Some time ago, we all realised that while there are good racing games and bad racing games, at a fundamental level they all involve roughly the same thing; going around a track at slightly higher unsafe speeds than the other players.
In order to keep all this going around and around interesting, then, it's up to game creators to think up some gimmicks - like cel-shading in Auto Modellista, managing your brand in Racing Evoluzione, or making the player's brain attempt to escape out their ears in protest in V-Rally 3.
Codemasters, in turn, have come up with quite a clever gimmick for their upcoming IndyCar Series game on PS2, Xbox and PC - namely "genetically developed" artificial intelligence, which apparently gives the game computer players with realistic racing tactics and the ability to make "dynamic strategic racing decisions in real-time".
All this sounds very impressive - we don't think we've ever made a dynamic strategic racing decision in real-time, and we'd like to think of ourselves as pretty well-evolved lifeforms compared to our PS2s - and unlike so much marketing babble, it's actually based on some pretty solid research, too. Here comes the science bit…
What the developers did was to create a selection of randomly-programmed AI drivers, and let them loose on the track. Of course initially most of them didn't go anywhere, or ran around in circles, or crashed into the barriers; but those that did best were progressed on to the next stage and "mutated" slightly. Repeat the process over and over and you have something like natural selection in action.
Eventually - so the theory goes - you'll end up with the cream of the crop of AI drivers, and Codies claim that this is exactly what has happened. They now have super-intelligent, genetically-created computer players who react properly to situations on the track rather than just following pre-set racing paths. Presumably the next step is for them to take over the world and send super soldiers into the past to change the future for one lucky wo… Um, maybe not.
You can check out the world's first GM racing game when it's released later this spring. Rumours that Gran Turismo 4 will carry a label pronouncing it as "100% Organic" are entirely false because we just made them up.