GT5 - Kazunori Yamauchi Interview
Yamauchi tells Kikizo how the London bombings almost disrupted development on the game and what keeps him motivated after all these years.
Kazunori Yamauchi has a lot to be happy about. The Polyphony Digital boss's new game, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, has just been named the fastest-selling PlayStation 3 game ever in the UK, and he and his army of car nuts are already working on the full game, due sometime next year.
But for this affable motorsport junkie, creating racing games is about more than just games. It affords him a chance to stream his passion into the unstoppable forward flow of technology.
Yamauchi was in London for a few hours on Thursday to chat about Gran Turismo. We sat down with him for eight minutes before his flight to Copenhagen to find out what makes him tick and how his new game came about.
Kikizo: You've been making Gran Turismo games for more than a decade now. Are you growing tired of it? How do you keep yourself motivated?
Kazunori Yamauchi: For one thing, cars are something you never tire of. You see it when you go to motorshows. Most of the people surrounding the sports cars are old guys. They've enjoyed sports cars all their lives. And another thing, in this industry, technology is always advancing, it's always on the leading edge, and that's something that's always exciting to be involved with. It's the driving force that has kept me going for this long.
Kikizo: I'm sure you've heard about the success of GT5 Prologue in the UK - it's the fastest selling PS3 game here yet. What is your favourite part of the game? What's your least favourite part, and how are you going to fix it for the full game?
Yamauchi: The thing we added to this version that I really enjoy is the drifting. It's very fun to do, and it's something I like every much. The thing I think still requires a lot of work is the online features. There's much more that needs to be added for this.
Kikizo: One part of Prologue that we've been enjoying a lot is the London track. The quality on this course is very high. Can you tell me how you went about creating the track? Was it done just by your team or did you work with any of Sony's teams in London?
Yamauchi: First off, I'm very glad that the London track is regarded highly and people are satisfied with its quality because urban courses are very hard to create. It took a lot of effort, so I'm very happy to hear that.
Kikizo: Our office is just off Leicester Square and you can actually see the front door of the building.
To create the course our Polyphony team stayed in London for two weeks. We took photographs all around the area and took measurements in the actual roads. We had helicopters fly overhead and take footage as well. One of the major difficulties we had in London for taking photographs of the track was the double-decker buses. There are so many of them. They come in and they block the cameras. We had a very hard time to trying to get around them to take the photographs.
The whole data gathering mission for London was a battle against the double-deckers. [Laughs]
Kikizo: So you know every bus driver by face now.
Yamauchi: [Laughs] Yes.
So basically the Polyphony team actually stayed in London to create the course. The terrorist incident [in July 2005] occurred while we were here. We actually lost one of our crew during that time, we didn't know where he went. He walked back to the hotel later on, so it was OK, but that was very scary.
Kikizo: So you didn't use the time with no traffic to go take all of your photos.
Yamauchi: [Laughs] No.
Kikizo: I'm being told to finish up, so I've got one more question for you. GT5: you've got 1080p, you've got 60 frames per second - what's next?
Yamauchi: That's an early question. [Laughs] First, while working at this resolution and this frame rate, we'd like to try to get weather and a lot of lighting effects added to the game.
Kikizo: And what's happening with GT Mobile?
Yamauchi: Probably next year.
Kikizo: Probably next year? So it's still in active development?
Kikizo: That's good to hear. A lot of people will be very happy to hear that. Thank you.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is out now for PlayStation 3. The full game will be out during 2009 and will be followed sometime later by a version for PSP.