Formula One Grand Prix (video Game) - Historical Online Gaming and Community

Historical Online Gaming and Community

F1GP was among the first wave of games that had a busy online community. The first competitions were organized via online services like Compuserve in 1993, with driver Ivan establishing a secure presence at the top of leaderboards. F1GP crossed over to the wider Internet once these became mainstream.

The racing didn't actually happen online. F1GP only offered modem play. Thus, the competitions were based on submitted save-games of races and practice laps. These were then used in competitions around complete (or partial) races on the one hand, and so called "Hotlap Competitions" on the other hand. Often, the races followed the schedule of the real world Formula One competition.

The community spawned a host of mods, making the game highly customizable for its time. Liveries, car-performance and the performance of the computer-opponents, camera-settings and many other settings could be edited. First attempts at a track-editor emerged, but this would only become reality after the arrival of the successor Grand Prix 2.

Because of the possibilities to edit the performance of the car, or to make other aspects of the game favour the player, there were also a lot of utilities to check for cheats. These could handle just about every possible trick that was available, except one: the mentioned "slow-motion driving" effect. The game didn't store the CPU-load data, which could be displayed via a function key, in any save game file. So there was no way to exclude the possibility that someone maximized the graphics detail on purpose to force a slowdown of the action.

In practice, F1GP was already an 'older' game when online competitions appeared. This meant that most used computers could easily handle the highest detail at the highest framerate. As such, F1GP-based competitions were actually not hit by the "slow-mo" cheat. Both because the communities were small, and because the CPU-power surplus meant that the effect and its possible usefulness as a way to cheat were less well known.

Its successor Grand Prix 2 though, was notorious for its high CPU-demands. When it appeared, there were no systems available that could handle it at full detail. Most people had difficulty finding a good compromise between details and smooth framerate, and the majority were likely playing in moderate slow-motion without being aware.

When the Grand Prix 2 community materialized and exploded far beyond what F1GP ever offered, it soon became apparent that some participants in the competitions submitted results that were totally unrealistic. Telemetry-data files even showed typical signs of "slow-motion driving" (like impossibly fast gearchange speeds) but there was no way to unambiguously prove it.

This problem kept bugging the community for several years until the utility GP2LAP was developed to monitor and log the CPU load dynamically during the driving.

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