By James Knopp
22 February 2002
Finally some good news about Geoff Crammonds Grand Prix series - a set of screenshots that look the most promising ever. We should have seen this a while back, perhaps even around the time of GP3. But then again, would we be here now still waiting for GP3?
With the new screenshots released, we can now find out little bits of information about GP4 that we didn't know before. By looking at the screenshots, it seems clear that our wishes are being put into reality. I believe that this latest offering from the might of Crammond will silence his critics and finally give us what we wanted in GP3.
My favourite area :) Obvious changes include a revamped graphics engine and the polygon levels have certainly been beefed up considerably in both the tracks and cars. Along with this we have also seen new effects added - environment mapping seems to be a likely addition (you can see specular highlights and a reflective map at this moment in time). Gone also it seems are the horrible RCR jams and tyres and in place are true 3D graphics.
Also a welcome addition are driver bodies, steering wheels and hands fully visible. They certainly look far better than F1 2001's efforts. Which leads me on to say that already graphically, F1 2001 has been beaten, and we're not looking at a final version either.
Gone it seems also is the horrible drawing system that GP3 employed - you can quite clearly see this by checking out certain features that have been attempted in GP3, but have been crippled by horrible bugs. Check out shot 4 and see the Bridgestone logo on the grass. Before we had to deal with this by adding an object to the ground. This ensured a couple of bugs. One being the cars simply drove through it seemed (objects don't have collision detection for a start) and positioning it right down the ground was very tricky. It often meant that on close inspection, the object was found 'hanging' in mid air. Not any more.
Texture wise things look very promising. Hopefully we'll see a welcome addition of alpha channels throughout textures.
Alpha channels incidently are maps which define an area that should be transparent using a black and white image. The advantage of an alpha channel is that you can make an image semi-transparent, depending on the shade of grey/black. This allows for very powerful techniques and shortcuts, which are extremely hard to reproduce using 3D effects. It also allows an short cut in antialiasing effects on the edge of transparent textures (such as fences).
Whether we'll see 100% tga textures or even an up-to-date JAM file remains to be seen. But it's clear that we'll be seeing a lot of changes. It also seems that gone also is point-filtering (or for those not technical, the blocky 'software' look that textures have. In place is linear filtering which makes the textures look smoother).
Ok now here's a nice run down of possible inclusions in graphical effects for GP4 (note these are not confirmed, I've only used the images as references to come up with ideas):-