“F1 2010”: The Formula 1 game made by F1 fanatics (Interview, Part 1)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

The eagerly-anticipated official F1 game by Codemasters goes on sale next week.

I played the finished version of the game for the first time yesterday and talked to two of the game’s designers – and self-confessed F1 fans – about what’s gone into the first new F1 game for major formats in four years.

F1 Fanatic: This is your first F1 game. How big a deal is it for Codemasters to have the official F1 licence?

Paul Jeal, senior game producer: I think it’s massive for Codemasters, to be honest. And it’s massive for us as well, we both joined Codemasters specifically to work on an F1 game.

We’ve worked on Formula 1 games before and, for various reasons, weren’t quite able to influence those projects enough so when Codemasters got the licence we sought them out. I joined in August 2008 which was about a month after they signed the licence.

So a lot of the high-level design ideas that people either love or hate are probably down to me!

Steve [Hood, senior game designer] came on board in early 2009. We’re both F1 fans so we weren’t really looking back to previous F1 games we just know what’s missing in those games and what the fans are going to want so it’s key to use to get as many of those in as possible.

Steve Hood: I’ve always felt that, certainly in the past few years, F1 games have been made by people that were just tasked with getting an F1 game out. Whereas Paul and I – we love watching Formula 1 and we understand the things that I love about Formula 1 and why people get into it. Like the tactics or what makes a good pit stop or even why it’s important to be able to conserve fuel.

Down on paper, they sound like terrible game mechanics. But I think it’s quite cool. So we’ve tried to put that stuff together in this game as well and give it a new approach. We always say “reinvent Formula 1”, in terms of games anyway. But I don’t think anybody’s done it justice for a long time. I’m certainly not saying we’ve done that in out first iteration. But that’s out intention and that’s where we’re going.

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

F1F: So which F1 titles have you worked on before?

PJ: My first job in the industry was a tester on Geoff Crammond’s “Grand Prix 3” which I still consider to be one of my most favourite games.

I loved it and obviously it gave me a great overview of the gaming industry as a whole and how games are made. I think sometimes the testing role is perceived to be really good fun but I think my first job was to bounce into every barrier on every track.

F1F: I’ve just been doing that…

PJ: But then, towards the end of the project people would ask, “OK, who wants to do a full season, 100% race distance?” and I was like, “Yeah, I do!” I loved it.

Obviously I’ve worked on various different games since then but I always wanted to come back to work on an F1 game.

SH: I worked on Sony’s original series when it moved over to the Playtstation 2 in 2001. We were re-doing a Geoff Crammond game, a stock car kind of game, and then they said, “we’ve got the licence for Formula 1 now, so now it’s a Formula 1 game, and it’s got to be out next year!”

That was very early on in my career and now I feel, certainly with the people we’ve got here now, we’re able to do more justice to it, and certainly with the new machines as well.

"F1 2010" by CodemastersF1F: The game is coming out before the season has finished and before one of the tracks has even been raced on. Why bring it out in September?

SH: Primarily it’s because you can’t get all the licences signed off. The teams don’t unveil the cars until very late on and we need to build the tracks and build the cars.

PJ: If you look at when F1 games have come out historically, it’s either been after the season has finished or close to the end of the season.

It was a difficult decision for the company to not release a next-generation version in 2009 but it was absolutely the right decision because it had to come out of the box and smash the ball out of the park and be really, really good.

When we were looking at the release date originally we had to choose between June and September but a June release would have meant using 2009 season data. And that meant there would have been Brawn, and not having the three new teams and not having Schumacher.

Things change so fast in Formula 1 so it was quite an easy decision and we decided to go for the earliest we could do a 2010 release.

SH: We really wanted that new stuff with the new teams. And with Michael Schumacher being back in, because Paul’s a massive fan of him!

But all that stuff helped make it a more exciting season. Everyone was looking forward to it. Schumacher might not have done particularly well this season but he’s still a massive pull and it’s great to get him back in the game.

PJ: It’s got its problems, for example pit stops. We developed that very early in 2009, then we heard refuelling may be going. So we were checking F1 Fanatic and other websites daily to see if it had changed.

SH: Every now and then an email would come around from someone with a link to a website saying “Oh, that’s banned now, and this is coming back in” when we’ve already done four weeks of work on it.

PJ: We wanted all the cars to come in at once if the weather changed, and all the pit crews to come out, and we had to start work on that early otherwise it was never going to happen. We got to a stage where we had to lock it off until the rules were finalised.

Then we discovered our eight-second pit stops would have to come down to possibly as low as two-and-a-half or three seconds, or whatever it was going to be. So that was quite a lot of work in itself.

When we get data from the teams sometimes you’re luck enough to see it in January or February of that year. But what they actually put out on the tracks in testing compared to this point in the season is quite different.

You can imagine doing the game before 2009, if you could do it before the start of the season, no-one would have had the Brawn as a runaway championship leader. So then you’ve got to do DLC (download-able content) and patches to get the game back up to scratch.

We’d love to get it out earlier in the season but I think there’s some benefits to being this late in the day especially with a season like we’ve got this year.

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

F1F: You mention download-able content and patches – are there any plans for that with F1 2010? Obviously there’s already been a couple of driver changes.

SH: Not for 2010 I would imagine. Our game is very specifically set to start before the 2010 season so it’s not an accurate representation of where the season is now.

We want our players to experience the races as close as they are to real life so the Red Bulls are advanced at the beginning, McLaren are going to come on strong on the faster circuits, you’ll see teams like Renault coming to the fore. But it’ll be different for every player as well because where they finish determines their performance upgrades as well.

So the game starts off in March 2010 and then takes its own path.

F1F: In terms of the licence, you’re limited to doing just one season at a time, is that right?

PJ: Yes, you’re limited to the contest of that specific season.

Obviously there’s a lot of call for classic cars, classic seasons – that’s not specifically part of the licence that we’ve got. That’s not to say we can’t do it in the future.

"F1 2010" by Codemasters

F1F: If you look at something like the Football Manager series of games, a part of its appeal is being able to play across multiple seasons. But it seems that’s something you can’t have in an F1 game?

SH: Well, we’re hopefully going to change that a little bit. There’s certain things you have to do, that’s why we’ve tried to put as much into this game as we can with thee “Live the life” be-the-driver-type elements.

But for every yearly series you have to give players a reason to want to buy the next one. I think it’s not enough to just have the India track in for next year and a couple of driver moves. We’re going to have to move our car handling forward, our AI and our damage model.

Then we’re going to have to look at some other elements of the driving experience such as the safety car, formation lap, whatever. Lots of ideas for moving the “Live the life” stuff forward and expand the multi-player to make it an essential yearly purchase.

F1F: So in the game there’s 12 different cars and 19 tracks. Is there anything else the player can unlock?

SH: We don’t really do the ‘unlocks’. One of the things we’d love players to be able to unlock is classic drivers or classic cars. But it’s quite a lot of effort to get that in. We did use more time than we had available with the game as it is.

But the ‘unlocks’ come through in the sense that when you’re playing in career mode the team work on developing the car so you get unlocks for that over time. For example a new undertray, new brake ducts, these kind of bits and pieces that improve the performance of the car.

There’ll be highs and lows throughout the season. One of the other teams may pick up and suddenly they’re going faster than you and you’re struggling. The next season, you’re at the team’s home race, say, and they bring a big upgrade package and you’re ahead again.

F1F: What are the most difficult things to get right in a game like this?

SH: The biggest thing is the speed of the cars – and it always has been. Because if you play a touring car game, for example, you’ve got a lot more time for the player to adjust the car in a corner.

When you’re racing at Formula 1 speeds one of the things that people are able to research now is the lap times of the circuits and the speeds that the drivers can do. And then they’ll know if they’re going 3mph too fast down a straight or three tenths off the lap time.

So just getting the lap times right means that you’re going so quickly around some of the corners the player needs to know the circuit and position the car perfectly. And he’s then got to get into that rhythm of applying the throttle gradually, braking hard and then easing off so you don’t lock up, getting those things in there is extremely difficult.

Then lay on top of that the fact that you’ve got 23 other cars around all doing the same thing. And they’re open-wheelers so you get wheels interlocking, you can’t just rub along the other cars, that’s always the biggest challenge for me.

JL: All the components are linked as well. For example you want to get the next car handling update in their because it’s better for the player, but then you’ve got to re-train the AI in terms of their behaviour, and you’ve got to test it across all the tracks.

In the second part of the interview Paul and Steve talk about Anthony Davidson’s role in developing the game and how they tried to make the cars’ handling and damage models as realistic as possible. Don’t miss part two tomorrow.

Buy Formula 1 2010 for PS3
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Buy Formula 1 2010 for PC DVD

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“F1 2010” by Codemasters

88 comments on ““F1 2010”: The Formula 1 game made by F1 fanatics (Interview, Part 1)”

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  1. I hope this game comes close to to quality of the best F1 game ever – Grand Prix Legends. That is, it must have:

    good AI
    good multiplayer
    good replay system

    Unlocking game content and gameplay that is “story-boarded” to fit to the 2010 script doesn’t sound promising. Hopefully these can all be tweaked through config files. This is from a PC perspective.

    1. I agree GP Legends is still the ultimate out of the box. Trouble is it probably only sold a fraction of the amount compared to other race games…. My bro held the world record at the nurburgring for a long time, a source of obvious pride for the family…until eventually he got knocked off. I still play it from time to time- still awesome

  2. '93 Peugeot 905 Le Mans Winner
    16th September 2010, 18:30

    The Ferrari and Williams had their side mirrors on the side pods. But that was not allowed anymore by the FIA from race 4 or 5 this season???

    1. I believe this has to do with licenses of the FIA. They aren’t allowed to modify the cars past the information they have received or something. It’s a bit silly, but no dealbreaker for me.

  3. Much as I love gaming and F1 I’m not sure I’ll get this. I don’t think I could actually bear to race the entire season. What if I “do a Hamilton” and crash out on the first lap 3/4 through and I scupper my championsip? My heart goes out to the drivers who ACTUALLY do this.

    Also it’ll be competing with Gran Turismo 5, one of the most anticipated and complete racing games ever. It even includes some F1 style races I believe.

    1. I think that i have seen somewhere that they will include this “windback” feature in the game like in dirt 2, where if you do a mistake you can go back in time, before the crash and then play on from there. I don’t know if it will be unlimited or just for the easy level, but i am 99% sure that i have seen a video of it on youtube somewhere.

      1. I know they did this with Forza III and personally these things leave a bad taste in my mouth. As frustrating as it is, that’s part of the challenge: the whole realism that one mistake has huge consequences. I remember spending whole summers doing a season in games like Indy Car Racing II or NASCAR Racing II. Finishing 11th by the end of it all felt like an accomplishment. It forces you to learn how to run consistently fast laps without taking unnecessary risks. But then, I’m more about sims than a pick-up-and-race sort of game. And I enjoy the feeling that you’re really working your way through the championship, even if you’re not vying for first.

      2. Mads is right – if you make a mistake you can go into the replay, rewind a bit (it only goes back so far) and hit the flashback button to resume driving from an earlier point. You only get a limited number of flashbacks per race though, and in the hardest difficulty setting you don’t get any. I think the maximum you get on the easiest setting is four.

  4. I really enjoyed f1 2001 when i got it and its been 10 year (game made in 2000) since the last one so im definetly going to buy its a MUST for a ”f1 fanatic” like me

  5. The game looks incredible! I really can’t wait but I don’t understand why they don’t release it for all consoles, as I have Wii, DS and PC.

    1. It annoyed me I could get F1 2009 on an iPod (with the worst steering mechanism ever) but not my DS. No expecting brilliant graphics, but something at least!

  6. Yes i agree this game with the Wii stearing wheel would be very entertaining but since its not on wii ill get it on the playstation 3

    But yes Daykind i agree they could have made some money out of wii buyers there.

  7. Until I get a job it’ll probably be F1 97 on a PS1! Or maybe I can strike a deal with my brother to rent his PS3 ;)

    1. Why not nab a cheap PC one from ebay in a few weeks?

      Best of luck with the job hunt Icthyes! Really hope you get one soon :)

      1. Thanks Steph! I could get a normal PC one anyway but I worry if Old Faithful could handle it!

    2. Do like me: move in with someone who has an Xbox ;)

  8. The sri lankan
    17th September 2010, 0:33

    would be cool if we can get toyotas tf 110 in there too as a secret car

  9. Grand Prix legends is still the benchmark for me of GP sims so I hope this game provides a car handling experience that isn’t too aracadey. I remember Gp3 and Gp4 and there was a certain spot where you’d start to oversteer and correct it and no matter what you did the car would spin – it was like the car sped up into an accelerated spin. What was awesome about GP legends was it was hard, you could really improve to get a good lap times. I think I’ll wait for the reviews before I purchase because it looks really sweet but the proofs in the actual driving…

  10. Can’t wait until the release date :-(

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