As part of my time playing F1 Online, I got to sit down with one of the producers for the game, Mike Rowland, and asked him some more questions on the title, its release, and their plans for the future.
We’ve got a community of quite big F1 fans on TSA, so, I guess the first question is how do you think this will appeal to fans of your main F1 series?
I think it adds an element that we haven’t been able to do in our previous F1 games, which is add the management and the accessibility of browsers. You don’t need a console to play it, you can just play on your computer or your laptop, so as long as you’ve got a keyboard and mouse, you can race around the track as one of your heroes.
Not only that, it allows you to start off as a your own boss, to being your own driver and building your own team from the F3000 speeds up to the F1 level, building your HQ up from a cow shed in a field to something like Ferrari World. It’s that element that gives this game something extra that you don’t get in F1 2011 or 2012, which is more about simulated racing, getting you in the car cockpit and racing around as one of the official drivers.
We’re just doing something a little different, with more accessibility and casual fun, but with hidden elements of realism and management in there.[drop2]
So was that the real drive behind having it as a separate project, rather than integrating it into F1 2012?
Yeah, and we really wanted to focus on you, as a player, creating your own team from scratch. People who play RPGs want to build their own character, and personalise it their way. So that’s what we wanted to do with F1 online, and we’ve managed to do that quite well, by letting you being your own commercial director, research group, production. We’ve basically tried to do everything we can to allow the player have it all how they want it to be.
You’ll really see that as you delve deeper into it, and you see the perks and the way you can focus the team. I hope we’ve shown that today with the demo you played today. It was a very cut down version of, like, 30 levels of gameplay in the space of one session.
Yeah, from looking at the locked away menus, there’s a lot of depth in there. So you could expect to get weeks and months of play out of it?
Oh, you’ll get months out of the game, definitely. In fact, years for the really dedicated.
From things like upgrading the assets to 2012?
Yup, so we have all the 2012 assets ready to start development, and be put into this game, once the console guys have done what they need to do for F1 2012. Then we’ll be upgrading those year on year.
Then we also have future plans for other updates to the custom side of the game. So with the management stuff, we’ll be building up the tiers, adding additional end-game and starter content. We’ll add further liveries and customisations, all the way up to components, and things like that for you to research. So we’ll just be building on what we have. Additional championships and tournaments, and we can tie in with tournaments and championships the community guys want to do as well. We’ve got a lot of tools to cater for that.
So, obviously, you’ve needed the F1 license to do all this. How has that affected the game and how it was developed? Is it a separate licensing deal?
Not really, the F1 license is the F1 license. So if you’re making a game, you have to meet with their criteria. We do a lot of work with the teams, to make sure all the car assets, the track assets, the advertising all meets the criteria, and gets approvals.
The custom side is a bit different, and we have more freedom with what we can do there.
Yeah, I noticed there was a clean cut divide between playing with the official cars and with your own custom cars.
Yeah, so the custom side, we take out the advertising, so there’s no conflict with actual advertisers. All the circuits are bespoke, so we’ve got 15 circuits which no-one has ever seen before, because we’ve just built them ourselves.
Some very tricky hairpins and sandtraps.
There’s some really cool stuff there, and all the physics too. You talk about sandtraps, and we’ve got the full physics in the game. As you build your team up, you notice we’ve got all the downforce for the front and rear wings, the grip from the tyres, all of this is taken into account, so you’ve got all the physics happening when you’re driving around, and if you hit a bit of sand or gravel, you will spin.
Or, I think I even managed to flip my car over!
Flipping your car over is fun too, but notice we’ve got fixers around, so it doesn’t affect the crowd. All in the name of health and safety!
Well, you’ve got to keep the digital crowds safe!
Exactly! I mean, we joke about it, but the custom tracks do actually have the quality of the actual circuits, so we make sure that things like that are there. So you’ve got that realism from what the FIA need as well. Even the pit lanes are included, so we’ve got all the markings up.
To be fair, our relationship with them has been really good. They’ve been really happy with what we’ve shown them, and given us approval to go live for whenever we want to go.