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I ask myself how further the big realism wave that invades videogames can send racing and driving simulations, as today we know them. Beyond the debate on which game has the best simulation of a physical system, we would have to look for new territories to win for the sake of realism. In which degree an ultra realistic physical system aids to obtain a more real experience? Do realistic surroundings and realistic rules help us to have near-reality experiences? When we drive a vehicle, it is just the physical action of conducting a self-moving machine? When driving, we become one with the machine. So we will assume that our simulator provides us with everything the senses can “read”. Then, other aspects would start to be relevant: joy, fear, the intensity of a last lap, and other racing scenarios, but also a wide range of subtler ones, like getting lost in the road, having an accident and being injured, or the stress of arriving late at an appointment while being in a traffic jam. Those are the internal experiences a simulation provides.

Racing simulations are subjected to strict rules and confined spaces, with their associated scenarios of experience and emotion.

These simulations make a good work in representing a competition, but do they contain all the essence of driving, in a broader sense?

After these questions, I decided to make an exercise that consists of describing the repertory of a driving simulation, independent of the present technology, a theoretical simulator that represents, from my point of view, the pleasure of driving.

In the first place, I must clarify that this simulator could easily be upgraded to a universal simulator, or to be a small part of one. Applying the same rules, we could have infinity of simulators that can be connected so that we would end with an alternative virtual universe, very similar to the real one, if we feel like that. But I don’t want to talk about technology, I will assume that everything you need to feel “really immersed”, including computing power, bandwidth and input/output devices is already solved. I just want to talk of cars, roads and freedom...

The game would begin in the garage of a house. There it would rest an average car, possibly a very cheap and slow one. We would leave to the highway, in search of a little action. Our city (put here any city of the world, soon all the globe will be mapped in 3D with resolutions of less of a meter) would be full of opportunities for the motor enthusiastic. We could go to the local school of pilots, taking lessons and racing in the school’s league, or perhaps we would register directly in a local competition with a reasonable inscription. From here, and depending on our ability, we could progress in the competition, and even attract the interest of sponsors. Our race as professionalpilot could be the following step, and we would exchange the area level competitions for the most important championships (put here your favourite competition: rallies, F1, Nascar, Indycar, truck racing, etc). Indeed, everything could be very different: we could sell the car and buy a cross motorbike, and cross the country in Baja style, participating in small local races and driving from town to town. Or we could choose the dark side, and use our abilities to commit crimes, turning us into the “wheelman” of a band of robbers, or just another reckless driver out there. Or perhaps be would join the highway patrolThis universe would be full of strong emotions and responses, but also of small details, full of meaning. Like driving your own truck, with your racing car resting behind you, to the tracks of the near localities, or like having to stop to put gasoline, and even suffering accidents with physical consequences (like dying and having to start over). I could follow during hours with stuff like that, and I am sure that everyone will have its own favourite to add to the list of features. Given a sufficient complexity, this simulator would be an infinite source of experiences. I believe this is the extreme realism that many of us dream about: a universe where each action has its answer, from the physics of the driving to the complicated strategy of a racing season. And all of that, inside a simulation that can grow and be networked, that can be tweaked and modified again and again. It would be the definitive driving simulator...

Again, this was just a thought; an array of possibilities that had been present in some form in released games or will start to happen with the next brew of games. For the old ones I can think of Stunt Driver, Car & Drive, GP2, GPL, Midtown Madness, Driver, Dirt Track Racing, NFS:HS and NFS:PU, and for the yet to come, Hard Truck 2, Skip Barber Racing, Loose Canon, World Sports Cars and NFS: Motorcity. It seams that the future is bright for driving sims, but only time will tell if we can expect in the next century a simulator like the one I have described. Personally, it would do for me if the forthcoming games I mentioned don’t arrive with excessive delay.

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