We met Kazunori Yamauchi a.k.a the “Grandfather of Gran Turismo” at the recent PlayStation Experience Southeast Asia this August and talked about the upcoming racing entry Gran Turismo Sport. First announced at Paris Game Week in 2015, tons of question surround the title from its nomenclature, technical specs and its direction to a relationship with the automotive industry as a whole.
Hammered in throughout his presentations following the game’s announcement, Yamauchi-san was like a proud dad boasting that GT Sports is currently the only game title in the world that supports 4K, 60fps, and HDR wide color – definitely a big deal – which when experienced in person, really blurs the line between real life and video games.
But just like cars, cool exterior and a monster engine under the hood aren’t enough to justify a car’s purchase. It takes more than that. The longevity, pedigree, and most of all, the connection it makes with you as a driver are what counts the most. And when you convert those yardsticks to video games & esports speak, nothing speaks closer to a racing car video game fan than Polyphony Digital’s latest offering: Gran Turismo Sport.
Tight Chicane Or A Long Straight Coming Up?
When asked about the future of Gran Turismo considering the technological climate, automotive advancement and the rise of electric cars, Yamauchi-san gave a simple yet poignant point petrol heads may soon come to discover. Just like how some video games serve as a canvas retelling and reimagining how things happened a couple centuries back, the Gran Turismo titles may end up serving the same purpose for motorheads in a very near future.
“Gran Turismo has always grown together with the automotive society and will evolve together with it, regardless of its direction – even if it is heading towards electric cars and such.” Yamauchi-san chimed. “But perhaps there may come a time – maybe 20 years in the future – where you can only hear the sounds of combustion engines from Gran Turismo; that’s the only place in the world you can only hear it,” he added.
As almost all of Yamauchi-san’s presentations go, it was tech-fest of him showing off how far the Polyphony Digital dev team go in pushing the boundaries of current gen consoles. Some may perceive it to be boring and borderline obsessive but if you look closely at how meticulous he is even during a presentation rehearsed a hundred times over, presented over and over again, you’ll see a man who loves and cherish his craft. Down to the screws and bolts details, scratches and dinks – the focus put into the game is mind boggling. Which begs a question: is there any more that can be added?
“The tracks and the cars in Gran Turismo (Sport) are designed to cater not only to the next generation console but perhaps the generation after that,” he said in a confident manner. “We do not know what their (next gen consoles) specs are, but we are confident that the game can run on 8K.”
Of Future-Proofing and Hitting Technological Peak
Needless to say, Gran Turismo Sport will showcase what the PS4 Pro is able to do but that does not spell the end of progress as Yamauchi-san puts it.
“Speaking about the advancement of video game consoles; when we moved from PS1 to PS2, the difference in processing power was about a hundred times to the previous generation. In comparison, the jump from the PS4 to the PS4 Pro was about twice so the rate of advancement is much narrower now compared to the past.”
“Video games have reached a point similar to other forms of entertainment such as movies and music and is at the peak of their technological levels. What that entails now is that the creativity being put into the game takes a much more important role and focus during development. Being in this situation brings in possibilities that the creativity going into the game now is much, much greater than in the past.”
Competitive Gran Turismo & The FIA Relationship – From Tracks To Thumbs
Gran Turismo currently has a running collaboration with motorsport governing body – the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) – which grants virtual licenses allowing players to undertake virtual skill classes and compete in virtual, FIA-sanctioned tournaments such as the Virtual Cup.
“Gran Turismo now has a very close relationship with many car manufacturers in the world, and we kind of undertook the ‘sexier side’ within the automotive industry – similar to the role in our partnership with the FIA. We serve as the design and innovation facility – the initial idea when the FIA came to us, was to help them in redesigning the next 100 years in motorsports”.
“The Virtual License program was my idea which I proposed to the FIA. Initially, they weren’t sure if it would work but over time after multiple workshops, more automotive clubs all over the world showed interest in this program so the situation is ever changing and in this respect, it was beyond the expectations of the FIA.”
However, not all countries are part of the virtual/digital license program which leads to the question: why not, when and will we ever get it?
“For example, the JAF – Japanese Automobile Federation – is not on the list; so aren’t the German ADAC. Most of these governing bodies, despite them being present for over a century, are mostly still governed by folks who are not ready to embrace the newer, modern approach [like esports]. After numerous FIA conferences and workshops as well as discussions with them, I find that while there is a lot of interest shown, the decision-making process takes time. This is a gradual process.”
“But seeing 29 countries already showing interest in something as radical as this was actually quite surprising to me. I was quite surprised that countries like the UK and Australia who have a long history of motorsport were also interested in it from the start,” he added.
As esports go, other budding games titles, genres, and sports would be wise to take a leaf or two out of Gran Turismo’s playbook in not only organizing and sanctioning such virtual tournaments but also conferring real-life acknowledgments to achievements, skill and promoting grassroots development. The sooner the masses realize esports isn’t just confined to MOBAs and shooters, the sooner will e-athletes gain the praise and recognition they truly deserve and GT Sports may very well be at the vanguard in pushing this idea out.
GT Sport Releases October 17, 2017, exclusively on the PS4.