Head-to-head with Gran Turismo 6 creator Kazunori Yamauchi
By Gary Gastelu
Kazunori Yamauchi (SONY)
Sony’s much-anticipated PlayStation 4 is now in stores, but for car enthusiasts the big day is December 6th. That’s when Gran Turismo 6 goes on sale for the PlayStation 3 for $59.95.
With updated graphics, a feature that lets you design tracks using real roads via GPS, and nearly 1,200 cars including the Lunar Roving Vehicle, it is by far the most ambitious version yet in the 15-year history of the franchise.
We recently talked to Gran Turismo creator and Polyphony Digital CEO Kazunori Yamauchi at a Jalopnik Film Festival event held in the Classic Car Club Manhattan about what drives the game today and where it’s heading:
When the first GranTurismo launched in 1997, it was the only game in town as far as immersive driving simulators are concerned. Now there are a plenty of competitors. How has that affected your approach to developing the game?
How we develop games hasn’t really changed. It’s always really been about how to find ways to have fun developing the game, rather than seeing what everybody else is doing.
I grew up with the Gran Turismo franchise, but you certainly have much younger users today. Are they different than I am, or the same type of customer just 15 years later?
I don’t really know. But I think with the young users today, if someone looks like they’re having fun, I think they start to take interest in it. And I think it’s a kind of repetition of that across the years.
How have car enthusiasts changed over the years? Are they now more gamers that get into cars, or primarily gear heads who are attracted to games about cars?
Even when you look at our GT development team, some of the guys who had absolutely no interest in cars when they first began grew to like cars and end up buying interesting cars in real life.
Realism has always been key to the success of the franchise. For GT5 you added damage for the first time, what was the big technical advancement you were aiming for with GT6?
In GT6 there’s an inward force and an outward force involved. The inward forces involve things like the rendering engine, which has been revamped, the new online features, everything that forms the fundamental parts of the real driving simulator.
The energy going outward involves things like the GT Academy (where contestants compete for a chance to drive a real race car) that we’ve done in the past, and this time around Vision GT. These are things that really try to break the boundaries of the video game industry.
What exactly is Vision GT?
It’s a project where we asked not only automobile manufacturers, but also leading industry brands to design for us what their rendition of a Gran Turismo car would be. It’s really about creating an opportunity for a new car to be born, because each of the cars you see [here at the Classic Car Club,] they all had a reason to be created, to be born into the world, and new cars are always looking for new reasons to exist.
I wanted to make a reason for companies to come up with and create exciting new sports cars. And the other thing was, I wanted to throw out a question to the automobile makers of the world: “are you still having fun making cars?” And the response that we got was a lot greater than we ever expected. We have 22 confirmed manufacturers designing cars for the Vision GT project and I think there’s actually going to be more, so the overall message is “yea, we are having fun making cars.”
How good are you at GT Academy? Would you make it to the finals?
To the finals? I don’t think I’d make it anymore. During the first and second GT Academies, I got up to about 50th on the global ranking. I could probably get to .4 seconds under the top times today, but I don’t think I’d make it to the track challenge at Silverstone.
GT6 is launching with an unheard of collection of cars, is there one that got away?
It’s a hard question, but of course we always want to include Porsche [which will not license its vehicles for the game due to an agreement with another developer.]
Gaming used to be about consoles, then internet-connected consoles, now there’s mobile. Do you envision more of a mobile element for GT in the future?
The community functions, organizing and hosting races, setting up your teams, and building teams and groups those features we’re planning on having compatible with smartphones and tablets.
Five years passed between the introductions of GT4 in 2005 and GT5 in 2010, and PlayStation 4 is on sale this year. Why even introduce GT6 for PS3 rather than hold off for new console?
Releasing on PS3, which has an install base of 70 million units around the world is a happier option for users, and it will probably end up being GT7 that will be coming for PS4 in a year or two.