At E3 this year, I attended a round table with Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital and director of the Gran Turismo series. Speaking through an interpreter, he talked in-depth about the upcoming Gran Turismo Sport, starting with some surprising news about who the game is aimed at.
"This Gran Turismo is really geared towards people who are playing racing games for the first time. The aim wasn't to create a hardcore racing simulation. And because we're running it as an eSport together with the FIA, we have a section where you can learn racing etiquette and behavior."
"Our main focus is quality. We're often asked what's the difference between Gran Turismo and the other racing games out there. And really, the main difference is the level of quality: 140 cars are going to be included in the game. These are all cars that have been rebuilt from scratch. In terms of tracks, we have 19 locations, with 27 layouts, and we also have dirt tracks. There's arcade mode, and campaign mode, which is the offline competitive mode. In total there are going to be 117 offline events. What we used to call car dealerships has evolved into brand central. This is where you can discover cars for the first time. In it, you can watch many different high-quality videos that the manufacturers produce for their cars."
"We've always had a museum feature in the past as well. In the new museum feature, it's going to be introducing the history of the automobile alongside the history of the world to try to give the automotive history more color and depth."
"Then we have the Sport mode, which is the basis for the name Gran Turismo Sport. Together with the FIA we're going to be running two flagship championships. One is the world cup of motorsport – the Nations Cup – and the other is a manufacturer championship. One characteristic of these series is that anyone can participate. The purpose of Sport is not to find the fastest drivers in the world like the GT Academy. In the Nation's Cup, the world is divided into three different regions, and after the regional finals, people will progress to the world finals. The reason why it's divided into three is because of the timing of the event. In the Sport mode, these final races will be broadcast live around the world."
"In the Manufacturers Cup, the manufacturer representatives from each of those regions will progress to the finals. The winners of the world title will be awarded at the FIA prize-giving gala ceremony that is hosted every year to recognize and award real-world motorsport champions. So Gran Turismo Sport winners will be awarded alongside people like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel."
"In order to enable clean, fair, and safe races online, players are going to have two matchmaking indexes. One is the driver's class, which shows the speed and the strength of the driver in a race. The other one is sportsmanship, which indicates their manners and behavior on the track. Players who drive really rough online will see their sportsmanship points going down, until they’re only matched with other drivers who drive really rough online. Players who drive really clean races will be matched with other players who drive really clean races."
"In addition to the championships I mentioned earlier, which is one of the pillars of the activity that we have with the FIA, we also have the FIA Gran Turismo racing license. This is a program that provides a real motorsport license after you achieve a certain level of performance within the game. I have a motorsports license myself, and acquiring that took a lot of time and money. Throughout the world right now there are less and less people becoming newly involved in motorsports, so this is a program that really aims to increase the popularity of motorsports in the real world."
"To become eligible for a Gran Turismo FIA license, you have to complete things like the racing etiquette aspect of the game, achieve silver or better in campaign mode, and then achieve and maintain a certain level of sportsmanship points. In the racing etiquette mode, you're able to learn about things like signals, flags, how to behave with other cars on the track, cautions, driver's conduct – all the sorts of things you need to know in the real world of motorsports, you can learn here."
"The people at the FIA made motorsports for the last 100 years. Now, we want to work together with the FIA to help design the next 100 years."
"In terms of social functions, you are able to interact with the social features of the game in the style that you prefer. You are able to access profile screens of yourself and friends, and see what is happening around the world of Gran Turismo. This type of information is not only going to be available through the PS4, but you'll also be able to get it on smartphones, tablets, and even a standard web browser."
"For Gran Turismo Sport, we're also going to be creating a livery editor that will allow players to customize the way their cars look, and then share the designs with their friends."
"Scenes is a new part of photo mode in Gran Turismo. It contains technology that can tease the real world out of them. What that means is that you take a scene – at launch we’re going to have over 1000 different locations – so you would select one of those and you can place the car of your choice into the photo. You can move the car around, turn the steering wheel, turn on the headlights, and things like that. You can also change the focus and exposure, and many aspects of the picture."
"These photographs will contain both light and spatial information, so they’re a little different to your standard photograph. Because it contains spatial information, you can move the car within the photograph, and then the camera will follow the car. When you try to take photographs of cars in real life, it's really hard to find the perfect location with the perfect light and perfect weather conditions – and have a car in the right place, but in Gran Turismo Sport you'll be able to do that easily."
"In this game, we've gone to great lengths to produce a beginner's school experience. Most of the off-line events are geared towards people who are playing racing games for the first time, or who've never driven cars before. That actually was the focus I had when I originally made the game in 1997, but over the years the players have become more hardcore and they wanted more realism and harder games, and that's the way the game deviated. Our intent in making this new title is to rebuild Gran Turismo from the ground up, so that first-time players and drivers can feel the fun of driving."
"Driving is pretty much something that anyone can do, and if it seems difficult, then that means something is wrong with the video game. That's a mistake that we want to correct. Driving cars is something anyone should be able to have fun doing. My wish is that with Gran Turismo, I really want to convey how fun it is to drive cars, and that's really one of the major objectives."
"There is going to be a range of AI settings. You'll notice that when you actually play the game that the AI is much better at driving now. It used to be that the AI would fall a second or more behind a good player, but the AI is now able to drive on a par with other players."
"I mentioned the online racing etiquette and sportsmanship points. Having safe and clean races is really important for online racing. When you go into online mode in GT6 now, it's a very rough world – like the African Savannah. I wanted to bring some law and order to that world. At the same time I want to make it something that children all the way up to the elderly can enjoy."
"You can think of GT1-6 as the first age or first era of Gran Turismo. From this title on you can actually call it a brand new era because of the level of innovation and level of technology that's going into it."
"The age of the PS3 was challenging for us. We wanted to achieve more than we could do, so there was a lot of frustration. This time, we are able to achieve what we want to do, so that's really fun. The physics has evolved quite a bit. I think as soon as you play with a steering wheel or controller you'll notice it."
"The PS3 hardware at first glance looks like it was able to do a certain level of things, but in actuality it can't. In terms of development, it was really, really difficult. The balance of hardware wasn't very good, but the PS4 is so good. This quality that we're showing you today is about 70% or so, so at time of launch, we'll be showing you something even better than this."