F1 2013: Interview with Game Director Paul Jeal
A new Formula 1 title is set to release in a couple of weeks and I took a moment to speak with Paul Jeal, game director of F1 2013.
Andrew Stevens: It’s another year, so that means another Formula 1 game from Codemasters. What’s it like to create the F1 series each year? What are some of your biggest challenges?
Paul Jeal: The main challenge with a yearly sports franchise is keeping it fresh and making sure that we progress with every iteration of the game. The days of simply updating the drivers and the car liveries have long since passed and with every sports game now you see a great advancement with every year. We are no different. For example this year we have introduced the classic content, whilst at the same time working on refining existing areas of the game such as handling, weather and Aim and making some pretty significant graphical improvements with our new lighting engine.
On top of that we have a brand new scenario mode this year with 20 pre-set scenarios to race, in addition to the inclusion of a mid-session save. This allows players to save their game at any time, even during a race, and come back to it at a later date. This is a very useful and welcome addition to the F1 Franchise, as Formula One really comes alive during those longer races when you get to experience more of the tire, fuel, and pit strategy elements, possible weather changes or safety car periods, as well as managing your car to avoid or minimize mechanical faults from developing.
There are advantages to working on a yearly title though as we are very familiar with the code base and we are able to make enhancements on existing features, such as those mentioned above on a yearly basis. When you compare the game experience of F1 2010 to F1 2013 it is completely different.
AS: This year we’ll be seeing a lot of classic content that includes tracks, cars, and drivers. What made you decide to drive this route with this year’s version?
PJ: We have wanted to include classic for a number of years now. It is easily the most requested feature, both by the press and fans of the game.
This is the first year that we have actually been able to dedicate enough time and resource to it to make it a reality. Our ever improving relationship with the teams and the sport in general has also opened up a lot of doors for us.
However, it has been a complicated process and it has taken a long time to secure the relevant licenses. Many of the teams have changed ownership several times in the intervening years, some no longer exist. There are issues with sponsorship and liveries as we cannot show alcohol or cigarette sponsors, for example. There have been a lot of discussions with teams, owners, drivers, and F1 personnel over a number of years. Our licensing team has done an amazing job.
AS: What will fans appreciate most about the classic content?
PJ: The classic side of the game taps into the memories we have of watching F1 growing up so I think everyone’s experience will be slightly different. Certainly in the UK there is a lot of interest in getting to drive Nigel Mansell’s red number 5 Williams as that was the iconic image of F1 in the late 80s and early 90s. Many of us owned Scalextric (slot car) versions of the cars that feature in game and it brings back a lot of great memories. For US fans they have the chance to drive as Mario Andretti which will be special for them. It really depends on your perspective.
AS: From year to year, what aspects of the game do you work on improving the most? How often do you tweak the handling of the vehicles? How much additional detail do you try to fit in the game?
PJ: We try to enhance the overall experience with every iteration of the game. For example we are constantly working on areas such as the handling, AI, and the weather, as well as looking to get as much out of the current systems as possible to make the game look as good as it possibly can.
The handling is constantly evolving and getting better over time. We have a great deal of input from the world of F1 about how the cars behave and how we can reflect that in the game. We have also visited several teams and driven their simulators to get an idea of just how these cars behave as they are so unlike anything that most people ever get to experience in real life.
This year we have also had to create different handling characteristics for the various classic cars we have in the game. The turbo powered beasts of the 1980s are a completely different driving experience to what you get in the 90s or modern days. The 2013 cars are so aerodynamically advanced that they create a huge amount of grip but this wasn’t the case in the 80s and 90s and it was vital that we reflected in the game. We spent a lot of time talking to guys who worked on and drove these cars to try and make the driving feel as close to the real thing as we could.
I would like to thank Paul for taking the time to answer some of my questions about the upcoming game, F1 2013. We’ll also have hands-on impressions here in the next couple of days, so keep an eye out for that!
F1 2013 is set to release on October 4th for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.