F1 2017 landed on the Xbox One, PS4 and PC just a few weeks ago, redefining what we expect from a top-class racing sim. Not content to rest on their laurels, the team at Codemasters have been working on mid-season updates, with the latest liveries now available for the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams on the PC version, with others to follow – see Codemasters’ latest blog for all the details.
An incredible amount of effort goes on behind the scenes when it comes to making both the latest F1 cars and classic F1 racers look as real as possible. We’ve been talking to Matthew Jones, senior artist for F1 2017 at Codemasters, to find out more about just what it takes.
How do you go about incorporating lighting, reflections and other details to make the cars so realistic? You can’t get things like that from the team or photographs as it’s always changing, so how does that work?
There’s a lot going on under the hood in F1 2017 that determines how we render materials accurately. We use PBR [physically based rendering] technology which allows us to accurately recreate materials such as plastic, rubber, carbon etc and have those materials behave correctly under any lighting condition. Couple that with a whole host of effects textures and you’ve got a pretty realistic looking set of materials.
In the past we’d have painted reflections and highlights into the textures to make them look realistic, but using PBR materials we no longer need to do that as the reflections are all coming from the environment and light reacts correctly on the surface of each material. What this also means is the light can change dynamically in game, from night to day, and the car surface materials react how they should without us needing to change any values.
Do you get all the information on liveries straight from the teams?
The teams are extremely helpful. They provide us with all of the livery artwork and any fonts along with a detailed specification for how to apply them to the cars.
What about updates to sponsors – are you told ahead of time so you can start working on the latest versions of the cars?
Often the teams themselves don’t know which sponsors will be on the car before the race weekend, but they do their best to keep us up to date with any changes ahead of our scheduled updates.
Do you incorporate different aero updates along with more simple changes?
It all depends on the level of change and how permanent it is. If the team makes a significant change to the car that we feel will be carried forward, such as the new nose cone and shark fin on the Mercedes earlier this year, then we will make that update. Ultimately it’s down to what the teams want us to do as they have approval rights on any update, no matter how small.
Camera angles, weather conditions and other variables can make the real cars look different colours on the TV, so how do you counter this for the game?
It’s very tricky. We use the correct colours as the teams supply us with the exact values. But the cars are rarely a single colour as once you take into account the metallic flakes, pearlescent effects and the different lacquer finishes, the paintwork can look completely different. We pay extra special attention to the photograph and video reference we have to work out how the paint is reacting to light and how we can best recreate that in the game.
The 2010 RB6 is back for F1 2017 – what did this include from an artistic/design perspective?
We were supplied CAD of the RB6 for the F1 2010 version which meant the model was 100 percent accurate in terms of dimensions. Although we had the in-game RB6 model from F1 2010, we only really used it as a starting point and used it in conjunction with the more detailed CAD to bring the model quality up to that of the F1 2017 cars.
Were there any design details that were particularly difficult to implement?
When the designers said “we’re reintroducing classic cars” my initial reaction was a cheer! But at the same time we also knew that we needed to build them in addition to all of the 2017 cars, so that was a significant challenge. Most of the classic cars predated CAD data and, with the detail required in F1 2017, we needed to gather accurate reference from other sources. To solve this issue we used 3D scanners for the first time. This was new ground for us and a steep learning curve, but ultimately invaluable in recreating the cars accurately, and a great opportunity to meet them in the flesh – or is that composite material?