February 02, 2008

Laurent Lo2k interview - Português em breve!

As far as I remember now, it was on 2005 spring, close to my birthday... It was a boring Sunday afternoon, I was unemployed and living on my parents´ house...

And (I thought) nothing could get worst.

This was the exact point when I decided to start learning how to make tracks for GP4.

3d editor should be version 11 by that time. An easy tool, easy download, friendly Realgpx site, a nice tutorial I could read from my poor English, and a mysterious guy behind, named “Lo2k” (So far, I do not dare to ask him how this sound in French, hehehe).

Anyway, he was some sort of Yoda those days. And everything he and his friends used to speak on gpg forum was, for me, absolutely fascinating!

To build a track for F1 cars by my own... and be able to run on it!

After two years, many things happened and for our good. 3d editor became 3d builder, I got a new job, there are now so many good new tracks for GP4, and Laurent is no more only a Yoda master for all of us, but a great friend as well.

Let´s take a look at these questions... Hopefully it will help people from all GP4 communities around to know a bit more about Mr. Laurent Lo2k, 3d editor and 3dbuilder creator as many other useful stuff as Tex Resizer...

0. To start, let´s know your age, home, and profession. No need for names or addresses, sure.

Hi, as most know now, my first name is Laurent, I’m 30 years old, I live in west of France and I’m working as computer « specialist » (I’m repairing them) and web-designer.

1. When did 3dbuilder Project begin? Why? Was it an apple felt on your head?

Everything starts a bit after French GP4 release. I played game of course and knew that a strong community was there for GP3 and would be there for GP4. Paul Hoad was unsure to continue his track editor for GP4, face to the 3D jump GP4 made over GP3. On my side, I started with CamEditor (that will become TeamEditor years later), which was designed as a small app to start programming because I never wrote a single Pascal line before GP4 release. And face to queries to have a track editor and my old passion for 3D, I took it as a challenge to be able to display 3D game objects in my app. So all begins with CamEditor when I was finally able to load game car shapes and since that day, I copied CamEditor code to create a new tool, focused on 3D that was GP4Viewer and that will become GP4Builder.

2. If one asks you how far 3dbuilder is from its definite version, what would you say?

I would say that if I could spend my life on it, it might be at half its way to a definite version. Badly I won’t (because I can’t) spend my life on it so I will have to live with the idea that at its best it will be a not-so-bad version, so I would say it’s at 70% or 80% of what I could hope to create.

3. Is there any new fresh enhancement you´d anticipate for F1 VIRTUAL? PrBlanco wondered if could be .gp4 to .col convertion… (easy, boy!)

Hehe, alas no. I’ve usually incoming features in beta state but not this time. Real life makes me far too busy and concerned to let me enough time to work on new features. So as I told with latest release, there was no Christmas version this year. Sorry.
Anyway, if it could give some hope to PrBlanco, I’m more and more confident .gp4 to .col could rise one day. It will need several steps anyhow, particularly one step to set car behavior in .gp4 files (and/or maybe .dat files) but it could be done one day.
Here, we touch a possible huge change in the way tracks could be done, but I won’t tell more about it now as I’m far from this opportunity right now.

4. How much time do you spend on 3dbuilder job? Is there a method, some kind of discipline?

At the very beginning, when GP4Viewer was just copied from CamEditor and that new version where online every few days, I was maybe spending about 6-8 hours a day and surely more the week-end. After that, my job contract ended (it was a fixed 5 year one) and during 2 years, I worked hard on this tool about the same amount of hours per day.
Since I got my new job, time is lacking and at best, I can only take about 20 hours during a week-end from time to time.
I have no method. All I need is will and envy. Some things every developers seems to lost one day or another. We are all lucky that I still have both of them :), compared to all the fine people who already left (or almost left) the community so far.

5. Which was the most revolutionary enhancement so far in your opinion? And which was the one you felt people don´t care too much…?

Hmm, good question.
One of the toughest features to add was mouse selection. Something that anyone is awaiting from a 3D app and that nobody knows how hard it is to add when you have a zero programming background.
Concerning the not-that-used feature, I thought for quite a long time I added HD possibilities (giving anyone the possibility to create tracks of the same quality than original GP4 tracks) for nothing (and that was not a simple feature to code neither) but more and more track makers are using it so it gives me more hope to see it become a standard and also gives me more envy to code the missing HD fences :)
PS : writing on the 7th point, I suddenly recall : one feature people never use is shadow casting. Particularly with tracks having many buildings close to the track, shadows could bring a very good atmosphere and the new feature could bring most of the work done with just a few clicks. It’s just a waste.

6. Is it right that 3dbuilder is, on these days, much more useful to track making than car making? If so, why did it happen?

Well, even if I always took in account car creation, GP4 builder early versions were never taken seriously as a possible car creation tool. I can’t blame car modders because GP4Builder is not a modeler – for tracks too, you need another modeler program to create new buildings – and ZM was adopted quite early for this task. Moreover, GP4builder suffered until recently from some troubles with car features as the one to order car objects. So even features designed for car creation were not that functional. Hopefully, it’s fixed now but it’s only a small help for car makers. Most of their job still need a real modeler program to bring any new car to life.

7. What is the best track made for original GP4? And what´s the best one made after 3dbuilder came to reality? Would you know why?

I don’t know what the best is. I love default Monza one, as I like SPA or Monaco but they are definitely not the best recreation of reality. Some modders like TTM or MarioB demonstrated it with enhanced version of original tracks thanks to GP4Builder. And Gildoorf is creating maybe the best completely new tracks for any F1 game.
I would like to add a personal point there. In my mind, all of the currently released tracks are still very far from what we could do to recreate reality. I designed GP4Builder to get tools able to create better tracks and I believe we still have a huge progression range in front of us. There are so many things we could do to increase realism. I can name a few of them: 3D trees, 3D crowd, HQ buildings, HQ textures (or more consistency in texture scale), some kind of 3D grass... Things I started to add a very long time ago when I created semi-transparent rails for my Monaco update or with my Monza pit pneumatic flexibles.

8. What are your thinks about converted tracks for GP4? And now converted cars as well?

Personally? I hate conversions. Track modders that mailed me to make some conversions already know my position about it. GP4 has some of the best tracks ever made in a video game (even after what I told in past question). So any conversion would only bring a low quality track to the game. Furthermore, you can’t convert other games tracks to a .dat file, so you need to create it for GP4. So why not create the .dat and use HQ settings to create a high quality track directly in GP4?
At best, I would say track conversion could bring a quickly made track base of work. But such tracks might not be released as is.

9. Do you agree with Gildoorf that, though GP4 has the best track editor on motorsport simulation, there´s not a good and easy tutorial yet released?

I agree with him on the fact there’s no real tutorial on how creating a whole track from ground. But task is huge. Men like Maverick, Jimbob or Zeppelin101 made some strong attempts in creating such tutorials. But they can’t cover every task you have to consider when creating a track without telling about track debugging during and after creation.
It’s really a hard job. I try myself to create a tutorial little by little at the end of GP4Builder Guide but I don’t know if I will come to an end one day.

10. Is GP4 dying?

Some people already told it was already dead. For me, it’s not dead as long as no other F1 game would be released with better graphics, better physics and better AI. And from all the game I tried so far, no games released yet could pretend beating GP4 in these 3 aspects.
So GP4 is not dead but as GP4 game making team is no more, only community makes it living. It’s more than enough hopefully and we can still be glad and proud to see new mods, tracks and every little updates day after day for our preferred game.

11. For 2008 tracks on F1, as Singapore, at night, how 3dbuilder should contribute?

Is night track confirmed? If so, I fear GP4 could be hard to tweak to get a descent night track. I’m not hopeless anyway because I know it was done before in GP3 that was not designed for night track either. Who knows...maybe it can be done.

12. In your opinion, is that a team on F1 good and big enough for Alonso, or should he start NASA´s Program?

Hehe, my personal point of view is that he would be at his best place with Montoya in a stock car championship but I doubt I will get new friends saying that :). The more unbelievable for me is that he is re-engaged by Renault after he betrayed them to get some more money with McLaren. I thought Briatore would have told him that drivers can’t play with teams the way he did with Renault and McLaren but it seems he didn’t.

13. Should Schumacher come back?

It’s badly too late. His time has past. No doubt he still is the best driver but it has no place anymore in F1 but in background. I’m still sad we never saw any real “fight” between Schumacher, Alonso, Raikkonen and now Hamilton. This lack of close competition is what is boring so many people watching F1. I hope it will come back one day.

14. Which one is your favorite driver and who´s the one you think should be on a F1 seat?

Some of the best drivers I like are Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher (despite some bad actions he did in his carrier). Some of the drivers I dislike the most: JP Montoya (leaving F1 for stock-cars was really his best idea) and Fernando Alonso who betrayed anyone for money and did also some bad actions in race.
Concerning drivers that could get a F1 seat, I heard about Sebastien Bourdais and I’m a little hurry to see him driving a F1 car to know what he can do. The French driver Franck Montagny is also awaiting. I don’t know too what he is able to do but I hope he will have his chance to prove he could be a great driver.

15. For GP4 2007 season, which are:

• Best car released?
• Best track?
• Best MOD?
• Best newbie?

Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know and don’t know...Reason is that I’m not in mods at all. I look at every new release (but cars, helmets and physics, meaning I follow full mods, tracks, new ideas like 3d gloves, this kind of things) but I don’t download any of them. As I’m creating tools, I have the luck to have the opportunity to beta-test many tracks but I will definitely not make a ranking for the best one.

And, to end up…

Are you sure you´re not a Geoff Crammond´spy?

Definitely Not. I never see/talk to/mail or got mail from Geoff and maybe did he never hear about me. Who cares?
I feel anyhow very glad to had some brief contact with some of the GP4 staff and THAT is a real honor for a game enthusiast. With new tracks pictures showing some of GP4Builder possibilities, that’s my best reward for all the work I did for this game :)

So, that´s it.

Thanks a lot, mate… For all days and nights given to GP4 that now allows hundreds of us to spend our days and nights making dreams come true!

And you please visit www.realgpx.com

This interview will be released in Portuguese soon…

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this interview giving interesting insights into Laurent's GP4 career and working methods :) It is really unimaginable how much he did for GP4...and I agree: This game is not dead...just look how much high quality stuff has been released since november...maybe there is to little response now (as on gpg) but I am sure this will change when season starts again.

COncerning GP4Builder: I really like ALL features and I have used them at some point.
HD feature is extremely cool because it makes tracks look so much smoother and better, but I just apply it when a track is build from scratch or the layout and verges and border lines are reconverted completely because then smooth track and old unsmooth border lines interfere.
The shadow feature is also very cool but I only used it once for a street circuit where shadows are more important because of the surrounding walls, fences and buildings. Maybe I did not use it so often because so many new textures and objects have to be created I get some chaos in the .gp4 file...but maybe it makes sense to create a new scene only for shadows so that won't be no problem anymore. For sure, this feature is no waste (imo)...you're right, it hasn't been used very much but I can give a reason for this which will hopefully change:
At the moment there a quite many new people building tracks but they are new to track editing...that's nice because we need them but the tracks still don't seem complete when they are released...still graphical and physical problems, no good magic data, bad cc-line, bad textures, no hd, no shadows, bad .col ,etc. With more experience this should get better...but it's also a matter of dedication...at the moment there are only few track maker who pay attention to every single detail and try to finish their work up to 100% - if not even 110% ;-) . And as said, there's still a lot of new things to implement to make them even better.

And I had the same thoughts as gildoorf. I also loved racing aand F1 and like desingning tracks on paper. I was playing GP2 for many years and when GP4 came out I also installed it at the end of 2003. When track editing got possible I was so exicted that I started to build a test circuits with four 90° corners to discover all the features and gain some experience and see which problems can occur. When I was sure of how to work I started updating tracks and do the best job possible.