Product preview by Doug Teggin
'black' badge firmly pinned to my lapel, I made my way
directly to the Hornby stand on arriving at ExCeL. I was late
after being delayed for hours on the DLR train. Those that know it
will understand. If London gets 2 inches of snow, the whole place
grinds to a halt. It took me over 2 hours to from Shepherd's Bush to the
Docklands in the icy slush.
All this for some little toy cars...
The Scalextric Sportworld stand
Click on the images to enlarge.
|The large Scalextric stands in the forefront of
were impressive. The trains were at the back giving me the impression
that the cars were taking a leading role.
I immediately saw the Sport Digital System
and the MotoGP bikes, but was drawn
first to the Scalextric Sportworld demo. Michael
Lawson, the Sportworld software developer was at his laptop
racing on the system. Adrian Norman,
Scalextric Public Relations Manager was actively making sure that everything was in place for the show
and that the demonstrators had their systems running correctly. I
also spoke to Dr Tim Moore who was responsible
for the electronics within the system. Michael
Walters, Scalextric Products Development Manager also
explained some of the business aspects of the new product line to
Lawson was available and I was fortunate to get a
lengthily demonstration of the Scalextric
Sportworld system. This system is still in development
and will be ready in the Autumn of 2004 (Christmas at the latest).
The Sportsworld Base unit and Digital hand controller
The system comprises of normal Scalextric Sport
track, normal Scalextric analog cars
with no modifications, a Base unit
that has optical sensors in a half-straight track piece, digital hand
controllers and one or more special passive 'current break'
that are inserted around the track. These special pieces are
simply breaks in the track and are used to help the Base unit
determine the exact position of the car on the track. When the car
is in between the base unit and the break piece, there is another proprietary
system at work to determine the position of the car. The position
is then shown on the computer monitors. This technology is
highly secret, but I'm sure we'll either figure it out or hear
about it soon. The Base unit
can be used attached to a computer,
but can be used by itself too. So for those that don't have a
computer by the track, the race profiles can be loaded into the
base unit via a USB connection and then taken back to the track to
The first aspect of the Sportworld
system that is made known to the public is it's Internet connectivity and ability to
connect to other tracks enabling virtual races around the world.
This is a cool feature, but actually is something that many users
might never use. The rest of the package is so feature rich that
some people might be happy enough to remain unconnected. I'll come
to this later.
Track building. What RMS lacked before, is made up for in
this new system, developed with the Intel/Macromedia
Shockwave 3D graphics engine allowing very fast and superior building
procedures. Remember that RMS was developed in Visual Basic so
this platform allows for more versatility and is visually much
more interesting. It enables you to create a 2 to 8 lane racetrack
from your inventory of pieces creating shopping lists of needed
pieces as it goes. It includes tools and functions such as
elevation, video camera position, track join, scenery, spectators
and buildings (Think big - I saw the Monaco Casino).
The track is built on a flat grid, but soon is dropped into a full
landscape. Backdrops of City, countryside or desert environment
are available and the terrain under the track takes on the form of
the environment. The landscape
can be molded, raised and lowered, can be brought up to
trackside level and can have cuttings and banks added
The mechanical properties of each track piece is built into the
system so it knows how it will flex and bend. Building the track
is intuitive and easy. One can add, replace and insert track pieces
anywhere. If you add a Classic piece to a Sport track section, the system
will automatically insert a conversion piece for you. You can
build different sections at the same time on the building
landscape allowing you to plan ahead. Track can be pulled up to form bridges and elevated
sections with a feature that even has the possibility of creating
spiral ramps. These changes in level follow the physical
properties of the track too, preventing you from making errors.
Demo track #1
Demo track #2
to demo the connectivity aspect.
Scalextric had these two identical tracks set up
on either side of a partition.
|Video. The cameras that you set-up
in design mode (ground TV crew, camera
cranes, camera towers) will determine what your race video footage
will look like because every track you design becomes part of the
video of the race. You have full control on all aspects of the
video. The footage is shown from the camera points and
from the in-car camera from each lane and for each car. This is
similar to what you saw in RMS for the supplied tracks, but for you own custom track. Very
cool. Video is shown as the race is run and can be recalled for
viewing after the race. Crashes are slightly over dramatized in
the video sequences, but it adds to the fun.
Track. The layouts
that you use must be the same if you are going to race over the
Internet. You can have a 2, 4, 6 or 8 lane
track. both racers must have an identical circuit.
If you want to race on a four lane circuit, you must both have the
same four lane circuit selected within the software. That is not
to say that if you only wanted to race on lane 2 of that circuit
that you couldn't build just the first lane pair to physically
Pit Garage. We all love to catalogue our cars and this
system allows us to do that with a couple of cool features. You
have a 3D view of your cars (Scalextric of course and over 150 to
Any car can be added to the car
catalogue and that includes those from other manufacturers.
Pictures of those cars can be grabbed into the system. For 3D
coverage the cars will be represented by "proxy" cars
which will have a user selected colour and the users defined name
and number on the side.
The Pit garage also includes virtual car
tuning and full details on all mods that you have carried out on
the car - allowing you to keep track of the performance and their
effects on the track times. Track times are also saved with the
car so you can see at a glance which car in your garage is fastest
for a particular circuit. The Pit Garage has built in tuning tips - Adrian's
worldly knowledge I suppose has gone into this giving tips and tricks on
getting your cars to perform at their optimum.
You can preview the circuit that you have built, set the
conditions such as weather, pit
stops, false start, crash and burn and yellow flag
settings. Weather affects the control of the car, adding
'slippery' conditions at random stages of the race (your
controller becomes less efficient). Crash and burn cuts the
current to your track when you crash. Yellow flag automatically sets the speed of
other cars to 50% in the event of a crash until the situation is
Driving profiles and strategies. You can set how you would
like to race. Determine how much fuel
you would like to take on board (playoff between weight, speed and
staying time). Tyre strategy and throttle
profiles where you can pre set your curves for acceleration
and braking. Remember that the hand controllers are digital so
what used to be achieved by swapping out resistors is now
controlled by the machine and you have full control on that even
the ability to change a throttle profile during the race with one
of the two extra buttons on the controller (the other upper
button is for immediate braking). You save strategies for each
driver and are able to call up stats of previous race data.
Qualifying. This lets racers race
flying laps to determine pole position. During a qualifying
session high visibility text keeps you updated on how you’re
doing on the track, with lap times for the current lap, your
fastest lap and the current pole position time. After each session
the current qualifying order is updated ready for transfer to the
Racing. Race Modes: Choose from Grand
your countdown and then you're off. The position of the cars is
emulated on the computer screen and if you have a large screen for
the spectators, all the better. The coverage of the race is shown
via the cameras that you set up at the start or the in-car cams.
The views can be rotated or pre-selected or randomly chosen.
Generally they follow the cars similar to what you see on a televised
race. The timing of the race is done by optical sensors and is to 1/1000th
of a second. So clubs will find this piece of kit very useful.
That's an interesting point - this software and kit will fit in
very nicely in a club with track up to 8 lanes. I see nothing
stopping you using it with a routed track or a track of another
brand. For racing, there is a tournament
with qualifying and heats and then once information is saved after
the race it is combined with other race info to make up championships.
Extra features like Pit crew animation
enhance the pit stops and gaming pleasure. You can force the pit
stops and enable the drivers to watch the cars get faster as the
fuel load gets lighter. You can set an Easy
Drive option that regulates the car
speed depending on the drivers ability.
If you have a computer that struggles to render the 3D images, you can turn off the 3D view and have a simplified 2D view.
You can also select to only view the cars and the track and leave the scenery out to speed things up.
This would increase the screen refresh rate and have less flicker
and jerky car movement.
The Sportworld Base Unit and digital
controller. Upper thumb button
for braking, lower button for
selecting throttle profiles.
|Virtual racing. You
can race against other drivers. Either someone on your own track
or someone on the same layout design, but somewhere else where
both of you are connected to the Internet.
When you connect your system to the Internet, you log on to a
central server and then once the race has been organized and
initiated, the interaction becomes peer to peer to save bandwidth
and increase speed. On can host a match, participate in one or
even just be a spectator to a race hosted elsewhere. I'm sure this
will open up a market for people to host events and races. SlotForum
could have an annual (by invitation) championship with a specially
designed track, sponsorship and drivers all racing for a trophy
and big prize at the end of the season.
When you are alone, you can also race against a virtual
car by yourself that appears on the screen next to yours.
Also, like the Challenger, you can have the system control another
physical car on the track next to yours. This car can be any car
in your collection. It gets better, because this extra car could
be you (in a previous race). You save your best time and allocate
it to a car, you then race against it on the next lane. This is
great as you can only get better by doing this.
you've seen it on F1 and you've wished to have it too. Now you've
got it. Full car telemetry is
saved an enables you to graphically monitor your progress around the track. you
can see where you used the throttle and brake, you can see car
speed and acceleration against it's position on the track and in
the time of the race. You use this info to improve your time and
to modify the car and throttle profiles accordingly.
system is not designed to be used with Scalextric
Digital right now. The two systems are independent although they
share the same race management software. Digital 'chipped' cars
will not work on the Sportworld track. The hand controllers are
the same though and the box will look the same as the Digital
Pro version. As I said, it works with existing Sport
and Classic track and of course with
all your existing cars.
It would be great if one could combine all this new technology
into one system, but that is most likely in a not too distant
future. Sooner or later a rationalization of the market will harmonize
car production. The market won't allow for 'Betamax' Fly cars and
|| Doug Teggin 29th
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