F1 2009 on Wii and DS, Codemasters' first F1 game since it acquired the official licence, was somewhat just a precursor to what it had planned for the full-fat current-gen game coming to PS3, 360 and PC this September.
We sat down with Paul Jeal, senior producer on F1 2010, to get the skinny on what to expect from the game's epic-sounding career mode, its multiplayer features, possible head tracking and other gameplay details.
Here's the first half of our lengthy interview - check back over the weekend for the second half.
What did you take from the development of and reaction to F1 2009?
Jeal: The only benefit that gave us was confirming that there's a market out there for F1. It sold really well. But also it established some relationships with the teams, finding out what they're like with giving us reference material, how it'll take to get it, and just testing the waters with F1 management generally. The contract's not as tight as you might think. It's quite black and white in some places, but there's quite a lot of grey in there as well.
We've got a really good relationship with F1 in order to be able to speak to them and present a feature. The press conference feature was one they weren't sure about at first but when we could present it to them and show them what we were thinking and that we weren't going to be slamming other drivers it was cool.
In what ways does having the official licence restrict your creative freedom?
Jeal: The only thing that's been restrictive so far is that, with something like a career mode it'd be good to have all the racers change teams. It's not so much an F1 restriction, I think its more that you really have to get all the teams to approve and some of the bigger teams won't want their drivers in another car. Also certain sponsors are tied to certain teams so having one driver's helmet in another car isn't going to work.
But it's enabled the guys to innovate - so with the career mode it's actually done like a game of musical chairs. There are 24 seats open at the start of the season. At any point you can establish interest with a team - but how long do you leave it? You can wait so long like Nick Heidfield and there'll be no seats left, or you can accept an earlier offer and have a guaranteed drive on a smaller team.
So, to confirm, you won't be able to take drivers to different teams?
Some of the earliest concerns following the Codemasters license announcement surrounded how well the Ego Engine, which had done Dirt and Grid, would handle a hardcore F1 sim. How much have you changed the engine to suit F1?
Jeal: It wasn't too hard, to be honest. We had a core team from the Dirt 2 team - I was working on Dirt 2 for a little bit but as soon as F1 came in it was all hands on deck with that - and we used the skills of those guys who had worked on those games.
But actually putting F1 in a different studio from the outsets seemed like a bit of a crazy idea. The studio hadn't done racing games before (there's a few guys who did the old Sega Rally). Most of them had worked on a diverse selection of games which I think, from the outset, seemed a bit risky.
But I think the cool thing is that it's allowed us to not be attached or precious about any particular part of the engine or code. So there's no doubt the Ego is great technology and it's allowed us to be light-years ahead of where we'd be writing it from scratch, but it's allowed us to decide from the beginning which parts need re-doing.