Melting Tires: The Kazunori Yamauchi Gran Turismo InterviewBy Billy Berghammer - Posted Sep 01, 2009
With Forza 3 and Need For Speed about to hit store shelves this fall, racing game fans will have their hands full this holiday season. However, the once king of the racing genre is also set to drop the forever delayed Gran Turismo PSP this year – and then hopefully – Gran Turismo 5 in 2010. Why did Gran Turismo PSP take so long to come out? What’s the plan for Gran Turismo 5? I got the distinct opportunity to sit down with the fastest man in video games – Kazunori Yamauchi – to get the answers.
G4: First off, and as a PSP owner, I’ve been waiting for a long time to ask this question – why did it take so long for Gran Turismo PSP to be released? It was shown when the PSP was first debuted – and then it disappeared.
Yamauchi: Back then, we really did intend to make the game, but we became just overwhelmed with other projects and other games – titles that we were working on.
G4: Well, that would be Gran Turismo 4 at that time?
Yamauchi: Since that announcement, we’ve had GT4 Prologue, GT4, and we had Tourist Trophy and then GTHD and then GT5 Prologue and then GT PSP. So, we’ve actually had six titles come out in those five years.
G4: And then you were also working on some other projects such as Gran Turismo for Boys and other things like that. Are those still in development or are those things that you’re sinking into GT5?
Yamauchi: That’s another homework that I have in my head. Of course, I already have ideas for it and I already have a road map for achieving that title, but we have the PSP version and we also have GT5 to work on, so it’ll come some time after that. One thing that can be said is that development on the PS3 was a lot harder than I initially imagined.
G4: So when you guys initially first showed Gran Turismo Portable, did you just put it on hold and then work on something else or was it always constantly in development?
Yamauchi: It wasn’t necessarily paused or placed on hold, but there were a lot of times where 95% of our effort was into a different project for a considerable amount of time.
G4: Now, having Gran Turismo PSP as a digital download and a UMD release help or hinder development of the game?
Yamauchi: Not really, and actually a downloadable version makes us consider things like download times and things like that – it’s actually another restriction rather than something that frees us up.
G4: That also opens you up for potential for downloadable content for the PSP version. Is that something that you’d like to do with this game?
Yamauchi: For the PSP version, we’re not considering any additional content that’s going to be downloadable.
G4: Is that because you want to focus your efforts on GT5?
Yamauchi: One’s a portable device and one is a fully online Gran Turismo. There’s a design difference there. That’ll be something that will be provided in GT5.
G4: So, originally when GT Portable was announced you said that you wanted to have Gran Turismo 4 in a portable system. Do you think you achieved that or do you think you’ve gone beyond that?
Yamauchi: If you actually play it, you’ll it to see it. You’ll find that Gran Turismo for PSP is closer to GT5 and it’s a lot different from the history of the GT series that we’ve had over the years. It’s sort of a small revolution going on within the game design and the system.
G4: I played it at E3. I haven’t played it at this show, but one thing I noticed is there’s a serious adjustment period with the analog nub – the difference of the feel of the analog nub versus using Dual Shock or the PS3 stick. How did you guys adjust controls for the PSP? Did you find it difficult?
Yamauchi: We’ve actually never disregarded the D-Pad over the 10 years of our development in Gran Turismo, we’ve always had been compatible with it and though we do a lot of working with the steering controllers and other analog controllers and thing like that, we’ve always made the game very playable on the D-Pad, and for us it wasn’t a surprise to have a device that’s only compatible with an analog controller.
G4: But with the differences of the give of the analog nub versus the stick on the PS3 controller – it feels different. I play it both ways, it depends on the car, I think. But the feeling of the actual the stick on the PSP feels a lot different. Did you have to change anything development-wise for that control scheme?
Yamauchi: We sort of considered something totally different. If you actually touch and play the PSP version, I think you’ll find that it feels different from the GT4 controls, just throughout the game and of course we made adjustments to the D-Pad to be compatible with the PSP, but it’s sort of different across the entire design. I think you’ll find that if you actually try playing it. I think you’ll come to discover that it’s really playable as a portable version of Gran Turismo – something we would like everyone to try out and find out for themselves.
G4: Are you going to be tying in GT Portable with GT5 at all? Will there be any connectivity?
Yamauchi: I think you’ll find that when you play the PSP version of Gran Turismo, it runs at a faster tempo. The gameplay is a lot faster than the previous versions of Gran Turismo we’ve had, where you’ll be able to gather cars quickly, you can actually share cars with your friends, trade cars with your friends and we’re going to make it so that you can actually export the cars for the PSP version into Gran Turismo 5, so you can export your garage.
G4: When you first showed off Gran Turismo 5 at the Tokyo Game Show, you talked about two different versions of the game. What happened to that whole concept? Why did you scrap it and move towards Gran Turismo 5 Prologue and then just one version of GT5?
Yamauchi: You know, when you announce something, you don’t know everything that’s going to happen from the start. You come to realize the things during the development that lead you in different directions, and though I had a lot of things in my mind when I started out, you make new discoveries in development and it takes you into different directions. I think it just evolved in development.
G4: What are your plans for Tokyo Game Show?
Yamauchi: At E3, we showed a concept video and this time at Games-Com, we have a playable demo with damage, and I think you can expect a similar major advancement at TGS.
G4: Are we finally going to find out a release date?
Yamauchi: I think we actually talked about having some thoughts in the beginning, but with things changing as they happened all through the interviews today and I’ve kind of have learned through experience. I try not to talk about the future too much because that ultimately leads to a more obvious answer and it’s better than way in the end.