We just had a chance to sit down with Gran Turismo series creator Kazunori Yamauchi to not only watch the Polyphony Digital president play some expert-level Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, but catch up on how the teaser version of Gran Turismo 5 will play. The early taste of the first proper PLAYSTATION 3 release will feature a number of firsts, including online play, damage effects for cars, and fully modelled interiors.We spent a good portion of our session going through Prologue's "My Page" features. Most of it is rather self explanatory—Options, Home integration, Garage—but Polyphony touched briefly on the TV functions. The developers plan to show videos of non-game content, including (potentially) real life races, television shows, and "how to" clips created by Polyphony themselves. The My Page Profile aspect was pitched as very straightforward, containing information about the user's personality, but we weren't shown what it actually looks like.
Kaz seemed pretty proud of his latest car museum disguised as a PlayStation game, giving us ample eyeball time with the lovingly crafted car models. He showed us details on a 2006 Ferrari F430, making sure we didn't miss the stitched leather details to our left. Yes, Kaz, very pretty. Players will be able to inspect Polyphony's hard work even during races, as the GT driving wheel will let drivers pan left and right, an option supposedly not available with the SIXAXIS controller.
We also got a bird's eye view of the Lotus Elise convertible from the same model year which he took out for a spin on the familiar Suzuka Circuit. This probably won't come as a surprise, but Kaz was pretty good at playing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. The one curiosity I noticed was that he steered with the D-pad, not the analogue stick. He told me to chalk it up to habit, having learned how to play his own game on the original PlayStation, before the controller became the analogue stick-equipped DualShock.
Hardcore racer will be pleased to learn that GT5 Prologue will also add a new level of mastery for expert drivers, with a Professional driving physics option. Apparently, fan requests for a more intense driving experience led to the change.
Also at the behest of fans is a working damage model, one of unspecified depth. We didn't see Kaz run into anything during our session, so it was hard to tell if the game features the system in place yet. When asked about the new built-from-the-ground-up AI code and the option for car damage, Yamauchi indicated that CPU controlled drivers are aware of the new penalties for playing "bumper cars." With up to sixteen cars on the track, they need to be aware of each and the danger of spinning out when one comes in contact with another.
Yamauchi says these changes will lead to fewer cars lining up as they had in previous Gran Turismo games.
Apparently, with GT5 Prologue being built on a car and component basis, virtual racers will be given a better perspective on how their changes in hardware will affect cars from a performance basis and how they'll look when decked out. After learning this, I asked Yamauchi if the new guys at PD are stuck building just components, like aftermarket wheels and bonnets. No, he said, but that is one of the tests when someone comes on at the developer. Get your tire models right, then you can move on to cars.
Yamauchi also confirmed, via his translator Tsubasa Inaba, that a new force feedback wheel is being developed specifically for the release of the game. The Polyphony Digital staff declined to give us additional details on what changes we could expect, but I think we can safely assume that they're not adding motion control.
The bad news? A North American release has not yet been confirmed. The Europeans and Japanese will get their driving gloves on the game this year, but Yamauchi asked us to solicit fan feedback. They said they'll be evaluating fan interest to see if a US and Canada version makes sense.
You know what to do. If you want it, say so.