoon 4 Jan 2010 18:28:04 2,464 posts
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    Just before Xbox Live had it's official launch there were quite a few of us involved in a MotoGP URT season. We were all wanting to play properly but the odd accidents would happen. I'm not great at racing games, generally play in first person/in car view and tend to be over cautious in corners. A problem persists where you just don't see the person on your inside braking at a later point than yourself if you play from first person views, especially in the original MotoGP.

    I recall that there was a collision detection setting for the aforementioned that would disable collisions from idiots driving the wrong way around the track. This doesn't solve the problem of the first corner but does solve the asocial cretin annoyance.

    Not knowing anything about programming but would it be possible to disable collision within a corner based on relative braking? ie someone who doesn't brake at all is no threat but those that brake competitvely/cautiously still have to deal with things in a more realistic manner (in a similar manner to how Moto disabled collisons when facing the wrong way). "Rubbing is racing" and all.

    Some of us are just crap at the game but are good sportsman and accidents happen. I would love to play Forza 3 online but haven't because I know my odd prangs are going to annoy people even though that isn't my intent.

    Does Forza 3 do grids based on lap times or last race position? I'm pretty certain our grids for our MotoGP championship were based on qualifying times. This did help to some extent.
  • Deleted user 4 January 2010 18:30:04
    Play with friends.
  • Concrete 4 Jan 2010 19:07:18 574 posts
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    Its going to be tricky doing it based on relative cornering velocities because it will be open to exploitation and blocking is a legitimate tactic, one solution could be the 'late breaker' being slowed as if they had collided but the person in front not being affected. It would be very difficult to set it up so that it could handle people deliberately slamming the brakes on though.
  • Kostabi 4 Jan 2010 19:14:45 4,911 posts
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    A lot of this already exists in iRacing. Their 'safety rating' system is one of the big selling points and largely works to.

    Build a game around a clean racing culture and you'll get it. Although I think some of it depends on the audience as iRacing tends to attract the diehard sim enthusiast whos enjoyment comes from actually racing people realistically.
  • shamblemonkee 4 Jan 2010 21:35:13 14,332 posts
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    Registered 9 years ago
    how does their system work?
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