VideoGamer.com: It's been a controversial year for Formula One, particularly with Pirelli's tyres. Could we see spontaneous tyre explosions in F1 2013...?
Lee Mather, Car Handling Designer, F1 2013: No. It's something that we've considered in the past, but it kind of throws the player out [of the experience]. [The player] likes to know that they've caused the problem, so things that happen without any rhyme or reason tend to upset the experience a bit.
Greg Prysmachuk, Game Designer, F1 2013: It takes control away from the player, too.
LM: We've got the aggressive wear of the Pirellis, which wear much quicker. And obviously if you do keep dipping it off the track you will increase the chances of a puncture, and that's quite obvious to the player too.
The challenge of Formula One is translated into the game very well through the limited rewinds and length of the races. This has been adjusted year-on-year through the introduction of mid-race saves and balancing, but how do you find the sweet spot that doesn’t alienate new players and simultaneously prevents a Marussia winning a GP?
LM: All the cars are unique, and we do set them up based on what we see in each season. So we know the Red Bull's got the best aero of the pack at the moment and it corners quicker than most cars, Ferrari’s got quicker top end speed and it handles a bit looser in the corners, and then all the way down to the Marussia we do take away aero and we change various other components of the car. They all have their own unique feel and performance.
Then for the balancing we actually have a wide variety of ability within the studio. There are a few people who are very hardcore and at certain points in their careers could have been professional gamers through tournaments online. And then there are guys who literally want to pick up a pad and drive a Formula One car, and they don't want it to be too difficult. So we’ve got a really wide spread [user base]. We’ve also added an additional difficulty level as well for new players.
GP: We have a lot of different assists to help aid players drive on the track. I don't think we’ve ever seen a player with full assists on drive and beat a player on a better skill level with assists off. They're there to help, but not to over-estimate a player’s ability.
The car set-up system is detailed but difficult to learn. The game does a good job of introducing players into the basic set-ups of cars and how to drive on track, but will there be anything to offer players a greater insight into the detailed options offered in the game?
LM: Some of that comes from the Young Driver Test at the start of the game, but the descriptions on the things in the garage is the most we've got at the moment to give you an idea of how you should be changing the car. Also, just changing in the quick car setup will offer you the characteristics you’re looking for if you want a car with a better top speed or acceleration.
F1 2013 sees the introduction of the long awaited Classics. How did you go about obtaining the licenses?
GP: We had to go to each driver and each team individually, because we don’t get it in a pack - we get the [F1] license for the year. So everything has to be done through each driver, and getting in touch with some of these drivers was a very long process.
Who was the main driver or rivalry you wanted to get in order to make this mode happen?
LM: I think the answer depends on a personal basis, but the main one for most of us would have to be Nigel Mansell. To get Nigel in his '92 Williams was something special.
GP: We just had an [Alain] Prost fan interview us as well, which is surprising after the Senna film.
How do you get a sense of how the classic cars handle compared to the modern cars? Do you talk to the drivers and engineers?
LM: Obviously we watch a lot of reference videos, and we also spoke to people who worked with those drivers during those eras. We also go to some unusual sources like motoring journalists themselves, as it was those journalists who interviewed the drivers and engineers over those eras, and you get some amazing stories. That gives us a lot to feed off. Obviously it’s sadly something we’ll never get to experience ourselves.
So nobody lets you take the car out on track for a test run?
LM: Sadly not. But for when we are cutting the audio and things we actually had the classic cars run for us (on track). So we’ve had guys from those days who captured the audio but also been able to talk to the guy who was driving it.
Have there been any additions to the radio chatter system this year? Perhaps integration with Kinect to allow the player to talk to the pit?
GP: No Kinect support this year, but we've tried to set it up so it feels seamless for players and unobtrusive. It's all conditional based triggers, so everything that occurs out on track [the game] will know and inform the player. You don’t want to have another button on the controller to use to talk to the pit. We wanted to focus on the driving, and have [radio chatter] as an addition to the driving.
LM: You're not on your own out there. You have a team with you informing you of what other teams around you are doing.
F1 2013 is coming to current-gen consoles, but with the PS4 and Xbox One right around the corner have you thought about the potential for the Formula One series on next-gen systems?
LM: At the moment we are just concentrating on F1 2013. You've probably seen that it does look significantly better again this year, so we really are wringing the neck of those consoles now and that’s where our focus is at the moment.
An interesting thing said by many developers of next-gen sports and racing titles has been how next-gen systems have allowed them to make significant improvements 'under the hood' - making advances to the computer AI as well as the graphical update. How do you see that having an impact on F1?
GP: There's a lot of memory in those next-gen consoles. That’s really all I can say.
F1 2013 is due for release in September, and even putting next-gen aside it's looking to be a pretty hectic schedule. Are you worried about the launch window?
GP: Obviously we're coming out in a really busy window. There's FIFA, there's GTA 5... I don't think that’s going to have too much impact on the fact that we have a really strong core fan base. We've got a very unique title that nobody else produces, or [that they can] do. Obviously Grand Theft Auto is going to impact everybody, isn't it?
LM: Yeah. It's the giant elephant in the room.
GP: There's nothing that game's not going to have an impact on, but I think F1's still going to hold its own, definitely. I think with this game, it doesn’t just seem like a yearly update because we've got the classic content. It sort of seems like the one that you will update for. We talk to a lot of people, and the last one they bought was F1 2010 or F1 2011 and they skip iterations between, but hopefully this one should draw those people back.
Do you ever get any feedback on the game from modern day drivers? Do they ever race each other in the game and give you feedback on their own cars?
GP: We do. We get a surprising amount, to be honest. When the PR guys go down to visit the teams, when there’s a driver there they’ve always got something to add and an opinion to have on the game.
Make my car faster?
LM: [Laughs] Yeah!
F1 2013 launches on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC this September.