In two days and month from now, Codemasters’ F1 2013 will finally be available for purchase! I think I can speak for a lot of F1 fans when I say that excitement grows as the release date draws near. However, this time around things are different. Codemasters announced “classic content” and with that came a lot of questions. Including one very big query: What of Ayrton Senna?
Also, in all the hype about the classic cars, tracks, and drivers, the message of what is to be expected of the modern content may have been lost to some. Luckily, I was invited to interview Steve Hood (Creative Director of F1 2013) and Paul Jeal (Game Director) of Codemasters to find out what’s new, the Senna status, and more. So scroll down and get all the info straight from the source!
MotorworldHype: OK, first things first: What exactly is new about F1 2013?
Paul Jeal: F1 2013 is our fourth interation of the Formula One series on the current new generation of consoles. The big standout new feature this year will be “classic content” and that’s historical cars, tracks, and drivers from two different decades (the 80s and 90s). We are releasing two versions of the game this year: the “classic edition” and the “standard edition.” The classic edition has all of the content, the standard edition is the 2013 game with the 1980’s classic stuff and I think two weeks after launch there will be DLC-I mean that is certainly the time for Europe. I’m not sure when the DLC will release for other markets.
In terms of other new features we’ve added to the game; we’ve got a scenario mode now which replaces the “champions mode” from last year. We’ve got 23 sets of scenarios which kind of take drivers through a journey from their very first race on the grid through some key moments in their career on their way to the world title. We’ve got a mid-session save this year. One thing that makes Formula One quite unique are the longer race experiences where you get to appreciate all the little nuances that make F1 racing unique: weather changing, strategy components, managing fuel levels and tires, all these types of things. With the mid-session saving that enables more people to complete longer races and just kind of do it in their times that suit them because you can save a race at any point as many times as you want.
We’ve got a little more RaceNet support this year in terms of feeding in challenges into the race post-launch based on Grand Prixs or whatever the conditions are for set challenges throughout the game. We’ve got Grand Prix mode coming back which basically means playing through the entire 2013 Formula One season as a licensed driver.
There are just loads of little improvements that you would expect from a franchise which is moving forward year on year in terms of AI, in terms of weather, handling improvements, and driver updates to coincide with the season. In graphics we have taken a fairly significant step forward this year two real huge reasons for that is that we have a new art director on the project and he’s been able to focus on the key areas in places where we may have been lacking last year. Also because we’re one team lighter this year. There are only 11 teams on the grid this year instead of 12 which free’d up a little bit of memory.
So now we’re literally right there now at this generation of consoles where we’re squeezing every last ounce of power out of it!
MotorworldHype: I am going to ask the question that many people had as soon as they found out about the “Classic” content: Will Ayrton Senna be in F1 2013 at any point? If not, why?
Paul Jeal: We were reasonably hopeful on that. Around January we had to make a call on whether or not we were going to pursue this for this year or if we weren’t. We had to kind of eliminate some of the risk because there were so many open ends across the board. With Senna in particular we came to two difficulties; the first being that McLaren had kind of indicated that they had an exclusive deal with a couple of other people and having Senna without McLaren would have been less than ideal. It wouldn’t have absolutely been a deal-breaker but there is also a Brazilian PC developer whom I think was planning a Senna game that was to release this year but I guess that might not happen anymore. So, we had to go to the Senna foundation and talk to them about negotiating extra rights and other various bits and pieces.
The talks are progressing but it was far too much risk to try and get it into the content for this year. Also the way that the design was shaping up was in a way that we wanted to-Well, when you approach these guys they are super competitive as you can imagine so all of the drivers want us to re-create the years when they were dominating and winning the most amount of races. So, to get more of the guys injected and get the kind of design that we wanted, we went for a feel of celebration and re-creation of classic events. It also kind of needs to be based around the current F1 circuits as well and Senna was the only name we had on the list that did not fit with the drivers we had and with design direction we were going.
So, all together it didn’t quite fit with the vision and combined with the other two licensing issues we came to the conclusion that we had to put that idea back, lower the risk, and then try to do something in the future. We want the “classic” content to be a staple of all of our games going forward and we think we can do something very specific around a name as strong as Senna. We’re fans of the sport as well and we love him so we really want to get him involved and we hope to do that in the future.
Steve Hood: Keeping on that I think externally, a lot of people thought we just overlooked Senna and that could not be further from the truth. Obviously, he is an absolute legend in the sport! It would be worth noting as well that when I managed to somehow get my job at Codemasters, on one of my original communications with the company I detailed all the things I wanted to do with the Formula 1 series and I included an image of Senna’s helmet in that document because he is such a huge part of Formula 1! So, he has been there since day one! Although, one of the things we always wanted to do was not go for the easy option that’s all about “now”. We could have gone with Senna before and we knew that including him would have boosted sales by a lot but I think we could do even better if we do justice to the Senna name and everything that he brought to Formula 1. I think in order to do that we need to take our time and do it right further down the line.
MotorworldHype: So, the final message is we aren’t getting him yet but fans can expect to see him in the future for sure?
Paul Jeal: That is definitely our intention, but until contracts are signed and various bits and pieces are taken care of things are still technically up in the air. However, we have a map of where we want to take F1 and he is definitely a part of that.
MotorworldHype: My next question is about the box art. In F1 2012 you had actual drivers on the cover but for F1 2013 you seem to have gone back to the Stig-like nameless driver that was used in the first two games. Why the switch?
Paul Jeal: Haha! Well really 2012 was probably our most successful box art reaction ever and fans were really responsive on our Facebook page but all the behind the scenes hurdles to make that work nearly killed our guys! So, with the classics being a late edition combined with the teams allowing even less access with rule changes going into next year, we just felt that it was too much work this time around. We know many people liked our box art from last year so the decision to go back to the previous style was not taken lightly for sure!
MotorworldHype: Ok, here are my last questions. First, was there anything that you could not do in F1 2013 that you really hope to do in F1 2014? Also, can you say with any certainty that the next F1 game will be on the next gen consoles (Xbox One, Playstation 4)?
Paul Jeal: Haha! Well, anyone that works with Steve and I know that we’re kind of perfectionists so we are never totally happy with any stage of game development all the way through. Certainly with the classic content there were highs and lows. Obviously, making the decision on Senna was difficult from the start. For my part, I am decently happy with the things we have managed to do for this year’s game.
For your second question, while we can’t confirm 100%, we are looking at the next gen consoles already. From a company perspective, this is a good point to take stock and look at the EGO engine and see which bits can be re-written in order to do the next-gen technology justice.
From a content point of view we wanted to maximize everything we could on this year’s game. Certainly, for any game that will be on next gen we won’t start with just this year’s game and make it a basis for the next. We are going to take certain elements across from all of our games like our weather system for example which was developed exclusively here at Codemasters Birmingham. Although, there are other areas where we are going to wind things back to the start and re-write it, so the next-gen will be quite a radical step for us.
When we signed the license back in 2008 we made the difficult decision at the time not to go with then current generation of consoles in 2009 because we needed that two-year run up to the next gen. That made it a little easier for Steve and I to convince the powers that be that any attempt on the next-gen needs to be when we are ready and we’re confident to make a full step up to next-gen rather than some kind of PC port across.
Steve Hood: It was also just too early for us to be thinking about next-gen when there was still so much we could still do with the current generation. Adding classics was something that people have been asking for since day one and it has been fantastic to be able to finally bring that to them. I think F1 2013 is really the combination of all the work we have put in since 2009 when we first started working on the technology.
When we look back at it now, there is so much stuff in this game (F1 2013) that you just don’t see in other racing games; like our weather system, the pit stop stuff, the cinematic camera views to make it feel like that broadcast Formula 1 experience that fans get on TV. It is expected of us now to be able to replicate that experience. Adding stuff like mid-race save means that a lot of people get to experience things that only a few of us in the office have because we’re playing it day in and day out.
Most people have time constraints in the real world so they’re playing short races. To get that Formula 1 magic that we keep banging on about players need to playing the game without worrying about the time and now we have given players the ability to do that.
At the end of the day I think next-gen will be like a new chapter starting fresh while F1 2013 is giving players everything we’ve dreamed of to-date. It is our greatest achievement and I am looking forward to it selling millions of copies! Haha!