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Better living through video games Nov. 10th, 2013 @ 07:24 am
So I'm pretty sure Gran Turismo has made me a better driver.

Two incidents spring to mind on our recent trip: the first, when two tyres blew out on a narrow bridge at 50mph, and I stayed entirely in my lane and didn't so much as scratch the paintwork on the car as I drove it off the bridge and pulled over further along, where there was shoulder to pull over on.

The second was when I came around a curve at about 90km/hr (we were in Canada) to find a deer sproinging cheerfully across the road.

Braking sharply *while cornering* is fairly high on the list of things I was taught Not To Do when I was learning to drive, because it is, in fact, a spectacular exercise in the Applied Physics Of Wrecking Your Car.

Nonetheless, I braked sharply, and reflexively compensated to keep control of the car, successfully.

The thing is, I don't think I used to be quite as good at dealing with cars bobbling like that, and add to that I've barely driven a car at all in the last few years. (I've never owned a car, though when my mother was ill I drove my parents' car constantly, but riding a motorcycle is a *rather* different experience.)

However, I have played a fair amount of Gran Turismo, and one of the things that I *definitely* had to learn in that game is how to cope with cars going slightly out of control. Gran Turismo is a good simulation of that stuff, and I had to learn how to correct for a lot. Now, in GT generally the reason the car is at frequent risk of bobbling is that I am driving at speeds that, in the real world, would qualify as "suicidally insane", but, you know... racing video game. Nonetheless, the general principles are the same.

Arguably, this probably helps for the translation of the skills into a real car. The conditions I've learned to handle in Gran Turismo are far more extreme, because it's coping with a control issue when I'm already driving at the limit of the car's control to begin with; since I do not, in the real world, in a real car, drive with the accelerator buried in the floor except for those moments when I stop accelerating to brake as hard as I can for a corner nonetheless taken as fast as I can wrestle the car around the curve before flooring it again, kinda thing, I have more margin for error.

Having said that, I did take a couple of corners in North America marginally faster than I was quite comfortable with, but that was not intentional. Certain sections of road - generally when going through mountains - are really extremely twisty, and there's a section of the Trans-Canada Highway where the signposted recommended speed is 40km/hr, and all I can say to that is ha ha, you crazy Canadian optimists, because I slowed to 40km/hr, and then the only reason I did not actually yell holy shit the fuck is this AHHHH is that my jaw was clenched and the brain processing power usually assigned to "language, production and recognition" was reassigned to "decreasing radius curve, navigation" and also "terror, not screaming in".

Admittedly there were roadworks, but still. I think I went through the rest of that section at about 25km/hr, slower to go past the mans. I vaguely recall [personal profile] velithya making word-like noises during that first curve but I honestly did not process what they were.

"Too fast" is so very, very much a relative concept.

Current Location: Perth, Western Australia

I aten't dead Dec. 3rd, 2010 @ 08:20 am
I'm just currently running at the limits of my personal resources. I'm doing an outpatient-but-full-time group therapy... thing.

Yesterday was particularly bad because I got caught by a sneak meditation exercise, which more-or-less shattered me outright. It's complicated to explain, just... meditation is not for me. It hurts.

Anyway, because my brain can't handle anything else, I come home and play Gran Turismo. I'm level 17 A and level 11 B.

Right now I'm watching my second-best B-spec driver take my Lamborghini Gallardo around the Daytona oval. My best driver just did this self-same race in the exact same car, and came an easy first. Where L. Abendroth cruised to victory, R. Yoshioka is struggling to hold 8th. Apparently driver class DOES make a difference - but hey, it gets him more of the experience he needs to be a better driver.

My Gallardo needed an oil change after 400 miles of driving (and could use an engine overhaul at some point, too). 400 miles! That's what you get for thrashing an engine - race driving isn't exactly kind.

You know, in video games, we all do things that in real life we wouldn't, for one reason or another.

Gran Turismo definitely is on that list, because in real life, you know what I wouldn't do?

Power-slide a small French sports car* past the Roman Colisseum.

* - No, I'm not somehow convinced a Lamborghini is French instead of Italian. The car I powerslid past the Colisseum was my Hommel Berlinette. (The Gallardo, despite its "baby Lambo" image in the past, is also not what I'd call small. Apart from anything else, you don't get to be "small" when you can clear 200mph.)

I need more icons Sep. 19th, 2010 @ 11:12 am
So, I got a new game yesterday: Gran Turismo 5: Prologue.

My very first impression of the game is currently being borne out further as I let it idle to write this post. To wit: This game is really really pretty.

As it's idling, I'm now getting a slideshow of shots of cars in different cities where there are tracks - slow pans around Bonn, right now, just being very pretty.

It is also, however, a lot of fun.

I like racing games. In the real world I think car racing is ecologically unsupportable and generally dangerous and pointless; I don't think car races are, as a rule, particularly enjoyable to watch.

But they're a lot of fun to do - and if I do it on a video game, I don't have to deal with the repercussions of my inevitable crashes.

Because I do crash, and also, my racing style is slightly influenced by childhood games of MarioKart. If you're trying to overtake an opponent near a tricky corner, it's a totally viable strategy in MarioKart and many racing games to take the corner at a slightly unsafe speed, and keep yourself from going too wide by essentially making a bank shot off your opponent, hitting them broadside, using that to give yourself some lateral force, and thereby screw up their corner while improving your own.

In the real world that leaves a mark.

Anyway, Gran Turismo specifically is awesome because it's all about modelling real-world driving physics. It adds a whole new level of fascinating challenge to the game. For a change, in a racing game the brake button doesn't exist in a world of "Brakes? SIF!" Take a corner too fast and you're going to lose, and lose badly - once your car spins out into the sand wash outside the corner, that's it, you're done.

Brake in the corner when you start to lose it? Oh hell no, son, that's death on locked wheels. Drive like it's reality - you brake before you hit the corner, and accelerate out of the corner.

For the first time, I'm playing a racing game where coming fourth sometimes feels like an awesome achievement. Because negotiating the track is a challenge in itself, and finding the moments to overtake the opposition can be a strategic challenge.

Meanwhile, I noticed, with approving delight, something very cool.

Certain in-game information is presented while youre racing that you need to process quickly and without taking time away from paying attention to your driving. For example, there's an optional driving line that shows you the optimal line to be taking along the track - which turns red at the corners if you're going too fast to hold the line at all. And at checkpoints, you get your time split vs the leader, if you're not in first, or second place if you are. If you're behind, that comes up red. The colour-marking is important because it's very easy to miss the +/- if you're just catching that with your peripheral vision.

If you're driving right, or coming first, you might expect - as is traditional - that it will all come up in green.

Not in GT5.

The information is presented to you in blue.

I have come to notice these things due to having a close friend who's red/green colourblind. Periodically, there are things where he has trouble parsing information presented with a red/green spectrum split. To the extent that once, he had to ask me to come and read a graphical breakdown of some data for him, because he couldn't see the differences, at all.

(Sadly, I think most people don't really think about disabilities until they've had some kind of reasonably close experience with them. I know I never thought about red/green colour-marking until I spent so much time around my colourblind friend.)

Accordingly, I think that it's just very cool to have a game that presents this stuff, signals information you want to be processing without thinking about it, by marking it with a vivid red and a clear, cool blue.

Sure it won't work for someone who's completely colourblind, but a) that's very very rare and b) at that point, no colour distinctions will, so... not a lot you can do, really.
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