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VIRTUAL RC RACING – THE INSIDE STORY Episode 1

13.01.2022   Category: Site news

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Episode 1 How it all began…

All my ‘rc’ life and especially as a manufacturer I have been wondering how we could make the r/c car hobby more accessible for the general public. This hobby is simply very difficult to get in to, especially in those days. Companies like Kyosho and Tamiya were the only companies offering products which were entry level, but even these were quite difficult to operate. As a manufacturer of model racing cars it was even more difficult to promote our racing products. Promotion was limited to advertising in rc magazines and r/c races. Remember in those days there was no internet yet!

Late nineties the first computer sims came on the market, for real racing cars, air flight sims and also sims for radio-controlled model airplanes. This triggered the idea of creating an rc car sim so we could everyone give a ‘virtual’ rc racing experience without having to worry about crashing the car all the time. And of course, the game had to be controlled with a proper r/c transmitter, not with a joystick. So that was the first thing I was set out to do, design and manufacture a device which would connect your r/c transmitter/receiver with your PC. Remember, in those days PC’s did not have USB ports yet (the USB port was invented in 1996), just a parallel port and a so called ‘com’ port. We opted to use the com port for our very first ‘game port adaptor’.

I thought we had created quite a unique product and perhaps it would be interesting to patent it. So I got in contact with a patent office in the Hague. Part of the patenting process is to do a market survey for products with similar unique characteristics and functionality. And much to my surprise they found a game port adaptor which was developed by a certain Lothar Pantel who lived in Neckargemünd in the middle of Germany, with a European patent pending! Lothar’s game adaptor used the parallel port, also known as 'Centronics' port or printer port, which was used, among others, to connect a printer or a scanner. So both solutions were quite different from an electronics design point of view.

Coincidentally Neckargemünd is the next town up the river Neckar where my best youth friend Hans Beels lives, Ziegelhausen just outside Heidelberg (by the way, Hans is part of my ‘car passion’ I wrote about in a previous story as I was his ‘mechanic’ in go-karting for several years, he comes from a family with a long racing history). So I decided to contact Lothar Pantel to see if we could work together somehow, and a few weeks later we met in Neckargemünd, the first of many. At that time Lother still studied computer science at the Technical University of Darmstadt and his game adaptor was not a real big thing for him. But surprisingly he had also a r/c racing game for PCs, which was supplied together with his adaptor, what a coincidence! His r/c racing game, called “RC-Car Trainer”, was distributed by Conrad Electronic and featured 2.5D graphics, that is, 2D scrolling with pseudo 3D effects. We decided to cooperate rather than to fight each other for a patent, it wasn’t all that important to me as my main focus was of course on the Serpent company.

Our game port adaptor could also be used with racing games like Indycar Racing which was one of the leading racing sims in those days. Controlling a real car with an r/c transmitter was still a lot better than with a joystick, steering wheels and peddles were just entering the market back then. I remember during one of my many travels to the US (we had an office in Miami then) I visited the Indycar Racing office in Boston one day to demonstrate how our game port adaptor with a transmitter could also control Indycar Racing. They thought it was interesting but funny to use it for a racing game but of course they hardly new anything about r/c cars and controllers.

I thought we need something more sophisticated than Lothar’s RC-Car Trainer v2 and I came up with a new concept: “Virtual RC Racing”. This was the start of our own game development:

Lothar already had worked on version 3 of his RC-Car Trainer, which featured 3D graphics for the first time, and since we had joined forces, his software was finally released as Virtual RC Racing v1 by Serpent. We even had CDs made to include with Serpent's VRC adapter. On the occasion of a world championship we released an app of Virtual RC Racing running in a web browser with race results displayed in a ranking table on a website.

Version 2 of Virtual RC Racing added support for 3D hardware acceleration via DirectX, since at that time new types of graphics cards with 3D hardware acceleration for Windows started to become popular on the market... (Previously, most games ran under MS-DOS.) Accordingly, the second version of Virtual RC Racing featured a higher polygon count and a higher texture resolution compared to version 1. However, the biggest technological leap came with version 3.


The VRC v3 story is next...


(this story is also published on my Facebook page Pieter Bervoets)

Comments

Only active members can post comments
(Total posts: 5)
28.03.2022 [09:37]
I've always wanted to say thank you to the creator of VRC!!!
07.02.2022 [08:23]
This is actually interesting seeing the background of it.
14.01.2022 [09:14]
It was a natural thing for me to do, driven by passion for the hobby. I guess it is also my nature to think beyond the present and explore new ideas that could work in the future and of which we could all benefit. And it is mentally very rewarding when you succeed!
14.01.2022 [05:23]
Serpent was my favourite RC brand when she was owned by Pieter, and VRC is great tools to improve my driving skill and help me understand the setup, You are the Greatest in RC.

Thank you very much Pieter !
13.01.2022 [16:49]
Very interesting.
Pieter, a great entrepreneur and innovator, without a doubt the world of RC owes you a lot. I believe that you came to life at the right time, to contribute to the start and growth of this hobby throughout all these years.

Thank you very much Pieter.

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