Just as car technology has progressed ceaselessly since the 80s, so have video games and a modern racer is indistinguishable from the first games in the genre.
As the very latest racing title, the upcoming Forza Motorsport 4 (FM4) goes straight to the top as the most advanced incarnation of console racers and requires huge budgets and manpower to provide gamers with the realism, details and experience they expect. From gameplay to graphics, every aspect has been crafted to the finest level and nothing illustrates this quite like FM4 creator Turn 10's latest video on how they created one of the game's circuits, the Hockenheimring in Germany.
The detail is frankly incredible. First, a team of three graphic artists and photographers visit the circuit and capture images that can later be taken back to the rest of the development team when adding detail to the eventual circuit map. Concept Artist Brady Parell estimates that amongst the small team, they'll bring back 10,000 photographs of every aspect of the circuit, and several videos too.
Next, the track has to be mapped out. One technique is to lay down GPS lines. Equipped with a military-style GPS harness accurate to less than an inch horizontally and less than a foot vertically, a developer walks the inside and outside lines of the circuit, the edges of the circuit area to the barriers and any other features at ground level to build a virtual map of the area.
Environment Art Lead Matt Collins says the aim when creating a track for the game, whether a real circuit or original creation, is to decide on the feel they want the player to have. For a real life track that means accurately representing the sights and sounds, such as replicating Hockenheim's famous Mercedes-Benz grandstand and using professional drivers to test their work and make suggestions on aspects that should be changed to enhance the realism.
You can watch a video of the whole process below:
Possibly more amazing than the effort put into creating Hockenheim is that the team will do the same for dozens of other real-world circuits featured in the game too. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it...
Forza Motorsport 4 is due for release October 14, exclusive to Microsoft XBox 360. With cars from over 80 manufacturers and a huge selection of circuits including the Top Gear test track, it's sure to be one of the biggest and best racing games yet.