The GPS system used to capture the tracks is from Trimble and is accurate to sub-foot measurements. Curbing, fencing, and altitude changes at this level of detail let you see and feel the road surface of each real-world course (dedicated or street-based) that you would see and feel if you were actually driving the course. Professional-grade digital SLR cameras are used to take photos at every 10 feet of track in a complete 360-degree field of view. For a track like Laguna Seca, the team took about 3,000 photos. Tsukuba, a relatively short track, was captured with about 2,000 images. Taking this many photos often leaves the team at the track for several days at a time just to make sure they get everything they could possibly need. Video capture is done with a digital camcorder mounted with a car-mounting system.

For real-word city tracks there were additional difficulties. There is so much extra stuff to capture in the background that urban courses require more pictures than racetracks. Tokyo, for example, took more than 5,000 photos. To minimize the number and still retain high-resolution quality, the teams "shoot buildings from the sidewalk across the street from the building of interest," Wong said. At street level, crowds and buses are added to fill in the area where the photo details aren't as sharp. The team sometimes has to walk the circuit several times to document and photograph the entire area. And sometimes the team can catch unwanted attention. As Wong told it: "On our post 9/11 visit to New York, the team was asked by a security official to not photograph a particular building due to security fears."

The desire to pack as much detail as possible into the game has paid off in several ways. For one, the game has come the closest to bridging the gap between real and virtual. The vehicles and tracks have been gone over with fine-tooth combs by designers and programmers to build a racing simulation game that reflects their passion and experience in motorsports. A side benefit to all the gamers out there is that everything was captured at such a high level for version one that all the references will be usable for the next generation console (read Xbox 360) and beyond. Keep an eye out, as the Forza Motorsport team is still together and working on new stuff. Game on.

The Gear, The Gadgets, Shiny StuffIf you're looking to take your gaming experience to another level you will have to get up off the couch. You need to plant yourself in a driving simulator. Sitting in a race seat, gripping a steering wheel, and working the pedals is the only way to play if you are looking for complete immersion in the racing environment. Once you try a driving simulator you may never go back to a hand-held controller again.

The Forza team uses not one but two simulators to test and evaluate any number of games for multiple platforms. After much research they went with a VRX (www.vrx.ca) setup and loaded it up with many custom features to fit their needs for both now and the future. See below for a complete listing of the Forza Motorsport driving simulator setup. For someone of modest means, like magazine writers, this setup would be perfect for home use. The VRX chair can be configured to work with any platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation.

Billed as "The World's Finest Personal Racing Simulator," the VirtualGT (www.virtual-gt.com) is as close as you can come to getting behind the wheel of a racecar without actually doing so, and all in the comfort of your home or office. This is an all-in-one system. It comes with a complete electronics rack configured to the user's specs; a Mastercraft-designed racing seat comfortable enough for hours of continuous use; integrated steering wheel and pedals; and up front, a monitor stand that holds any of the optional screens, from 37- to 42-inch plasma widescreen LCDs (there is also a 75-inch DLP projector screen available). The body is constructed from nine-ply Baltic birch. Aircraft fasteners are used throughout. The audio cables are hidden inside stainless-steel lines and -AN fittings.

Forza Motorsport Driving SimulatorVRX Chair with Butt-Kicker and 5.1 surround sound systemPlayStation 2 with HD component cables and optical audio outXbox with HD component cables and optical audio outAdrenaline Pilot Series 3600GT gaming PC with optical audio out Xbox 360 (newest addition)LCD TV/monitorComponent video and digital audio switch box with cablesLogitech MOMO wheel and pedal set (PC)Logitech Driving Force Pro GT wheel and pedal set (PC and PS2)Fanatec Speedster 3 wheel and pedal set (Xbox and Xbox360)

VRX Racer Pro PC (MSRP $2,695, base model starts at $895)Polished chrome chassisPolished aircraft grade aluminum speaker mounting bracketsPolished aircraft grade aluminum seat mounts and wingsLED lighting effectsHigh-gloss paint with 3D epoxy decals Suspension-mounted Sparcoracing seatLogitech Driving Force Pro wheel with force feedback1,500-watt tactile transducer (Butt-Kicker) 1,100-watt tactile power amplifierSpherex 5.1 Dolby 300-watt (RMS) surround sound3 digital inputs, 1 analog, 1 USB 1.1 device portAdvanced keyboard design to enable efficient interactive positioning

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