The game was ahead of its time, boasting a sophisticated, and notoriously
hard-to-drive physics model. As such, it was not exactly a huge commercial success,
but it captured the imagination of many. Racing against the heroes of the
past, in truly exciting beasts, on tracks that no longer exist as
such — it was a dream come true for a certain segment of the
A 'GPL Community' of like-minded folks soon found itself on the
Legends Central forum . The code was poked with, secrets were
discovered, and in relatively short order some people were able to start
making add-on tracks, cars, and all manner of improvements to the
These days, more than ten years after its initial release, the game is
still out there being enjoyed. There are over 500 tracks freely available
for it, many of which are historic, long-gone tracks that appear in no other
simulator. There are multiple seasons-worth of cars to choose from, and all
manner of analysis tools, utilities, and such. While
the fanbase could be described as more selective than
ever, there is no question that, to those willing to make the
effort, GPL and its community of trackmakers, modelers, artists, historians, and
even a few
drivers provides a depth of experience unrivaled in the
The first GPL add-on tracks started appearing in early 2000, largely
conversions of tracks from earlier Papyrus games. These new tracks came
with placeholder images for the 'pages' that appear in the GPL user
interface: art-less 'covers' with nothing but the name of the track on
a solid black background, empty 'map pages', and so on.
They didn't match the look-and-feel of the 'real' tracks that
came with the game, and that upset me. I'm a big User Interface
guy. I've been doing UI work for over 20 years, starting with
the Macintosh in 1984, and later moving on to X11, Windows, and Web
design. To my mind, good UI design is a treat, to be encouraged... and
bad UI cannot be tolerated!
My goal at the time was not to embark on an Ambitious Art
Project. I had no training or interest in 'art' at the time. The
goal was simply to replace a glaring 'wrongness' with
something at least marginally competent.
Around that time, there was this guy named Don Hodgdon, who was a
prolific poster over in the old rec.autos.simulators newsgroup. Don
had produced new covers for several of the add-on tracks, but hadn't
addressed the 'map' issue. I contacted him with a proposal to join
forces and put together a comprehensive collection of program sets
for all the add-on tracks, one that would have a look-and-feel
consistent with the original GPL tracks. I'd do the grunt-work of
producing all the map pages, we'd use his covers where possible, and
the two of us would take turns whipping up whatever additional covers were needed.
And so BAPOM (the "Big-Ass Pile Of Maps project") was born.
You see, the maps were the 'new thing', as well as my baby, and I named the
project... But in restrospect, it was a terrible acronym, as the maps
quickly ceased to be the focus of the project, and arguably, never
were. These days, BAPOM just stands for BAPOM, and that's that. The
underlying acronym is deprecated.
As I recall, the reception among the GPL Community was lukewarm
at best. And for good reason, really. Most of the original add-on
tracks required ownership of previous Papyrus games, as well as the
purchase of David Noonan's convertors. As such, relatively few
people people even had the tracks our progsets were designed
for... and thus no use for the progsets themselves.
And of course, looking back, our initial releases were mediocre,
at best, and embarassing to look at in these Enlightened
Times. Don's covers were just scans of real-life covers with
replaced text. My covers were my own designs... they were also
terrible. Early bumblings chock full of the tasteless excess
of a First-Time Photoshop User. I cringe to
think there was ever a time that I thought the "Bevel and Emboss" filter
But we got better.
And of course, by "we", I really mean "I"... Don retired from the project
long ago, way back in 2001, with Road67 (#58) as his final cover.
Since then BAPOM has been a one-man operation.
The end-goal itself hasn't changed, but the motivatiing factor has.
BAPOM was originally about filling a personal need, something I
had to do for my own sanity. If anyone else liked it, cool.
Basically, I couldn't stand looking at the non-conformist progsets, and
needed to fix (ie, 'replace') them to make myself happy.
But it sort of snowballed from there. During our 2001-2002 "attention whore" phase, BAPOM was all about
getting something acceptably neat out as quickly as possible after each new
track release, often within 24 hours. Because my legions of adoring
fans demanded as much. Or at least, that's what I told myself.
Later, the rate of new track releases slowed down. During the peak, there
were new tracks coming out every 2-3 days, but by 2003 that had settled down
to a more managable 1-2 weeks between releases. My standards got higher, and
there was more time to work with, so inevitably my interests drifted more
towards producing actual art of some
sort. I started drawing covers at a higher resolution (843×1293) so that
it would be possible to get nice page-sized prints, even though most of the
niceness would be lost when the images were downsampled for use in the
game. The cover art was now (in my mind)
the actual product, the interesting bit... which was taken into GPL as a
sort of grudging last step.
These days, the art itself is my only real interest. I rarely
drive anymore, and the potential audience is much smaller, so
the insatiable need to be Popular On The Internet is diminshed. Well, the desire is still there, but it's considerably harder to
realize these days, so I got over it.
At this point, I'm pretty much
exclusivly doing full-blown posters (3372×5172), because that's the end product I want
to have. I no longer run the mental calculus of "is this track good enough to
warrant a Serious Cover, or should I just bang something out moderately
quickly." On many of the final progsets, I was doing 30-hour paintings for truly terrible 'alpha' tracks, because that's
all that was left to do
at that point. On some of them, I have the sneaking suspicion that I spent more time doing the
stinking cover than
the trackmaker spent building the entire track. Of course, that's not
exactly fair - if I only had to produce art that was good enough for the
in-game 281×431 resolution, well, I could bang the stuff out a lot quicker.
But where's the sport in that?
Of course, GPL is still providing the impetus to the project.
After doing 500+ progsets, one for every released track, I can't
quit and give up on the project. Any newly-released track
will get 'covered', eventually. But the most important part now
is that I get a usable poster out of the deal, something that I'd be
willing to show to non-GPL people. And hopefully, use to get some actual paying jobs.
If you enjoy Motorsports Art, we have a collection of over
100 freely-available large format
posters for your viewing pleasure.
Yes, GPL was the motivation behind their creation, but I think you'll find that there's a wide variety of interesting art
styles and designs to be found in there, and at least
some of them stand on their own merits.
And if motorsports aren't your thing, the posters collection still
serves as a showcase for one branch of my design work. Other
examples of same can be found at Barking Dog
--John Bradley, 2/4/2009