F1 franchise game director Lee Mather speaks with GamingBolt about Codemasters’ newest racing sim.
Codemasters’ F1 holds the honour of being on of the most consistent annual sports franchises in the industry. For a number of years, the series has been making steady improvements with every successive entry, while ensuring that any of the changes it makes don’t squander the solid work of previous games- and F1 2020 is very much in that vein as well. On top of the same excellent core experience and smart improvements over last year’s game, it also introduces a major new addition in My Team mode, and the results are typically excellent.
Recently, we had the chance to ask its developers a few questions about the biggest changes and improvements they’d made to their formula with F1 2020, from My Team to the re-introduction of split-screen multiplayer to the iterative upgrades to the Career mode. You can read our interview with F1 franchise game director Lee Mather below.
"The concept of being able to race for and manage your own F1 team has been something which has excited the team since the first F1 title we did back in 2010."
My Team mode has been seen in the DiRT games, and is now making its way into F1 2020 as well. What led to the mode’s integration in the series?
The concept of being able to race for and manage your own F1 team has been something which has excited the team since the first F1 title we did back in 2010. In order to be able to achieve it to the level which we’d imagined it, we had to be happy that we’d got all the key elements in place. Key for us were the ability to pick a relevant teammate when setting up your new team. The inclusion of F2 in F1 2019 was vital to us being able to achieve that. With the F2 and F1 drivers, we’ve been able create an exciting and dynamic driver market. We also wanted to ensure we could allow the player to pick a power unit from the official roster of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda. Finally, we needed to have customization in place, and the ability to apply sponsors to the cars. With all of that in place, we’ve been able to create a rich and engaging Driver/Manager mode in F1 2020 where the player is responsible for the performance both on and off the track.
Like all sporting events around the world, Formula One was also impacted by the pandemic. Fans have been glad to see things such as the Netherlands and Vietnam circuits still being included in the game, but what impact, if any, did the pandemic have on the game’s development?
We’ve been incredibly fortunate that the impact on the development was minimal. Our tech and IT teams had started working on a plan to get everyone working effectively from home in the run up to the lockdown, so when it actually happened, we were ready to go. We gave ourselves a few weeks to make a call on whether there was an impact on the performance of the team, and locked in the release date. It’s testament to the skill and professionalism of the entire team that we’ve delivered such a vast title under the current circumstances.
What can you tell us about the new tracks and what they bring to the table in terms of design and challenge?
It’s great to have two new and very different circuits on the calendar this year. Zandvoort is a very traditional race circuit, set amongst the sand dunes. It’s full of blind crests and apexes, and features some very technical elements. It’s also unique in that a heavily banked corner has been added to the circuit. We’ve built the Zandvoort circuit using a number of new techniques which have allowed us to create an even more authentic representation of the circuit.
Being a street circuit, Hanoi is a very different prospect to Zandvoort. Surrounded by stunning architecture, the track looks fantastic. Layout wise, it features two very long straights which will see cars hitting some of the highest top speeds of the year. There are also some very tight corners at the end of the two main straights which should result in some exciting overtaking opportunities.
"The bulk of the big changes we’ve made this year are part of the new My Team Mode, but we have refined and tweaked some of the systems in Career."
What’s the biggest impact that the addition of full Formula 2 seasons will have on the career mode?
For me, the biggest thing we gain from allowing the player to compete in a full F2 season before making the move to F1 is to be able to mirror the driver journey we’ve seen a significant number of the current crop of drivers take. It also gives the player the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the tracks in the slightly slower F2 cars.
Can you talk about the changes made to R&D in the career mode?
The bulk of the big changes we’ve made this year are part of the new My Team Mode, but we have refined and tweaked some of the systems in Career. R&D now features manufacturer upgrades. These are delivered when the engine supplier for your team develops a new upgrade, you automatically gain the part too.
We’ve also made significant changes to how driver moves function, with a new driver market. Unlike in My Team, you’re a commodity in the market. Because of this, it’s important that you negotiate a good deal for yourself with the team of your choice.
Letting players customize the length of seasons has caught the eye of many- what is the biggest impact this will have on career mode in your view?
The inclusion of the customizable season lengths achieves two very cool things for us. First, it gives the player choice as to which circuits they race over the course of the season, as well as allowing players a quicker way to experience more of the 10 season Career and My Team mode. Secondly, it helps with accessibility. There’s no getting away from the fact that some circuits are more difficult than others, so allowing players to be able to remove those circuits from their season will also enhance their experience.
The decision to bring back two player split-screen is one that fans are very excited about- what led to the feature’s re-introduction?
Split-screen was a feature we had on the previous generations of console, and something which we’d wanted to bring back for some time. To implement split-screen in a game such as F1 is a technically demanding task, so this year we partnered with another developer to help us with the work. With the inclusion of the new accessibility features in F1 2020, we felt it would work perfectly with split-screen to allow for players of skill level to have fun and to race together.
"Split-screen was a feature we had on the previous generations of console, and something which we’d wanted to bring back for some time. To implement split-screen in a game such as F1 is a technically demanding task, so this year we partnered with another developer to help us with the work."
The esports scene is obviously something that is very important to the F1 series. With F1 2020, what are the steps you’re taking to grow in that area?
Esports has been an area of fantastic growth for us over the last 3 years, and the additional Virtual Grand Prix Series which we’ve run during the lockdown has really thrust F1 esports into the mainstream. For F1 2020, as we’ve set-up the cameras for the two new circuits, we’ve implemented them to work effectively with the esports broadcast. We’ve also added some additional Amazon Web Services graphics to better update spectators as to what’s going on.
The big changes this year will be in how we run the Official F1 Esports Series. We’ll be talking about the new and exciting plans we have for F1 esports in the near future.