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Formula 1 - Codemasters


tyler
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Here goes:

Ramblings & thanks from T4RG4 (Steve Hood)

Part I:

And so... we've finally arrived... it's release week!

I'm sure many of the Codemasters staff feel the way I do right now. It's a strange sense of moving into the unknown. We've worked so hard over the last few months, to complete this game people appear to be desperate to get hold of, and yet it didn't finish in a blaze of glory. There was no sudden midnight deadline that we had to hit so that the shops could have our game on the shelves come morning. We submitted the various builds to Microsoft and Sony and, over time, they each received approvals. Discs went to manufacture and we started to disperse, using some of the additional holiday we'd built up to simply get out of the studio, to get away from making games for a short while. I've been meaning to post about the development process but there is simply not enough space on the Internet for me to do that this evening. Therefore I'll just comment on the highlights that come to mind knowing that I'll likely pass over some classic points and completely miss many of the key contributors - the best way around this is to say that this game was put together by a great many people, many of whom I'd consider to be the best I've worked with. Without them there would be no game. Special thanks has to go to the guys that worked for me directly (Gareth who put so much design into the Paddock, Mark with the Career, Tibi with the penalties and upgrades and of course Lee with the handling).

Tomorrow the game launches in America, over the next few days across Europe and on Friday (our traditional release day) here in the UK. I've been out of the office for a week now but not away from the pull this game seems to have generated. I can't really tear myself away from the game what with the forum, Twitter and the occasional promo event. This has become a very big part of my life and, like a few of the developers, I'm both scared and excited to see people's reactions to the title we've battled with over the past two years. Will they like it? Won't they like it? Will they see what we were trying to get across? Do they realise how much we've put into this and do they understand we're not some corporate monster trying to fleece them of their hard earned money? Time will tell.

For me it all started back around Christmas 2008. I'd heard Codemasters had acquired the F1 license and, if I'm honest, I wondered what they'd make of it. Formula One used to generate some great games... Chequered Flag on the Spectrum... Super Monaco GP on the Mega-drive... the classic Geoff Crammond series. I played them all to death but what happened after that? Bizarre Creations put out some interesting racers but I honestly don't remember them having the same impact on me as the aforementioned games. I wondered if I could have another shot at making an F1 game ten years after my last attempt.

I'd started working for Sony back in '97 and became lead designer on the F1 series when it was decided the titles would move in-house for the launch of Playstation 2. I remember seeing what the PS2 was capable of at the time and wondered if it could get any better. I learnt an awful lot during the development of that title, not least the fact that handling is everything. We had some rather cool physics and AI routines at the time but I'm not too sure I managed to get that across in the game. I didn't play it all that much once it was released. I was into Gran Turismo during that era, absolutely loved it all - especially the oil change to stave off the effects of long-term engine wear which resulted in power loss, it's the small details! This gave me the idea of looking after your engines during the season. One of the aspects I have carried across from my last F1 outing is the ability to tweak things whilst in-car. I think we called it Live Dynamics back then.

I left F1 behind after putting togehter the outline for th e'02 game. A management change at Sony led to a change in project direction and, rather than throw my toys out of the pram, I decided to move on to pastures new. I entered the phase I call my 'tour of duty' during which I moved around the country and industry working for a variety of developers some great, some small. Each taught me something new, but with each new game came the realisation that it is... really, really, really difficult to get a great game together. It's made all the more difficult as team sizes get bigger because (and this might be somewhat controversial) there just aren't enough good developers to go around the industry. Sometimes a development team gets the right kind of balance and is then able to produce a single or entire series of triple-A titles. Look at how many games enter the market each year and you'll see many fail to make any kind of significant return, if any at all. This is not to say it's always the teams fault, certainly not. Often too many people become involved in the decision making process when it comes to development. Yet I digress...

So what's it like here, at Codemasters (specifically the Birmingham Studio)? Much better than I thought it would be. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly sceptical of Codemasters taking on the F1 license but after joining them I was very quickly converted. I've met some great people here and I can see some quality games coming out of this company over the next few years. All the ingredients are here. My in to the project came about thanks to a designer working for me elsewhere. I'd taken him from the Birmingham Studio which was, at the time, known as Swordfish. He used his contacts to get me an interview and I passed through each of the various meetings despite nearly losing the opportunity thanks to my claim that handling was more important than anything else in a racing game. Fortunately one of the people in that interview happened to be Paul Jeal (Senior Producer who had joined for F1) who I later discovered, cared as much about making a great F1 game as I did. I'd put together some notes on what I thought F1 was all about and I think the cover of that document had on it a picture of Ayrton Senna's helmet. He raced in the era that captured my attention. The great rivalries, the amazing cars, Mansell, Prost, the struggles of Ferrari, the different engines... amazing times. I've spent 20mins searching for this and, despite it being my meeting notes have decided to put it online for anyone interested in seeing how my thoughts back then translate into the game you will shortly have in your possession. There are some errors in it but I might as well show you what I took to one of my interviews, warts 'n all!

When I moved to Birmingham in March 2009 the basic foundations of Be the Driver, Live the Life were already set. I bought into what they were trying to achieve thinking it to be a novel approach to their objective of reinventing the series. From the very outset Codemasters appeared determined to make a big deal out of the license and knew they needed to take their time. The Wii title developed by Sumo was due out that year but internally we were still unsure whether our game would appear with 2009 or 2010 data. Our release date moved around a few times but I, like many others in the studio, was adamant we had to release with current season data. Whilst the 2009 season was fantastic, seeing the birth of a new (ish) team help Jenson to his first title, we wanted people to be playing amongst the cars, tracks, drivers and technologies of the current season. Then Schumacher announced he was returning... three new teams were to appear on the grid, Mercedes would run their own team... new tracks... to say we were pleased with the decision to launch with 2010 data would be an understatement. This would be one of many brave decisions Codemasters would take in order to boost the quality and ultimately appeal, of their first Formula One title. This put additional pressure on us in terms of licensing but it was worth it.

Part II:

Part II (wow, I wrote a load - again!)

Even when I'd arrived there was a great deal of cool technology surfacing but little of it was in a playable state. The weather system was looking great and ended up being something we're all very proud of. Over time the physics were adapted and refined so as to better hit the handling goals we set ourselves very early on. The AI started to move over and defend its position... (I've wanted to see that for years), the pit-lane filled with crews working on their team cars... mechanics resided in the garages, interviewers waited in the paddock for news on your season thus far. Things came on quite slowly to begin with. Let's not forget that whilst the team were using the powerful EGO engine on which other famous games had been based it was now in the hands of a new team unfamiliar with the technology. Fortunately we had many other people around the Codemasters family helping in critical areas, a real company effort, but inevitably there is a learning process. Some areas are rewritten or modified in order to take account of the specifics of Formula One (not many racing games have to deal with 24 cars) and it'd be fair to say there were periods when many of us thought we'd never get the game out in 2010! Beyond the development aspects one of the things I was very keen to do was involve the community more. At a previous studio we were very open in allowing certain developers to post on our community forums. I saw how people responded to that and looked to take that attitude to every place I worked thereafter. It wasn't met with unanimous applause when first raised with the community departments looking after F1 (looking back I can see what they were trying to protect us from) but after many tense meetings and discussions we finally agreed to allow me access to the forums. I'd seen the calls for information and wanted to start providing it. At the start of 2010 the doors started to open, the company geared up for promotion of F1 and I jumped on the coat-tails to get my Twitter account approved. It's not an official channel, but when you're talking about your employer and their project it stands to reason you want those above you to sanction its use This community interaction has snowballed massively since then and I take my hat off to the PR, Brand and Community departments at Codemasters. We've all become closer and work together tirelessly to promote the game. I'd go so far as to say it's the best I've experienced in my time in game development and I take my hat off to them all - a very talented bunch. @AndyGray_ still laughs at the fact I am always very critical of everything. I can't help but look for ways to make something better. I hate acceptable! They hate me sometimes Yet at the end of the day I think the promotion of F1 has gone extremely well. In some areas we've tried to do things a little differently and I dare to say it's worked. I think this will filter through to other projects (I see it happening already) and I've therefore been hatching plans to increase our transparency further on the next project. Just wait until they hear what I want to do next...

There were development highlights in March this year when, at our first public showing, people (including some from this very forum) responded positively to the game. I for one was very apprehensive about showing the game because I felt it both looked and played nothing like version we had in mind for release. I specifically remember one of the community guys saying he remembered my first F1 post back at Sony in 2001. A reminder that your words on the Internet remain forever! The showing went down very well and during this time we became progressively more open about the development of the game. The forum started to become ever more busy and there were finally concrete things to be discussing. In the summer we really ramped up the development process but I wasn't too sure, at that point, whether we'd overcome a really serious problem with the handling model. Ant Davidson who we'd contracted to help us with handling feel was rightly trying to get us to move towards something we could only ever fleetingly hit - a realistic driving feel. We'd take one step towards it and another away... we couldn't ever seemingly pull everything together at the same time and people started to doubt whether we ever would...

The unusual thing is we had just one designer (@TheLeeMather) working full-time on the handling. Normally a developer would have upwards of three on a title like this and to make it even more challenging, Lee was new to game development. He'd held a few roles at the studio over the years but we plucked him from IT as he was incredibly keen to get into development as a designer, loved F1 and loved cars. He knew his stuff and his enthusiasm kept things ticking along. He was tied to the Physics coder (Neil) for a few weeks in an attempt to get to grips with what the system offered currently and could provide in the future. After this period of forced 'marriage' Lee moved alongside myself as I was becomingly increasingly involved in the progress of this area. I felt that if we had rubbish handling nobody would care about the other aspects of the game. Anyone that followed progress of our development will remember Lee and I working in that studio until all hours. Credit to Neil and Lee, they eventually pulled it together as various modules were either modified or rewritten. Throughout I had regular pressure from all sides to sign-off on the handling model and class it as complete so other areas reliant on its stability (e.g. AI) could be made easier to balance. Every time the pressure reached breaking point I'd announce it as practically complete in order to relieve that pressure and calm those alongside me. In reality I was merely buying Le more time to move the handling along. As he discovered new ways of pushing the system he found ever more appealing handling traits we were desperate to get into the game. Many nerves were damaged but the model you'll get your hands on is far, far better than it might otherwise have been. I found myself staying late in the office just to drive the cars around the track, I was loving it. We'd hit a sweet spot. During this period Lee and I raced many supposed rival titles. rFactor we enjoyed playing when attempting to break one another's lap record around Silverstone, at one point I qualified ahead of Lee by a thousandth of a second. We really were very close despite having quite different driving styles. Where'd I'd shift up early Lee would thrash the engine. This played a small part in our exploration of driving styles and upgrades found within the game. One thing we didn't enjoy was the countless restarts we used when trying to race. It was quite hard trying to drive consistently fast in that game. We resolved very early on to make it easier to lean on the cars in ours. We wanted to enable people to enjoy shaving time from their laps, not thanking their lucky stars they'd stayed on-track for another lap. This would give players scope to consider other aspects of their car and the race.

During production of this game many people have asked me why we didn't include X, Y or Z features. I've been told so many times that X is a vital ingredient only for the person next to them to disagree. There is no ideal feature list that'll gain unreserved approval from everyone. We simply cannot include everything in our first game and tough decisions have to be made. We didn't include mechanical failures (for example) because I would like us to do this properly. For starters I don't like random failures so straight off it'll take us longer to implement a system whereby wear and tear on the car feeds into the likelihood of systems shutting down. I want the player to be able to work around them if spotted early enough. For the older gamers out there, think of the crack that'd appear at the top of the screen as your car took a pounding in Crammonds wonderful Stunt Car title. Why no Safety Car? That became quite a topic of conversation in the office! The SC issue is quite black and white, even amongst the community. Yes, it's quite cool in real life because it sparks a lot of activity, change of strategy and brings the cars closer together but I want all those elements in our game not just a car that trundles around the track when an accidents occurred. We want to include things that we have time to do justice to and that proved extremely tough with the game you'll soon have in your possession let alone anything on top of that. We built this game from the ground-up and everything took a great deal of planning and effort. We pushed the development period as far as we could... we're always very aware of what's being called for. Sometimes I feel as though the gap between F1 games has played against us because people have had so long to imagine all the features they'd love to have in their ideal F1 title.

Part III:

Have we made the best F1 game ever? Well, that's not for me to call. Personally I think there are elements in this game that tower over games I've loved in the past but we're in a different era now. We're aware that when this game launches we're compared against other popular series such as FIFA, Madden and the like. They've had years and years invested into them yet we're to appear alongside them after a relatively short development period. Gran Turismo is still around and I'm looking forward to seeing what that can offer after an unbelievable period in development but I no longer have as much passion for that as I once did. I think it's because it's not moved on as much as it could have. Forza caught my attention, I loved the second one but put little into the third. Road cars offer something very different to the experience had when racing F1... it's been a long time since everyone could get their hands on an F1 game and the reviews have been as positive as I could have hoped for but the opinions I really value, the ones that'll have the most impact on me personally, are those of the community. I sincerely hope you enjoy playing this game as much as I've enjoyed making it.

Many of us will be keeping a close eye on your feedback over the next few days and weeks, not just for the follow-up title but some other more immediate bits and pieces. I hope to see many of you online over the coming weeks and months! My favourite track is Melbourne if anyone's setting up a private race...

Steve (T4RG4)

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The Moto GP one is much, much tighter - it's actually a proper corner you'd need to brake and turn for in an F1 car (as you do in the game, supposedly). The F1 version is basically just a gentle left turn onto the Hanger Straight.

Looks ok here no? Skip to 5:47

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Here goes:

Ramblings & thanks from T4RG4 (Steve Hood)

Thanks, Tyler, I found that an interesting insight into the game's development. I'm already looking forward to F1 2011 just to see what stuff they can put into it now that have the basic game there.

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Right, put some more hours in today, so here's some more impressions. The thing that mostly comes to mind when I play this: F1 2010 really is back to school, even for (fairly) seasoned racing game players. It's got HARD written all over it.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS GAME!

Seriously, I'm playing this with ABS on (no Brake Assist, thank God), Traction Control on Full and even the Dynamic Line on (may be due to the pad, but we'll see how wheel users fare). Basically all of the tracks I know by heart, but finding the proper lines and braking points with an F1 car is a totally different story. I keep braking either just too late or way too early. Aside from that, I still find myself getting my car back to front once (or twice) every two or three laps.

I'm kinda pleased that it's a game that'll take effort to get good at, and especially pleased that those Forza experts on here will need to do some relearning. I can't wait to see the difference between using a wheel and a pad.

Also, I never realized how strict the rules of Formula One racing actually are. When you get off track and try to get back on, it's very hard not to get penalized for 'dangerous driving'. It's a matter of just not seeing a car going past, and BAM!, you've got a 10 second penalty. I certainly wouldn't recommend playing with the rules on Realistic, and starting with Reduced. Again: don't underestimate this game.

I think this would be interesting to have a (non-championship) race on Realistic just to see how we all fare and how it effects the final standings. I reckon it'll be amusing just to see how much time penalties we all rack up

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Looks ok here no? Skip to 5:47

*snip*

Mmm, looks a bit on the tight side - it's something you don't really need to turn for on the F1 circuit. Saw another forum thread where they mentioned it reminded them of the Moto GP modification too.

Still, it's certainly a teeny, tiny negative point. Thing looks great fun :).

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Anyone finding the controls okay with a pad? I've heard a lot of complaints, but there are also plenty who claim that in spite of a relatively steep learning curve, it's fine. I'm hoping it's okay but if not, well, it pays for FIFA next week. :)

According to my flatmate, the main issue is the deadzone. Rather than have the steering quite light toward the centre of the stick's axis you get nothing, and then a lot of steering when you go over that. I will give it a go myself this evening (perhaps against some of you fine chaps :ph34r: ) and decide for myself :).

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I think this would be interesting to have a (non-championship) race on Realistic just to see how we all fare and how it effects the final standings. I reckon it'll be amusing just to see how much time penalties we all rack up

i'm in for that, my rabid F1 fanboy leaning might just help me out here.

Hopefully i won't be getting Blue flagged.

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He also posted the 10-page notes document he took into his job interview up on the main forum for people to read - was particularly interesting, and rather good of him to put something like that up for everyone to see.

He seems a good egg - was particularly impressed by early things I read where he mentioned Crammond's F1 titles as his inspiration. He most certainly knows his F1!

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You are using the Logitech driver manager right?

And what do you mean by "right degrees"?

If a wheel is ajustable then the game should move accordingly. The GT can be adjusted in the Logitech device manager program.

You set the wheel to whatever your comfy with.

http://www.logitech.com/en-gb/441/273?WT.z_sp=Image

You can't do that on the PS3 unless the game says it can lock it.

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It does strike me as odd and a little worrying that developers tend to release games that they know are not finished though. I know that's just the way the industry is these days and I applaud Codemasters for their honesty but if you look at it another way for a moment, we've got the lead developers of a game telling us there's lots of stuff they didn't get into the game before it's even released!

I think we have to say to ourselves that this is a brand new start to a series of F1 games and that they've tried to build the best racing model possible plus tried to do something different to immerse people into the F1 world. Realistically it makes more sense to release it as a product that, although not containing everything, shines in what it does include. Then if it sells, to listen to fan's feedback and to implement the ideas they had for inclusion in the next release. A project's lifecycle must be adhered to and there are always going to be 'would-be-nice' ideas left over when time runs out. The most important thing is getting the essentials in and that to me is getting the feel of driving an F1 car spot on.

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I like and appreciate the open nature of these things they're saying in interviews and on forums but it does kind of put you off a bit when they mention all the stuff that's missing. I do much prefer it to the likes of EA who will tell you everything's "in the game" from the off only to find half of it's missing and you'll need to wait for a patch to get some of it though.

It does strike me as odd and a little worrying that developers tend to release games that they know are not finished though. I know that's just the way the industry is these days and I applaud Codemasters for their honesty but if you look at it another way for a moment, we've got the lead developers of a game telling us there's lots of stuff they didn't get into the game before it's even released!

Imagine if, when Super Mario World came out, you had Miyamoto saying "yeah we didn't put the last level in due to time constraints, maybe it'll be in the next game if we can get it right".

Again though, Well done to Codemasters for being up front with it all. I don't want to seem like I'm moaning at them as they seem like they genuinely do care which is rare these days.

Are you saying the game isn't 'finished' because certain 'features' were deemed impossible to implement on time and on budget? This is extraordinarily naive if that's what you're getting at.

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My 360 version should be about t'morrow. In the meantime a jouno' freind of mine has loaned me the PC verison.

I will make one thing clear. It DOES NOT play as good as the "other" PC racing game which has various F1 simulation mods and the first and only thing i'll state is the fact its 30fps does not help.

And i'm using the same wheel on both games. It does lose tactile feedback.

And yes, i'm using the same wheel on both games. I would'nt say its massively hard, but as Joe says Pad users may well struggle, esp. on rumblestrips - in ANY weather.

Theres a few annoyances too, like the fact deadzone is done on large 5% levels. On 0%, its very hard to maintain a straight line owing to the speed and track rumbles - much harder then Forza3. On 5% (the next level on the PC version) - its too much DZ and this is evident on the animation of the wheel, which is offputting as it jumps into position.

I'm staying stum until the 360 version arrives as, to be fair, thats the version i'll be hammering.

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Everyone loves Boozy! :wub:

Only the official wheel is wireless.

Wireless towards the 360. It still needs juice from the mains though. You wouldn't believe the amount of people who were surprised by that. "I thought it was wireless? I'm using a battery but I have no force-feedback". :facepalm:

Right, put some more hours in today, so here's some more impressions. The thing that mostly comes to mind when I play this: F1 2010 really is back to school, even for (fairly) seasoned racing game players. It's got HARD written all over it.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THIS GAME!

I won't, sounds good that! Cheers for the impressions. :)

Minor annoyance from watching a few videos, the engineer telling you basic things like when to overtake and turn off the limiter.

You can't get him to shut up then?

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Official response on the pit stop bug:

Many thanks for the rapid feedback on this. We really appreciate the details and' date=' now that the team are returning from their short holiday, have started an immediate investigation into the cause. Just to clarify that this is most likely a bug with the pit stop release system being overly cautious, which is compounded by the limited pit stop strategy window in short race distances, rather than any form of intentional rubberbanding. Here’s a workaround for now, while we investigate further: -

Altering Your Race Strategy

By interacting with the ‘Tyre’ stack menu in the garage prior to a race you can adjust your default pit strategy. By making any of the following changes then this problem will be significantly less likely to occur as you will stop yourself from pitting on the same lap as the majority of the AI:

1) Increase or decrease your first pit stop by a lap from the pre-set default

2) Reverse your strategy to start the race on the prime tyres rather than the options, which will allow you to get significantly later in the race before having to make your pit stop (you’ll notice a recommended number of laps for each tyre compound, which will help you determine what lap to make your pit stop). This will require you to alter the both tyres which you start the race on and the pit stop tyres as well as your intended pit stop lap.

3) Alternatively you could also carry on with your default race strategy but choose to ignore the lap where the Race Engineer calls you in and select to pit on the subsequent lap. This is what I tend to do.

Altering Your Race Distance

The more you increase your default race distance up from 20%, the less likely this will occur as the AI will have much larger windows in which to make their stops rather than all coming in on the same lap, as well as the distances between the field becoming much more widely spread.

This issue is almost certainly less likely to be an issue in Multiplayer since the problem’s frequency is a function of how many people are in the pits at once, and your position in the garage line-up.

We'll be back when we've got some more details on this but rest assured we are looking into it.[/quote']

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No, as I thought I made clear. What I am saying is that it's a shame that games have to be released when the developers would like more time to add everything they think should be in it. I understand why that's the case and I can't think of a way round it that makes business sense, but it's a shame nonetheless. It gives you a sense that whatever you're playing at the moment can never be as good as it might have been, no matter how good it might be. There's always next years version. I don't think I've quite described the feeling accurately but it is something that bothers me sometimes although others might actually like it, knowing that it's only going to get better and stuff.

I might just play too many EA games which I am indeed saying are released "unfinished".

Repeat after me please

U-n-f-i-n-i-s-h-e-d

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aside for a mo....sorry...

An utterly pointless argument though.

Updates are cracked and the irony of the 360 version is they still then have to go through certification meaning a longer wait for those that have paid.

I mean, you d/l a game..and you play it. If you like it, or its popular you will search for update cracks (and they exist pretty much for every decent game out there).

If you don't like it, or its crap, well you sure as hell arn't going to pay for the full version now anyway.

And heres the kicker...do they send unfinished versions to journo's?

Why would a journo worth his salt give a good review to an unfinished game?

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