We chat F1 2010: The Game

Here at CM HQ we’re getting really excited about the release of F1 2010: The Game in September. So much so that we decided to take up the opportunity to speak with Stephen Hood, the chief gamedesigner for F1 2010. We talk about handling, weather effects, career modes and online. Now that the engines have started, here’s our interview with Stephen.

It’s been 3 years since the last F1 game, are you guys feeling a lot of pressure to produce the goods?

I don’t think there is any more pressure than usual, but it’s fair to say we placed a lot of expectation on ourselves from day one. As we near the end of development and people start to see what we’ve been working on, it only serves to reinforce our determination. Reading the forums, the previews, we’re pleased with the response thus far. A few people were lucky enough to attend an event we organised last month in London, feedback was extremely positive. Being able to showcase an early version of the game to people that really know their stuff allowed us to test whether or not we were on the right track. Come September I’m quite sure people will be surprised with the game we’ve been able to deliver.

Has recent and regular changes in F1 rules over the years affected the development of the game?

It keeps things interesting but it can, at times, be quite unsettling! Originally we planned for refuelling, then it was cut. We were excited about the inclusion of KERS only for that to be dropped by the teams themselves. In an ideal world we’d know exactly what to include the moment we started designing the game. We placed features we considered risky towards the back-end of the development schedule to give us as much time as possible. The studio’s inherent flexibility has served us well.

Single player career mode is a massive part of F1 2010. How have you made the game more in depth instead of just moving from race to race?

Be the Driver, Live the life. This is our description of F1 2010 and it’s the latter living the life part that supports our approach to Career Mode. In reality drivers are not always out on the circuit, they cannot instantly jump from one track to the next and they have a number of demands placed on them when they are not in the car. The player will get a better impression of moving from one circuit to the next, touring the world, being chased by the media desperate to hear their latest thoughts and views, dealing with contract negotiations via their agent, checking on the standings in the drivers room, taking questions in the press conferences after finishing the race in the top three. There are many elements, all of which reflect what actually occurs in F1, used to surround the player in a more believable and undoubtedly enjoyable Career Mode.

The weather in some countries can be unpredictable. Will this be reflected in game with pit stops often required to change tyres? When it is raining, will dry lines appear over time?

Dynamic Weather was something we chased very early on. I’m still surprised how few games offer this when the gameplay return is so large. Sure, I want to race around Monaco when the sun’s out but sometimes I’m going to want to race there in a downpour! Weather has an effect on so many things. You alter your driving style as the track offers less grip, curbs become your enemy, visibility is severely compromised and strategy really comes into play. Do you anticipate the onset of rain and pit early to avoid the rush? Do you trust your Race Engineer when he says it’ll be a brief shower? Predicting the weather is an art as well as a science!

When the cars are racing in wet weather conditions they cause a drying line to appear. This line is directly related to the concentration of cars and is dynamic in itself, we do not use a predetermined line. I can see everyone testing my statement when the game becomes available. The game looks very impressive when the sun comes out after a heavy downpour… Monaco is especially impressive. Very recently we’ve been testing the cars in various grip conditions, on the different tyre types, in order to more accurately match the real life lap times and behaviours. Being on the right tyre, at the right time, can make all the difference in both qualifying and the race. Find yourself on the wrong tyres, say the soft compound when the track is wet, and you’ll need to avoid kerbs and be extremely careful when using the throttle, out of any corner.

Speaking of Pit Stops, how interactive will the pit lane sequence be? Is the user involved at all during tyre changes?

The player is involved from the driver’s perspective, so he’s not expected to become the crew and hit buttons to ensure the crew change his tyres… On the most realistic setting you’ll need to slow for the pit-entrance, apply the limiter in time to ensure you’re not speeding once in the pit-lane, locate your crew and slow to an acceptable boxing speed. If you carry too much speed into the box you’re likely to knock the front-jack guy over which then results in more wasted time as the crew reposition your car. When you get the signal to exit the box you need to apply the right amount of throttle to get back into the lane without burning out your new set of tyres.

Will balancing and setups be changeable during the race, such as in real-life, and will the art of looking after your tyres be part of the game?

You can alter some things whilst out in track. Regardless of the session you’re in you can alter your engine revs to reduce wear and temperature, change your front wing angle to suit conditions and finally you can tell the crew which tyres you want on next time you box. Looking after your tyres is always an option, and just as in real-life, some of us will be better than it than others! The team you’re driving for will have an impact upon this too. It’s sometimes hard to drive neatly when your car wants to push-wide or swap ends.

What are they doing in the multiplayer side of things. Full race, half race, can the user (host) set lap numbers, location and weather types?

We have some pre-determined race modes in which all cars are equal. These race modes offer short sprint style three lap competitions and others more challenging scenarios in which you’ll need to race roughly ten laps and make a mandatory pit-stop. These multiplayer modes are easy to jump-into and start racing. In addition players can host their own games and set race distances to 100%, heavy rain, pick the track(s) and so on. We’ve purposefully provided this kind of flexibility as we don’t want to only provide particular race types in multiplayer, the audience is too varied.

How are you going to tackle the infamous ‘reverse-track driver’ in multiplayer?

Ghost them once we know they’re griefing, then if they persist kick them from the race and the game. No excuses.

Overall would you say the game will cater the arcade racing fans better than the hardcore fans, or vice versa? What has been done to bridge the gap?

Every developer will tell you they’ve found the perfect balance that players can enjoy the game however they wish. But can you cater for such extremes? It’s always a tricky proposition so we looked at it from a different perspective. Can players tailor the experience to suit their preference and ability? The answer is yes. Whilst many things have been built from a simulation standpoint, as a player you can opt to become involved in as many things as you wish and leave others to the game, even your Race Engineer. For example – you can review your engines should you wish, opting to run with a particular unit in Practice to save another for race day.

If you don’t want to play around with this you can just let your Race Engineer deal with it all. If you want to start with a more competitive team, you’ll run a shorter career which enables the more recognisable teams to offer you contracts from the moment you launch your career. Other players will choose to become involved in all aspects, altering their race strategy, negotiating with teams for improved drives, starting at the bottom and working their way to the top over a seven year career, even tweaking their car setups between sessions to maximise available performance. Teams go to the races well prepared, so you can do as much of this as you wish without ever feeling as though you’re disadvantaging yourself. Over time, as you become more confident you might dip into certain areas.

Is this going to be a yearly game and if so, how are you going to catch up with the F1 season so that the two are running simultaneously? Will there be online data updates to keep the game fresh in after the game’s release, for things like drivers, teams, liveries, sponsors etc. ?

Yes, it’s going to be a yearly title and we have big plans for future versions of F1. We have no plans to launch at the start of a season because it’s practically impossible. Ideally we’d launch by the start of the European season but reference requirements and sign-off periods prevent us from doing so. Releasing in September enables us to watch all of the sessions, to confirm the pace of teams and drivers, to ensure the rules are implemented in an appropriate form and so on. Last but not least, when the game is out we’ll already be hard at work on the following year’s title, aiming to improve it in all areas as well as bring new features into the mix and for this reason we do not update the game to cover unexpected events that might take place in the remaining races.

In most F1 games, the engine sounds like a bee stuck in a tin box, how far have you gone into obtaining the ultimate in F1 engine sounds. Will our ears be bleeding with the sounds of the starting grid?

We’ve had access to F1 cars from a number of the current teams and have been allowed to have our recording systems built into the bodywork of the cars. Whilst the teams are too busy to run the cars specifically for us, we have still been able to record some of their on-track testing. From these recordings we put together what we call a ‘sweep’ from idle revs sweeping in pitch to the 18,000RPM limiter. A number of different processes are then used to turn a static recording into a real-time interactive engine sound.

We have two approaches to the sound – the front cameras sound more like the traditional TV type engine sound, whilst with the far cameras we have created something which sounds more akin to a car driving around the track, but from a spectators point of view. Coupled with our newly developed audio reflection system, we can then hear the engine sound bouncing off buildings and objects around the track, which is in fact a very important aspect of the F1 car sound people know and love.

Thanks for your time Stephen and all the best with the future development of the game!

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