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Formula One 2001 interview

Once again Sony Computer Entertainment of America was kind enough to grant us a Question and Answer period with SCEA Producer Taku Imasaki about his soon to be released Formula One 2001 for the Playstation 2. The game is shaping up to be the a F1 fan's dream come true. Check back with us soon for the definitive review. In the meantime check out our conversation with Imasaki-san.

Mike Weatherup: Previous console Formula 1 titles have had grave difficulty trying to balance an arcade approach with a viable simulation approach. As a result these titles have lacked any real fun for the non-Formula 1 race fan. What have you done with Formula One 2001 to address these issues?

Taku Imasaki: The situation is now different with PlayStation 2. A simulation approach using the PlayStation 2, if done right, will actually translate into a fun experience, thanks to the calculation and drawing capabilities of the new hardware. With the Formula 1 audience growing significantly every year, our focus was to make this game as authentic as possible. We believe it makes more sense to capture the enthusiastic F1 audience by making the most true-to-life F1 game, than trying to address non-F1 gamers using watered-down racing physics.

MW: The game is boasting incredibly lifelike Driver AI based on more than 30 different parameters and complied by real F1 professionals. Could you explain this process in a little more detail and give us an indication how all of this will translate onto the track during races.

TI: In order to really appreciate how this works, you have to keep in mind that in Formula One 2001 the AI has to control the car in pretty much the same way that the player does - as though it was playing with a DualShock2 controller. The parameters that the AI is based on cover areas like how quick their reaction at the start is, how big or small a gap needs to be to the car in front before they go for it, how likely they are to make mistakes under pressure or how well they perform in Qualifying. We've compiled the values for these parameters with numerous F1 professionals, like former Grand Prix Driver Martin Brundle, who also delivers the commentary in the game.

MW: It is no secret that car manufacturers played a role in holding back real-time damage in GT3 A-spec. What can we expect in terms of damage if any for Formula One 2001?

TI: The licensor we work with for F1 is a sanction body called Formula One Management, and the situation is different from Gran Turismo where we deal with each and individual car manufacturer. Since we deal with the sanction body, their interest is more focused on how we present & deliver the entire racing experience. They wouldnt be concerned as much about damage of individual cars, so long as they are realistic. Turn the damage options on in the game and youll see the results!

MW: How would you compare your role and approach to this game compared to that during GT3's development cycle? Are you using the same graphic engine or has a new one been built from the ground up?

TI: F1 and GT3 are created by different developers (F1- Liverpool Studios in UK, GT3 Polyphony in Tokyo), and each developer uses their own unique graphic engines and tools (built from ground up) for their franchise. My usual role (as external producer) on these titles developed overseas is to put effort in making the games "work" for the US market. The approach to this game was more focused on tweaking it to be friendlier for newcomers to the F1 world, since F1 is still a growing autosport in the US. This is similar to the approach I took for the original Gran Turismo for PS1 (not GT3).

MW: Giving your best estimate, approximately how much of the PS2's power have you been able to tap? Are there things you would like to add to a future iteration of the game?

TI: It's hard to tell - you have to keep in mind that the game was developed before the PS2 performance analyzer even became available and that this was the teams first PS2 title. We're happy that we've achieved our initial targets for the projects and are now building on that for the 2002 game. We know where and how we can gain substantially more performance and that's what we're going after. We're looking at the very tip of the iceberg and I think already you're seeing much more of the PS2 potential with recent or upcoming releases.

MW: Lastly, assuming that online play is not an option this year, would you like to incorporate online play in future installments of the game?

TI: Absolutely - we'd love to. Everyone knows the hurdles that have to be overcome first, but we're pretty sure that we'll be working on something like this in the not too distant future.

MW: Thank you for your time. We look forward to the final product.

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