Visiting New York City in 2003 Today
In 2002 I was a college student who routinely took the shuttle bus in to New York City on the weekends to go explore Times Square, Chinatown, or Midtown (via the bus stop at Columbus Circle). One of those trips ended in a panic for me – I couldn’t find the building I used for reference when it was time to go home. How on Earth do you lose a freaking building?
Either I was especially lost that day, or the answer is that it was demolished. Demolished to make room for the new construction project: the Time Warner Building.
In the surrounding months, Kaz Yamauchi of Polyphony Digital must’ve been in the neighborhood taking reference photos because the New York City track in Gran Turismo 4 doesn’t have the Time Warner Building, it has a construction site.
Now, if you go to Columbus Circle, there’s a gleaming two-spire skyscraper that looks like it’s always been there. But, if you still have a working PS2, you can boot that up and visit a place that once was.
Are those Sprite Remix billboards? Discontinued in 2005. Where’s the Toys ‘R’ Us mainstay? It was only 2 years old then, and it wasn’t as flashy. Is that the Late Show with David Letterman I see on Broadway? That won’t be there for very much longer either.
I wonder if Seattle residents think about this when they play GT4 these days. Are the changes as obvious to them? How about the residents of Seoul?
While we often laud video games for their ability to create amazing imaginary worlds, we overlook how they’re equally adept at capturing real-life spaces. We love Frank Frazetta’s ability to paint imaginary worlds, but we also love Claude Monet’s ability to capture the feeling of a real time and place.
At any rate, now that YouTube can display 60fps video, I can actually share footage of what GT4 was like in its mind-bendingly kludgy 1080i mode.
For anybody who doesn’t know by now – the PS2 couldn’t display in HD resolutions. GT4 actually renders at 576×480. By shifting the viewport up and down 1/2 pixel each frame, GT4 is able to get what looks like a 576×960 image. That image is then scaled horizontally (a simple pixel tripling, no filtering) to get a 1728×960 image, which is then centered on a 1080i signal.
The result is fairly convincing. Although it doesn’t actually yield any additional pixels rendered, the image is still sharper to the eye – and now that YouTube supports 60fps HD video, you can actually see a good representation of what that looks like on the actual hardware.
Here’s a replay I captured over the weekend. See if it gets you nostalgic too. (for 60fps, you’ll need to be using Chrome and have a fast connection).