The post-E3 debrief, with F1 Game Director Lee Mather



June 29, 2018

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, not Christmas (which incidentally I absolutely love), but time for us to start showing off what the team have been beavering away on since we released F1 2017. Luckily for me, our release window also coincides with two of the biggest and most exciting gaming shows of the year, E3 and Gamescom. Of all the things I love in life, cars and gaming are right near the top of the list, along with travel and food, so I jumped at the chance to attend E3 and talk about a combination of my passions, that being our Formula 1 game.

E3 is a lot of things to a lot of people. For me, it’s finally the chance to ‘let the cat out of the bag’ and to talk at length about the game we’re releasing. It’s also a chance to catch-up with a great bunch of people, and see what everyone else has been working on. At a time on the project when everyone is working absolutely flat out, it’s a great boost to be around so many like-minded, passionate and dedicated people.

My E3 started the Saturday before the show, but for the team, plans for the build which I’d be showing were put in place significantly before that. Proceedings kicked off for me with a taxi to Manchester airport, followed by a flight to New York and then on to Los Angeles. My flight to New York threw up one of those rare occasions where not only did I have an empty seat next to me, but two seats away was someone who actually chatted during the flight! The person in question worked for a company who dealt with translation for Google, so with some common ground, the chat made the flight feel much a lot shorter. Plus I watched Black Panther and Game Night, both of which I’d recommend. I don’t remember much of the flight from JFK to LAX, but arrived in LA late evening. The usual chaotic taxi out of the airport finally got me on my way to my hotel, located in the Korea town district of LA.

After a pretty decent night’s sleep, Sunday and Monday are very much days to acclimatise and check everything is in place, ready for the show to start on Tuesday. With passes being made available early afternoon, I took the opportunity to attend the Microsoft Briefing – this year being held in the Microsoft Theatre – for the first time, next to the Staples Centre where E3 is held. Following the briefing, I collected my pass, and made my way in to the halls to see how things were progressing. You’d be amazed at the chaos and mess, considering the show is only 2 days off. Stands are still being built, hardware still being connected, and heavy machinery is still moving walls and lighting rigs in to place. It never ceases to amaze me each year how the stands come together so quickly, to become the amazing spectacles they are come the first day.

Monday was my opportunity to make sure my area of the Koch/Deep Silver area was all up and running. The events company who build the stand usually leave everything set-up really nicely, so for me, it was just a case of tweaking some console settings, to allow me to use a save file I’d brought with me, and fine tuning the TVs to really showcase the visual uplift which the game has received this year. By this point I’m still getting over my jetlag, but that’s not enough to stop me making my first visit to the infamous (and usually full of British game devs/press) Saddle Ranch, where I met up with some friends from Next Level Racing, ate a massive steak and watched people attempt to ride the mechanical bull.

Tuesday…. show day. E3 runs over the 3 days, the first of which is a relatively short day, running 11-5, with the following days being longer at 9-7 and 9-6 respectively. To make sure I was well prepared for the first day, and not being sure I’d get time for lunch, I kicked the day off with a massive breakfast, see there’s a food theme here! Some of you will have probably seen the photo in Twitter! I digress, jumping in an Uber, I shoot over to the convention centre and run through the final checks.

At 11am the doors open, and people start coming in to the booth. This year I showcased the first 20 minutes of gameplay, focusing on the new meet the press elements, which we’ve added to Career, plus the contract negotiations, driver rivalry, visual uplift and on track physics and ERS inclusion. I also touched upon the changes with made to the online game, with the inclusion of the super license. People were given 30 minute slots to play the game and to interview me. Some of those interviews were to camera, so will no doubt be coming out over the coming weeks. Due to the popularity of F1, I was often presenting to multiple media outlets at the same time. Something which is always really exciting for me is seeing people return year on year to see what we’ve done new, where we’ve improved the game which they loved from the previous year. It’s also great that when people hear that we’re showing the game behind closed doors (signed off assets prevent it being on the show floor at that time) we often pickup a bunch of extra media and fans who want to see the game.

Tuesday was a great day, with the highlight probably being my very poor attempt at ending an on camera interview in Spanish (at the request of the interviewer, who dictated each line to me). I can only hope that ends up on the cutting room floor, to avoid further embarrassment. There weren’t any live feeds taking place on Tuesday, but Wednesday had IGN, which is always great fun, and Square Enix presents, which runs a different format, which is very cool. I’ll skip the food talk, but chances are it was either steak or a massive burger, did I mention the 1lb burger I ate?

Thursday, being the last day of the show, had a lot of additional visitors slipping in to my schedule, as word was out that the game was there, and it was obviously awesome. Thursday was also the day for the Twitch live stream, which I’d really been looking forward to. There’s something really exciting about talking about what we’ve been doing, live, and to thousands of people. We’d been told that the Twitch broadcast suite was through a hidden door by Starbucks, which made it all the more intriguing. When we got there (bumping in to an old Rage colleague, who’s now at nvidia, on the way)it was just a door! Talk about an anti climax. I was picturing a genuinely hidden door! With a few minutes prep with the hosts, the stream went live, and I hope everyone enjoyed what they saw. If you missed it, you can view it back here:

With the final stream concluded, it was back to the booth for the final round of interviews. As things start to ease, people start to leave for flights. There’s a huge amount of people involved in a show such as E3, and it’s a massive undertaking. It’s always sad to have to say goodbye to people you’ve spent 3 days with, working under such intense but exciting circumstances. My final interview at the show was with an American Formula 1 journalist from, so keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks.

With that done, the final task was to erase the build from the PS4 Pro which I’d used, and to take some photos of ourselves with the incredible prop weapons from Metro, in front of the backdrop on the back wall. With E3 done, there was just time for one more amazing steak with some friends, before heading back to pack for the next part of my trip. Not related to work in any way, but meeting some industry buddies and my brother in Vegas for the next 4 days. And you know what they say about Vegas, so that’s where this blog post ends. I hope you enjoyed it, and found it interesting, or even amusing in some way! Maybe there will be an opportunity for me to write one about Gamescom?

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About Lee Mather

Game Director of the Formula 1 game series by Codemasters.

Gamertag: Rod Street

View all posts by Lee Mather

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