Codies have pedigree when it comes to racing titles, most recently with their muck-slinging, off-road spectacular DiRT 2. Now, with the Formula One license firmly in hand, they're set to give the world's most technically challenging sport that same, high-gloss, realistic-yet-fun treatment. We grab Codemasters' Paul Waters in the pit lane to ask him what's in store for F1 2010, and whether or not you can slag off Lewis Hamilton in post-race interviews.
Lorenzo Mosna: We've heard F1 2010 isn't all about the driving experience - could you explain some of the behind the scenes features?
Paul Waters: When we designed the game there was a motto in our minds: "Be the driver, live the life". So the main features of the game reflect these two aspects: "be the driver" is about all the things that you see on the track, all the things that Codemasters is known for in games like DiRT and DiRT 2. So it's all about stunning graphics, excellent handling, the weather system, the flashback system... all these kind of things.
"Live the life" is about giving people something more. When we developed the game we spoke with a lot of fans and the majority of them were interested not only in driving but also in what happens off the tracks, and so we wanted to bring this aspect inside the game. In our previous games you just finish the game and bam, congratulations, you won, go to the next race. In F1 2010 you get out of you car, go into the garage and see your race engineers, walk into the paddock and meet the media, etc. We want you to immerse yourself in what a Formula One driving experience should be, in both its aspects. It's not just about "sitting behind the steering wheel and going fast". That's probably the biggest part of the game, but it's also about this behind the scenes thing as well.
This interaction with the media is very important for your career. For example: let's say you have an incident in which Lewis Hamilton crashes into you in the last lap. The media will interview you about that and you might say: "It's Hamilton's fault" but then you think that you're probably going to race for McLaren next year, and so you better be careful what you say. We wanted to recreate the difficulties that the drivers face every day in real life.
How exactly do these interviews affect the career and the game? Do the AI controlled rivals change their driving style?
Yes, they actually do. But it depends. If you call someone that usually arrives around 18th or 19th a bad driver, you'll probably let him down and he's going to drive even worse. But if you insult a very good driver... well, he probably won't like it and he'll try to go as fast as he can in the next race. That means that we modelled the characteristics of every single driver. Hamilton will be very aggressive, Button will be very smooth, Schumacher will be very difficult to get past - your interaction with them will change these aspects.
What sort of research went into the track and car design?
P: Well, it's a multi-stage process. Let's talk about tracks first: we sent some of the guys of our team to every single race track. They walked along the track and took a picture every five metres in every single direction. Remember that tracks are usually three miles long, so these are long days! Then they sent these pictures to our designers that used also archive data to get precise information about distances, heights, slopes, so it looks very realistic.
Now with the cars there's a similar process in which we gather computer-aided design information from the teams and also liveries packs that we apply to the shells of the cars. Then we take the four different engines of the championship - Ferrari, Mercedes, Cosworth and Renault - we physically went to their factories and recorded the engine sounds. So if you're driving in a Renault or Red Bull you hear the sound of the Renault engine, if you drive in a Mercedes you get that engine, and so on. So it's a long process here too that allows us to create a very realistic experience.
Now let's get off the race for a moment. Today in Milan you said that music and glamour are also important for you while creating a Formula One game. What do you mean with that?
We feel that Formula One is not only about drivers and races. I think that Formula One games in the past were quite dry, not boring, but basically dry is a good word to describe them. What Codemasters wants to do with this sport is look at it as something bigger than drivers and races only. When I watch Formula One I don't see it as a dull technical sport but as something more: drivers are not only brave sportsman but they're also global stars. Introducing the "live the life" aspect we wanted to introduce these elements as well: Drivers are also superstars that have to deal with the media everyday.
What about on-line features of the game?
In the online mode you can have up to 11 friends playing along with you. You can choose whatever you want to play, like a whole season or just one or two tracks. You can customize your season by sorting the tracks to play, too.
And what about the wonderful weather system: will the real weather be downloaded from the internet?
That's actually a super cool idea but no, the weather is randomly calculated but it's based on seasons and places. In Bahrain, for example, the possibility of rain is very low, while in Indonesia is very high, etc. The weather affects every 30 squared centimeters of the track, and it's dynamic, it's called "Active Track Technology". That means that if it's raining and then suddenly the sun comes out, some part of the race will start to become dry. This system can exactly calculate how wet every part of the track is. When the track is very wet a tire displaces up to 18 litres of water every second, so it will create dry lines in the track that you can use to gain grip. But if you pass the cars that are creating the dry lines, in the next lap you won't see those lines anymore. It's incredible.
Finally, what are you expecting from this franchise?
I see no reason why this franchise could not do the same as other franchises did, like what FIFA did for football, Madden for American football, and Tiger Woods for golf. As a company we think that Formula One games in the past perhaps haven't lived up to the massive expectations of the fans. I think when you combine the size of the sport with the technical expertise of those making the racing games, I think that we have a franchise with a lot of potential.
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