Paddock Pass: The Visuals

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September 23, 2013

Welcome to our second F1 2013 Paddock Pass blog post where we’ll be taking a look at the game’s visuals and art direction with Paul Jeal (Game Director) and Anthony Filice (Art Director). Just like last time, we asked you for questions via Twitter and pitched them to the team. Here’s what they had to say:

How do the likes of Abu Dhabi and Singapore (twilight/night time) races affect the art team?

The Abu Dhabi and Singapore tracks offer a distinct challenge, since they both have to be lit in completely different ways; this is because they both use a separate lighting model to work for the characteristics of that particular track.

Singapore is a floodlit city track which has to be lit in a specific way because it uses hundreds of single light sources

Abu Dhabi is a dynamic track – it starts off in the day time and transitions to night so we have to set up our assets to be able to cope with the changing light source. Singapore is a floodlit city track which has to be lit in a specific way because it uses hundreds of single light sources, all around the track with very little in the way of bounce light. We use this process to try and simulate exactly how the track would be lit in real life, so we can offer the same experience to the player.

With the Abu Dhabi track we can offer the beauty of an evolving sunset transition and in Singapore we are able to offer the player the experience to drive in a complete night time race. The epic Singapore skyline adds vibrancy against the darkness of night and the added detail of the track floodlights dance around the car body as you race around the track.

The different lighting setups can be a bit of a minefield on their own, but it increases in difficulty when we have evolving scenarios like our dynamic wet weather system, which changes the lighting values defending on the intensity of the wet and cloud type.

This year we’ve worked hard to improve the visuals of the game again (if you compare F1 2010 to F1 2013 side by side you’ll see how far we’ve managed to come) and really have maximised every last ounce of what the current generation of consoles allow us to do. For example, at Singapore we created a more exciting and atmospheric lighting scheme with a warm background contrasting against the cool and clinical track lighting. Key trackside buildings which in reality are very iconic have been re-lit to show off their architectural features, which adds colour and contrast for greater visuals.

F1-2013-visuals1

The focus on Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, was to create a crisp, high-fidelity lighting model and a memorable sunset transition. By studying our reference images and video footage, we succeeded in creating an epic and atmospheric sunset transition. In addition to this we managed to squeeze some extra lighting features in, which includes lens FX and real-time god rays, which creates an awe-inspiring backdrop as the sun slowly begins to set on the horizon. We’re really proud of the results.

What are the first steps when creating the car’s textures? – Do you create them from team-sourced images or do you use other reference material?

Once the car is modelled from team-supplied photo reference and track side photo reference we map/texture the surfaces. Using the supplied reference we apply the initial base colours and isolate areas such as carbon fibre, the interior, suspension/hub components, gearbox/engine components and surface details like the exhaust heat shields and riv-nuts. Then the livery is applied.

We always source reference at the beginning of the season so our liveries and car aero packages emulate the cars early on.

Once the car is resolved to this state it is sent to the teams for licensing approval and during this period we often carry out livery and aero changes at the teams’ request.

Will there be any extreme visual improvements over the console version when using ultra settings on PC?

When making a game to work across multiple platforms you have to look for the biggest visual impact areas across all platforms. This year, the sad loss of the HRT team has ultimately given us more budget. By saving two cars and all the data associated with them in terms of track position, tyre and fuel levels, damage, etc – in addition to the pit crew, garage, pit wall – we have been able to spend that budget on other areas of the game, enabling us to have the best looking version yet.

anyone who is running F1 2013 on a high end PC will see improvements in the quality level on the shadows, drivers…

Whilst we would love to spend more time focusing on platform specific improvements, the time set aside to do this is limited. That said, anyone who is running F1 2013 on a high end PC will see improvements in the quality level on the shadows, drivers, AI cars, object, trees, and also the vehicle reflections. And for PS3 owners, we really have spent a lot of time and focus on uplifting all areas of the graphics so that it is now hard to tell one platform from another graphically.

Have there been any visual changes to the weather effects in F1 2013?

The weather system has been a staple of our Formula One games since we launched back in 2010. A number of other racing games have tended to steer clear of weather due to the complexity involved, not just in the visuals but also in tying it all together with the gameplay experience too.

Last year we added localised weather, so that it can rain in a single section or corner of a track. This year improvements have been made to knit everything much more tightly together, both visually and from a gameplay perspective. We have a brand new series of weather scenarios, each tied in to the geographical location of the race as well as its place on the race calendar based upon historical data. These weather scenarios are much longer, around four hours, and the game randomly picks a scenario and a point on it so that players will rarely play the same weather conditions twice. Even the Race Engineer doesn’t know 100% what is happening with the weather and sometimes calls it wrong! Gameplay-wise our focus has been on eliminating any disparity between what the player sees and what they experience when driving in the wet, as well as improving visually on the wet weather transition between light, medium and heavy rain, thus creating a more realistic wet weather experience. The track surface and a lot of the VFX we use to simulate the wet weather have also been improved.

F1-2013-visuals2

Now that we’ve had the United States Grand Prix has the Circuit of the Americas been changed/updated in anyway?

For the third time in four years, (Korea, India and America) we’ve had to create a circuit from very early data, way before the circuit was built and raced in real life, due to the amount of time it takes to produce a circuit to the level of quality needed in our game. As ever, this proved to be a tricky task, with the track being largely modelled on architectural drawings and early concepts mock ups and pictures.

Having now studied the full set of reference footage and photography from the race, we have been able to make extensive upgrades to the Austin environment for the 2013 game release. The terrain will feature all of the red white and blue painted decoration, which gives Austin its vivid and distinctive look. There has also been various adjustments to the track contours, infield and pit lane entry, all reflecting the latest real world version. Many of the buildings and grandstands have also been remodelled or recreated to make the Austin environment as accurate as possible for this year’s release of F1 2013.

What challenges are there when working on such an established IP? Is it hard to keep that “F1” look while still looking for improvements?

After four years of developing and improving our visuals with the current consoles we are certainly approaching the limits of what is possible

Our goal here at Codemasters Birmingham is to get our visuals as close as possible to real life. After four years of developing and improving our visuals with the current consoles we are certainly approaching the limits of what is possible. However, with the next generation of machines just around the corner we will certainly continue with that approach and be able to get closer than ever.

One of our biggest challenges is balancing what we would like to do with the wishes of the licensors, as it’s important that we always portray the sport and its members in the best possible light. For example, we’ve never been allowed to use the official graphics used on TV, mainly because games are looking so realistic these days, and there are other areas where we need to tread carefully when looking for improvements.

The game features two classic filters for the 80s and 90s cars, what inspired the colour choices and HUD themes?

F1-2013-announce

We implemented the two classic filters for the ’80 and ’90 in order to create a nostalgic effect for the player, and to take them back to the audio and visual television coverage of the day. This is then taken even further, with special resonance for the UK gamers, with the game including the iconic F1 theme ‘The Chain’ and the inclusion of our very own Murray Walker in all English language versions of the game.

The ‘retro’ colour filter and the HUD elements were based off different TV feeds our research team had gathered as reference, which we tried to match as closely as possible. The cameras back then weren’t as good as what the broadcast media use today, so we added some chromatic aberration and other image imperfections to the game, to re-create the lower tech recording equipment from back in the day. We’ve also enabled an option so that the colour filters can be turned off at any time before or during the race, giving players the freedom to choose the visual experience they desire.

Although F1 2013 is a current gen title what graphical improvements can you see the next generation offering?

While I can’t give away any secrets, I can tell you we are cooking up a storm here at Codemasters and we can’t wait to show you what we are planning for the next game.

Like I said before, our goal is to achieve the most realistic visuals possible, and with the next generation consoles offering us more speed and power, we will be in the best position we have ever been in, which will allow us to achieve the level of realism which will enhance the driving and emotional experience for the F1 player.

Visually – which classic car is your favourite?

I’m torn between the 1976 Ferrari and the Lotus 98T…I’ll have to go with the Ferrari!

Our art team have worked very hard in what we believe to be the best looking F1 game we’ve released so far. Thanks to Paul and Anthony for taking their time in answering these questions, and thanks to our community for providing them! The F1 2013 Paddock Pass is an on-going series so we’ll see you next where we talk more about the game’s audio!

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About Luke Spring

Community Manager at Codemasters, lover of all things Formula 1. Does not play acoustic guitar.

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