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Category: Racing Simulators
Posted by: Mike
The GT Academy is a competition which selects the best gamer (in Gran Turismo) to be a real life professional racecar driver. The competition has selected several drivers over the past few years in Europe, and last year, an American version was held as well.

For 2012 the competition returns and is open in something like 16 different countries. In the US, you need to be in the top 32 to move on to the national finals. The exact format is a bit confusing. The contest started on May 1st and lasts 8 weeks. However, all of the early rounds are essentially just practice and do nothing to get you in the top 32. The top 32 are selected from just the final round, which isn't open until the final two weeks of the contest. The exact rules and registration haven't even been released yet. This means if you haven't started yet, you aren't missing out on anything and you can still get in and get some practice before the final round.

In terms of Gran Turismo I can't say I'm really that impressed with it. Clearly it's a just a somewhat realistic game and not a simulator. That's not to say the game is totally worthless as a training tool; it rewards being on exactly the right line, being smooth and precise and looking far ahead. But the vehicle dynamics are just not that realistic. Realistic weight transfer is not there. Stomp on the brakes and turn in at the same time no problem. Out of the corner, throttle doesn't want to squat the rear. Instead the rear just wants to slide out in power oversteer, but not like a realistic step out you would expect from a radial tire on pavement, rather more like a smooth drift as if you were on dirt.

I also don't feel the contest is set up in the best way to find the best drivers. If you've played Gran Turismo, each round is like a test for the racing licenses in the game. You get unlimited retries over the period of weeks. You can also ghost other's best times. So basically, if you have the time to do 100,000 retries over the last 2 weeks of the competition and can mimic the fastest ghost replay, you might be able to get in the top 32 in the country. I'm sure you'll have to position your car perfectly in every corner, i.e. half a car off here, 5 inches over the curb here, within an inch of the cone there etc. to get a top 32 lap. Somehow, that doesn't sound all that close to real racing. Some of the early rounds (hopefully not the final round that matters) even have A.I. cars to balk you that run the exact same path every time! Seriously?? Are we supposed to expect repeating the same exact passes thousands of times is supposed to teach us passing a real driver on a real track??

However, despite the frustrations, the opportunity presented here by Nissan and Sony Playstation is a huge one and worthwhile one. We are talking about a fair shot at a pro ride for just the cost of a playstation ($250) if you don't already have one (the GT Academy is a free download). Where else can you get this opportunity?? I only wish I wasn't working 50-60 hours a week and had more time to practice!

05/24/2012: Rest in peace

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Twenty years ago to the day my father past away. From all I knew he was a good man.

My old man's sport was basketball. I don't remember much of him but I do remember that. Every March I think he watched every single game in the NCAA Tournament. Then in May it was the NBA Playoffs. The few times I ever saw him shoot a ball, I remember being a very impressed five year old or however old I was, seeing the old fart do that. Years later I even found a newspaper clipping with a photo of him on the court while rummaging through his personal things.

Myself, I've always been pretty sucky at basketball. I was so young, basketball was never a father son thing for us. Although maybe he wanted to at some point, he never taught or showed me one thing about the game. Interestingly though, after he died, I did develop some uncanny ability to shoot the ball. By ten years old my jump shot could probably match any kid on the playground. It didn't really make much sense, I don't really know what to make of it, and I don't mean to imply anything about it either. Anyway, I was never much of a baller though, I didn't exactly have anyone to teach me, I never really had the confidence when playing in a game, and was slow to even pick up on the actual rules. I played sometimes and had some fun, but it was not my passion. Everyone else improved their shooting while my shot seemed to stay the same to this day. A good ten year old's shot is a pretty sucky one as an adult.

Interestingly it was shortly after he past that I began to develop an interest in racing. That interest would slowly develop into the passion I have today. As far as I know my father had no interest in racing. I don't know for sure what he would think of me racing, but I have my suspicions that he would probably not approve of it.

Of course I wonder sometimes how my life would be different if he was still around. Would the guy have taught me a thing or two about basketball? Would I have developed into a pretty decent player and developed a passion for the sport? It seems probable. If I developed a passion for basketball, would I have even cared about racing? I guess I'll never know.

I can't deny it, when I'm at the track and I see so many fathers teaching their sons the ropes and spending time together, I wonder what I missed out on. But that's OK. The way I look at it, I'm proud of who I am. And my experiences in life shaped me into who I am today. So I would never change a thing.

Rest in peace, Daddy. I hope I'm making you proud.