Last week we were invited down to the Copper Box near London’s Olympic Park for a sneak peek at the next version of Sony Polyphony’s popular Gran Turismo game. It was a welcome change from what we normally cover, but with the allure of competition in a setting that is getting ever closer to reality it seemed like a nice way to spend an afternoon.
The icing on the cake was that the event also featured eight full-size Vision Gran Turismo cars created by a range of automakers as well as two scale models — the largest collection of the VGT cars ever assembled (check out the video and full photo gallery). An unexpected surprise was that designers from these companies were also in attendance to show us around the concepts created by their respective teams.
President of Polyphony Digital and father of the acclaimed racing game first launched in 1997, Kazunori Yamauchi, gave us a walk through of what we can expect from the new Gran Turismo Sport game, which officially launches in November.
Yamauchi said that the new GT Sport offers a “level of innovation unseen since the first Gran Turismo” and that all of the cars have been “remodeled” since they made their first appearance in Gran Turismo 6.
Though the designers in attendance we spoke with contradicted that, Gran Turismo Sport will in fact offer a new interior view for players as well as a selection of new tracks, such as the Northern Isle Speedway (the first oval to appear in the game), a track based on highways of Japan called the ‘Tokyo Expressway’, and a new dirt track marks a return to the game.
Gran Turismo Sport features existing tracks such as Willow Springs and Nurburgring but will add a few more, bringing the number up to a total of 19 tracks and 27 different versions. Yamauchi said there will also be 137 “super premium” vehicle models for gamers to choose from.
Past Gran Turismo features like the Arcade and Campaign (former GT) modes will also be joined by new features, such as a Beginners School that caters to first time players through simulations, a Circuit experience to get a feel for the car on track, a Mission challenge for more depth and an online Championship, which will enable players from different regions and age groups to compete against one another according to events laid out in the new race calendar. There are a total of 117 events.
The new Sport mode offers two Championships: a Nations and a Manufacturer’s Cup. “Nations is like the World Cup of football,” Yamauchi said, while players in the Manufacturer’s Cup will be driven by brand loyalty and decide which manufacturer they want to represent in the series.
“We want to give out lots of trophies to lots of winner in different categories,” said Yamauchi. “It will be like watching a race program on TV!”
Winners of the competitions will be honored by the FIA at an annual gala alongside other (real) racing drivers. The player will also be eligible for real FIA licenses in two countries in the Americas (sorry US, no soup for you), 11 countries in Europe, and nine countries in the Asia/Oceania region.
Yamauchi sees this initiative as driving interest for motorsport and ensuring the survival of racing for the next 100 years: “The objective is to drive the future of motorsports along with the FIA,” he said.
But while the game will certainly draw interest for those who want to play the increasingly life-like game and compete in the online championships, the most obvious win for manufacturers comes in the form of brand promotion, enabling the automaker to anchor their flag and sear their logos onto young, impressionable minds.
One of GT Sport’s new features is called Brand Central (formerly known as the Dealership), which Yamauchi says is about “building childhood dreams”.
“In the redesign, I recalled how I wanted GT1 to be a place to discover manufacturers – discover brands and beautiful cars,” he said. The new game will now include a brand showroom as well as a channel with videos created by the manufacturers.
“I was frustrated that the videos being created aren’t being shown on the big screen anymore,” said Yamauchi. “That’s what channel is about.”
Gran Turismo Sport will also feature a museum showcasing the history of automobiles displayed along the art, music and literature that people were seeing, hearing and reading at that specific period in history. “It gives color and depth to the automotive history,” said Yamauchi.
With many social features embedded into game – including a timeline, where users can share information and follow others – Sony Polyphony has effectively created a social network, akin to Facebook. Gran Turismo Sport will offer gamers a chance to interact with one another, but it “won’t be limited to the PS4 [console],” said Yamauchi. “The system is compatible with smartphones, tablets and other web browsers as well”.
One of the most talked about new features at the launch was a photo element called ‘Scapes’, which allows users to place a vehicle into a vast array of curated scenes. Through the feature, users are able to select from one of over 1000 photo spots (available at launch), place their favorite car into the photo and add elements to blur the background or have it appear moving in the frame. It contains light as well as spacial information, so users can change exposure, match focus to the car or background and spin the car around in the environment.
We’re not sure if Autodesk or Dassault helped in its creation, but if they didn’t the possibility for common Playstation users to have this kind of control over the scene away from expensive studio programs might be a potential thorn in their side.
Yamauchi said the Scapes feature ushers in a “new era of photography” and contains tech that could “change the world of photography as we know it today.”
“With Scapes you can place a car in any location, zoom in, anything you can do taking a real photo you can do in this feature,” said Yamauchi. “[You can] put a car in any environment, output up to 4K and share through Facebook, etc.”
We’re looking forward to playing the game more and familiarizing ourselves with this feature when Gran Turismo Sport launches this November.
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