Sony is taking a next gen detour past PlayStation 4 and driving PlayStation 3 technology closer to photorealistic racing with Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo 6. Kazunori Yamauchi, the acclaimed producer of the franchise and CEO of Polyphony Digital, has been busy of late globetrotting from New York to Los Angeles to Spain to celebrate the December 6th launch of the game. Yamauchi talks 15 years of virtual racing in this exclusive interview from the LA Auto Show.
As Gran Turismo celebrates its 15th anniversary, how have automobile makers become more receptive to getting involved with the game?
When we first started Gran Turismo, there was no game like it, so it was an effort to try to get people to understand what Gran Turismo was about. Now everyone has an understanding of what Gran Turismo stands for, and at the same time, we also have a lot of fans of Gran Turismo at automobile manufacturers. As a result, we can work more smoothly with them.
What role has Gran Turismo played over the last 15 years for the people who are now designing and influencing the automobile industry, who grew up playing the game?
Gran Turismo has been around for 15 years, and people who were maybe 10 years old when they started to play GT in the beginning are now over 25. I think they’ve all been affected by Gran Turismo. I’ve focused on just making the game and working on what’s in front of me, so I don’t know how it has affected others.
How do you explain the success the Gran Turismo franchise has had over the years with over 70 million copies sold to date?
I think nothing has changed in regards to that. It’s really having this curiosity for cars.
How do you take a concept car like the Mercedes Benz AMG Vision GT and turn it into a real drivable vehicle?
Whenever we recreate a car inside the game and make it drivable, we start with designing and modeling the exterior of the car and the interior. Then we start working on the physics, and that involves getting a spec sheet from the manufacturers that explains how the car operates, the weight distribution, the wheel base, the tire tread width and things like that. We then plug all these parameters into the physics engine of Gran Turismo, which simulates how the car should drive in real life.
Are there particular challenges when it comes to a concept car that in real life doesn’t have the ability to drive like a Mercedes SLS AMG GT3?
If a car won’t drive in the real world, it actually won’t work in Gran Turismo. So even though it’s a concept vehicle, they have to be careful in the design process to make sure that it’s a real working car.
When it comes to the automotive industry today, a lot of the newest innovations are in the automatic or intelligent driving. How might that influence Gran Turismo moving forward?
Of course we can do that in the video game, but in Gran Turismo we’d like to try to get everyone to know and understand how fun it is to drive a car.
When it comes to technology, can you talk about how far you’re pushing the capabilities of the PlayStation 3 with GT6?
We actually pushed the hardware quite hard for GT 6, and maybe a little too hard for the PS3.
Can you talk about the second screen experience you’ll add to GT6?
Gran Turismo has always worked at trying to break that line between the video game and auto industry, among other industries. That hasn’t changed, and won’t change in the future. If it’s interesting, we’ll try to do it. The Gran Turismo app is just a natural course of progress.
Where did you draw inspiration from to be able to have a real car – the Toyota 86 GT – act as a controller for GT6?
It’s just because I like cars, and I’m always thinking of what you can do with them.
What are the challenges of pushing the racing genre forward with each new game?
What we do every time doesn’t really change. If we don’t enjoy making it, it’s not going to be a fun game. It’s really a process of finding what’s fun for us, as well as what’s fun for the players.
With the PS4 available now, what are your thoughts as a game developer about the power that it brings to game development?
I think you know that the PS4, compared to the PS3, the games are going to be easier to make because with the PS3 you had to really fine-tune the game to get it to perform well and put out high performance content. It’s not going to be as difficult on the PS4.
What excites you about where game development is going as you look towards the next generation?
For us, the hardware getting better is a good thing, so it’s always a great when new advancements are made.
What’s it like for you to come to car shows like the LA Auto Show in terms of finding inspiration and seeing all these new cars?
Looking at all these cars and sensing the designs trends is part of the enjoyment of coming to these shows.
What’s it like to have GT6 finished and heading to gamers?
With the release of GT6, we are celebrating 15 years of Gran Turismo. It has been a privilege to have seen so many advancements made over this period, with GT6 continuing to set new standards that blur the line between virtual and reality racing. With GT6, we will make it even more flexible and expandable by continuing to develop and add new content throughout its life.