As the follow-up to the two million-plus selling, BAFTA award-winning F1 2010 hits shelves this week, Glen Ferris talks to Codemasters’ Andy Gray about the innovations and inspiration that have gone into this year’s hugely anticipated Formula One simulation
What are the main improvements from the previous game?
We could be here for a while… The main area of concentration has been the multiplayer. First of all we have full grids for online races – up to 16 human players and 8 AI. This was a vital addition and makes for a much more authentic experience.
Our major new feature is Co-op Championship where you and a friend are on the same team and race online throughout every session of a season to try and secure the Constructors Title for your team. However, at the same time you are fighting it out for the Drivers title, recreating the team mate battles you see week-in, week-out in the real sport.
Split-screen is also in this year, and while by no means a new feature to gaming, it is a real bonus to have that in our game as it allows for those great battles between you and a mate, sat on the same sofa banging elbows. It’s a very sociable way to play.
In the single player there are a raft of new improvements such as a much-improved new AI system, Safety Car, improved feedback from the Engineer and from the Press and a host of new cinematic sequences that immerse you within the story of a race weekend or championship.
The final thing I will mention is the new Time Attack scenarios within our Proving Grounds mode. These are set Time Trial challenges where you have a given car with a defined setup and tyre selection on a set track with set conditions.
This is a pure test of racing speed rather than your ability to set up the car. There are six scenarios in total and your times on each are put into a leader board of your friends. That is going to get seriously competitive.
This year you’ve got all 19 circuits, including the brand-new Buddh International Circuit in India as well as Silverstone, Monaco and the Nürburgring, how much research and design goes into accurately recreating the tracks?
A massive amount! If we had just one person working on a track it would take them a year to create one from start to finish.
We get all the CAD details of the circuit itself and supplement that with tens of thousands of reference photos.
We have a photographer who literally walks each circuit and takes a photo every couple of steps to the front, right, left and back. We use those to recreate the circuit in game. It is then a case of testing and polishing until we get it right.
We also speak with drivers, which is really illuminating. They have the experience of racing these circuits, and pull out great little nuggets about bumps in the circuit and how the car handles through different areas. It’s the sort of feedback you can’t get just from technical R&D.
You’ve brought back the safety car after leaving it out last year – why is it back on track?
We have always wanted to get the safety car in because it is a massive part of Formula One, but we only wanted to get it in once we could do it justice. This year we had enough time to not only get it into the game and looking good but also to make it a good experience for the player. The reaction to the news once we announced it was crazy and goes to show how important it is to the fans of F1.
You’ve also included KERS, DRS and Pirelli tyres – how have these new additions changed the dynamics of the game?
You can see how much these changes and additions have affected the racing every other weekend and it is no different in the game. Learning how and when to use the new toys is a skill in itself. The first time you go out for a Practice Session and hit the DRS button a little bit too soon when you come out of a corner you will immediately lose control of the car. It also makes you appreciate just how amazing the real life drivers are because they have so much to think about.
Tyre choice is also key and has a dramatic effect on the feel of the car. There is a noticeable difference between the Options and the Primes. It really makes you think about whether you should go out for an extra blast in Practice or not. This is particularly poignant in Co-op Championship. Say your mate has just set the fastest lap with five minutes to go in the session. You know full well that you shouldn’t waste a set of Options tyres but at times you just can’t help yourself.
What would be your top tip for playing the new game?
My main piece of advice is to always learn the tracks. If you don’t know them then don’t be too proud, use the racing line and learn where the braking points are and where you can really push the car. Then as you become more confident, up the speed and turn off the line. Also don’t be too quick to try KERS and DRS. Get to learn the basics first.
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