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VIRTUAL RC RACING – THE INSIDE STORY Episode 2

16.01.2022   Category: Site news

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Episode 2: Setting up a development team for Virtual RC v3 (2002)

After having promoted our “Virtual RC” game port adaptor together with version 1 and 2 of the “Virtual RC Racing” game I thought it was time to step it up to the next level. I started laying out my plans to Lothar and he seemed receptive to the idea to do a more realistic and serious r/c car simulation. Had Lothar done version 1 and 2 of Virtual RC Racing all by himself, it was clear at the outset that my ambitions with this new version were a lot higher and would need a bigger team to develop it. In my plans I envisaged very detailed r/c cars and tracks, and a sophisticated physics engine to make the cars behave as realistic as possible. And of course, I wanted the new platform to be able to host races for the members and post the results on a website. So the idea for VRC v3 was born, but it was clear that we would need additional experts in each of these fields.

Game architecture, 3D engine, and GUI
Lothar had already done his own game and had some expertise to develop a proper game architecture, 3D engine, and graphical user interface (GUI) to fit all my ideas. The newly developed third generation of our 3D engine featured, among other things, real-time shadows and lighting, smoke, and support for 3D models with a high polygon count. The game architecture included code for a dual player mode and a replay mode. The newly designed graphical user interface featured very detailed r/c car setup options. This leads us to the next topic:

Physics engine developer
Another major coincidence was how we got our new team members: Lothar had asked his father, who was a general physics professor, to keep an eye out for suitable candidates and established a contact with a young guy from Minneapolis Minnesota in the US who was somehow interested in developing a physics engine for real car sims: Todd Wasson. Lothar got in touch with Todd and asked him if he was interested to work on this new ‘virtual rc’ project. Todd had absolutely no idea what he was getting involved in, knew nothing about r/c cars but apparently thought it was interesting and challenging enough to get involved in. It also provided an opportunity for Todd to develop his skills in the field of physics engines and vehicle dynamics in kind of a low-profile racing environment. If I remember well Todd had thus far released a drag racing performance analysis tool in which one could play with clutch settings and tires, apparently it had raised some interested with amateur drag racing enthusiasts. So that was the second job filled but no idea what I could expect...

3D Graphics artist
Yet another coincidence, Todd had developed several contacts in the racing sim development world, and one of these contacts happened to be West Racing from the UK who were developing their own car racing sim for legend F1 cars called Racing Legends. West Racing was 2 twin brothers, Tony and Chris West. When they started their racing sim project a few years before they tossed a coin to decide who was going to develop the game itself (the coding stuff), and who was going to do all the 3D artwork. Turned out that Tony was going to be the graphics artist, a skill he had to develop from scratch! I approached Tony to see if he was interested to also work on the VRC project besides his own project. He agreed and up until now Tony has done all the fantastic 3D graphics and artwork of the v3 content such as cars, components, tracks, GUI designs, and later for VRC Pro, designing the Virtual RC website, promotional stuff including the v3 packaging (more about that later).

Virtual RC website and database
That was another important part of the v3 project as VRC was set out to host events and we would have to store these results in a database and publish them on a website.

Going back in time a several years, I was already working with a team of software and website developers for the Serpent website. Some of you will remember it as myTSN: ‘my team Serpent network’. This project was developed by a team of 3 highly skilled and software developers, all university master’s degrees in software engineering. How this came about is worth a separate story, another ‘coincidence’, one of so many…

Somewhere around 1992 an ambitious guy from Trencin Slowakia was bold enough to drive with his Skoda from Trencin Slowakia to Heemstede to show his products to me (Serpent). His name was Juraj Hudy. He had a small machine shop in Trencin where he produced high quality steel parts, but in a very traditional way. We started doing business with him, he produced our slim but ultra-strong and durable dog bones (drive shafts), wishbone pivot pins, and gradually more and more high-quality metal parts.

Early nineties the world wide web (WWW) was gaining more and more ground and it became obvious to me at a very early stage that the WWW had great potential to communicate with our worldwide network of Serpent distributors and of course also with the hobbyists and racers who were using our cars and products. It is now hard to image how primitive communications where up until then, without internet, email, websites… After trying to develop an interactive website here in the Netherlands (which was going nowhere and was aborted after 18 months) I got in contact with Juraj’s eldest son Mario who had also studied at the Trencin university, he knew a ‘few smart guys’ from the university who could probably build such a website. That was the start of the myTSN project which lasted till 2005 or so. I will elaborate on the myTSN adventure in the Serpent ‘memoires’ I will work on after the VRC story is finished. With some fantasy you could say that the concept behind myTSN was for r/c racers what Facebook nowadays is for billions of users, no kidding…

The myTSN development team was headed by Marek Straka as overall architect and hardware/internet specialist, Tomas Chlebana as the database specialist and Lubo ‘Lucky’ Novak as the website developer.
Marek Simon was the website security expert. After having worked with them on myTSN for 5-6 years I was confident that they would be able to act as the ‘website and database team’ for VRC v3.

My job was to write and detail the conceptual design of the whole Virtual RC v3 project, coordinate the whole project and last but not least, provide the required funding. I was sure we could pull this off, not having a clue what I was getting myself into. A new adventure was started, Virtual RC v3!

That v3 adventure is next...

Comments

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(Total posts: 8)
07.02.2022 [08:27]
Posted by: Andrew Bucar (CA) on 16.1.2022 17:47:53 (UTC) These background stories are great. Appreciate the SIM that much more.


Yes I agree. The history is a very important part of the result today.
05.02.2022 [00:10]
What about a VRC V3 revival?
Everywhere you hear about "Vintage" and when I would earn every car I raced in tha past nowadays as new one I would get quite som monay.

Ist this somehow possible? I still own my V3 CD?

-Torsten
18.01.2022 [09:45]
Posted by: Matthew Stacey (CA) on 17.1.2022 15:26:33 (UTC) Interesting history! I remember the AI cars in the old VRC haha! Made the time trials Interesting trying to pass those AI cars! Keep up the good work.


The AI car concept will certainly pass by and it will also become clear why that innovative idea was abandoned for VRC Pro.
18.01.2022 [09:43]
It will become a lot more interesting in the next episodes, more what and how instead of who!
17.01.2022 [15:26]
Interesting history! I remember the AI cars in the old VRC haha! Made the time trials Interesting trying to pass those AI cars! Keep up the good work.
17.01.2022 [14:34]
still own my first ever vrc sim. sadly we cant play it anymore. it was so much fun
16.01.2022 [17:47]
These background stories are great. Appreciate the SIM that much more.
16.01.2022 [17:14]
The story is increasingly interesting, and above all, very illustrative for those who have the vocation and initiative to innovate and develop new ideas.

I think that recounting all the evolution of how the VRC project was conceived, developed and completed, and valuing everything that Pieter tells us as "coincidences", is a master class to be able to carry out projects for people who are trained.

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