Since 2010, Codemasters have been publishing annual releases of licenced Formula 1 games, each replicating the official season with all the tracks, cars and drivers. With each version of the game, they bring a new element or improvement to the series and for F1 2017, which is due for release this month; they have brought back classic race cars as well as revamp the structure of the career mode.
Lee Mather, Creative Director for the Formula One Game series at Codemasters explained why they wanted to bring back some past legends. “We had classic cars in the 2013 version of the game (F1 2013) and they were a real fan favourite. It made sense to bring the classics back to the series but only once we were happy with the core game experience on PS4 and Xbox One. They look, sound and feel incredible. We love driving them and hopefully you will too.”
Of course with the large shake-up in the regulations for the season which saw the performance of the cars greatly improve, Lee said it was a chance to go toe-to-toe with other ground breaking machines. “We also felt that the major changes to the rules this season, which have produced some of the fastest Formula 1 cars of all time, offered a great opportunity to compare and contrast with some of the sports previous greats.”
F1 2017 fires up twelve monsters from the past 3 decades including McLaren, Ferrari and Renault cars, and the creative team had the unenviable task of having to narrowing down the list of their favourite cars and getting them into the game. “We put together a list of the cars that we would ideally like to include in the game based upon our favourites and requests from the community. Our existing relationships with teams and sponsors were also important. After all there are a host of teams that no longer exist and tracking down who owns what can be very complex.”
“Another key consideration for us was, how well they would race together, and what really compelling gameplay we could create with such a diverse range of Formula 1 cars.
It was then a case of reaching an agreement and tracking down the actual cars so that we could get working on the reference materials that we need to get them into the game, everything from measurements, technical specs and engine recordings.”
The Classic Vehicles are not just included in the game as an exhibition or showcase, rather they have been incorporated into the Career Mode where the player will be invited to take part in special events throughout the season as a competitive break from the regular career competition.
“As well as being available in Championship Mode, Quick Race, Time Trial and multiplayer, the classics are also integrated into the Career Mode. During your career you will be offered the chance to take part in special ‘invitational events’ throughout the Season. There are different styles of event, such as Pursuit, Overtake Challenge, Time Attack and Checkpoint Challenge as well as different race formats. It helps to vary the challenge and also allows us to showcase our four new alternative shorter track layouts.”
Making an officially licenced video game comes with its own unique opportunities to recreate the season as closely as possible to the real thing. “We have a fantastic relationship with all of the teams and a number of the drivers and they are always happy to offer advice and input about every aspect of the game, and that includes career. We are fortunate to have such a strong knowledge base to fall back on and everyone is extremely helpful.”
But with that, there are also restrictions which they must abide to when trying to balance the community requests with the licencing. “We greatly value the input from our community and listen to every piece of feedback and act on it wherever possible. However, there are some limitations placed upon us by the license which mean that some suggestions are off the table.”
“Our community is integral to the game. We bring members in very early in the development process so that they can see the direction we are taking the game in, and provide feedback about a whole host of areas, from handling to game modes.
We have also conducted a number of closed Betas throughout the development which have escalated in scale over time and seen a steady flow of information and feedback come into the studio from our community.”
Bringing back older cars are not the only thing that Lee and the team have been working on since the release of F1 2016, they have also made the career mode deeper and made it more reflective of what goes on in a team away from the race day on Sunday.
“One of the main changes we have made is the expansion of the Career Mode. F1 2016’s career mode was very popular and we are building on those foundations to create an even deeper, more rounded experience. One of the most obvious aspects is that you can now select a female avatar for your driver, and we have added a number of new paddock locations.”
“The Research and Development (R&D) and practice programmes return but they are greatly expanded. The old R&D system was linear whereas in F1 2017 it is far more wide ranging, almost like a skills tree you would see in an RPG.”
Like in real life, your actions on the track will have an influence on the team management in the paddock, and there is much more to keep your eye on than just the lights at the front of the grid.
“In reflection of the real sport, there is also a greater emphasis on the management of your car, especially the gearbox and engine. Having to change either of those during a race weekend will incur penalties so it is important that you try to limit any unnecessary wear.
“Everything the player does in practice, qualifying and the race has an impact on how they’re perceived by all of the teams. Keeping a close eye on what other teams think of you, will give you a clearer indication of where contracts are likely to be coming from.”
The team were also keen to make the game as true to the F1 season as possible, and the performances from drivers were taken into account in balancing the skills they have in the virtual world. However, F1 2017 is all about making your own history and mark on the sport.
F1 2017 will also see the arrival of the first F1 Esports Series.
F1 2017 is released August 25th on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.