It's unusual for a game to launch on a Wednesday in Europe. Then again Gran Turismo 4 is a pretty unusual game. Enormously popular almost by default, it's the most detailed and extraordinarily vast racing simulation available on the PlayStation 2, and the gains made by developer Polyphony Digital since GT3 have made for a more accessible, rewarding and varied experience than ever before. Team leader and series creator Kazunori Yamauchi was in London last week to celebrate the launch, and we took the opportunity to ask him about the proposed online version, the competition, next-generation games development and PSP title GT4 Mobile.
Eurogamer: Are you still planning to release an online version of Gran Turismo 4 this year, or will this have to wait until the next version of Gran Tursimo?
Kazunori Yamauchi: That's an area we're still thinking about.
Eurogamer: So it's still undecided whether or not an online version of Gran Turismo 4 will come out this year?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Yes, that's still undecided. Maybe this year.
Eurogamer: Obviously, you will have answered this question many times, but what was the main reason for dropping the online portion of the game? Was it a problem with PS2 specifically, or something else?
Kazunori Yamauchi: There were lots of reasons. The game itself is huge in volume, and we felt that the online services were not ready to support the online game, and so the decision was taken to first allow people to play and experience the volume of GT by instead providing it offline.
Eurogamer: How do you feel about other popular racing games at the moment, such as Project Gotham, Burnout and Need for Speed? Do you see them as competition or do you see Gran Turismo as a different genre?
Kazunori Yamauchi: First of all, my feeling aside, the users feel that Gran Turismo is different, and that their aims are different also. GT has kept to its simplicity and has aimed to improve its quality and try to bring it to the highest possible standards, and based on these high quality standards there are possibilities for the future where we will be implementing lifestyle aspects such as street racing and modifications. Currently GT allows for lots of freedom for players, for GT to have many faces, many characteristics maybe, there are possibilities where that will grow in the future.
Eurogamer: How do you feel about Forza Motorsport? Obviously, Forza allows people to modify cars in this way. Is this game instrumental in your wanting to allow users to do the same in GT?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Areas such as modifications to cars are areas that I'm always interested in, and I've always wanted to include them, but to include them in GT4, I felt that the overall quality would have been reduced. I'd just like to remind you that there are 700 cars in GT4. To maintain the quality we have achieved in the game would not have been possible if we had allowed users to modify the cars.
Eurogamer: Do you think the speed of console hardware is becoming irrelevant and it's down to the imagination of the games maker to produce better experiences?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Exactly. Games must not rely on hardware specifications, but on the creativity of the developers.
Eurogamer: When we interviewed you in 2000 in Tokyo, you told us that after working on the next GT game, which turned out to be GT4, that you would like to work on something else like an RPG. Do you think that this is going to be possible, or is GT now too big for you to leave alone?
Kazunori Yamauchi: That thought has not changed at all. I would still like to do something.
Eurogamer: Within Polyphony Digital?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Yes. Within Polyphony Digital. There is a plan which is proceeding. But I'm also thinking that it will take at least three years to show something, and then another additional period to allow it to be readied for release.
Eurogamer: About PSP. Obviously you're making GT4 mobile for PSP. It's a bit of a silly question, but will it be a full version of GT4 on a handheld, and will it support wireless multiplayer?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Firstly, the answer is no. The PSP game will not be the same experience. Secondly, whether you will be able to play against each other wirelessly, the answer is yes. I've changed the focus of the PSP version of the game. The focus is on playing together.
Thanks to Kazunori Yamauchi for answering our questions. Gran Turismo 4 is out now on PS2 and reviewed elsewhere on the site.