Racing in the European Capital

Slotting into an existing project

This project started as a follow-up to some idle musings. I'd been looking at slot car tracks for a while, as one does, and wondering what the most picturesque track would be one could create in Brussels. To me, it would have to be around the Mont-des-arts and Sablon. During idle time, I'd sketched out what such a track would look like and even mapped it onto a Google Maps screenshot. The idea was to create a map for matchbox cars for my kids (a-hem). You can find it under matchboxmap in the projects.


I felt that extending the 'Mont-des-arts' track wouldn't be very interesting... (Why? quick straight to the Palais de justice, hairpins down to the Rue des Minimes, cobblestones out to the Sablon, Bob's your uncle!). And so I decided to start on another track. Reading up a bit on slot cars (where this whole thing got started) I ended up thinking I wanted to do a Monaco grand prix track.

The principality

I got to work copy-pasting Monaco's Grand Prix track from Google, screen-sized but by screen-sized bit. There were a lot of bits! Because of the orientation I'd chosen, there were also a lot of non-track bits that were being copied over. However, as the idea was to have some sort of play mat, this was fine (if a lot of work!).
One unforeseen problem was that at the size the document ended up being, The Gimp took several minutes for every action, always threatening to crash Windows and corrupt saves. Fun! The initial document was 13.000 by 14.901 pixels, and a single layer was 2GBs in memory!


The first step would be to straighten out all bits of the route. At one point, it became clear that the work needed to fix all the issues on the google maps would be too much to handle in The Gimp. The better way to handle it was to create a smooth asphalt texture, and put the map on top. Then cut away all the streets to expose the texture. I could then do another layer for the pavement, and add pedestrian crossings and other markings on top.
It took me a while to find a sort of golden-brown to gray asphalt texture that reliably looked like asphalt, especially once blueish shadows from the buildings were added!
I then went a little overboard, and added street names, an aircraft carrier with planes on it, and other 'fun stuff'.


Then, disaster struck the project. Dramatic! I took a matchbox car to work to test the size of the roads. The fit was abysmal. One problem was that I'd assumed matchbox car width to be about 2.5 to 3 cm. The car, not a large one, was 3.5cm wide. That's a huge difference in scale.
I would have to cut back the map significantly, trying to reduce and shift the houses to still keep enough roads for the cars to ride on outside of the race track.


The problem was that I'd made the project more or less for a A-series paper sized printout. And I'd in the meantime constructed another project which was an interesting fit to this one, a wooden play tray

I just had to redesign the circuit to fit on there! For those who'd like a full size version of the original, click here! For the rest of you, the journey continues!


The final size was now set at 17717 * 9455 pixels. As the filenames now started incorporating 1500, I'm guessing that's a reference to the scale of the 'map'.
The map also got rotated the better to fit the circuit on. As you can see, I needed to add in some extra stuff on the corners!


Finally another adjustment was made, again to match the width of matchbox cars, 35mm. All files from here on are named 35mm.

The file '35mmo' brought another zoom to maximise the size of the circuit, at the cost of non-circuit streets.

the end

By now the project had taken over half a year of lunch breaks, often crashing my elderly computer. It was time to finish it up.
A flurry of cleaning up was done, and finally this was the final version. Not perfect, but given the pain of working on such huge documents there was little thirst for improving on it.

The final document got used in a Unity game prototype, an automated race where race cars follow the track and get into crashes.

You can get the final document here.


more is coming... when I get round to doing it!