TOCA Race Driver 2006 Q&A
Codemasters studio head Gavin Raeburn talks about his plans for the upcoming Race Driver game announced today.
Announced today and scheduled for release this winter, TOCA Race Driver 2006 is currently in development for the PC, the PlayStation 2, and the Xbox. The game will boast no fewer than 35 different motorsport disciplines and, as Codemasters studio head Gavin Raeburn explains, will seek to improve upon its predecessors in just about every way imaginable.
GameSpot: Will TOCA Race Driver 2006 feature a story-driven gameplay mode like its predecessor? And if so, what can you tell us about it?
Gavin Raeburn: TOCA Race Driver 2006 will continue the story-driven precedent established by the previous titles. In this game, we are focusing a lot more on both the aspirational and technical elements of motorsport. To this end, there will be a lot more information divulged in the scenes pertaining to both the cars the player will drive and how to get the best out of them on the track. Many of the scenes are dedicated to showcasing the various cars and motorsports available in the game.
In parallel to these scenes, the narrative arc builds on the glamour and all of its trimmings that is associated with high-end motorsport and the player's increasingly high-profile career. We've also maintained the most successful aspects of the previous story such as strong characterization, dry humor, and even a rather memorable wry Scotsman. Technically, we are also raising the bar to give the scenes an extra lick of gloss and realism. Consequently, every scene of the new story will have something of value for every type of player.
GS: Any chance that you'll return to a TOCA Race Driver 1-style career mode in which players receive multiple offers from various teams and get to choose whom they drive for?
GR: The world tour mode of the game, as seen in TOCA Race Driver 2, now has more choices for the player. When choosing the next championship to race in, the player will usually be presented with three championship race options. In TOCA Race Driver 2 the player would quite often be limited to two or even just one choice. In addition to this we also have our new pro career mode where the player can select from a range of seven different main disciplines (for example, open wheel, touring cars, off road, etc.) and then progress from the lower ranks to the highest ranks of that discipline. When progressing through the championships, the player will be able to race for any team they like.
GS: What other gameplay modes will be on offer?
GR: Our existing TOCA Race Driver 2 modes have been extended to allow control over a greater number of race options, such as qualifying, practice, etc. To cater for the sim fan we also have the new pro career mode, which allows the player to map out a career in one of seven main racing disciplines. For example, the player can select the open wheel discipline and start racing in professional go-karts, move up through a range of single-seaters, and end up racing for the WilliamsF1 team.
Each of the seven main disciplines in TOCA Race Driver 2006 has been made as fully comprehensive as possible, and players will be able to experience the complete spectrum of racing found within that motorsport. The player can move between disciplines at any time but must work through the different discipline tiers in bottom-up sequence. The player has full control of all the race options here, including full rules and regulations, such as flags, shoot-outs, qualifying and practice sessions, race length, car tuning, driving assists, difficulty, and, where championship rules allow, car part upgrades from a list of almost 80 fully licensed car parts.
In TOCA Race Driver 2006 we have also taken online play even further, to fully re-create the excitement of real-life motor racing. Players can now compete in open or closed qualifying rounds, shoot-outs, and practice sessions. Each championship will be fully customizable, with players being able to select independent rules, race lengths, starting grid selection, and AI. Players will also be able to tune and upgrade their vehicles offline using the new track-telemetry feature, then take their saved vehicle setups online to compete against other drivers.
The ranking system which was so popular in TOCA Race Driver 2006 has also been improved and updated. Each player will now have an individual rating for every championship, a rating for each of the seven main disciplines, and then finally an overall driver rating based on all of their individual championship ratings. We are also including a Hall of Fame-style leaderboard for Xbox Live in which the top 50 fastest players on each track, in every championship, will be able to post their ghost cars, allowing other players to compete against them offline. Finally, we are also going to allow players to unlock game content through online, as well as offline, play so that those gamers who just want to race against their friends can still experience the full content of the game.
GS: How many different racing disciplines do you plan to feature this time around? And which of those are new to the series?
GR: TOCA Race Driver 2 featured around 15 different styles of racing, but TOCA Race Driver 2006 features well over 30. Most of these exciting championships are new to the series, and we will be releasing information about these over the coming months. I can say that all of the cars we are including are actual licensed racing cars--we have no concept or road cars in TOCA Race Driver 2006! In TOCA Race Driver 2006 we have included some truly iconic racing cars from the last 80 years of motorsport.
GS: Are you surprised that other driving and racing games haven't followed your lead as far as simulating multiple disciplines in a single game is concerned?
GR: It would be so much easier if we just selected a list of 300 random cars from the back of a car magazine and threw them together in a jumbled list, but we do not think this is as much fun for the player as the well-chosen, wide-ranging content that we have in TOCA Race Driver 2006. By focusing on great championships instead of individual cars, we can ensure that the racing is always close and always fun.
However, including the wide range of different racing styles that we do in TOCA Race Driver 2006 is a huge challenge for a number of reasons. Licensing and cost issues aside, the first hurdle is that the car physics model and AI need to be of highest order to allow for the variety of racing styles in each championship.
We have played many racing games where the main variation in the car handling is that the cars get progressively faster and faster, but with very little variation in the fundamental car physics themselves. We have also played many racing games where the AI drivers simply stick to a racing line and barge you out of the way, no matter what the style of racing is. This doesn't happen in TOCA Race Driver 2006, as the AI, car physics, and rules are different for every single championship.
GS: How many circuits will be appearing in TOCA Race Driver 2006? And will all of them be based on real tracks?
GR: All but a few of the circuits in TOCA Race Driver 2006 are real licensed tracks. We now have over 50 licensed circuits, but just as importantly we have fully licensed all the route variations of these tracks, which in effect gives over 100 different circuit variations. For example, we have licensed the GP and Short versions of Hockenheim, which give two completely different racing experiences. We have also licensed more track and car combinations in TOCA Race Driver 2006 so the player has even more variety to choose from.
GS: How many online players do you plan to support on each of the three platforms?
GR: Current figures suggest at least 16 players on PC, probably 16 players on Xbox, and 10 players on PS2.
GS: Which aspects of TOCA Race Driver 2 are you specifically looking to improve upon?
GR: Nearly every aspect of the game is being either revisited or rewritten to improve upon TOCA Race Driver 2. Having twice the content of its predecessor is only the starting point, with the additional race rules and regulations--including practice sessions, qualifying, race flags, and pit-stop refueling and tire strategies--all adding to the full racing experience. Graphically, both the environments and the car models are more detailed with normal mapping and radiosity lighting used throughout.
Having well-structured online/network modes from TOCA Race Driver 2 has also enabled us to concentrate on adding new features. One of these features is a new spectator mode, meaning that players joining a session will be able to watch the current race in progress as it happens.
GS: Presumably you'll have full damage models for all of the vehicles in the game. Will you also be including random engine failures and such?
GR: Obviously luck plays a part in whether an engine is going to survive an event--although the way the driver treats the car has a big effect. Impacts on the engine bay are going to affect how well the engine works. Damage to the radiator or repeated over-revving, especially at slow speeds with little airflow over the radiator, will all lead to overheating and can mean retiring to the pits. Dirt from the road can also inhibit the effectiveness of the cooling process. Players that really punish the car will have to keep their fingers crossed that the engine lasts the race.
GS: Are there any racing disciplines that didn't make the cut this time around but that you'd like to include in future iterations of TOCA Race Driver?
GR: We are always looking a few years ahead at what we could include in future iterations of TOCA Race Driver. New motorsport championships are constantly springing up around the world, so our "would like to include" folder is very large indeed!
GS: The CPU opponents in the TOCA Race Driver games have always driven realistically, but are you looking to improve upon their artificial intelligence in any way?
GR: We have made a number of improvements to our AI system. For example, we now allow for more realistic picking of the racing line, determined on the fly depending on the current track position of the AI car and other cars in the vicinity. Also a larger variety of racing lines will be seen, reflecting driver personality, aggression, ability, etc.
We have also expanded the AI system to allow for the more varied racing and inclusion of full rules and regulations. The AI will respond to the flags and rules in force for the current series but may occasionally break the rules, whether by accident or on purpose, depending on the driver. The AI cars will reflect the changing condition of their car, fuel usage, tire wear, etc., including the use of varying pit strategies to get the best performance from their cars and reacting to the strategies of their competitors, including the player.
There will be more varied and realistic mistakes, including spins and accidents caused by overdriving. The AI cars will now be vulnerable to the same risk of terminal damage as the player. They will also make it harder for the player to make an overtaking maneuver stick, immediately applying pressure on the player for a repass.
During qualifying and practice sessions, AI will be seen performing hot laps, as well as in- and out-laps when they will yield to faster traffic as expected.
GS: What's the TOCA Race Driver 2006 development team working on right now, as we speak?
GR: It's varied but there are lots of exciting elements of the game currently being worked on. Our audio team is fine-tuning an all-new engine audio system that sounds amazing. Sadly, words alone cannot do justice to this, but as it currently stands, the car audio is as real sounding as I have ever heard in a video game.
Getting the car handling right for the wide variety of vehicles is a process that continues from the first car model being available right through to beta. Designers are entering the technical data for each vehicle before fine-tuning each to perfection in conjunction with racing professionals from each type of racing we include.
The final elements of the enhanced rendering engines are also being completed with the normal mapping really adding to the detail of the environments. High-detailed trees, a new animated crowd system, and new postproduction effects for depth of field and motion blur are also being integrated to further enhance the graphical quality.
Finally, a new "plug-in" particle system is nearing completion that will give the artists complete control of the various special effects within the game. Early results with "programmer art" really show off the power of this system, and we are expecting some spectacular effects to appear in the final game.
GS: Thanks for your time.
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