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F1 2010

Interview: Codemasters on F1 2010

Codemasters have taken over the Formula 1 license and in September they will deliver an EGO Engine powered F1 experience on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. We asked senior producer Paul Jeal a few quick questions...

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Codemasters are getting ready to deliver their first Formula 1 titles on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 this year. Using the critically acclaimed EGO engine we expect big things from F1 2010. It's been a while since the last truly great Formula 1 game. We got the chance to ask Paul Jeal, Senior Producer, Codemasters Studios Birmingham, a few questions on the upcoming title...

F1 2010

Will everything be included from the 2010 season, including all the drivers, all the teams, all the courses and so on?

Yes absolutely. It's very important to us that this is an authentic recreation of the 2010 F1 Championship. That means we're working closely with all the teams to model their cars, garage, trucks, drivers, and team personnel, and we're working closely with FOM to model all the circuits, including the new South Korea International Circuit for this season as well as replicating the track layout modifications to Bahrain and Silverstone for 2010. We are also simulating each teams performance and level of expectation, so it won't be just about winning races from the off.

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We assume that this seasons' rules will be enforced in F1 2010, which could eliminate refueling under the races. Is it possible to change these settings during the career mode to get the F1-rules you prefer?

The game is based on the 2010 season and as such we've replicated the 2010 rules and regulations, so there is no longer any KERS system or refuelling during the race. These rules are fixed, however with the flag and penalty system, including drive-through penalties, there are options to fine tune how strictly enforced these rules are, from strict, to simple, or players can turn them off completely.

F1 2010

Who are you making this game for? Is it mostly for die hard F1 fans, or will the casual audience be able to enjoy it as well?

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The game is very much being tailored to suit both audiences, but without offering a different handling model for each. We very much believe that you can have a realistic car handling physics system, which is enjoyable for the casual gamer to drive. We have put a lot of our development focus into the car handling, re-engineering a lot of what was already in place for Grid and DiRT and focusing on producing a racing experience which allows the car to behave in a predictable manor. If the car does what you expect, then this allows for consistency in lap times and the overall racing experience is much better as a result.

In addition to this we've always had the 2 different audiences in mind at every stage of the design, so we've implemented things such as offering XP as an incentive to partake in practice sessions, having both the detailed car setup options you'd expect in a racing game but also have the inclusion of a Race Engineer to help more casual players improve their car setup, and we've allowed players to experience driving out of the garage or being able to jump to a particular sector to practice or skip to start a flying lap.

What can you tell us about the online component of F1 2010? Will people be able to do create their own leagues, their own drivers and so on?

Players create their own profile at the start of the game and then take this profile online. We offer a variety of different online game modes:

Pole position - A shoot-out game mode consisting of a 10-minute qualification session using the same rules for a F1 Q3 session; the winner is the player with the best lap time.

Sprint - a short 3-lap race with simulation options turned down to minimum; starting grid is decided randomly; the winner is the player in the top spot at the end of the race.

Endurance - a 7-lap race with tyre wear and track evolution simulation turned on that includes at least one pit-stop; the starting grid is decided randomly; the winner is the player in the top spot at the end of the race.

Grand Prix - a 7-lap race with tyre wear and track evolution simulation turned on that includes at least one pit-stop; the starting grid is decided through a 10-minute qualification session; the winner is the player in the top spot.

In each of these game modes, players will be able to set only the driving assists, everything else is pre-defined. Of course we also offer a Custom Grand Prix, which allows the hosting player to customise in detail how the game should be played; include qualification or play race only, race length, play a season or single races, set the weather, set the simulation options, include AI drivers, restrict assists, etc.

We're still locking down the specifics of multiplayer, but at the moment it looks likely that we will allow players to compete online with up to 12 players, whether that be human or AI opponents. We are also looking into an online objective system to provide an incentive to race with lower tiered cars, by offering less demanding performance objectives and a much higher potential reward if players exceed their expectations.

F1 2010

Will cars and teams change and/or develop during the career mode and championships?

The on-track racing is only one part of the F1 experience. The technology race which happens over the course of the season is another core component and as such this is something that we've been keen on including from the start. Each of the twelve teams on the grid will have their own base performance level, car handling characteristics and upgrade development path. Players & indeed AI drivers can affect how quickly and how many parts are developed during the season by partaking in practice sessions and by performing well during both qualifying and the race. Upgrades will of course directly affect and improve the cars performance and handling. It's no longer a case of only the best cars winning, or being able to win in any car. In F1 2010 on track rivals will change over the course of a season depending on results, so every players game will be slightly different.

Are there any management options during career mode or is it only about driving?

There is more to F1 2010 than just the driving. Over the course of the season players have strategy options such as influencing the car development when they are the number 1 driver, and deciding when to use their 8 allocated engines.

Off the track, players face a constant balancing act when it comes to handling the media in the paddock. At the end of each session players will be asked questions on their performance or about on track incidents. Answers affect their standing with their current team, team-mate, rival teams and rival drivers. Use the media well and you can pressure a driver into a mistake, improve the performance your teams number 2, secure a contract extension, or even engineer a move to another team.

There has been a lot of talk about the weather effects. But how will humidity and the ground and air temperature affect the cars?

The dynamic weather system written for F1 2010 is pretty comprehensive. Not only do the visuals look great but there is a great level of technical depth to explore. We have written some technology we've called Active Track Technology, which basically means that the tracks actively store how much grip or water it has every 30 cm2. This means that in dry conditions the track starts off slippery and grip is laid down on the racing line as the session progresses, ensuring that players who leave their laps as late as possible have the best track conditions to post a time, but the risk is that the weather could change, that the track is congested with traffic, or that marbles have formed off line punishing any mistakes which are made.

In the wet the system is even more impressive as the cars physically dry the track as they are driving around. The volume of water displacement depends on the section of track, the speed of the cars and the type of tyre each car is using as different tyres displace different amounts of water. Players will see drying lines emerging and it is then a question of strategy in terms of tyre choice; do you stay out and seek out the remaining pools of water to keep your tyres from being destroyed or stop for slicks?

Naturally we've tied all of this into the car handling model, so being on the right tyre at the right time is critical to performance levels and grip. We've even utilised the air temperature against engine/brake temperatures so some races are harder on the cars than others.

F1 2010

Will teams develop between the seasons and is it possible for an old punching bag to rise up and seriously compete for the world championship later on?

It is possible to develop even the weakest team on the grid to a championship contender over a period of seasons by switching focus to winter research and development on next years car as opposed to further updates for the current years car. This allows for a tense season opener as you're never quite sure on where you fit in terms of performance until the first session of that year is underway.

What new features can we expect to see compared to older F1 games?

The main focus for F1 2010 has been on the career mode. Whilst other F1 games have had a career mode before, they've done little to offer anything different from any of the other modes. F1 2010 boasts a series of components within the career mode which break up the long slog of a 19 race season. The first part of the season is about establishing yourself against your team mate who has the same equipment as you and is therefore a good barometer to measure your skills against. Establish yourself as the Number 1, equal or Number 2 and the level of team expectation alters accordingly.

Being Number 1 means that expectations are higher but it also means that you can steer the development path of the car and you are first in line to receive the upgrades. The mid part of the season focuses on car development and attracting a new deal, be it a revised offer from your current team or an offer from another team further up the paddock. For the final part of the season you call out a championship rival to the media. Beating the guy immediately ahead of you in the championship or several places above if you really want to accelerate your career progression.

In addition to this we're confident that we've raised the bar in every major feature area. Pit Stops for example are taken from the drivers perspective so players have to enter the pit lane, apply the limiter and box as quickly as possible without making mistakes. Players have some control in the pit lane so it is possible to come in too fast and run into your crew. The pit crew are fully motion captured using real F1 personnel, and it is possible for all the teams to be active in the pit lane at once if there is an on track incident or the weather changes suddenly. This is a massively impressive sight to see nearly 200 characters all active at once!

F1 2010

Have any of the F1 drivers been involved in the process of development. And if so, what did they contribute with?

Yes, we have had a great level of support from all the teams in terms of providing us with data on all aspects of F1, including engineering, strategy, etc. We have also been working extensively with Anthony Davidson (2009 Brawn GP Reserve Driver & former Super Aguri F1 Driver) on our car handling. Anthony has been coming into the studio regularly over the entire course of our development and has really helped us to refine the racing experience as well as some of the more subtle aspects such as AI racing behaviours, camera view points, field of view etc. We're confident that this is going to shine through in the final game and that the handling will be the best F1 handling ever seen on consoles.

F1 2010

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