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Wheel Life: F1 2010 AI Faked?

I fake my intelligence all the time. In the bedroom, mainly.

Cheating AI in racing games? We’re acquainted with it. Cheating AI in racing games gets a card with a robin on it at Christmas and an invitation to our birthday party. What’s emerging from F1 2010 is an order of magnitude more serious, though.

Codemasters has admitted that what the AI cars do during qualifying matches bears no relation to the lap times those cars post. As for the actual races in the game, Codemasters is keeping very quiet, though F1 players are having doubts about the legitimacy of the AI racing drivers there as well. Whether they’re actually racing at all, for instance.

In a nutshell, people are posting about inexplicable occurances during their races. In this example a player talks about completing the first lap of a race with a time of 2:03, putting him in 2nd place, and the AI driver behind him in 3rd place posting a time of 1:59. The theory doing the rounds at the minute is that the AI cars that appear in front and behind you during races are there to get in the way, and that’s it, rather than them being genuine simulated drivers of any kind.

What makes this more believable is the inexplicable absence of several features which would otherwise allow the player to spy on the AI. Like not being able to swap the camera to other cars during replay videos, and the total absence of split times from the game. Codemasters have claimed the former is a limitation of the game’s engine, but when every other racing game I can remember playing for the last few years managed it, that’s a hard sell.

Let’s hypothesise that this is correct, and the AI really is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Does it matter? Isn’t the race experience the same?

Well, that depends on the quality of said smoke and mirrors. If nobody could spot what Codies had done here, it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. The illusion would be maintained, and this’d be a racing game like any other. The problem is simple: they took and a risk, and they appear to have fumbled it.

Thinking that the AI you’re up against materialises just behind you and vanishes when it’s in front of you makes a huge amount of difference. Rather than being a competitor in a simulated sport, you’re a gamer having wool pulled over your eyes. It’s fundamentally less pleasant.

Jim posted his somewhat disappointed impressions of F1 2010 yesterday, also mentioning that the game absolutely isn’t a sim. Which kind of makes me down about this whole bug / cheaty AI business. I wouldn’t have minded playing this.

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