What Makes Gran Turismo 5 Possibly the Best Racing Simulator Ever Made? Go Karts and More
Polyphony Digital guru Kazunori Yamauchi details a few additions besides go-karts to his current racing magnum opus.
Kazunori Yamauchi loves cars. If that much isn't already obvious from the release of Gran Turismo up until GT4 a few years back, it's obvious when he discusses the new cars being added to the franchise in Gran Turismo 5. He tells us about how the Pagani Zonda R '09 recently won the Nürburgring circuit. Or the secret history of 1967, where players can now race the Ford Mark IV Race Car '67, or the Jaguar XJ13 Race Car '67, or even the Lamborghini Miura P400 Bertone Prototype '67 during that fateful year. He even gives props to the 2010 Subaru WRX STI. The man loves vehicles with two axes. And he's using that love in GT5. Here are four reasons how he's working to make it the ultimate car game this fall.
B-Spec is now a fully prepared and rich mode.
Yamauchi admits that the idea of splitting Gran Turismo into A-spec ("the real driving simulator") and B-spec (the racing simulation RPG) dates as far back as Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec back in 2001. He had intended to release GT3 B-Spec immediately afterwards, but development problems ultimately led to B-spec being somewhat (but not to his standards) implemented in GT4. But now, it's about ten years later, and B-spec is what he wants it to be.
As a refresher, A-spec is the traditional driving simulator (Yamauchi promises improvements on the physics, especially in regards to tires and suspension) while B-spec is the "you watch and tell another guy how to race mode." For B-spec, it's all about "nurturing your drivers" and guiding them (and their unique personalities) through each race. Yamauchi proudly shows off the multiple views in B-spec; how you have a command mode that shows a leadersboard, the live view of the race, conditions of tires and brakes and overall damage, the course map itself, and even the driver's physical and mental endurance (Yamuachi also points out the general "heat" meter, noting that drivers in a heated state might simply choose to not listen to your commands). Then there's the full view which is a picture-friendly version of the race that still allows for commands (maintain pace, up pace, overtake, pit in or out) to be issued easily. Then there's the live-timing monitor which is a hardcore spreadsheet-style breakdown of everyone's racing times per sector. In short, even though you're not actually racing yourself, there's enough visual and systemic feedback to add that racing thrill to an A.I racer that you're giving orders to.
There's now a Course Maker
Yamauchi then points out that GT5 has a Course Maker, not a course editor. He initially wanted to offer a tool that would allow players to create everything from scratch, but that would require producing a crazy-intensive CG tool that would intimidate players too much. So he opted for a system that would allow pretty much anyone to make a cool track.
The idea is that after selecting a theme (such as "early evening in Toscana" or "Germany in spring"), you'd then tell it to tweak some parameters (such as number of sections, one-way versus looped courses, weather, and time), and tell it to crunch those factors into a randomly generated map. Yamauchi likes the fact that "each course generated will be a genuine surprise" through this system. Of course, you can also share courses and race online with buddies in your creation.
Yamauchi demonstrates the Course Maker by selecting a Toscana theme and making it a one-way course with four sections. He does stuff like fiddle with the numbers for the frequency of curves, the sharpness of corners, and even the degree of topography. It's super fast and easy to tweak these numbers and then go right into a test drive before sharing the track with buddies -- and he demonstrated how fast the game can just create random and varied courses even when crunching the same numbers and parameters.
There's not just a photo mode, there's a 3D photo mode
This isn't even an aspect of the simulation or the game, but Yamauchi really, really likes how there's 3D photography. Sure, the ability to take pictures of your car(s) in cool places around the world was present before, but thanks to Sony's push for 3D, it's even snazzier in GT5. Yamauchi showed off some vanity 3D shots at the Redbull Hangarin Austria while explaining that to him, 3D technology works best in still photography rather than in motion. To be fair, when I looked at a Lamborghini inching up behind a Ferrari, the 3D effect is quite striking. If you're a 3D photography guru, you might be pleased to know that GT5 supports the MPO file format. If ever there was a beauty aspect to racing, it's seeing race cars pop out of the screen with the right equipment.
There's now a Kart mode
To me, this is quite possibly the greatest addition to the franchise. Yamauchi joked that karts were planned for Gran Turismo 6, but word about said plans leaked out and now they're in GT5. Whatever the case may be, it's awesome how the visual and physics-based fidelity of a car in Gran Turismo can now be applied to a fellow riding an engine with a seat and a frame strapped around it.
Yamauchi comments that GT5 can now "recreate the dynamic movements specific to karts" and that there's a whole set of "peculiar racing geometries and suspensions" in addition to the movement of the driver himself, that all come to play when racing karts. It's such a weird little system that the team is hurriedly focused on tweaking and tuning this specific feature as we speak, but it's a welcome feature to me. Yamauchi is hoping that this special kart-racing mode will appeal to beginners, and as someone who has respected, but not necessarily enjoyed, Gran Turismo throughout the years, I might actually play this one. Because look at how realistic and physically modeled-and-sound that guy in a go-kart is!