Year after year, racing games never seize to churn out some of the most authentic and visual pleasing simulations. Ahead of their targeted August release date, Codemasters, the team behind the F1 franchise, gives us, Sports Gamers Online, a look under the hood of F1 2018. You can check out the interview in full below to get details on the new career mode and plans for the Nintendo Switch.
F1 2018 Codemasters Interview
What has been the biggest change in F1 2018?
Probably the biggest change comes from the off track elements of the Career mode. Throughout your Career in F1 2018, you’ll face questions from the press. You’ll be asked about a range of subjects such as your performance in the previous session, that weekend, the season, other drivers and teams, and how things are going with your current team. The answers which the player gives will have a wide range of outcomes.
It’s up to you whether you choose to exhibit showmanship or sportsmanship, or maybe a mixture of the two. Just like in the real sport, certain teams prefer certain types of drivers and the answers you give will affect your negotiations with teams. Your responses can also affect the team you currently drive for by motivating/demotivating certain areas of the team.
There is also far more flexibility within your career. You can now negotiate potential moves or a better contract at your current team at four separate points during the season and you now have the ability to select your own rival in the sport. Beating them will give your reputation a further boost.
Another area where there has been significant change is Research and Development. Now every team has its own unique tech tree with inherent strengths and weaknesses. Plus at the end of a season there could be a rules change, which could result in teams starting the following season with very different performance. You can help limit the impact of the change to a degree by protecting some of their existing R&D, but they will still create some unique season performance orders. There’s nothing more exciting than the first race of the season, not knowing which teams will be the strongest.
What’s been the biggest challenge you guys have faced with making this year’s game?
The biggest challenge we always face is time. We have a long list of features, changes and additions that we want to bring into the game each year as well as the must-haves such as the new cars, liveries, driver changes, new circuits and rule changes. We have an incredibly tight schedule.
What engine does F1 2018 run on?
It runs on our proprietary engine which has evolved with the games over the years.
Can you give some background on your development process in releasing a successful yearly title?
Like I said earlier, time is our biggest enemy so we always have to be thinking ahead and planning our next step wherever possible. We set out the main features we would like to include in this year’s game and then match that to the schedule to see if we can make it happen. It may be that we iterate over time until we are happy with the result. For example, look at the way we are building on the great basis offered by last year’s Career mode to take it to the next level this time around.
There are also the yearly changes within the sport which help keep everything fresh: new cars, circuits, drivers and rule changes, which can be very significant and have a huge effect on the game.
We have long term and short term plans and goals and the key is to make sure that the team is all working in the same direction.
How many people are working on this year’s title? Can you discuss the makeup of the studio? Do you leverage outsourcing to other studios for some assets or development?
Giving an exact number is very difficult as we call in resources from around the company. For example, some of the artists are shared between the development teams at Codemasters. The number of people working on the game is in a constant state of flux and is dependent on the phase of the project.
How do you streamline the career experience for those who just want a quick playthrough?
The Career, by its very nature, is an in-depth experience. Although a player does not necessarily have to go into the finer details of R&D, car set up and practice sessions if they don’t want to. You can also reduce the length of the races to suit the amount of time you want to spend on track. There is another option to get the AI to simulate any session you want for you. This gives a reduced reward but still allows the players to progress through the career in the way they want.
There is also the Grand Prix and Season mode which lets the player race as one of the existing F1 drivers without having to worry about anything off track. It is also their choice as to whether they want to do practice and qualifying. This is far more “pick up and play”.
Are there plans to bring the franchise to the Switch?
At the moment we are focused on making the best game possible on the PS4, Xbox One and PC.
Each version gets more praise than the year before, how does the team stop from becoming complacent?
I don’t think we have the opportunity to become complacent. There is a real drive within the studio to make the best F1 game possible and then to improve upon it year in, year out. We are our own harshest critics and have very lofty goals for the franchise so that keeps pushing us.
Most of the team are huge fans of the sport, so that in itself means that we double down on our efforts. Also, we have a vibrant community of fans who are always pushing us to improve and get more into the game which helps spur us on still further.
Fans who have never played the series before may look at it as a bit overwhelming with all the upgrades available. How do you make it more accessible to newcomers?
We try to explain everything to the player as much as possible. The first time you see each of the screens, there is a popup that explains what you are seeing. There is also a suggested upgrade option where the race engineer will make those decisions for you.
We ensure that the car has a decent base set up for each of the circuits, just like it would have in real life, so it is not vital for the player to have to tinker with settings. It is all about offering options for different preferences.
F1 is by its very nature quite a complicated sport, so we try to make it as accessible as possible to people who are new to the games. There are also a variety of assists such as brake assist, ABS, traction control and driving line, all of which can help newbies feel comfortable in the car for the first time.
What part do actual drivers play in the testing or development of the game?
We are extremely fortunate to get to spend time with a lot of the drivers and get their feedback. This year we have already sat down with Charles Leclerc, Romain Grosjean, Carlos Sainz, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasley and Max Verstappen to talk about the game.
They give amazing insight into areas and facets of the circuits that only they know. For example, things like braking distance, gears or grip characteristics on given corners. We have found that their real world F1 skills transfer very quickly to the game.
Are there any announced features or improvements that you would like to mention here?
The main one would be the fact that we have more classic cars in the game than ever before. We now have 20 cars from the history of the sport available to the player. These appear in Grand Prix mode and as events during your Career.
We are delighted to bring the championship winning Brawn from 2009 into the game as it is easily the most requested classic car from our forum. We have just announced that we will have a new class of iconic cars from the 80 and 90s in the game along with the fact that all of the classics from last year’s game are returning.
You can really feel the difference between the eras and there is a huge contrast between the low aero, low grip cars from the 80s when compared to the modern day cars, which shows how much the sport has evolved over the years.
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