Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Art of Gran Turismo 6

Gran Turismo 6 is almost five years old. The in-game graphics are often rough and the career racing aspect involves a lot of grinding for imaginary money; the online services were turned off a couple of months ago so you can't race against people any more, but the photo mode can still deliver the goods. It’s surprisingly flexible, with controls for aperture, shutter speed, image stabilisation - and by extension the quality of motion blur - with an option to render the output at double size, roughly six megapixels. Some of the lighting effects don’t work well, in particular headlights often have an artificial square glow around them, and it takes ages to render double-size images, but it’s addictive.

In theory GT6 was replaced by Gran Turismo Sport for the PlayStation 4, but Sport is aimed squarely at the online-only multiplayer crowd. For the time being there isn't a decent PlayStation 3 emulator for any platform and GT6 hasn't been re-released in remastered form, which puts fans of the Gran Turismo series in 2018 in an awkward position. The next proper Gran Turismo game hasn't been released yet and the last proper game is unavailable for modern gaming platforms.

I've written before about virtual photography. When I was very young there was a fractal landscape generator called Vista for 16-bit computers. If you ever owned an early-90s trance compilation it probably had a Vista landscape on the cover (or a dancing robot; or an alien smoking a joint).

Back then it struck me that if a computer could make a sufficiently detailed recreation of the real world, why bother carrying masses of photo gear up a mountain when you could achieve the same results by rendering it at home?

All of the images in this post could have been produced in the physical world, but it would have cost a fortune, and finding someone willing to race their Dino 246 would have been difficult. In GT6 the Dino 246 is a terrific car - relatively cheap, with lovely handling and snappy acceleration. I felt almost dirty tuning it up and I refuse to add a wing. In real life the Dino is also apparently a terrific car, but it's a terrific car that sells for a third of a million pounds, which is ironic given that it was originally sold as a budget model.

In the future, when every square inch of the Earth's terrain has been photographed with Google Earth, and every object has been digitised, people will never need to leave the house and photography as we know it will die. Which is perhaps for the best because far in the future we will be living in underground caves. We will sit in our tiny coffin apartments and send drones out into the wilderness to take photographs for us, which raises the possibility that all of this has already happened, and we are the drones, and our masters lurk underground.