Another mobile LSS
Some things needs to be cleared; building a topographic model of the track and completing a digital model of that track are different tasks. Surface rendering, build modelling, light effects, grip on track, physics, weather, algorithms, etc. A survey or scan is only the first step to build a simulator but it is important to see what kind of simulator someone is trying to build. It is not the same when the staff has in mind console players or desiring to be used like a professional training, being online or offline, different budget or human resources, etc. And in some cases tracks are also imposing conditions like Nordschleife.
An static LSS could cost an average of 45000€ while a whole mobile LSS could be around 250000€. Both can be working as a charming or mediocre relaying on who and how are being used. Obviously outsourcing these works is within a wide range depending on what we want to obtain.
What it has be clear is a mobile LSS with cameras and GPS is not able to scan precision within milimeters like someone announces. It needs complementary equipment to be reached. Project managers should be offering more data about these procedures to the simracing community if they want to be heard.
Having a topographic model of the track allows to generate a 3D model with needed data to reproduce faithfully all the topographic map and geometry of the track like; corner radius, transverse and vertical tilt, irregularities on track, escape areas, kerbs, etc. Everything placed in a related position and with a relevant size.
In our opinion, what is the most important and interesting about all this? Giving value to the fact of getting virtual experience resembling a real experience, but not only in aesthetics aspects but formal aspects. This is critical when developers look for being a training tool for professional drivers. Because its target is looking to resemble a real experience to learn every possible tips and tricks of the real track.
So, a topographical survey today can be done in three different ways: 1, classical methodologies; 2, static LSS; 3, mobiles LSS. These three methods can be complemented (what usually happens) but these would be the main ways to do it if we’re looking for a realistic model of a track. First one, the classical, is highly precise but data are discreet (not continuous) and needs a lot of time and people to do it. Second one would be with LSS, with precision and geometric control and a very good balance cost/time/effort though could be not enough if the track needs to be closed to be scanned. Third one, with a mobiles LSS, this would be the ideal way being faster than static LSS and avoiding a track shut down, but it needs to be done with a perfectly adjusted equipment or topographic data would be full of mistakes, bumps, empty holes or other ugly issues on the cloud points. These mistakes could be made-up on the modelling phase but… is it the same a 6% grade than 7,5% grade? or is it important that a pole or a step on the wall being a meter before than is on the real life? It doesn’t matter if you are developing a game, but if you are developing with other target in mind then maybe not. Topographical data is usually taken once and it remains for a long time immutable. Resurfacing or surface treatments don’t alter the basic topographical profile, not substantially. So a simulator should try to obtain an strict topographic profile to have a good basis on future developments.
Obviously we have to explain it in a reasonable manner, a simulator is not a civil work of engineering dealing with people’s life however iRacing staff saw a potential target and necessity and searched for a technical solution to get a reliable track data. In my opinion, this is a clear example of which kind of “player” is its real target. Membership, licensing, and paid content with a long term and highly differentiate approach from the usual market model. iRacing sees its tracks like a key element looking to show how good the whole service is. And that is the reason why they are showing how the work is being done, because adds value and justifies those 14,95 dollars.
Certainly iRacing has placed an strong bet totally profesional and very strict to establish themselves as a leader on the simracing market and showing to their competence how to proceed creating a track. This is and incredible value added to the customers, and to the professional drivers using the platform to train, a very high quality topographical engineering solution to serve as a training tool and as an online competition platform.
We would like to talk about rFactor2 tracks, but its nearly impossible to get information about them. Surely is one of the greatest simulators at the moment but we don’t have anything to say about how tracks have been built.
Currently we are enjoying an incredible moment in which the high level of details and quality of the tracks are spectacular. Next technologies, as virtual reality, will provide a better immersion and that is precisely one of the powerful reasons to build a track with the highest likelihood possible. We expect, and demand, more quality, and also more information about how works are done, to be able to evaluate every bit of them.
Now the question is, do you still think 14,95 dollars is a lot of money? I sincerely don’t think so. One time purchase for a technological gem.
Author’s note: I tried to do a constructive analysis pointing what I consider the right approach using my personal experience as simracer and my technical knowledge with the gathered data.