“It was a daunting task, for sure,” said Lee Mather, senior creative director at Electronic Arts, in an interview with The Washington Post. “But any time there are big changes like this, it’s also a lot of fun for us.”
The mapping of new cars began as a kind of theoretical experiment. Based on the 2022 regulations, the cars would have a variety of new features aimed at promoting more overtaking and closer racing, including over-wheel fins, a completely redone front wing and nose, rolled ends on rear fenders and low profile tires. .
Earlier this year, the teams provided Codemasters with the physical dimensions, specs and first renders of their new cars, which the developers used as a starting point to generate the first 3D models. Then, in February, Codemasters sent a member of the team to F1 pre-season testing in Barcelona to get a close look at the cars and see them in action.
“We had a developer standing at key points around the circuit and watching how each car squirmed around a corner – where each started to brake, when it got back on the throttle and how it handled,” Mather said.
The impact of the new regulations, he added, was obvious: this year’s cars are heavier, with a redesigned floor that generates a lot more downforce (exactly what it sounds like) to allow pilots to follow each other more closely. Because the car is lower to the ground, cutting corners and rolling over curbs—essentially rumble strips—is much less forgiving. And the larger 18-inch Pirelli tires had an impact on vehicle weight and cornering.
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Codemasters revamped and re-examined nearly every aspect of its physics engine, tweaking it until 3D models recorded identical lap times to their real-world counterparts. The development team consulted regularly with current F1 esports bosses, drivers and pros – and looked at data from every race so far this season, including the weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. -end – resulting in a video game that Mather says will not only be accurate, but will feel like a new experience for longtime fans.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work on so many aspects: our aero models, suspension, updated physics and tire models,” he said. “So really, the on-track experience is very different.”
As the game strives for accuracy, Mather and his team decided to exercise creative license over an important aspect of the new cars: “porpoising”, an unexpected design quirk in which fluctuating amounts of downforce cause some cars to bounce aggressively on the straights, similar to how a porpoise bobs up and down on the surface of water. It was a major storyline of the start of the F1 season and one of the reasons defending constructors’ champions Mercedes struggled to fight for the podiums.
Replicating this in-game, Mather said, had a clear and negative impact on the user experience.
“Here’s how I explain it to people: If I were to shake your computer screen up and down, you couldn’t concentrate and you’d feel really sick,” he said. “That’s basically what you get with porpoising in-game. We tried it in VR as well, and it was just as disturbing.
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Formula 1 and the International Automobile Federation, the sport’s governing body, recently announced plans to modify cars to eliminate porpoising this season. Mather is therefore confident that most fans won’t be too upset with Codemasters’ decision to kick him out of the game.
“Some people might demand it, but it’s really punishing yourself for no reason,” he said.
Besides the revamped physics, Codemasters also aimed to make “F1 22” its most accessible game yet, with plenty of features to make it playable for even the most casual Formula 1 fan. In addition to the player aids seen in previous entries – steering and braking, for example – “F1 22” introduces Adaptive AI, where the game’s difficulty will fluctuate mid-course based on player performance to ensure that he remains competitive from start to finish.
“‘Drive to Survive’ has attracted a whole new audience,” said Mather, referring to the Netflix Formula 1 series that helped fuel the sport’s recent surge in popularity. “Some new fans have no experience with racing games, so the adaptive AI gives the game real appeal and allows players to choose how they want to play it.”
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Other new features include: “Pirelli Hot Laps”, where you can drive supercars around the track (an increasingly popular part of every Grand Prix weekend); cross-platform multiplayer, which Mather says will be added after launch; and a faithful reproduction of this year’s new track, the Miami International Autodrome, which was designed around the city’s Hard Rock Stadium.
Having worked on F1 video games for over 13 years now, Mather is confident that “F1 22” is the most accurate and captivating entry to date. He attributes this in part to the seriousness with which F1 teams take esports and video games. Every F1 team now competes in the Formula One Esports Series, which has grown significantly since the pandemic, and drivers like McLaren’s Lando Norris have made esports and live streaming on Twitch an important part of their career.
“I never thought we’d be able to talk to the bosses, the riders and the engineers about what we’re doing,” Mather said. “But all of their ideas have been phenomenal, and it’s really helped push this show further.”
Gregory Leporati is a freelance writer and photographer covering esports, technology and motorsports. His recent work has appeared in GQ, the Los Angeles Times, Pitchfork and Ars Technica. Follow him on Twitter @leporparty.