1. Will the game be strictly just F1 races, or will other types be unlockable and playable?
The F1 license is limited to the 19 rounds of the championship, which are, fortunately, some of the best racing circuits in the world and a really diverse line up, from Spa to Monaco and the Singapore night race. Unfortunately, we’re unable to deliver legacy circuits or old configurations of circuits but in terms of the gameplay, you have a wide range of options from hot laps to 3 lap races, to full length Grand Prix career with full practice and qualifying sessions too. With variable car performance between teams, dynamic weather, multiplayer and so on, there’s a ton of content.
2. Will there be any sort of customization, for example in terms of car decals or clothing? If so how much detail does it go into?
We’re not able to have customisation as almost all the content has to be officially licensed. That said, you will be able to put inject own personality into the game though – not just through your own racing style, car set up and so on but through press conferences, and interaction with fans, teammates and rivals. Your career will be affected on how you handle those interactions and it reflects the fact that there’s a lot more to being a F1 driver than just being the fastest on the track. Oh, and there are some unique helmets you can select when driving as yourself in Career and Online modes.
3. How in depth is the damage modeling? Are we going to be able to just pit in and automatically get repaired or are we going to have to pull over and retire?
You can change how much damage affects your race, so if you want a bumper-car effect where you don’t take any cosmetic or performance damage you can have it. At the other end, we model both impact and ‘endurance’ damage both visually and from a performance perspective. If you’re an F1 purist you’ll have to manage your tyres (which showcase blisters amongst other things) and engine wear with the appropriate options applied. Your race engineer will advise if you need to go easy on your car or come in for repairs in the pit lane, as in real life. Basically, if you opt for full, realistic damage than it’s very close to what you see unfold in a real Grand Prix.
4. How was it working with the FIA? Did they help you with the license?
We didn’t really work with FIA as such, since the F1 license is controlled by FOM. They are very protective of their license – as you’d expect with one of the most prestigious sports in the world – and they insist on 100% accuracy in all the assets. So while on the one hand, it gives us a little less room for manoeuvre in terms of creating new game modes, it’s an added safety valve to ensure we deliver an authentic game. You’re getting as close to the experience you see on the TV or live as possible, and closer to the experience of actually being a driver, rather than just racing the car. Access to teams has been absolutely invaluable, and realistically, you don’t get insight into the world of F1 without it.
5. Did you have direct access to the teams and drivers and did you use real cars to create your in-game models?
Yes, and we’ve been surprised just how much the guys at the teams have really embraced what we’re trying to do. A lot of them are gamers, and are excited about our new approach to designing an F1 game so that really helps when it came to our research since we were able to forge such good links. There’s something quite fitting that a lot of the F1 teams are based in England, so it’s a kind of recognition of that racing heritage, just expressed in a different way, which I think helped. We had all the CAD and thousands of reference photos to create the cars in game and have been able to speak to engineers and racing professionals to get a more hands on take on what it’s really like to race and maintain these cars. I think the results of this access will speak for themselves.
6. Has anyone on your team seen the simulators some of the teams use? How good do you think they are, judged by video game standards?
We haven’t managed to wangle a go on any of them just yet… but to be honest, what we do know is they are built purely for driving training and upgrade theory. In summary, I suspect they are somewhat less interesting to ‘try’ than you might imagine. We also know they suffer with issues we’ve encountered such as tyre data not producing the results you expect to see and feel when driving the cars. The engineers swear the data is correct and the drivers tell them it doesn’t produce the same feel as experienced in the live car. We battle against the same kind issues they come up against. These days professional simulators and high-end games aren’t that far apart.
7. Are you planning any DLC? What about tracking real life events, and feeding this info back into the game?
There are no plans for DLC. Tracking real life events is something that could be interesting but there’s a technical challenge in making it work really well and it’s something we’ve chosen not to focus on at the moment. We set the quality bar high internally, so if it’s going in, it can’t be a gimmick and we’re focusing our resources on delivering a great solo career and multiplayer modes first and foremost.
8. On the first few screenshots of the game we saw last year’s car models. Are you planning to include older models in the final game, or only the 2010 ones? What about the track layouts?
Unfortunately, the license means we cannot provide legacy cars or track configurations. The game is a reflection of the current season.
9. Formula One test driver Anthony Davidson has been assisting with the production of F1 2010, have there been any surprising responses from Anthony with regards to the handling of the cars?
There’s no replacement for experience, and Anthony Davidson has been absolutely invaluable in terms of handling of the cars, the circuits, all sorts of things – even down to the way there’s a certain bump in the track or when a car understeers in a specific corner. Every time he comes into the studio he’s desperate to try out the latest changes, he’s been with us through some quite challenging times and he’s never afraid to tell you what he thinks! It’s been eye-opening and the sort of feedback that you only get from someone who has driven so many of these tracks in an F1 car. Let’s not forget he’s also been a test driver too, and also has a lot of experience on the simulators. But the biggest surprise is actually how much he’s really thrown himself into the project. He’s passionate about games, and has really gone above and beyond to make this game a success. I still remember him lapping Monaco in our game. We were honestly stunned at how consistent he was, using every millimeter of the track lap after lap… riding the kerbs in exactly the same way…
10. McLaren started the season with the F-duct, giving it a significant straight-line speed advantage. Will this feature be present in F1 2010?
Early on it was only McLaren that used this device. It became more popular during the season but we’d already passed the point where it could be easily implemented. Then it was banned for the following season and so we decided not to make the F-duct operational via a specific control, but to factor in the straight-line performance it provides certain teams direct into their cars. So, for example, you know when you’re in the McLaren than you have a little extra straight-line speed due to a reduced drag value. You do have the ability to alter the front-wing setting during a race. The teams haven’t tended to talk about this too much, but they are all using it.
11. Do the individual AI drivers behave differently? For example, do top drivers overtake more often, and is Hamilton especially aggressive?
AI is often overlooked in racing games, so we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure you’ll notice the difference between the drivers on track. Jenson Button will be smoother; Lewis will always look to attack and so on. It’s down to their driving styles, and also the different performance between the cars from the different teams. The primary focus for this year was to overcome the basic holes in race craft too often displayed in racing games. When you’re slipstreaming a human driver in an online race you’ll often see them drift about the track trying to break the tow. Our AI cars do this too… and when following you they’ll try and stay within the tow before overtaking at the end of the straight. Even having them just drift to block makes a big difference. We’ve got some grand plans for our AI in future versions of the game. This is merely the first step.
12. How does the dynamic weather effects system work in F1 2010?
Lots of head scratching, blood, sweat and tears have made it work! It’s been a real challenge, but the effect of the weather on the game has made it all worth it. Graphically, it obviously changes the environments, and when you’re following another car in the wet, it’ll impair your vision as it would in real life – it’s actually kind of scary, and makes for a really tense experience. But more than that, it’s the way it affects performance. It all feeds into the state of the drivable surface so water, for example, affects available grip and the cooling rate of the particular tyres you’re running. The track will get wet and dry out in real time as the weather changes, and different areas of the track will be more saturated with water than others as in real life. A huge amount of effort and resource has gone into this, and the system will undoubtedly set a benchmark for weather until Codemasters’ next racing title. Crucially, if you’re driving one of the lower-end cars, you’ll see rain as a performance equaliser and it may offer your best hope of scoring points you wouldn’t otherwise manage.
13. In real world there are huge technical differences between different teams: will the game reflect these differences or will you be leveling them so that the players will be encouraged to run the lesser teams too? For example, why should the player choose to run a Toyota, when the field is dominated by teams as Ferrari and McLaren?
It would be unrealistic, and more importantly, no fun, to have a procession of identical cars so there are noticeable performance differences between the teams. What we do in the career mode though, is allow players to either transfer between teams in the same way that drivers do in real life or stay at their chosen team and build a dynasty. By winning points, teams get more money in and R&D takes place at the team which improves the performance on cars in the game. It’s possible to take a team from the back of the grid to challenging for honours within seasons in the career, if you’re good enough!
14. Will you have rules of the 2010 season only, or will it be possible (for example) to load gas during races like the seasons before?
The license is for the 2010 season, and will reflect the rules that the cars are currently running under.
15. What has been the most challenging or difficult aspect of development for you?
Reworking many of the underlying physics systems in order to better replicate the behavior of an F1 car… that’s taken considerable time. We’re trying to get across the fact that whilst F1 cars are incredibly fast, so are the other vehicles around you. Everything needs to run in-sync, so whilst you’re pushing the car, feeling the tyres slip, riding the kerbs… you’re able to do it lap after lap. You get to the point where you start leaning on the car, extracting the absolute most from it. That’s where the fun is in car handling – it’s never about fighting to stay on the tarmac between corners which means you have a little more time to consider your moves, your race strategy… you can manage the car during various stages of the race. That’s what F1 is all about.
16. Do you have any plans for a demo? If so, what modes will it be and can we have a release date?
We will not be releasing a demo.
17. What do you guys think about Kinect? Could you imagine building an F1 game for it?
It’s certainly interesting tech, but for the sort of racing game we are creating you need that precise control and feedback that only a steering wheel or to a lesser extent, a pad can give you. So F1 as we’re creating it wouldn’t really work. There may be other applications for Kinect in the game, aside from the racing, that could be implemented to compliment the traditional input methods. Otherwise it’s a case of designing a game from the ground up to take advantage of the Kinect feature set. We’re not into the business of retro-fitting features or ticking boxes – if it’s not fully researched and we’re not convinced it will enhance the core gameplay experience, we’re not interested in it really, so there are no plans at the moment.