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I am just entering the world of game development, starting with the racing genre of games.

Let me clarify that this question is not about car modelling or external detailing; it is about the way a car drives, handles, and the way it feels (how heavy or torque-y it is, or how fast and nimble it is, the way it moves in place when you hit the brakes, etc.) in-game.

I am looking to understand the process game developers take to translate real world car characteristics and physics into in-game cars. I am not talking specifically about simulation games; I'm including even arcade games where driving a muscle car feels very different from driving a tuner, or a sports car, or super and hyper cars.

Questions such as the following arise:

(1) Do developers have get their hands on a car physically in order to be able to map it into an in-game car? When they drive it around, what metrics are they looking to capture so their in-game car can feel as true to the real one?

(2) What if they can't get a physical car, or if the car is a concept with no drivability? What metrics, data and telemetry should the car manufacturer supply in order for the car to be represented in-game?

(3) Within cars of the same kind, such as muscle cars, how do developers ensure that a Ford Mustang, a Dodge Challenger, a Chevrolet Camaro, all feel sufficiently distinct from each other in-game? How do they ensure a Porsche 911 Turbo, a 911 GT3, a 911 GT2 all feel different, just as the real cars do?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately I don't think there is one correct answer for this question. It all depends on the game you are making. Crash Team Racing, for example, has cartoony "cars", but Need for Speed, has more realistic ones. Which one is the preferred approach depends on what you want the result to be. If you want realism, be prepared to spend time studying cars, if you want something cartoony, then just being aware how a car functions (from a viewer's point of view) should be more than enough. \$\endgroup\$ – TomTsagk Dec 18 '18 at 13:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Developers having to get their hands on the actual cars also seems unlikely. The guys who made Forza didn't crash a whole set of multi million dollar cars to see how it would behave. The vehicles are modeled after their dimensions, their materials, their weight distribution, downforce, you name it. Most of this information is readily available from the automotive manufacturers themselves. Plug that information into a decent physics simulation, and you should have a decent approximation of how the car handles in real life. \$\endgroup\$ – Timothy Groote Dec 18 '18 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ To get something that feels even remotely realistic requires a fair amount of math. The best I found on the web (search for) : Brian Beckman The Physics of Racing. You can get something that is 'passable' by designing your drive system with each of the various forces in their own modules. You then hard-code/semi-simulate the forces in each of the modules. Then start adding 'realistic' functionality one module at a time. It starts getting a bit overwhelming when you have to apply different forces on each of the tires. Unfortunately, that's the most important part to get a realistic feel. \$\endgroup\$ – Dunk Dec 19 '18 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's also worth noting that a lot of the stuff we do in games to get vehicles to "feel right" has nothing to do with or even sometimes contradicts real measured physics. I recommend watching David Bianci's talk "The Physics of Fun: Vehicles of Saints Row" for some dramatic examles of outright lying to the physics engine and playing with camera tricks to create the desired game feel. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Dec 19 '18 at 3:45
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(1) Do developers have get their hands on a car physically in order to be able to map it into an in-game car? When they drive it around, what metrics are they looking to capture so their in-game car can feel as true to the real one?

No. it definitely won't "feel" the same for starters, since your behind is probably in a stationary seat, not in the seat of a moving car. which feels very different.

That aside, Developers having to get their hands on the actual cars also seems unlikely. The guys who made Forza didn't crash a whole set of multi million dollar cars to see how it would behave. The vehicles are modeled after their dimensions, their materials, their weight distribution, downforce, you name it. Most of this information is readily available from the automotive manufacturers themselves. Plug that information into a decent physics simulation, and you should have a decent approximation of how the car handles in real life.

Not to mention it would make the simulation inaccurate, since you might taint the model with a personal bias.

(2) What if they can't get a physical car, or if the car is a concept with no drivability? What metrics, data and telemetry should the car manufacturer supply in order for the car to be represented in-game?

If that concept has known parameters (has been in a wind tunnel, has a weight distribution and power ratio that can be estimated with a decent amount of certainty) you can already make a good "guess" on what the car would handle like, just by plugging those into your sim framework. Obviously, if there is no drivable model there will not be any telemetry, so you will have some degree of inaccuracy, but you could plug existing, ready-made stuff like existing suspension models etc. in to fill up the gaps.

(3) Within cars of the same kind, such as muscle cars, how do developers ensure that a Ford Mustang, a Dodge Challenger, a Chevrolet Camaro, all feel sufficiently distinct from each other in-game? How do they ensure a Porsche 911 Turbo, a 911 GT3, a 911 GT2 all feel different, just as the real cars do?

I think i already answered this question twice over. These models 'feel' different bevause they have different bodies, different downforce, different engines, drive trains, weight distributions, suspension models. If your model is complete enough, no two cars (no matter how closely related) will 'feel' the same.

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