The continuation of the racing simulation “Project Cars 2” has recently started and continues to fight on the Xbox and Playstation and as a VR experience (like a 3D configurator) on the PC for a higher popularity. Praised by fans and critics alike, the game is known for its authentic racing car replicas, tracks and weather simulations – all inspired by real data. In the following interview with Stephen Viljoen, Game Director of Slightly Mad Studios, you will gain an insight into the process of creating the content behind the game.

Tell us about Slightly Mad Studios.

Slightly Mad Studios is a game development and distribution studio founded in 2004 by a group of 10 people. Meanwhile we have grown to 150 and have a small head office in London. Our team works remotely, allowing us to work with the best talent in the world without having to move. Over the last 13 years we have published many commercial titles and IP games, including our own “Project Cars” IP.

What is Project Cars and its history?

We`ve always wanted to create the ultimate racing simulation game, but until recently the technology we needed was not yet available. Project Cars 2 can be seen as the highlight of our many years of work, it`s the game we`ve always wanted – an authentic simulation experience that gives you an idea of what it feels like to be a racer in different leagues and organizations.

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How does “Project Cars 2” differ from other racing titles on the market?

The level of detail is a key differentiator. It offers an authentic racing experience while captivating players with exciting gameplay. Our simulation model is more complex and detailed than that of other racing Ips. We simulate cars, tracks and environments with greater depth and accuracy. We have created a virtual planet where we can realistically simulate weather systems, cloud information and patterns to accurately reflect and influence the weather, temperatures and conditions under which drivers drive.

How is the sequel different from the original?

We`ve added new content and improved the features and technologies that support the game. It`s not just an iterative sequel, it`s a new racing experience. We`ve added cars and tracks that offer a different style of dynamic gameplay and re-integrate new manufacturers from Ferrari to Lamborghini to Porsche. New racetracks like Indie Car and Rallye Cross have also been added.

Tell us about the type of cars in the game and the development process to create them.

We`ve chosen cars that play or have played a significant role in motorsport, some of which date from the 1950s. From endurance racing to open wheel racing, GT, touring or rally cross, we handpick the cars and work closely with the manufacturers to get the real-world data we needed to reconstruct them. It`s important to focus not only on their looks, but also on ease of use, sound and other aspects. Using CAD files and manufacturer reference photos, our artists are able to create authentic and digital models.

What about the environments?

The tracks are near-accurate replicas created using data from third-party laser scans and drone photography. We work with worldwide tracks to obtain licensing and approval for data capture, including Spa, Le Mans, the Nordschleife, Road America and Sonoma in the USA. The game also includes some public roads such as Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and Azure Highway. Laser scans capture the shape, size and surroundings of each lane, which we then digitally reproduce in 3D using point cloud data. Drone scanning is used for photogrammetry. We capture the texture, topography and profile of the surrounding areas. This data is combined with the laser scan data to restore locations with high accuracy and detail.

After you have collected the data for the cars and environments, what comes next?

We have separate track and car teams, but the content creation process is similar for both. First, we enter the car manufacturer`s CAD data or the laser scan data of the environments in Autodesk 3ds Max, on which our pipeline is heavily dependent. These data are typically millions of points – far too high to be used efficiently in a game engine of the current console generation – so we optimize the data without losing critical accuracy, Optimizing and recreating environments in 3ds Max is a big part of our workflow. Once the assets are finished, we export files and import them into the game. From there, details of the in-game application, such as dynamics optics, are applied.

Describe the physics of the game.

The physics of the vehicles and environments is very detailed and accurately simulated and created – from the tires to the mechanical underpinnings, how the car moves, how zje car behaves when you drive it, to the environment itself. We have also simulated physical material properties in the environments, such as the grip of tyres and the absorbency of water on dirt and grass. We have also controlled the temperature behaviour of these surfaces.

What challenges did you encounter when optimizing “Project Cars 2” for VR?

We had to make sure that the objects were accurate in size and scale. As soon as the brain notices that something is wrong, the player`s faith ends and he is subtracted from the experience. In 2D this is not a problem because the scale changes depending on the size of the screen, but in VR everything has to be accurate. To overcome this, we work closely with the vehicle manufacturers in advance. I sit physically in the cars and put my hands on the steering wheel and the controls to measure the scale and use this information as a guide.

We also had to consider IPD, the interpupillary distance. For a person with a large head and eyes far apart, the images appear smaller. To accommodate this variance, we have a slider that players can adjust to adjust the scale to their preferences. Then there are the other problems you don`t experience with a flat screen such as travel sickness – to counteract this, we rely on player feedback. When people report travel sickness, it is an indication that we need to adjust the movements of the cameras. We also try to keep camera movements as natural as possible to make the gaming experience as enjoyable as possible.

What`s next for Slightly Mad Studios?

As more and more players experience the game and share feedback, we make adjustments. Right now we`re focusing on post-release content and feature updates for the sequel. In addition, we have a few titles on offer that we`ll be announcing soon.