Sony is gearing up to drop the mighty Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on PS3 this side of Christmas, and when you're competing with that franchise, you can't afford to churn out any rubbish.
System 3 knows this, and that's why it seems to be making every effort to make Ferrari Challenge as realistic, yet as fun as possible. To that end, it drafted in the help of professional GP2 race driver Bruno Senna (that's F1 legend Ayrton Senna's nephew, fact fans) to help out with development.
Senna has been involved in the development of the game since the beginning, so we sat down for a chat about exactly what he's been doing to help, and to take an interesting look at the world of racing games through the eyes of a professional racer.
What was your main contribution to the development of Ferrari Challenge?
Bruno Senna: I have lots of experience with real race cars so they invited me to go and help to develop the physics of the game, make the game feel as real as possible without losing the enjoyment.
If the game is too hard nobody will want to play it, few people will be capable of playing it and it therefore becomes a niche game. The real objective is to make a game that everybody can play but still be a good representation of how the physics really are.
What I've been doing with the game, from the start, is to really get the basics working, make the car handle nicely and make it feel like a real car. Once that was done we went into fine-tuning, modelling the cars mainly around the handling of the Ferrari 430.
I've been doing lots of work with the physics suspension, ABS and traction control in the game - just trying to refine the handling of the cars.
You briefly mentioned the common issue of striking a balance between realism and fun. So you would you say it's not good for a racing game to be too realistic?
Senna: There are some games that are simulators. But when you're in a real race car, it gives you cues as to what it's going to do. So, when you go into a corner you might feel it move slightly, you know it's going to over steer.
In a game, if you go into the same corner with the same oversteer, you won't be able to catch it because by the time you realise it's happening it's too late. And that's because it takes roughly two or three times longer for your brain to realise what's going on just from sight alone, than when you're in the car and actually feeling it.
The important thing is for the game to be realistic enough for it to feel like the real car does, but at the same time the game needs to be forgiving enough for you to catch any mistakes you make and react to the car's actions in time.
What's your favourite racing game?
Senna: My favourite racing game is the old GP4 game for PC (we think he means Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 4 - little mentioned but pretty good). I like the tuning system in that game and the physics are pretty good. Not perfect, but very good.
So, not Forza 2 then?
Senna: I never got around to playing that. I've just never got the opportunity, but it's also because I prefer to race in single-seaters rather than touring cars - that's what I do in real life. I think you feel more connected to the car when driving a single-seater, so the Formula games are my favourite.
You mentioned previously that Gran Turismo HD - from one of the most highly regarded racing series to date - gets the handling of real cars all wrong. Could you tell me about that?