This is the general GPL FAQ. It contains in-depth information about many aspects of GPL. If you're a newbie to GPL, see my GPL Survival Guide.
For questions about hardware, controllers, and operating systems, see my GPL Hardware FAQ. For more information about racing over the Internet, see my GPL Online FAQ. For information contributed by readers of this site, see my GPL Reader FAQ.
A variety of difficulty levels are available. Difficulty levels range from Novice through Intermediate and Pro to Grand Prix. AI strength, race length, and car damage models all vary depending on the diffculty level.
Race lengths vary from very short at the Novice level to full-length Grands Prix, and at the higher levels, the AI are very, very tough. If you win a Grand Prix, you are really a good driver, and maybe Ron Dennis would like to talk to you!
Essentially, yes. In multiplayer races, the host can choose the length of the practice session, while this is fixed in single-player races. In single-player races, however, an option called "Accelerated Time" allows fast-forwarding to the end of a session.
All of the length and difficulty factors apply equally to single-player and multiplayer races, and multiplayer races can include up to 20 players and/or AI cars. I've seen as many as 18 cars in one race on Papyrus' LAN, but please note that bandwidth constraints limit Internet-based multiplayer races to only a few cars.
Note: For more information about racing over the Internet, see my GPL Online FAQ.
In only a limited way. If you commit certain infractions, such as jumping the start or shortcutting a corner, you will be black flagged and required to stop in your pit stall and serve a time penalty.
You will not be able to change tires, add fuel, or effect repairs during a race, except by use of Shift-R.
I had the same thing happen to me in the Nurburging Papy Cup race. What I did wrong, and what you apparently did wrong too, was go too far before stopping in the pit, to a point slightly past the area that GPL considered my pit stall. Since I wasn't in the stall, GPL thought I was just sitting still on the track, and eventually pulled me out.
The solution is this: if the description of the infraction on the black pit board in your stall goes away when you come to a stop, then back up a little until the infraction description reappears. Then wait till the pit board goes away, and go.
Yes. In general, the damage model is quite comprehensive and quite realistic, in my opinion. In many ways it goes far beyond other sims. I haven't seen the recent demo but the damage model in the final release is far more sophisticated than the one in the original demo.
The damage model is more severe - and more realistic - in Pro and Grand Prix races, while the cars are much more robust and less easily damaged in the lower levels.
It's possible to hit something without causing noticeable damage, assuming you don't clout it really hard. Doing this, however, will increase the probability that another relatively light hit will cause damage.
Some damage is terminal; you can rip a wheel off, or blow the engine. However, other damage is disabling but not terminal; the engine may lose power and start running roughly, for example, or the steering may start pulling to one side, or the suspension may collapse and cause the wheels to go to full negative camber.
You don't need to clutch; the game has a semi-automatic clutch which disengages automatically when you shift.
However, the engine can be damaged by over-revving. You can and probably will damage the engine if you speed shift; you must lift out of the throttle a little just after you touch the shifter switch, so that the engine does not zing to redline. Once the next gear engages, you can floor the throttle again. You don't need to use the clutch, which is really only for starts.
I found this a bit of an adjustment at first, but once I had done it for a few days, it became automatic and I no longer think about it.
You can also damage the engine if you hold it on the rev limiter for a while, or if you zing it past redline by downshifting too early in the braking zones.
The damage is cumulative and there is a randomizing factor. For example, you may not damage the engine with one early downshift, but if you do it repeatedly, eventually the engine will lose power or blow up. Similarly, if you gear your car so that it reaches redline a second or two before the end of the straight, you may well make it through qualifiying, but are likely to lose the engine before the end of a race.
Also, some engines are more fragile than others. See the cars section for more info.
I am delighted these engine damage features are there, because it's another aspect of realism; you have to take care of your engine if you want to do well in the race.
The car won't explode but will certainly burn. I believe fire is usually associated with damage to the rear of the car, and it consumes fuel as it burns. This implies it would burn out eventually, but I've never waited that long to find out.
You can't go swimming at Monaco, and I believe most of the spectator areas are inaccessible also. If you do happen to touch a person such as a course worker, nothing happens. You can easily damage your car by hitting things like fences, Armco barriers, and hay bales, however.
I believe the AI cars suffer from the same damage constraints as the human players; loosely speaking, at levels where you can repair your car, the AI can too.
Papyrus AI engineer Mike Malone comments:
"The AI only gets to repair damage in Practice sessions. In those cases, pretty much ANY damage can be repaired after a fixed amount of time after having returned to the pits or being "towed" (i.e., popped off the track). In other words, there is no modeling for how much time it takes to repair different kinds of damage--maybe they have spare cars or maybe it just isn't very realistic--I dunno.
"In Race sessions, a damaged AI car will either choose to continue racing, or it will just sit as far off the track as it can get (given its feeble powers and tiny brain), or it will try to limp back to the pits (on certain tracks only). But if it is disabled or makes it back to the pits it will be removed from the track and will never return."
Yes. In Novice and Intermediate-level races, Shift-R is available during both practice and race sessions. In Pro level races, Shift-R is available during practice sessions, but not during the race. In Grands Prix, Shift-R is not available. Blow your engine, or damage your suspension, and your race is over.
There is a penalty associated with the use of Shift-R. When you hit Shift-R, your car is righted (if it was rolled over) and all damage is repaired. However, brand new (cold) tires are fitted, and the tank is refilled with fuel to the level at which you started the session. So for a while after you hit Shift-R, you'll be slow; it takes a lap or two (except at the Ring and Spa) for the tires to come up to temperature and start generating optimum grip. And if you're 25 laps into a 30 lap race, you're going to have 30 laps' worth of fuel on board again too, so forget about trying to set fastest lap!
Also, when you have stopped and are ready to hit Shift-R (it won't work while you are moving), if there is a car approaching the location where you are, Shift-R will be disabled until that car passes. So, for example, if you qualify on the front row of the grid and make a demon start, but go off in Turn One and rip off a couple of wheels, you'll probably have to wait until the entire field goes by before you can hit Shift-R and get going again.
After this happens a couple of times, you start getting a lot more careful!
I feel it's great that there are modes where Shift-R is available, and modes where it isn't. I feel that that it's important in multiplayer races to have disincentives to discourage irresponsible driving.
However, don't underestimate the challenge involved in finishing a race in GPL with realistic damage and no Shift-R. Papyrus has run a number of multiplayer races at the Pro level, where Shift-R is disabled and the damage model is at the realistic level. In a sizeable percentage of these races, nobody finishes.
This is a tough question. There is no question that GPL's driving model is far, far more realistic than that of any other sim I've seen, from Papyrus or otherwise.
Whether it's easier or not is extremely subjective, and depends on which car you choose to drive in GPL. Most people want to jump right into a GP car, but I think this is a big mistake; after a few hours of constant crashes, things can get pretty frustrating.
The thing to do is to start at the bottom, just as real race drivers do, and hone your craft before you step into the ultimate challenge.
The Basic Trainers are essentially identical to the GP cars but have only perhaps a third of the horsepower. These are relative pussycats to drive, and I think most people will be able to handle them with a little practice.
The Advanced Trainers have about 200 hp, and are more difficult to drive but still manageable for most experienced sim drivers, and I think almost anyone with a reasonable amount of determination will be able to learn how to drive them quite well.
The GP cars are monsters. If you have driven the demo, you have some idea of what they are like. They are difficult not because of any artifacts of GPL's physics model, but because 1967 Grand Prix cars were inherently quite difficult to drive. The Grand Prix cars in GPL are difficult to drive because they model the real Grand Prix cars so authentically.
I strongly recommend that you start with the trainers, and don't move up to a Grand Prix car until you can lap quickly and consistently in the Advanced Trainer. This will make the GP cars much more enjoyable.
And then, don't jump right into the Lotus! I recommend you try the Coventry GP car first, and get good with that, before you try the more powerful cars.
Actually, you can. You have to change one small item in your player.ini file. I recommend you create a new player just for racing in each of the Trainers. For example, I have three drivers: Alison Hine (for the GP car), Ali-F2 Hine (for the Advanced Trainer), and Ali-F3 (for the Basic Trainer).
Once you've created the extra player or two, open the GPL players folder (by default, C:\SIERRA\gpl\players) and then open the folder for one of the training players. For example, I would open C:\SIERRA\gpl\players\Hine__Ali-F2. Now, using a text editor, edit the file called player.ini.
Look for a parameter called driverRating. It's in the [ Personal Information ] stanza. Change the value of driverRating to 2 for the Advanced Trainer, or 1 for the Basic Trainer.
Now, when you race as one of these new drivers, the AI will go slower.
One reason is for convenience, so you don't have to keep going in with a text editor and changing the driverRating parameter.
But there's another reason. As you race, GPL keeps a database of your best laps in a file called player.sts, in your driver folder. As you go more quickly, a mechanism called the Global Hype system makes the AI go faster too, to keep you challenged. However, if you set some quick times in a GP car, and then switch to one of the trainers, you may find that the AI will be going too fast for you to keep up with. Using different drivers for each type of car eliminates this problem, because each driver has its own database of quick times.
Incidentally, there's no harm in deleting your player.sts file, although the AI may start running more slowly for a while if you do this after you've set some quick times.
You can also over-ride the data in the database by setting a parameter called npt_override. For details about this parameter, see the section called "Controlling AI for league play" in the readme.txt file in your GPL folder.
You can download some files I've modified which cause the fastest AI drivers to be more responsive to the times recorded in this database, or to give the field of AI cars a wider spread, which is useful if you are running fewer than 19 AI cars.
For more information about the Global Hype system, see the AI section of this FAQ.
It's very difficult at some tracks to pass, while others have reasonable passing zones. Monza, for example, has several places where you can dive under another car, and the draft can give you a higher top speed and help you close on the other car before the braking zone. It's still very tricky; you have to be right on the other car's tail at the braking zone and get your braking just right. It's all too easy to get too close and tap the other car before you pop out for the overtaking attempt, and if you brake a hair too late, you're going to spin or go off the outside.
At the other end of the spectrum is Monaco, where overtaking a car of almost equal speed is all but impossible. You really have to wait for the other driver to make a mistake, and hope not to get caught up in it. Of course, at Monaco, mistakes are fairly likely!
I believe the secrets to passing are practice and patience. Patience is essential; it's oh, so easy to dive into what looks like an opening, only to find the door shut and yourself going backwards through the grass. You have to learn to recognize a real opening, versus something that only looks like, or you wish was, an opening.
I am practicing for the Papy Cup by racing against the AI, and also against other beta team members when possible. This helps me learn where other cars are likely to be slower than I am, and where I might try overtaking them. It also shows me where not to try to pass!
Think about it: 400 horsepower, 1100 pounds, no downforce, and very hard tires. This adds up to a car that is extremely challenging.
Once you acquire the skills to be able to drive the GP cars, you'll find that they all have quite different personalities.
The Lotus 49, for example, was the defining car of the era and perhaps the most famous GP car of all time. This is the car everyone seems to want to hop into and drive, but I think that for most people this is a mistake which may lead to some considerable frustration.
The Lotus turns out to be very quick but is probably the most difficult car to drive in GPL. It is nimble, with excellent grip and traction, but a peaky torque curve makes it a challenge to handle under acceleration, and coping with the enormous power is what driving these cars is all about.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Coventry is a relative pussycat, with less horsepower, a user-friendly torque curve, and sweet and forgiving handling.
Although hotlappers will likely gravitate to the Eagle and the Lotus, the choice of which car to drive in races is not clear cut. The Eagle and the Lotus are probably the fastest cars, but they are also the most fragile. They require more care when changing gears to avoid engine failures, and you have to be very careful not to thump too many walls or curbs with these cars.
Also, the fastest cars are not necesssarily the easiest car to drive, and a car that is slightly slower over a single lap may turn out to be quicker over a race distance.
The Coventry is the car I'd recommend most people drive first when moving up from the Advanced Trainer. It's not really competitive against the faster cars, but it's easier to handle and will help you learn to adapt to driving car with so much power and so little grip.
In your early races, you are likely to get better results with the Coventry than with one of the front-line cars.
The other cars are fascinating, once you acquire the skill to handle them well.
The Eagle has a long wheelbase, plenty of power, and a slippery shape. It is the fastest car in a straight line, and very stable in fast corners. On the down side, it is a little more reluctant than the smaller cars to change direction, making it a bit cumbersome on the twisty circuits. I believe it has a slight edge over the Lotus on the faster tracks like Monza, and is very effective at Silverstone. The Eagle is my personal favorite.
The Ferrari, with its short wheelbase and broad power band, is nimble and tossable, a true delight. It is slightly down on horsepower compared with the Eagle and Lotus, but its handling more than makes up for this on all but the very high speed tracks. For everyone but the most skilled drivers, I believe this is the best all around car under racing conditions.
The Brabham is small and nimble, with a very broad torque band, and I believe it is a force to be reckoned with on twistier circuits. The engineer who developed GPL's physics engine, Dave Kaemmer, has done some stunning times with it at Spa, showing that it has potential at faster circuits as well.
The Murasama and BRM, like the Coventry, are not really competitive with the Fast Four, but each has its own personality and each is fascinating to drive. The Murasama is particularly good at trail braking, and its excellent power makes it fairly quick at Monza and Spa despite its heft.
The BRM simply lacks the power to be competitive, especially given its weight, but it handles well and is a good car in which to learn. The BRM's six speed gearbox with its left-hand and upside down shift pattern is intriguing, and the H-16 sounds wonderful.
Some of the default setups are excellent. Papyrus assigned a very quick driver to come up with setups for the various chassis at all the various circuits. He used setups from a number of sources, including those used by some of the fastest Papyrus engineers, and adapted some of the setups developed by the beta team as well as developing his many own. I haven't tried all of the default setups, but several of the ones I've tried are better than anything I've developed myself. Others aren't so good, or may not suit your style.
There is a wide variation in driving styles, and a setup which works great for one driver may be virtually undriveable by another.
For example, one of the beta testers, who I regard as something of a setup guru in both real cars and in racing sims, likes setups which are quite soft and fairly neutral. In his setups, it's very easy to provoke oversteer. He can go blindingly quick with these setups, but when I try them I just fall off the road.
On the other hand, I like setups that are relatively stiff in roll, and with a lot of understeer so I can chuck the car around a bit. Also I trail brake a lot, and this driving technique requires a setup with basic understeer and more forward brake bias.
Eventually, you'll develop your own driving style, and you may find that you'll need to adjust the car's setup in order to get the most out of it.
Logistically it's very easy. There's a well-designed setup menu in GPL, and you can quickly set any of the numerous parameters to whatever value you like (within their ranges, of course).
Creating a setup that works well, however, is another matter. Developing good setups is both an art and a science, and learning how to do it is not a trivial task. Documentation included with GPL will include a comprehensive introduction to setup development by Steve Smith. Steve and I plan to publish additional information with more specific details on the Web soon.
The type of car is determined by the last character of the filename extension. You can simply change the extension to make the setup work for another car. Thus:
Ali Eag Monza.ea1
Ali Eag Monza.ea2
becomes a setup for the Advanced Trainer. The same setup as:
Ali Eag Monza.ea3
becomes a setup for the Basic Trainer. You can also use it for a different chassis:
Ali Eag Monza.fe2
becomes a setup for the Ferrari Advanced Trainer.
Yes. There is a new sound sample for the Ford-Cosworth, which I believe is taken from a real Cosworth DFV. I believe the same sample is also used for the Weslake V-12, where it works suprisingly well.
The Repco uses a sound which seems to me much like the sound in the demo, sort of like a small block Chevy but a little raspier on the high end. It suits the Repco perfectly.
The Ferrari has perhaps the best sound in GPL, in my opinion; it's raw and raspy, a lot like the real thing. This is subjective, however; the Ferrari sound seems to be one that people either love or hate.
I also feel the BRM has a great sound, deep and melodious. To me it sounds a little like the BRM V-8's of the 1.5 liter era.
The Murasama and Coventry share a sound sample that seems a lot like the Repco's. This is the only sound I find a little disappointing, but I think perhaps someone will come up with a better V-12 sound before long
When you are running amid a pack of cars, with a chorus of widely varying engine sounds snarling all around you, it's glorious!
I feel the AI in GPL are very, very good indeed. While there are sometimes places on certain circuits where I am a little quicker or a little slower than the AI cars, in general, I can run very close with them and the feeling is almost eerily realistic.
Watching a replay of myself running against 19 AI cars is very much like watching a film of a real Grand Prix from the era. In the early laps, the AI drivers boil around, apparently looking for a way by. With all of them weaving around, each taking a slightly different line here and there, plus the chorus of different engine sounds, and their tires squealing and so forth, it's remarkably realistic. Sometimes they pass each other - or me, if I make a mistake!
Occasionally an AI driver will make a mistake and go off. In one replay from a Mosport race, I saw Hill make a mistake coming out of the turn 5 complex, lock up his brakes and lay streaks of rubber as he slid off into the barrier and out of the race! The first I knew of this in the race was when I came out of 5 and saw a set of skid marks going straight off, and the Lotus sitting in the grass against the barrier. It was so cool!
GPL incorporates an innovative technology called the Global Hype system. This is a mechanism which dynamically adjusts the AI strength, with reference to the best lap times of the player. A database is kept of the average of the player's 10 best lap times at each circuit, and at each circuit, the AI cars adjust their speed with reference to this average. This adjustment only happens at the beginning of a weekend; in other words, a fast lap time in practice won't cause the AI cars to go faster in that race, but they will be a little faster in the next subsequent weekend (practice and race).
The quickest AI drivers, such as Clark, Gurney, and Hill, will generally be very fast in any mode, Novice through Grand Prix, but in the lower levels the spread of the field is wider. In other words, the slower cars are considerably slower in Novice mode. As your average time improves, the faster AI cars will get a little faster, while the slower AI cars will get a lot faster.
The speed of the AI cars is such that it's not too difficult to be quicker than the slowest AI cars in a Novice race. However, it is harder to beat even the slowest AI cars in the higher levels.
At any level, it is very, very difficult to beat the likes of Clark and Gurney. GPL is supposed to simulate real Grand Prix racing, and therefore the AI cars are simulating the very best drivers in the world. To beat them, you have to be one of the very best drivers in the world, too.
My experience suggests that there is a lot of diversity in how quickly people like the AI to run. Some people enjoy winning races, even if they know in the back of their mind that the AI cars aren't going as fast as the real drivers would have. Other people like to have to work hard to finish in the top ten.
Along with several other members of the beta team, I lobbied for a feature which would allow the user to adjust the strength of the AI drivers somewhere in the menu system; in other words, to over-ride the Global Hype system. This is one of the few important battles we lost.
It was something I felt strongly about at the time, and at the time of GPL's release, I was reasonably content with the final result. For one thing, the AI is so well implemented, it's a great deal of fun to run with them even if I'm dicing with the mid-pack runners.
On the other hand, it takes a great deal of mental discipline to adjust to the fact that you may never, ever win a race against the AI, and to find satisfaction in a race well run in the middle of the pack. The vast majority of people buy games expecting that if they dedicate a reasonable amount of effort to climbing the learning curve, they will have a reasonable chance of winning - even if the effort required is fairly large.
Such is not the case with GPL. Only a handful of the most talented drivers in the world will have a prayer of ever winning a race against the likes of a simulated Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. Most people simply do not have the talent to drive at this level, even with endless practice. People like us - and I include myself in this group, having dedicated over a year of intense effort in attempting to raise my skill to the level required to beat GPL's AI, without success - are doomed to frustration and failure when racing against GPL's AI on their default behavior.
I now feel that the lack of an AI adjustment built into the game was one of the major factors in GPL's disappointing sales, and I really, really wish I - or someone - had been able to find a way to convince Papyrus to correct this omission.
Actually, there is. Papyrus has enabled the user to disable the Global Hype system and to manually adjust the strength of the AI by using a text editor to change certain values in initialization files.
The purpose of this is to allow organizers of offline racing leagues to set up races in which all particpants are racing against AI cars which are running at the same strength. There's no reason, however, why you couldn't use these same parameters to over-ride the Global Hype system and set the AI strength to suit your preferences, regardless of whether you plan to run in a league or just race by yourself for fun.
There are details about these parameters in the readme.txt file in your GPL folder. The key parameter which can be used to over-ride the Global Hype system is called npt_override. For details about this parameter, see the section called "Controlling AI for league play" in the readme.txt file.
Note: there is now a utility called AI Tweaker which provides a Windows GUI interface to the various AI-related parameters. I use this utility myself and highly recommend it. See my AI Tweaks page for details.
The Normalized Player Time is clamped at 1.8, I believe, so raising the value of npt_override above 1.8 will have no further effect on the speed of the AI cars.
However, there is another way you can slow them down: in each track folder, there is a file called track.ini. Inside this file, in the [ GP ] stanza, is a parameter called dlong_speed_adj_coeff. This parameter impacts the straightline speed of the AI. I believe if you reduce it, the AI will go slower.
The slower AI cars are quite responsive to the Global Hype system, and will go much more slowly than Clark and Gurney when you are starting out. However, the fastest AI drivers always drive nearly as fast as the real drivers, no matter what your database shows for your best lap times.
In their infiinite wisdom, Papyrus designed the AI system so that, if you race with less than a full field of AI cars, the slowest AI drivers are dropped first. This means that if you race with, say, 5 to 8 AI cars, you'll be getting AI drivers who scorch around the track at nearly the lap record. This can be frustrating!
However, it's easily remedied. The values that control the order in which AI cars are dropped are contained in an editable initialization file. You can download an initialization file I've modified to give the field of AI cars a wider spread, if you are running fewer than 19 AI cars. I've fixed this file so that even if you choose a field of only five AI cars, you'll get some AI drivers from the very tail of the field.
Also included in the zip file is a file which causes the faster AI cars to be more responsive to the Global Hype system and the times recorded in your lap time database. You can use this as an alternative.
Many of the parameters controlling the AI are visible in various initialization files, and I am sure we will find more parameters to tweak as time goes on.
Note: there is now a utility called AI Tweaker which provides a Windows GUI interface to the various AI-related parameters. I use this utility myself and highly recommend it. See my AI Tweaks page for details.
See the driving section of this FAQ for information about how to race with the AI while driving the Basic Trainer or the Advanced Trainer.
Papyrus AI engineer Mike Malone comments:
"Simply changing the order of the drivers in the DRIVER.INI has one potentially undesirable result: it affects how the cars are randomized in a random starting grid (if you skip the practice session). Start of race incidents tend to go up at some tracks (e.g., Zandvoort or the 'ring) unless the bulk of the faster cars are near the pole and the pokey cars are at the back."
Yes, I've used it, and I find it very useful for determining the location of other cars in passing situations. It takes some adapting to get used to it, and I'm still adjusting since I put look left-right buttons on my wheel, but I think it is an almost essential feature.
Note that the implementation has changed slightly from the demo. The original intention was that it would be used to see if the track was clear before you re-entered after a spin, but the beta team asked for modifications that would make it more useful when dealing with traffic situations.
Also, I find that having buttons for these functions on my wheel is really essential; it's too distracting to take my hands off the wheel while at speed just to glance to the side.
The AI raise their arms when they have a problem which causes them to slow down, or when they are slowing to go into the pits.
In multiplayer races, I haven't seen the arms being raised very often, but perhaps that's because we don't have a drill sargent-style driving instructor chewing us out when we fail to do so.
Yes. By default, GPL displays an image of a ghostly anonymous driver in the Player selection menu and the newspaper that's displayed at the end of the race. You can over-ride this anonymous image by placing a bitmap image in your Player folder. This image should be 105x124 in size and should be 24 bits in color depth (it can be black and white or color), and must be named player.bmp.
For example, I'd place an image of me in the following location:
Now, your image will be displayed in the Player selection menu and also on the newspaper whenever you win a race.
Also, you can over-ride the default image displayed for all players on the Player selection menu by placing an image of similar dimenions in GPL's layout folder.
For example, I'd place an image in the following location:
I believe that this must be a Papyrus PBF file. You can download a utility called WinMip that will convert standard graphics files to PBF format from several of the sites on my Links page.
You can download a sample player01.pbf and a sample player.bmp from my downloads page.
As you may know, warping is caused by latency, which refers to the time it takes to transmit data across a network. Latency on LANs is typically very low, and in LAN races, warping is usually nonexistent, except under exceptional conditions such as someone doing backups across the LAN while a race is going on.
In Internet races, the amount of warping is dependent on the degree of the latency between the GPL clients and the GPL server (i.e. the machine of the player hosting the GPL game). With ping times below about 280 milliseconds, warping is virtually nonexistent. It becomes fairly noticeable with ping times above 400 ms.
I believe this is fairly standard for all games being played over the Internet, and is a function of the laws of physics. Note that two clients each with a 400 ms ping time to the server will have a total latency to each other of 800 ms, almost a second. There is only so much you can do to guess where the car is supposed to be when the latest data you have is almost a second out of date.
In my opinion, GPL does as good a job of doing this as any racing game I've seen, and better than most.
Pileups depend on the skill of the drivers and the nature of the circuit. The Papy Cup race at Monaco, for example, was early in the season and many of the drivers were relatively inexperienced and had difficulty handling the car, never mind getting around such a challenging circuit in the middle of traffic. There were quite a few crashes.
On the other hand, the Papy Cup races at Silverstone and the Nurburgring have been remarkably realistic. After several weeks of racing, the skill level of the less experienced drivers has gone up dramatically, and even at the Ring, which is an incredibly demanding track, there were relatively few crashes.
Yes. The damage behavior is the same in multiplayer play as in solo play.
The damage model varies depending on the difficulty level selected by the host. In Novice races, the cars are relatively robust and difficult to damage. In Intermediate races, the cars become somewhat more fragile, and in Pro and Grand Prix races the damage model is very realistic.
Damage includes bent or broken suspension, which changes the way the car handles and can make it virtually undriveable; destroyed suspension in which a wheel is removed from the car; damaged engine, which loses power; blown engine, which no longer runs; and fire, which consumes fuel.
Note that suspension damage can take many forms, including bent steering arms, excessive rear toe-in, or collapsed springs, all of which have different effects on the handling. Damage is cumulative; that is; a light hit may cause no apparent damage, but makes it more likely that a subsequent light hit will cause disabling damage.
Also note that it is possible to damage the engine by abusing it, which includes holding it on the rev limiter for extended periods, speed shifting (upshifting without lifting out of the throttle), or downshifting too soon under braking so that the engine zings past redline.
Some cars and engines are more fragile than others. The suspensions of the Lotus and Eagle, for example, are relatively delicate, while the Brabham is very robust. The Cosworth will take much less abuse than the Ferrari V-12 or Repco V-8 before it lets go with a bang.
Car repair is optional; as in solo play, it depends on the difficulty level selected by the host. In Novice and Intermediate races, the car can be repaired by hitting Shift-R. In Pro races, Shift-R is disabled in races, and in Grands Prix, it's always disabled.
When you repair your car with Shift-R, your car is also fitted with new cold tires and your fuel tank is refilled to the level at which you started the race or practice run.
Also, Shift-R is disabled if a car is approaching you from behind, to avoid having you drop onto the track right in its way and perhaps unwittingly involve it in a crash.
Yes. You can include up to 19 AI cars. If the total number of AI cars and human players exceeds 20, the human players will "bump" AI cars as they join. Slower AI cars will be bumped first.
They will suffer damage according to the difficulty level selected by the host (see above). Their repairability will also be determined by the host, and I believe it will parallel the player's repairability.
Note: For more information about racing over the Internet, see my GPL Online FAQ.
As of late 2000, GPL is not currently available from the publisher. However, there are other sources. Go here for details.