F1 2010 Interview Pt. 1
19th Mar 2010 | 12:39
F1 2009 on Wii and DS, Codemasters' first F1 game since it acquired the official licence, was somewhat just a precursor to what it had planned for the full-fat current-gen game coming to PS3, 360 and PC this September.
We sat down with Paul Jeal, senior producer on F1 2010, to get the skinny on what to expect from the game's epic-sounding career mode, its multiplayer features, possible head tracking and other gameplay details.
Here's the first half of our lengthy interview - check back over the weekend for the second half.
What did you take from the development of and reaction to F1 2009?
Jeal: The only benefit that gave us was confirming that there's a market out there for F1. It sold really well. But also it established some relationships with the teams, finding out what they're like with giving us reference material, how it'll take to get it, and just testing the waters with F1 management generally. The contract's not as tight as you might think. It's quite black and white in some places, but there's quite a lot of grey in there as well.
We've got a really good relationship with F1 in order to be able to speak to them and present a feature. The press conference feature was one they weren't sure about at first but when we could present it to them and show them what we were thinking and that we weren't going to be slamming other drivers it was cool.
In what ways does having the official licence restrict your creative freedom?
Jeal: The only thing that's been restrictive so far is that, with something like a career mode it'd be good to have all the racers change teams. It's not so much an F1 restriction, I think its more that you really have to get all the teams to approve and some of the bigger teams won't want their drivers in another car. Also certain sponsors are tied to certain teams so having one driver's helmet in another car isn't going to work.
But it's enabled the guys to innovate - so with the career mode it's actually done like a game of musical chairs. There are 24 seats open at the start of the season. At any point you can establish interest with a team - but how long do you leave it? You can wait so long like Nick Heidfield and there'll be no seats left, or you can accept an earlier offer and have a guaranteed drive on a smaller team.
So, to confirm, you won't be able to take drivers to different teams?
Some of the earliest concerns following the Codemasters license announcement surrounded how well the Ego Engine, which had done Dirt and Grid, would handle a hardcore F1 sim. How much have you changed the engine to suit F1?
Jeal: It wasn't too hard, to be honest. We had a core team from the Dirt 2 team - I was working on Dirt 2 for a little bit but as soon as F1 came in it was all hands on deck with that - and we used the skills of those guys who had worked on those games.
But actually putting F1 in a different studio from the outsets seemed like a bit of a crazy idea. The studio hadn't done racing games before (there's a few guys who did the old Sega Rally). Most of them had worked on a diverse selection of games which I think, from the outset, seemed a bit risky.
But I think the cool thing is that it's allowed us to not be attached or precious about any particular part of the engine or code. So there's no doubt the Ego is great technology and it's allowed us to be light-years ahead of where we'd be writing it from scratch, but it's allowed us to decide from the beginning which parts need re-doing.
So, more specifically, there's been a lot of work on car handling - aerodynamics, tyre modelling, the engine - it doesn't work the same here as in the other racers. So we had to re-write. There are at least five or six systems in the car handling that have been re-written.
The Ego engine is all still there, but new layers have been built over the top. Stuff like the weather system, pit stops and other stuff is brand new. It's just given us a head-start on everything.
You said you have the "most advanced weather system of any racing game". Can you elaborate?
Jeal: Yeah, that's fundamentally down to the fact that it doesn't just look good. There is a lot of under-the-hood stuff that's going on. The track system on a big course like Spa knows how grippy or how wet it is for every 30cm square of the track. It knows not just that it's wet but how much water's there. It knows what tyres you've got - if you're on the full-wet tyres they disperse something like 300 litres of water per second [it's actually around 80 litres per second according to Internet research - Ed].
So they will physically drive that water from the track. If you go over the same piece of track on intermediates, you won't clear as much water, so you won't see as much of a drying line.
Depending on where the track is, how fast the cars are going and whether there's any overhanging trees, that all affects how quickly the track dries. Even things like how high the track is from sea level and ambient air temperature. It's proper sim stuff. I nicknamed it the National Geographic when I first read the game design docs. We've spared no expense on that.
Can you tell us in more detail what the multiplayer mode will entail?
Jeal: For a large part of last season we were going on the basis that there'll be 26 cars on the grid this season. We knew we could do more cars on track than that, but the problem is we want players to be able to pick their own car, and because a garage contains two cars, we didn't want people to join only to find they've been forced into a different model.
So we will probably limit it to the number of teams, so it'll probably be 12 players on course. But that's not locked down yet. And you'll be able to fill that with AI guys.
Why wouldn't you just give players the freedom to all be in Ferraris if they want?
Jeal: That's possible. But we don't want to lock it if that's the case. The idea is that if the players want to have 12 Ferraris that's possible. One thing we're trying to implement is taking the objective system from the single-player over into multiplayer. So you can race online and take something back to single-player.
What that means is rather than your best drivers using the best cars and disappearing off into the sunset, they might want to pick a slower car; they'll be slightly down on power and speed, but they'll get more kudos for their performance. The game might only expect them to come in eighth place from their rank and car, but if they over-achieve on that they'll get super XP to take back to single-player. So if you consider that, maybe the better players online will be in the worst cars.
What about actual multiplayer gameplay modes?
Jeal: There are essentially three main gameplay modes. There's a sort-of quick play match where you can jump in and have a few quick laps.
There's an endurance race mode that brings in more of the pit-stop strategy elements - eight laps, mandatory pit-stops. The strategy there is to avoid everyone going into the first corner and crashing, and then quitting out of the game because there'll be time to make up for lost positions. If you stop early you'll be behind but everyone else has to stop too, so it leads to some interesting scenarios.
And the third mode is custom, so whatever you want race wise, season wise, rain, laps, driving assists. You can do what you want so you're the host and you set it up as you want it to be.