Ford asked us to make an experience to showcase the feel of their Ecoboost Taurus SHO. They wanted drivers to come away remembering the performance their vehicle could deliver, but they didn't need the raw fury of the Raptor SVT display. Our limited-motion 302 platform was just what the doctor ordered — but what about the content?
After looking at a few other options, we decided to roll our own content in-house, using the rFactor engine. Building software ourselves also allowed us to take full advantage of the maximum computing power available — in the end, the 1-minute Ecoboost experience used as much storage space as some entire games! Normally, extravagance like that would be out of the question, but with the content only loading one or two times per day and only needing to run on one specification of computer, we had the flexibility. We used it to create graphics that would be completely impractical in the 'real world'.
Since we build the motion platforms and the software, we can detail the track surface and set up vehicle dynamics to maximize our machines' performance. Off-the-shelf software often doesn't take advantage of the motion fidelity of the hardware, so it's a bit like playing a VHS tape at an IMAX theater. We build the software in the next room, and use the extra computing capability mentioned above to generate incredibly detailed road surfaces that would be pointless or too expensive to develop in a normal video game, but are essential when you can feel every bump in the road.
A mid-track transition between smooth and rough pavement emphasizes speed and suspension quality, while adding detail that takes the experience beyond 'game' levelsNo sane developer, whether a full game design company or a design-for-hire house, would model every tree stump, rut, and fence post, because it isn't necessary under normal circumstances. We do our development in-house, and know exactly what's necessary — so we do it, sane or not.
There are many rules in software development that are necessary to ensure that software will run on many different computers with different configurations. But often our systems only need to run on one computer and one configuration - so we ignore those rules, and take advantage of the additional options that opens.
The result is an experience far more engaging than one delivered using the unquestioned constraints of traditional development, hardware and software both, and a graphical experience that punches far above its weight.
Ford Ecoboost Taurus SHO track model in development in Bob's Track Builder
The final track model running in rFactor