I've recently become a beta-tester for Real-TimeRacing. For the purpose of this blog, I'll need to explain a bit what the idea is behind this game. Since it not just overcomes the 4th wall, it totally obliterates it...
RTR is a game developped by Simbin and iOpener Media. Simbin is known for its awesome GT(R)-series and Race On on Xbox 360. While iOpener media is a fairly new company. The idea is that you're able to join real-life races from the comforts of your own home. They do this by placing GPS-consoles ( developped by the European Space Agency ) in the racecars, which enables them to pinpoint their location on track up to a few cm's precisely. Then they send this data to their gameservers and render the virtual cars on those exact locations.
And not just the cars, weather-conditions, flags ( like yellow-flags, code-60 etc ) are also sent to your home so you have the same experience whether you're racing in real life or in RTR. Their latest demonstration was during the "10 Hours of Zolder' ( currently the only available track ) where they actually participated in the race with a virtual team ( while at home 5000+ players were also racing ). We were able to actually see the cars pass by on track as they were zipping along in the game on their demo-machines which was absolutely amazing.
here's a short video of the possibilities:
The 4th wall is a real problem for them as they can't have the 'real-life' cars driving through virtual cars, so if a 'real-life' car is about to pass a virtual racer, their AI-system takes over for a very short time, makes the pass, then relocates itself on the 'true' location and passes control back to the 'real' racedriver. At the moment this is a bit hit-and-miss, sometimes the passing is done really really well, at other times the shit hits the fan and crashes occur, however they've only been in beta since late this summer so it will surely be perfected in the longer run.
I think this beta gives us an unprecedented view of what gaming can (and most likely will ) become in the future. This implementation is just the start I think. No longer will we be playing against other gamers, we'll be playing against the real-life specialists in most sportsgames with the AI filling in the gaps.
They could put these modules into player's helmets and the actuall football for American Football, the same with virtually ever other sport on this planet. The level of skill we'd get from opponents like that would be phenomenal! Of course there will always be gaps that need to be filled, but by the time this gets commonplace the AI-level will probably have become more then advanced enough to fill them.
Sure it won't really work for shooters and RPG's, but who cares about realism in those? I really believe this will be the next step for sports-games... I've been trying to beat the professional drivers in RTR and I'm having a pretty hard time keeping up with them, especially in the 'less then ideal' situations ( like rain or night-driving ). The great thing for sim-lovers like me is that they also show you great racing-lines, so I really hope this'll become commonplace in other racingtitles!