Kazunori Yamauchi is a man living the boy racer dream - or rather, he would be, if boy racers even dared to have this kind of dream. As the creator of what is arguably the world's most authentic, most comprehensive simulation of race driving, he lives and breathes cars and motorsport.
The Gran Turismo games are so popular and influential among car manufacturers that Yamauchi has been given new cars as presents. And after expressing his love for Nissan's 350Z he was invited to help build their new supercar, the GT-R, by designing the vehicle's multifunction display. (For helping out, unsurprisingly, they gave him one.)
You could certainly argue that Yamauchi is living the dream. On the other hand, the cause of his immense success - his relentless, nigh-on obsessive perfectionism - is probably a key obstacle to his enjoyment of it.
Where you and I see a great game, an amazingly detailed model or a beautiful track, Yamauchi sees only room for improvement. The result is that Polyphony Digital is notorious for delivering games late (some, like the PSP version of Gran Turismo, seemingly disappear entirely for years on end). The games are always huge hits when they appear, delighting those whose tastes are in tune with Yamauchi's own perfectionism and deeply impressing even those who aren't.
Now Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has given European gamers their first taste of the next instalment, we caught up with Yamauchi in London. Read on to find out what the roadmap for the game is from here, what he thinks of the competition (hint: he's not impressed) and where in the bloody hell that PSP version has got to.
Eurogamer: With Prologue now out the door, where do you go from here - straight into full development of the full version of GT5, or are there more steps along the way?
Kazunori Yamauchi: There will be an additional major update to Gran Turismo 5 Prologue before the game is complete.
Eurogamer: So is this a case of basically building the final game, block by block, as you go along?
Kazunori Yamauchi: We're not exactly making it in blocks... But we did have a few more things left undone in GT5 Prologue that we'll be adding along the way. Those would be community features - friends lists and things like that - and also adding damage to the game.
Eurogamer: When you sat down to develop Gran Turismo 5, what were the big things you wanted to do - the key, headline things that you wanted to change about the franchise?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Of course, the quality of games you can make on PS3 is so much higher - and we wanted to establish the benchmark of videogames by creating something that utilises all of its power. The other aspect that we wanted to focus on was building a community, between the user, us, and the automobile manufacturers, so that we could communicate and create a new space, a new world in that respect.
Eurogamer: You said recently that damage would come "soon" - it's coming in GT5, then? We won't be waiting until GT6?
Kazunori Yamauchi: That's the plan, yes! It's actually really difficult to finish the quality that's possible with the PS3, in terms of the fine details - it's a lot harder than we first expected. A lot of things are very dependent on that, and we can't answer right away. However, we are planning to add the community features, and the damage, during Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.
Eurogamer: The online play modes you've provided in Prologue are pretty simple compared to what other racing games do - is improving that a big focus for you?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Yes, there'll be a lot of features added to that. We'll be adding a lot of the necessities, like being able to form your own car clubs within the game, or making racing teams in the game. Things like that, where the users can actually interface with each other, are something that we'll be adding.