The Average Gamer

Paul Jeal “We are now able to have oversteer and understeer you can catch.”

PaulJeal_F12011SmallAt last week’s F1 2011 press preview day I got another chance to talk to Paul Jeal, Senior Producer of the Formula 1 games at Codemasters and ask him some of the questions that his E3 2011 interview “Now we’ve almost got an AI driver with 6 brains” had generated.

Read about Paul’s thoughts on victory laps, tyre degradation, racing against real F1 drivers in the game and having a virtual race control with other people acting as race stewards.

Lets start off with a few quick questions.

Paul Jeal: Ok.

Victory lap?

PJ: We have a few corners, but not a whole lap.

Podium ceremony?

PJ: Podium no. Parc fermé yes.

Pressure sensitivity for controller buttons?

PJ: Yeah, we’ve put a lot of work into controller support handling, input lag and various bit and pieces so that’s improved from last time.

With the tyre degradation in the game, are we going to see lots of marbles [bit of tyre] around the circuits?

PJ: That’s something we’ve had to dial down for this event today. It wasn’t until Turkey and we saw the state of turn 8 and thought, wow we really need to ramp it up this year. But then we put it on a bit too much and it was kinda like all over the place so we’ve dialled it down a little bit. But it will be fine tuned and it will be more visually there than last time.
Is it easier to burn out your wet tyres than in F1 2010?

PJ: Absolutely. A lot of focus has gone into tyres and not just in terms of options and primes, shelf-life and we talked about at E3 2011 the golden laps on the options and the fast drop off. With the primes you have to heat them up and then they will slowly go off. But if you get caught on the wrong tires in the wrong conditions this year you’re really going to know about it. Tip-toeing around when you’re on slicks in the wet. It will be much easier to overheat tyres.

Will you be able to heat your tyres and breaks?

PJ: Yes, that’s something we are looking at. The simulation system is all there. By rewriting the tyre model and the suspension model we are now able to have oversteer and understeer you can catch. You can attack curbs this year, you can feel the weight distribution of breaking through the corners. That’s also had an impact on the differences between the teams. Last year we had some good differences in handling characteristics. You were able easily to outperform in a Lotus than you would be normally because we had to do a couple of things to the tires just to be able to get over some of the curbs. But this year, now that we have the true suspension, really you could be 2 gears lower in a HRT through a corner than you would be in a Red Bull.

Have you made any changes to the TV cockpit cam?

PJ: We have tweaked the camera positions slightly. There are numerous requests on the forums about putting it [T-Cam] to the left hand side from where they would be in real life. We did some tests on that and I actually find it harder to race and we also did a little bit of focus testing too. The cockpit camera has changed a lot as people found it a little bit too hard last year. It was based on what they [F1 drivers] have in real life. I don’t know how they drive with that type of view, but it’s raised and a lot more usable this year.

Have you thought about having a virtual race control, similar to the way that Microsoft Flight Simulator X has people acting as virtual air traffic controllers in the game? You could have people voting for who they’d like to be the virtual stewards for races.

PJ: We did look at that very, very early on. Some areas that we’ve got in this year like spectate, where you can jump aboard any car and find out what’s going on or if you’ve crashed out of session or joined one late. You’ve also got the race director where you can watch live timing information screen. You’ve also got a lot more information on fastest laps, type and state of tyres, fuel depletion rates. So I think there is a lot of mileage in that, probably too much for us to do for F1 2011.

I think there is a lot of stuff in terms of data comparison and how’s it’s perceived. Whether it’s fun enough to do a whole mode where you are the race engineer, I’m not so sure. The more we meet with engineers and strategists the more they expose what they do in real life. I think that will start coming to the fore when you’ve got a lot to do, the strategy elements becomes a much more difficult call. Historically its been about if you can stay out longer and preserve your tyres, then you do a couple of fastest laps you leap frog someone in the pits. That’s not the way it works this year. This year is if you pit early enough and you do a couple of golden laps in free air you’re going to leapfrog the guy in front. It’s the undertake. That’s something we are trying to get into the game now.

Are you planning to do any more events where you race F1 drivers in the game?

PJ: Yeah, we did a few events last year where Anthony [Davidson] raced a few people or at Gamescom where [Adrian] Sutil came and raced. I bumped into him [Sutil] in the press room when he was behind me for a 1.5 laps and Steve [Hood, chief game designer of F1 2010/11] managed to beat him and all of a sudden it was well you only beat me because you had a better car in a better grid position. Typical macho man things. [Laughs]

I think it’s fascinating to watch those guys even just to see them do time trial on their own and when you see Anthony drive round Monaco and how precise he is on the curbs and how close he is to the barriers and how fast he is the through the swimming pool section it defies belief really. You learn a lot from watching him.

Are you going to record an F1 driver playing the game and then release that to the community?

PJ: Yes, well in terms of releasing to the community that is the difficult part. There are some licensing issues where you would have to show a certain spread of cars to not show favouritism. But we would love in the game at some point to do an unlockable, or when you go to a new track you see a flying driver lap because I think it would be invaluable to the player. I think there are some really, really cool ideas that we’ve got for how you could watch your flying lap back and perhaps get some pointers. But that’s one that’s just at the idea stage really and something that we are looking to prototype in future titles. You look at the way Martin Brundle analyses the pole lap, that type of thing. That would be also useful for going back to the garage and analysing the telemetry. Wouldn’t it be good to upload a lap and then all of a sudden you get some feedback from the game that says, broke late into turn 1, wide in turn 3? You’re going to learn a lot more from that. That’s some of the ideas we have, I’m not quite sure how we are going to pull it off, certainly not for F1 2011. But that’s the kind of ambition we have.
What are the PC system specs like compared to F1 2011?

PJ: They still to be locked down yet but we’ve got our compliance guys doing it. If there’s any new hardware cards then we’ll have a look at them. I’d imagine it wouldn’t be a million miles away from F1 2010, but it might have bumped up a little bit.

Any impact of the banning of off throttle blown diffusers on the car models?

PJ: At the moment, no as our game is set specifically before the 2011 season. It’s quite funny actually, whenever teams get race wins they’re like, “Oh, can you update our stats?” Well, no we can’t. We know you’ve won this race but our game is set up before the season has started. That’s the way we go, but at the same time we try to get the accurate information so the DRS zones we are still fine tuning and as we get more tyre data we are able to fine tune that aspect too.

Any plans for a demo version?

PJ: At the moment, no. We would love to do a demo. I think the difficult thing is that you are really up against it with an annual series anyway. It’s not like in any way that we not want to do one. But what would you put on it? If you cut it down too much then that really doesn’t show people what the new features of the game are like, but if you put too much in then people want to dip their toes in it and not buy the game. So there are a lot of technical challenges with a demo, certainly pre-release.

Thanks for your time Paul.

Formula 1 2011 is due for release on the 23rd Sept 2011 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. PS Vita and 3DS versions are also in development.