F1 2013 hits stores next week for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, so we caught up with Andy Gray, Communications Manager at publisher Codemasters, to discuss the game. As well as talking about the work that’s gone into this year’s game (Classic content in particular), Andy also hinted at what’s coming in the future for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Q: How big of a relief is it now the game is complete and all the Classic Content is revealed?
Yeah it is, I mean classic content is something that we’ve wanted to do since the beginning. We started the licence in 2008, and classic content was right at the top of the list of things we wanted to get in, besides from the natural barrier-to-entry type of stuff. But it took so long to get the core game right, first of all, and then we’ve been working on getting the licensing stuff for two years.
It’s been really complicated because a lot of the teams have changed ownership or even the ones that are still around are completely different, like Lotus, for example. Even Williams and Ferrari, which have been around forever, has changed sponsorship over the years. Cars used to be covered in tobacco and alcohol which we’re not allowed to use, but thankfully there’s been things like Scalextric cars and models and all this kind of things, so we’ve been able to use those. But it’s been a long and arduous process.
It’s very much the start point. There are a lot of things that we can go into; other drivers, other teams, other cars, yeah it’s very much a start point. If it proves to be as popular as we think it’s going to be, then hopefully we can look to expand upon it in the future.
Q; F1 isn’t a driving series that holds your hand, and cars of the 80s and 90s were seen as even more challenging to control. How was it translating their behaviours into the game?
Yeah they’re very different. In some ways they’re easier to drive because they’re a little bit slower, so everything comes at you a little bit slower. But they’re more difficult because they’re such a handful, there’s not that kind of aerodynamic grip that you get with a 2013 car. So it’s a very different kind of experience. It’s quite a lot of fun because [classic cars] are so much more back-end happy.
Difficulty balancing is something that we spend a lot of time on, because Crofty (referring to David Croft, sat to Andy’s left) has a six-year-old son playing, then David who’s perhaps not the biggest gamer in the world, but a big F1 fan. Then there’s people like my dad who’s exactly the same where F1 is the only game he’ll ever play, because he’s a big fan, but then you also have the real hardcore guys who want to do 100% races, assist turned off. So it’s about putting in those driver assists, while also incentivising people to turn them off. One of the big changes this year was that, where last year the easiest setting would be have breaking assist on, and it would kind of feel like you were driving a train. When all of a sudden you turn breaking assist off, it became a massive challenge because you didn’t learn breaking points or anything like that. So now there’s the option to turn (breaking assist) down from high, medium, low and off. It will start breaking for you so you can get used to thinking “right, where should I be breaking? How long should I be breaking for? What gear should I be in?”
So that helps smooth that transition from someone being a new starter to becoming an intermediate player. We’ve also introduced a new difficulty level. A lot of people found that intermediate was a bit too easy for them, but professional was too hard, and then legend for the top end people wasn’t quite hard enough. So by bringing something in in the middle of that it’s enabled us to make harder more difficult, but then allow an easier transition for people looking for a greater challenge.
Yeah yeah, one of the great things about F1 is how open everyone is with us, certainly because we’ve had the licence for so long. Touch wood, we’ve managed to not do anything too bad so far and not betray any confidences or anything like that. They’re really open with us, and not just the drivers but people within the teams. So it might be the guys who work on strategy who will say “oh have you thought about this?” and Pirelli are quite open with us about the way the tyres work and that kind of thing.
We get a lot of feedback from the drivers and the young drivers as well saying “this is the way the car feels” and also we’ve been very lucky to sit down in simulators. I’ve been in a couple, and we’ve been in about three or four different teams simulators just to see how close we are to what they’re actually working on. We’re surprisingly close, the only thing we are quite a distance off is the braking forces (foot on the brake) needed to stop a formula one car, it’s literally your full body weight, and then you’ve got the engineer you’re only at about 60% (braking), and you feel you can’t push it any harder!
Q: F1 is sticking with current-gen consoles this year, but it was recently teased about the great work you guys are doing with the next-gen hardware. How is it working with the new consoles? And what are the key changes aside from the graphical leap?
Yeah, there’s a lot. We’ve kind of hit the peak of where we can go with the current-gen stuff, not only in terms of visuals but obviously physics and everything. Having more power, as you say, enables us to do a lot more. Automatically the skip up to 60 frames per second, for example, on next-gen will enable the handling to move on leaps and bounds, because the more frames you have, the more the contact points there are essentially.
It enables us to improve the physics too. We’re talking to a couple of teams about sharing their kind of physics data, in terms of the way the car actually handles in their simulators, and we can more or less port that over to consoles, which wouldn’t be possible with current-gen. Next-gen it becomes more possible, not to the extent that the F1 guys do because they have individual, massive gaming PCs for each tyre, one [PC] for just the air, the way the wind flow works. They have like, 10 PCs per simulator whereas we have one console. But, the more power we have the more we can simulate what it is actually like.
F1 2013 is due for release on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on October 4.