Monday, May 26, 2008

The Polyphony Digital Placebo effect or how Gran Tursimo taught me how to drive

I will assume for the sake of my post, that you have lived under a rock for the last 10 years. The fine folks at Polyphony Digital launched in 1997 a racing game that changed the world of driving simulation, raised the bar and paved the way for amazing racing/sim games.

I remained loyal to the Gran Turismo franchise over the years. I played my share of arcade racing games (read NFS when it got crappy, Underground, Underground 2, Most Wanted etc.) but always came back to GT.


Because the game did more than entertain me, it taught me about obscure Kei JDM cars but mostly it taught me about driving techniques. I cannot remember if it was a copy of GT or GT2 that came with a little booklet that educated me about grip, mass transfer, correct corner line, entry speed, braking, oversteer, understeer, how high power MR cars are evil, how 4wd cars tend to understeer, how much FF cars sucks (except for that red EG6 that I built and set up god knows how, to handle like an FR) and that good tires will make any car 10x better. GT also taught me how to intelligently mod a car and that stage 4 turbo kit are very very lagy.

I suffered the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, the turn in the first tunnel in Deep Forest, high speed cornering of Apricot Hill, the hairpin in Grand Valley, the night mare of Special Stage Route 11 and so on.

At the same time I was discovering this wonderful game, I was also in the process of getting my driving license. I was appalled to how much of the physic behind the racing techniques could be applied to driving a car and how much I wished I had been taught that when I was getting my license.

Now your gonna ask, what does this has to do with motorcycles. Gran Turismo went on to produce several sequels some of which I own ( still waiting for the slim version of the PS3 with a 200 gig hd) This spring, while waiting for the snow to melt away, I picked up Tourist Trophy. TT is made by the same fine folks at Polyphony Digital but instead of cars, you pilot a motorcycle.

My first approach to going around the track was to use the same bearings that use when driving car on the same track. The results were less than stellar, minds you, I still can drive anything with more than 599cc. At first I struggled but then after paying attention to the license tests, using the brakes where supposed to and getting on the throttle when I should. And lo and behold, I got better. I got around the track faster and finally beat my opponent.

I have not been satisfied about my riding skills for some time. I ran wide in the turns, always in the wrong gear, etc. Then it hit me. If GT did wonders for me on car driving skills, what if I applied what I was learning in TT, on the street on my bike ...

I run less wide in the turns, I make sure I brake where I should and bet back on the throttle when I should and I feel my riding skills have improved! Have they really or is it the placebo effect? I don't know, I still got some bad habits to get rid of but I do feel better about myself.

And now I got the itch, each time I see pictures from a track day.

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