You don't have to travel far in the Polyphony Digital offices to find accolades. The home of the Gran Turismo developer is chock-full of platinum sales awards, awards for excellence, and trophies galore. Yet there's one award that might just all of the rest, at least for GT series creator Kazunori Yamauchi--a best-in-class trophy he won while driving at a four-hour race at Germany's Nurburgring in August. Yamauchi won the race driving a Lexus IS-F and set fastest lap among the three drivers that drove for his team (an impressive 10 minutes, 9 seconds).
Along with that real-world racing result, Yamauchi's day job--Gran Turismo 5 continues to creep closer to its own finish line. The game now has a release window--March 2010 in Japan--and, according to Yamauchi that release for the rest of the world won't be too much different from the Japanese release.
"I don't think it's going to be that much later in the U.S. and Europe," Yamauchi said during a press presentation on Gran Turismo PSP and Gran Turismo 5 from the Polyphony Digital offices on Saturday. "This is based on our production schedule. The reason why the dates for the U.S. and [European] regions are not decided yet is because their marketing is still discussing their issues. It shouldn't be too far off from [the Japanese] date for the other regions as well."
Yamauchi gave a brief overview of the what to expect from GT 5 during the presentation, including a rundown on the numbers fans can expect from the game: more than 950 cars, 20 locations, and 70 variations of tracks to choose from. Yamauchi said the team at Polyphony Digital have been working on several different areas of late, including a new physics engine, damage, adding moveable objects on the track (such as destructible tire walls on the Tokyo Route 246 track, playable on the show floor of TGS 2009), as well as the inclusion of hybrid and electrical vehicles into the ever-growing roster of cars.
Referring to damage specifically, Yamauchi mentioned some details about the how damage will work in the game. There will be two types of damage in the game, depending on the car you're driving. For regular production model cars, you'll be able scuff the paint job as well as deform specific areas of the cars. For race model cars, like WRC and NASCAR models, damage will be extended to include parts falling off the car during particularly violent shunts.
Sony's Gran Turismo PSP, which is due for release this week, will have a connection with GT 5; players will be able to move the cars they've collected from the PSP game to their garage in GT 5 which is a good thing, considering the ease in which money and cars are available to players in the PSP game (Yamauchi estimates that the car acquisition rate in the PSP game is about 10 times as fast as in GT 5). According to Yamauchi, players won't be able to move their credits from one version to the next.
Yamauchi also went over the modes in the GT 5, and it's looking similar to what GT fans have come to expect from the series. As in previous games, the game will be split into Arcade and GT Mode. In Arcade Mode, you'll have a couple of different options--single player race and split-screen two player race. GT Mode is where the majority of the players will spend their time. Players will have a world map to navigate around, their own garage to house their car collection, dealerships and tuning shops to buy cars and parts, as well as championship race events, and the ubiquitous license tests. The tuning shop will be more than just internal parts--there will also be external bits like bumpers, sidesteps, rear wings, and more.
Gran Turismo 5 will have an online presence, but it won't be quite as ambitious as originally planned… at least not yet. When GT 5 ships, it will include online features such as lobbies to set up races, text/voice chat, private rooms, as well as the places to share your photo and replays online (and even the ability to automatically upload your replays to YouTube). However, the plans outlined by Yamauchi back in 2006 for a marketplace that would let players download cars, tracks, and parts, won't be part of the game at launch.
"It's a definite possibility of something we might do [in the future] but, at the release of GT5, I don't think we'll have that functionality where you can buy single components for your car."
Elsewhere in the game, expect some new Phooto Mode enhancements as well as a new and improved Gran Turismo TV with a new user interface, progressive downloading and the ability export videos to your PSP for later viewing. After the presentation, Yamuachi showed off a new trailer for the game which featured, among other things, peeks at some of the new courses that will be part of the game--including a quick look at the familiar tower from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which appears to be set for GT 5.
Finally what about the decision to include hybrid and EV cars which, when compared to the high-end Mercedes models, Ferrari's and suped-up imports, will likely feel a bit underwhelming? Yamauchi said the decision has more to do with Polyphony's interest in technology rather than the performance of the cars themselves.
"I tried driving EV cars and hybrids as they've been released and I've found that they're actually fun to drive, [doing things like] monitoring the battery while you're on the road, it's actually kind of interesting," Yamauchi said. "And honestly we have this curiosity for new technology. When a new technology is released into the world, we're interested in trying to [learn] about that system and trying it out."
Afterwords, I joked at the possibility of the inclusion resulting in Prius-based race series in the real world.
"No joke," Yamauchi said, "I think things like that will happen."