Last night we went to kick the pre-race tires of the FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championships, an eSports extravaganza where 50 of the world’s best petrolheads will unite, fight and find out who is checkered flag material. Held for the very first time in Australia, this Sydney event represents stage one of the GT World Tour 2020 and will be held at the Big Top in Luna Park in front of a live audience today (while also being simultaneously broadcast around the globe).
Though many a digital car door will be blown off this weekend under The Big Top, for now, we’ve been given a chance to qualify a few thoughts with venerable Gran Turismo Series Producer, Kazunori Yamauchi. These were the results from our round table interview…
Kazunori Yamauchi on Gran Turismo
Going into GT Sport you said that you were out to turn GT racers into esports fans, rather than esports fans into GT racers. The last 2 years seems to show that you’ve succeeded in this, do you think the GT Championships have helped bring that about?
Kazunori Yamauchi –After I created Sport and I created the Championship, you really got to see the strength of people and the power of the drivers participating. And they’re the ones who are creating the drama, and they’re really the ones who are changing the future.
That’s something I felt when we first did the GT Academy, I thought that if we did an incredible Championship like this, not only would we find these characters — these interesting people – once we started. And that’s exactly what happened. We have these rare, incredible people that I’ve been able to meet through this event. IO think that’s what’s special about what’s happening here [in Sydney this weekend].
As the series and the game have evolved you’ve chased increasing resolutions and hyper-realistic visuals. How much room is there to go do you think. Do you find yourself hamstrung by current screen resolutions?
I think there are two things I could say about that. Rather than a spatial resolution that you’re talking about, I’m more interested in the advancements we can make in terms of the time resolution. I think, display resolution-wise, 4K resolution is enough. But in terms of frames per second, rather than staying at 60 fps, I’m more interested in raising it to 120 fps or even 240 fps. I think that’s what’s going to be changing the experience from here on forward.
The other answer to that is: hardware has come to a point where our computing ability has kind of matured. Going from PS One to PS2 there was a hundred times the performance difference between the two console generations.
But an advancement like that is no longer possible.
Recently we sat down with Yoshinori Kitase of Final Fantasy VII fame to discuss his forthcoming remake and the next 20 years of gaming. Like you, he thought visuals were not the next great frontier, but he did speak of AI being an area that he will be looking into as it has a greater opportunity to evolve.
What are your thoughts on that?
Regarding the future of video games, one thing I think is that there will be a wider spectrum of ways that games will go. Right now it seems as though all of the major genres of video games have been established, but I have a feeling that we’re not at the end of the diversification process.
And given that the visuals aren’t able to evolve that much more, I feel Kitase-san is correct in saying that. We’ve reached the physical limit of what computers can do as we stand today.
The car industry is concerned that an increasing number of young people do not want to get their license to drive. Do you think Gran Turismo is helping people to reconsider that decision or is the game giving people an excuse not to drive?
I certainly think it’s the former. Also, [Gran Turismo] will be one of the only ways that we’ll be able to maintain car culture in the future. For example, we have the Museum section in the game this generation, because we can no longer assume that the players know about the cars or the background in the automotive industry. We’re placed in a position nowadays where we have to teach everyone from scratch, basically.
So until now, we were creating Gran Turismo for car enthusiasts. But now we’re making car enthusiasts through Gran Turismo.
As somebody who has driven the Nurburgring in real life, where does a simulation help you and where do wish it could help you more?
The actual content of driving and the skills involved is already now the same in GT as they are in real life. If you’re able to drive well in the game, you’re able to drive well on an actual race track. That said, real life is a little bit more complex than a video game. For example with Nurburgring, any time you go there the track conditions are going to be different. You’ll have to adjust and adapt for this every time you visit it.
When you consider the skill you need to drive a car very fast is something you can gain in the game, but there’s a lot of risk involved in driving a car on a race track like that. When you consider that, training in GT is a lot more effective and safer.
For the parts of the experience that are still lacking, with the surface conditions being different every time – and how you feel those change through your tyres – I think that’s something we need to work on to make it more realistic in the game.
What do you think the Grand Turismo Championships can do to show non-gamers that the line between digital motorsport and actual on-the-track racing isn’t a large gulf at all?
I think that will be something that gets solved over time. I will say that I’ve sometimes noticed that car enthusiasts don’t always produce more car enthusiasts. They sometimes fit themselves into these niches that are a lot more segregated than others.
Because I’m a car enthusiast myself, I see this as well. You have an attitude of “oh, you don’t know THIS?!” And that’s an attitude you’ve got to be careful of.
So rather than being exclusive like that, you’ve got to work at making more people interested and more enthusiastic about cars.
Now that you have the ability to connect competitors around the world, do you have the data on what the most (and least) popular cars are?
Gathering data is actually harder than it seems. For starters, cars that are actually on the top of the UI interface have a tendency to be purchased more than the ones nestled further down in the menu. So it’s not always straightforward to identify the cars that players actually like.
We have however provided information to car manufacturers – Toyota for example – about how many of a particular type of car has been bought in our game.
Car companies have increasingly come to you to include some of their future models. Obviously there are confidentiality agreements because the vehicles aren’t being released for one or two years, etc. We’re just curious to know what the lead time is that you need to get the model ready to include into the game?
Generally speaking, in the real world, a new project for a new car starts 2 or 3 years prior. The minimum lead time that we require is about six months. We find that more and more car manufacturers are approaching us for this, too.
One of our favourite things to do is plonk a PSVR on the heads of non-gamers to see their first-time reactions. Gran Turismo is always a go-to game for this and without fail it blows minds.
Do you see yourself expanding the VR Tour component much more because it’s such a system seller for that peripheral?
I really do believe in VR and the future possibilities of that technology. We will continue to develop that.
That’s music to our ears, Yamauchi-san. Thanks so much for your time.
The Manufacturer Series Final will be broadcast from 4 pm AEDT to 6.30 pm on Saturday, February 15, 2020.
The Nations Cup Final will be broadcast from 4 pm AEDT to 6.30 pm on Sunday, February 16, 2020.
Australian residents can attend the event for free.
Gran Turismo invites you to join us at this two-day event to experience the excitement of the Nations Cup and Manufacturer Series in person at the Big Top Sydney. Free tickets for the event are available through the ticketing agency below, and both tournaments are scheduled to be streamed live worldwide.
If you are interested in attending this World Tour event, then please register your attendance to claim your free ticket.