Game director Paul Jeal lays out a template for the future of the F1 series.
Yearly release cycles are immensely challenging for any developer, let alone when it involves a license as multi-faceted and complicated as Formula One. Between new regulations, roster changes and making sure every team and their army of sponsors is happy with their treatment in-game; it’s frankly a miracle that Codemasters Birmingham has put out two F1 games within two years and that soon will become three in three with F1 2012.
However that trend may not continue if comments from F1 2012′s game director Paul Jeal are to go by, as he’s explained that “the jury is still out” on whether Codemasters most successful franchise needs a sequel every 12 months.
“I think the jury is still out a little bit on F1 and whether it should be an annual franchise,” stated Mr Jeal, who has been a key part of Codemasters’ F1 series since the very beginning.
“With football so much changes year-on-year, with Formula One between ’13 and ’14 it’ll be massive because of the rule changes, but when there aren’t any rule changes and the drivers stay put it’s a little bit like; ‘Oh we’ve got America this year, well that’s great but I’ve already got eighteen other circuits’ – it’s a harder sell.”
It’s worth noting that there will be very few regulation changes in Formula One next season, and if that remains the case Codemasters will be hoping for lots of driver and team livery changes, otherwise gamers may not be as willing to part with £30-£40 as they’re usually. Sure next season will possibly see a new street circuit added to the calendar, via New York’s Grand Prix of America, but a lot of gamers will be asking whether that’s really enough?
Who knows whether New Jersey will be ready for Bernie’s circus next year, but from discussions with Paul, it’s clear that Codemasters Birmingham are maintaining their annual release structure for the moment.
“F1 2010 was just like, how could we make F1 come back with a bang? ’11 was really adding to that experience, but also bringing in the multiplayer element. Then we signed the contract extension, so we had to think about what we wanted for the next couple of years.”
“With that comes thinking about the next generation of consoles, 2014′s rule changes, and our CEO keeps asking us about iOS and all that stuff as well. Now we’re taking a much more long term view and thinking, ‘How do we group features?’ We’ve got an ideas document which is probably fifty pages long. Things like the Young Drivers Test probably aren’t strong enough on their own, but if you group that with the gamepad stuff we’ve done, the flying tutorial hot laps and then all of a sudden you have a theme that you can build around. Season Challenge and Champions Mode are all about bite-size gameplay – that kind of made sense as a structure for ’12.”
“I’ve got something that I’d love to do for ’13, we’re just trying to make it happen and I think we’ll probably go next-gen for ’14, but who knows at the moment.”
Unfortunately Paul kept his excitement in check and didn’t reveal precisely what that feature for next year’s game will be, but he did explain that a new version of career mode is currently being worked on by a dedicated team within Codemasters Birmingham and that their work should be ready to be included in next year’s game.
Some of those improvements could have been included in this year’s game, but Codemasters would prefer to not do a half job this year and instead do the career mode justice with a big overhaul next year.
With new consoles on the horizon and a fresh contract with FOM in their pocket, its clear the Codemasters Birmingham are taking the long view with regards to their successful racing franchise. This year sees F1 Race Stars join their growing roster of Formula One games, which was expanded by the free-to-play effort F1 Online earlier this year.
As the world’s most prized motor racing license, it’s clear that the British publisher/developer are making the most of it, but that doesn’t mean that they’re resting on their laurels and taking their success as a given.
No doubt they will be looking at the sales of both F1 2012 and F1 All Stars very closely. To read the rest of this fascinating interview, click this link.
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