9:51 AM, Thursday, November 17th, 2005:
What a long night of pure geek.
So I'm watching this video on Gamespot of Project Gotham Racing 3 for the Xbox 360 with Marty when I notice this strange, familiar building. I go: "DUDE, stop the video... I think I know that building on the left." I run to my bag of Tokyo stuff and find a map and see the building right near my hotel. Could it be?
Google Earth to the rescue. Find my hotel from Tokyo, find the building - follow along with the racing video and map out the entire course without a hitch. Now it's nothing new for a developer to map out a section of a city, but if you had any idea how big Tokyo was...it's incredible they chose this section. It's also incredible that I chose this section when I went! Check the entry, I didn't book anything ahead of time. I stepped off my flight - took the first shuttle to the next section of Tokyo. It happened to be Shinjuku. Stepped off THAT bus and wandered aimlessly until I found a hotel. Crossed several of the streets IN THE GAMESPOT VIDEO. Wow. Just an incredible coincidence. Flying to Japan felt like flying to the middle of nowhere and every street and city felt so random - yet now that neighborhood is in the video game I just bought. Soooo cool.
So I had to geek a bit:
Click on that for a big scrollable panorama...
And then of course the biggest Geek Moment of them all:
Click for the video...
That's right, a picture on picture run through of the entire video with a tiny little porsche following the path. It's pretty crude as the car isn't very smooth, but I had to get to sleep at some point. Of course after this we sat on the phone googling every damn map we could find, from London to Vegas screaming: "DUDE I FOUND IT!!! It goes here, under this bridge, does a whirly-woop here, and comes back out!!" It was so friggin' fun.
Let me also give legitimate props to the makers of Project Gotham Racing. When most companies "map out a city", a la True Crime (Streets of LA & New York)...it couldn't be more rough. Yes, if in real life there is a building on the corner, they have one too - but it rarely looks the same and is anything more than a 4 sided box. Not the case here. The detail is so exacting, you can count the trees on the side of the road from Google Earth, and see their counterparts in the racing game. In fact in the picture above, from the driver's view, I crossed that crosswalk several times to get back to my hotel. I lifted audio from the train tracks above to try and make into a song, but it was too loud to get the train sound. In fact in this video is a train from a bit further south on the same tracks.
I'll stop now - I could literally show you a dozen pictures of spots in the video corresponding to pictures I took, but that would...OK...just this one. LOL
Now, 2 comparison views from different angles:
What's most interesting is the subtle changes all have to do with time. As you can see from my pictures in May, that area was under heavy construction. So the PGR crew was probably there the year before...before they repainted the walkway and when the street was wide open. Just Craaaaazy though. When I finally get my Xbox 360 (christ having the game without the console is hard) I'll be able to use their photo mode to stop and take a picture of my hotel from the game. Technology is incredible.
And another round of applause to the Bizarre Creations staff in England who put this game together with such an intense attention to detail it is simply amazing that this game retails for $49.99. If you notice in that first person mode in the video, they do something I've never seen done before in a game. Usually in-car perspectives are static, with the outside moving, and you staying perfectly still. In PGR 3 however, the view moves as YOU would with the inertia of whichever way your car is pulling you. It creates this incredible three dimensional effect of realism that somehow...no one did before. Insanely well-done, and certainly worth the price of admission. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ok, geek out.
PS - Still no final word on the Nashville gig - apparently mother nature threw some tornados around the area and delayed a few things. Should know very soon.