Despite spending over five years making it, Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi still isn't happy with his latest creation. But it is finally here and at the official launch for the game last night in Madrid, Yamauchi turned up with a garage-load of supercars and a wide grin of relief.
After telling us "today is only the beginning" for the game, Eurogamer grabbed some time with Mr GT to find out what this means, and what's next.
Eurogamer: The game's finally out today. What took you so long?
Kazunori Yamauchi: We really wanted to make it incredible, and to make something incredible just takes time. But it's still not perfect.
Eurogamer: What's not perfect? You said on stage you're going to be upgrading every week, every month – what specifically do you want to work on?
Kazunori Yamauchi: That's sort of a surprise we're keeping for the future. Once games go online it's no longer the type of thing where you just make it, hand it over to the players and they go out and play it. Games will keep evolving.
Now it's released we're going to have several million people who'll become citizens of Gran Turismo. From here on we have to listen to their voice and see what they want and change the game accordingly to match their needs. So Gran Turismo really is just at the starting point, it's really the beginning and we're just going to evolve from here.
Eurogamer: You've been working on the game for over five years. How hard was it to say 'we've done enough'? Would you have liked more time?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Of course that's true and it would have been nice to have more time, but at one point we have to release the game because my imagination alone is not enough to make the game evolve to where we want it to go. We really need to listen to the voice of our citizens and see what they want out of the experience and evolve with that.
Eurogamer: On a specific note, will you be adding online matchmaking soon?
Kazunori Yamauchi: In this release we focused on the features that allow close friends to race together. Online updates are planned of course for leaderboard and matchmaking - [they're] all planned in the process of evolution.
Eurogamer: You are a perfectionist, you've said the game isn't perfect – but what do you think is GT5's greatest achievement?
Kazunori Yamauchi: I think it's the overall packaging of the game I'm really proud of. GT integrates a lot of different features, whether it be the graphics or the physics - it evolves a lot of different things. Really integrating that together in a clean package was a difficult process and I'm really proud we were able to do it.
Eurogamer: Looking ahead, Gran Turismo 6: will that be on PlayStation 3 or the next console?
Kazunori Yamauchi: 10 years ago it was easier to predict what would happen three years in future. Nowadays no-one knows what happens in the future. In three years, we don't know what will happen.
Eurogamer: So you're not sure that it'll be a PS3 game?
Kazunori Yamauchi: [Laughs and shrugs]
The following text comes from a general press Q&A session the morning after the launch event.
Journalist: I've test-driven a lot of the cars. Modern cars now drive quite alike – often it's hard to appreciate the difference between them. In the game there's always a difference between two cars – what do you do to enhance that difference?
Kazunori Yamauchi: It's really because the body structure and layout of the cars are becoming almost identical that we came up with different cars. For example, if you take the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Ford GT and look just at the body they're almost identical and you can't really tell them apart.
I think it's just that sports cars have evolved to that point now. For the character of each of the cars, manufacturers focus on providing different sounds that the driver will experience in the car, and also the steering and driving feel.
They would treat things like the feel of the power steering and I guess some of the cars have an adjustable power steering feel. There's many cars where, by turning this knob, you have a very different character in the same car.
On the base part Gran Turismo is pretty much the same. In terms of character you'll find of course that older cars have a stronger one. You'll find that especially so when you compare cars with the same power ratio over those of an older era – the difference is much greater in older cars.
Journalist: Did you have to invent something to create character in the game?
Kazunori Yamauchi: The most important thing is to recreate the car as accurately as possible. We don't do anything in addition to what the manufacturers do. For example, the Lexus LFA was a car where the engineers had a really exact idea of how they wanted it to sound. There's a very specific mechanism for producing that, that transmits the sounds from the engine into the cockpit.
If you look at the waveform graph of the sound coming from the engine, you can really tell that a certain frequency is very pronounced in the design. The frequencies are about five times the engine RPM. Those ranges are extremely pronounced in the sound design for the car and we've recreated that accurately within Gran Turismo.
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Journalist: Are you keeping track of the racing genre? What do you think of competitors?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Back in 1997 we had an isolated existence in the market but now there's a lot of racing games out there. It's very good for the genre I believe.
Journalist: What's your opinion of using 3D in racing games?
Kazunori Yamauchi: 3D was not something that was implemented at the last minute. We were working and testing with Sony two years ago. I think 3D technology right now is at a stage where it just has a lot of possibilities.
I was questioning how viable it is to add an effect to the gameplay and the reason I felt like that was, back in the eighties, I loved movies and a lot of 3D movies hit the screen and I felt it was limited. I thought 'this was it' and there would never be anything more.
But my thinking has changed since we've had the chance to work with 3D. And now I think it could be quite an advancement for mankind, really. The reason I say that is, in the history of mankind, starting with cave wall paintings, through oil paintings up to modern photography, everything we've left as a record has been in 2D.
For the first time in our history we're reaching a stage where 3D images are becoming possible. The effect of this is not something we can really come to a quick conclusion on – it has an infinite number of possibilities.
Journalist: What feedback have you had from the online community so far?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Yesterday the online service was kind of in a critical state. The data centre was set up to handle 500,000 connections but the number of connections we received greatly exceeded that amount and there was a high chance of experiencing problems as a result.
The design of the GT game really integrates the online and offline parts. So the problems online actually affected the offline play as well. Right now we've changed the number of simultaneous connections that are possible to one million, doubling the number, and we're trying to gauge what will happen, but we don't know at this point in time.
We also received a lot of demands for having more regulations placed on the online play. We're going to perform an update on the 27th that will include things like max power restrictions and weight restrictions. It's like a living creature, dynamically growing as we speak.
Journalist: Why did it take so long? And what is yet to come to perfect the game?
Kazunori Yamauchi: All the parts of GT are very difficult to develop and there's quite a gap between just completing something and perfecting it. In the process there's a lot of work involved between and sometimes that means getting rid of what you already have and starting afresh. That's what took the longest.
As I mentioned, we're already doing an update on the 27th to refine the usability of the game to make it a better experience. I think it's going to be hard to find an end to that process.