Drive through an aquarium in a FOMRULA ONE CAR? Speed across Bullet trains in Japan? Welcome to F1 RACE STARS! Today we’re sat down with Harvey Parker (Art Director) and Gavin Cooper (Chief Games Designer) to talk about how they set about they set about taking FORMULA ONE tracks and environments and creating a whole new world of FORMULA ONE fun.
Hi Gavin, tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do here at Codemasters.
My name is Gavin Cooper , I’m the Chief Games Designer on F1 RACE STARS. I’m the creative vision holder and I oversee the Games Design and Level Design departments. I make sure the decisions made by all the design teams are going in the same direction.
How did you get to where you are today?
I got into Level design originally, I used to make levels for Quake in my spare time. I’d applied for a job that a friend saw in the newspaper. When I got there the week long interview was making levels in Quake! I got the job there and did I did level design jobs at a couple of studios and worked my way up to lead level designer. As lead level designer I started helping out oversee the game design side of things as well and my role was formalised for F1 RACE STARS.
Now let’s talk F1 RACE STARS. How much of the official FORMULA ONE tracks have been put into the circuits on F1 RACE STARS?
Quite a lot! When we first started we looked at the real circuits and decided there were two ways we could go. We could shrink the circuits down and make the gameplay fit those circuits. But what we thought would give us a much better game was to look at the tracks to see what was iconic or unique to them and have fun with them – so we looked at those famous sections and corners, and combined then with the trappings of the country they take place in. After all FORMULA ONE really is a globetrotting sport. So we took all of that along with the racing style into account to inspire the design of the track from the ground up to take advantage of the type of gameplay that we wanted.
Each track you race on starts on the FORMULA ONE track itself, so when you’re first on the grid we wanted those that know FORMULA ONE to be able to look around and say “yeah, this is Monaco”, “this is Silverstone”, it’s the F1 RACE STARS versions of those FORMULA ONE circuits. Further on down the track you will break off and start your adventure around the country.
Anything from a quarter to a third of our tracks include real-world features – all the iconic items in the starting area are there, the pit lanes, the gantries and the grandstands, but then we wanted to take you on an adventure through each country too.
What influences did you look at for the rest of the tracks? How did you decide what elements of the country to bring in?
We wanted the game to be very inclusive. It was almost like walking a fine line between getting references that anybody would understand versus straying too far into being stereotypical. So it really was about walking that line. We have a number of people of different nationalities within Codemasters so we had them take a look at what we had and asked them what they thought. They were very open to it in the same way that those of us who are British on the team would see a red telephone box and say, “That’s British, through and through.”
We did have a lot of meetings early on to discuss what different bits of each country we could bring in. We started with the FORMULA ONE tracks proper and then we looked at the surrounding areas. Like, if you were to go to the Melbourne GRAND PRIX and go on holiday with your family for a week in the country, what would you pick up on, what would the feel be? All those things you’d look to do while in Australia, things that the tourist board might be promoting. That formed the journey that we wanted to take people on.
How did you arrive at the final styling for the tracks and environments?
It led on from the character design somewhat. We had the ambition to make the characters toy like. Similarly with the environments, I wanted each distinct region that you travel through to be like a set of toys. They all have to feel like they came from the same toy factory and that was the approach we took. We again looked at the CGI films that we discussed in the character interview. Primarily at their concept art. When you look at the concept art for these films they break down the important shapes and colours and lighting – what really stands out and makes the impression? We wanted to capture a similar feel in our game. By taking care of which features to emphasise or even over-emphasise, it really helped to create that fun, toy like quality which, like a lot of the high-end Hollywood animation films, connects with both young and old.
End of part 1, come back soon for Part 2!