gamescom – GT5 Yamauchi demo reveals Course Maker, B-Spec, Kart racing and more

Thursday, 19 August 2010 09:00 GMT By Patrick Garratt


Polyphony Digital boss Kanunori Yamauchi showed off the latest build of Gran Turismo 5 in Cologne yesterday, finally announcing modes to create tracks, manage races in what looks to be an exhaustive B-Spec mode and much more.

Yamauchi spoke in an early session in Cologne yesterday – the content of which was embargoed until now, presumably to coincide with the Famitsu issue that leaked yesterday – to show near-final code of his epic racer to gamescom attendees. Get new screens below.

Yamauchi said he had downloaded the code from his hotel room that morning (“That’s how fresh it is!”) which probably explains why it only crashed once. The conference consisted of a series of live demos showing off a slew of new features in what will be one of the final big information releases before the game ships in November.

What is now, what could have been

The developer showed a new track in Monza – which he said was ideal for both novices and experts – and some new cars on static screens, such as an Impreza Sudan and a Lexuys Racing Concept, then launched into a what amounted to a history lecture on the 1967 GT circuit.

The Ferrari 230 E4 popped up on screen, Yamauchi saying it’s one of his favourite cars “in the world.” Resplendent in red and gold with a 21 painted on the side, the car took first, second and third place at Daytona in 1967, only to be beaten at Le Mans in the same year by the Ford GT MKIV. Apparently this is a famous motorsport story.

With everyone looking a little baffled, Yamauchi went on to explain that the Jaguar XK13 was supposed to participate in the 1967 Le Man race – it had a top cylinder engine mounted mid-ship, don’t you know – but the project was cancelled immediately before the event and the car was never seen in action. Jaguar only has one of them. Yamauchi and his team have put it in the game.

Yamauchi’s idea is to be allow people to recreate a race that never happened. Correct: you can use cars you probably never knew about to live out a fantasy only serious car enthusiasts will have ever known. The images on the screen, the lecture on a race that never was and the combinative slack-jawed expression on the assembled faces were the first hint at an attention to detail in GT5 that most normal people would describe as “fucking mental”.

Easy as A-Spec, B-Spec

History out of the way, Yamauchi moved onto his first big reveal. As was leaked from Famitsu yesterday, GT5 has two, equally-billed game modes – A-Spec and B-Spec.

A-Spec’s the “real driving simulator” mode you’re familiar with from other GT games. B-Spec is “the racing simulation RPG”. You know what it’s like to watch an F1 race? It’s like that, but you can interact with it.

He didn’t show A-Spec at all, focusing on the new mode. B-Spec didn’t go too well in Gran Turismo 4, he said, and it was included only experimentally, but will be included in the game at the same “volume” as A-Spec in GT5.

In B-Spec, commands are given to the driver – or drivers – in a race. Each driver has a unique personality which you nurture, as with characters in a normal RPG. Yamauchi described the mode as “the start of a new GT Life”.

Drivers levels up as they go through races; one may end up hot-tempered while another may be timid.

You start with one driver, but can end up with six. You’ll need at least four drivers to complete a 24-hour race. On the mode’s main screen, drivers are shown at top right with numbers next to them indicating level, at a guess. Arrows next to their helmeted images point right and down, indicating condition. Drivers need to recover, and so on, and have mental and physical health attributes which are affected in real-time during races.

Yamauchi flicked through menu screens. It’s detail-tastic. The main part of the mode is called Command View, and includes a Life Monitor for the driver in action, a leaderboard, a race timeline at the top, the condition of tires and brakes on a diagram at the top left, and a course map below.

There’s command detail at the bottom, and driver status, showing physical and mental endurance represented by green and blue bars. There’s a hot and cold slider which shows how agitated the driver is on the track. If a driver is very agitated he may not hear commands and ignore you, or may drive erratically.

The race happens within all this in a window. You can command the driver to pit, not to pit, maintain pace, increase pace, slow down, and so on.

You can swap views to go full-screen, first-person, whatever. Just to reiterate, you’re not driving the car; you’re the manager. The race he demos is an eight lap event called Supercar Festival on the Nurburgring in a Ferrari 458 Italia ’09.

There are more stats. In Lifetime View, you can see how fast each car is driving through each sector of the race, a live image of your driver still feeding at the top of the screen. This apes what’s seen by teams in race pits.

And now, thanks to one man’s life-long obsession with cars, you can see it too.

Magic track maker

Yamauchi then, casually, announced a track creation system called Course Maker. This has been heavily rumoured, and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Firstly, you don’t actually make the track. It’s a course generator. Yamauchi said the team tried lots of tools for this feature, but halfway through development he realized they were creating a full, professional 3D tool and it wasn’t accessible to mere mortals. The final result is something that can be used by anyone.

It’s very simple. Yamauchi showed four “themes,” including Belgium, one just outside the Nurburgring in German and Toscana in Italy. I’m not sure he said what the other one was. He picked Toscana.

To make your track, you just select a number of sections, whether or not to make it one-way or a loop, weather and time of day. You can control frequency of curves, the course’s width, sharpness of corners, how closely the track flows with the topography of the terrain and bank angle – each has a number adjustable from 0-1.

You can set parameters for each section of your course. Once you’ve selected everything and you’re happy with it, you simply hit a button and the track’s generated on a 2D map on the left side of the screen. You can test drive any track at any time. Hit the button again and a new track appears.

He makes two Italian tracks, tweaking corners to show how things change. Tracks can be uploaded, saved, shared and so on.

And that’s all we saw on that.

Have some 3D – you may as well

He wasn’t finished there. Yamauchi then showed off a 3D photo mode, showing something called Photo Travel. He reckoned this is “one of the best ways of getting the most of the 3D format that we have”. Righto, we said, and got up out of our seats to have a look.

It’s pretty cool. It’s just a series of images in 3D. You arrange your cars as you like, take “photos” of them – obviously, you can adjust angles of front tires, set shutter speed, exposure and whatever else – and look at them. On a screen. Wearing a big pair of glasses.

Want to look at your Citreon Berlingo in a Japanese garden at night? Prepare to live the dream. The detail is ludicrous. There’s even an oil-like stress effect on windscreen glass. Images are made in the MPO file format, so photos can be outputted to different media and viewed elsewhere.

And that was it? Of course not.

Gran Turismo Kart

Yes, GT5 has karts. Like Mario Kart, but with “real” karts and no mushrooms. It’s “great” for beginners, apparently. Hilariously, Yamauchi said, “We were saving this for GT6,” but we’ll let that ride.

He showed a video of karts racing round an Italian city, saying the mode “changes the world of Gran Turismo”.

At this point, I write in my notes, as I knew I would, “This is the only car game you’ll ever need.” We didn’t see anything of multiplayer, which is sure to get an airing at TGS. Christ only knows what he’s done there. You can probably be a single spectator in a crowd of 5,000 at some Malaysian sledge race in 1924.

Tom Bramwell from Eurogamer asked Yamauchi a question about whether or not he’d take another year if Sony offered it. He laughed and said something about being close to finishing and it’d be “rough” to go back into dev. Whether or not he had more time, the battle’s won. There never really was a battle, in retrospect. Gran Turismo 5 is the most complete, polished, obsessive, impressive interactive car product ever made. I can say that in all sincerity after seeing what I saw. You will agree with me when you see it for yourself.

GT5 ships on November 2 in the US and November 3 in Europe.