If anyone knows how to make an F1 game, it’s Codemasters. And thankfully it’s they who are continuing their streak with the release of EA Sports F1 22 on Xbox, PlayStation and PC.
But F1 has changed massively in recent times, so we caught up with Lee Mather, Senior Creative Director on F1 22 to find out exactly what players should expect, what has changed and how the Codemasters team have gone about implementing those amendments. And yeah, we chat about Supercars and VR too.
Hi, please could you introduce yourself. What is your role at Codemasters and on F1 22?
Lee Mather, Senior Creative Director for EA SPORTS F1 22. F1 22 is the 13th Formula 1 game I’ve now worked on.
So sell it to us, why should gamers be interested in F1 22?
It’s a new era in the sport of Formula 1 and also a new era for us with the F1 series. The first thing which will stand out is that this is our first fully EA SPORTS branded title, which is clear from the new naming convention and something we’re very proud to be part of.
F1 22 offers returning and new fans to the sport an F1 experience like never before, allowing players of all skill and experience levels to enjoy the excitement of F1 through our implementation of the new sporting rules, vastly different looking and handling F1 cars, broadcast and immersive presentation.
And what game modes will racers discover upon getting behind the wheel of F1 22?
F1 22 offers gamers multiple ways to engage with the world of F1. My Team puts the player in charge of not only racing, but also running their own team. This year they’ll need to contend with multi threaded events which could impact team performance or finances. They’ll also be able to choose how they start their My Team Career but either starting with a clean balance, or picking a mid tier funded team entry point or a fully funded Championship contender team with strong resources and funding.
Driver Career places you in the hot seat at one of the Official Formula 1 teams, alongside the teammate of your choice from that team. You’ll be able to race and upgrade your team performance, to be fighting for the F1 Drivers World Championship.
Players can also get their F1 fix by jumping into our fully customisable Grand Prix Mode, Time Trial or take it online with our Social or Ranked Multiplayer lobbies.
And finally, not forgetting Event Mode, players will be able to engage in weekly events or featured races.
In terms of F1 as a whole and things have changed massively this season, in fact, there hasn’t been such a shift in rules and regulations for decades, with new cars, wheels and more now present. How have you gone about ensuring that F1 22 plays as closely to real-life as possible? Have the powers that be at F1, the FIA and the teams as a whole helped?
We’re very lucky to have such a great relationship with the technical team at Formula 1. Obviously we always build our cars to the new rules, as they’re released, but we were able to discuss in greater detail what the goals and expected outcomes of those changes were likely to be. This allowed us to concentrate on specific updates to our tech and in how we create our cars. The shift to underbody aero has made a significant difference on the ability for cars to race closer than ever before. There’s also the shift to the 18” wheel and tyre package which also impacts the feel of the cars.
Additionally, we’ve made significant improvements to our tyre model this year, which gives players an even more realistic yet forgiving feel when racing.
In regards to the new tracks, how did the process work to get Miami in F1 22, seeing as much of the game would have been put together prior to track completion?
Wasn’t Miami a fantastic event this year? Building the circuit was exciting for us, and we really had to pool our resources to get it delivered to the level we demand of ourselves. We were provided with great CAD data which allowed us to create the track ribbon accurately. We also had a team out there who helped provide us with additional reference photography. And of course, one of the most iconic elements of the entire circuit (no, not the epic fake marina), the Hard Rock Stadium, was something we were able to share with our friends over on Madden.
Similarly, there have been track amends put in to Barcelona, Melbourne and Spa. Will these changes all be seen in-game?
Melbourne, Spain and Abu Dhabi have all been updated this year. It’s amazing how the reprofiling of a corner can make such a difference to the feel and flow of a circuit. I’m really loving the faster flowing version of Melbourne, it really suits the latest iteration of F1 cars.
There’s no ‘story mode’ to talk of in F1 22. What is the reason for skipping it this time? Will we see a return of the narrative with future games?
We saw great success with our F1 2021 story mode Braking Point across both new and returning players, and we’re committed to this feature as a studio. It was never part of our F1 22 plans due to our two-year development cycle with our internal teams but it’s definitely coming back.
It’s not just the F1 cars that drivers will be spending time with in F1 22, with Supercars and Safety Cars available for the first time. How did the idea to include these come about?
The inclusion of supercars has been something which we’ve discussed for a number of years, and there are multiple reasons why we see them as such a great fit for the series.
They’re a great way to reward players with a very cool collectable and usable prize, purely for playing the game. We were also inspired by the lifestyle and car collections of the Formula 1 drivers themselves. We wanted players to also be able to experience the joy of owning such stunning cars. We were also inspired to add the Pirelli Hot Laps to the game, where F1 drivers take celebrities and journalists out on track, to showcase their skills in high performance road cars.
Then, of course, there’s the exciting new gameplay elements which we’ve created with them. F1 is intense and absolutely edge of the seat, so we wanted players to be able to take a breather between F1 race weekends and kick back with something a little more chill. What better than taking your favorite supercar out on a famous F1 circuit, taking part in Autocross, Drifts or one of the other new on track experiences we’ve created for them.
Regarding Safety cars, this year we’ve opened up the opportunity to experience a number of the key parts of an F1 race in a different way. Safety cars are a major part of a race and can heavily impact the outcome. By introducing this element, it helps players retain all of the authenticity and excitement, with the choice of how they wish to engage with them.
Safety cars can be a real race moment, but not everyone wants to drive the period of time when it’s on track. For players who don’t want the fully immersive version, we’ve also added new Broadcast versions, which present them in a TV style, with the Safety Car period being shortened.
And how has the introduction of these Supercars affected things technically? Has it been a challenge to ensure that they fit in with the rest of the F1 experience?
We already had the tech to build the cars within our EGO engine. We’ve had the non drivable safety cars for a number of years. However, we wanted these cars to feel perfect for the player. While working on furthering our physics development, we made major improvements to the how the suspension and tyre model are implemented, and that was bettered by implementing the supercars.
As a lover of Formula 1 and fast cars, they’re the perfect fit.
Moving from the stunning F1 machines to the equally stunning – but totally different in handling – Supercars is certainly a big shift. What is in place to ensure that players have no problems in adapting to the driving styles of each vehicle?
Great question. We know Formula 1 cars are challenging to drive, and the shift between the insane pace of the F1 cars and the supercars could be a challenge. We also know we have a lot of new players coming into the game through different channels, such as Drive to Survive or through the excellent social channels which Formula 1, the teams and drivers and EA run.
All of our vehicles have a thorough range of assists to ensure players of any skill level can race at a level which suits them. Amongst those assists are Traction Control, ABS, Steering Assist, Auto gears, Auto DRS and ERS, to name a few. We also have an additional Drift assist for the supercars.
We’ve also added a fantastic new feature for our new players, that being Adaptive AI. For players who are maybe new to the game, they can enable two different levels of adaptive AI which will ensure they’re always going to be experiencing the excitement of wheel to wheel racing.
Could you talk us through a bit more of F1 Life. How deep does the customisation and personalisation go?
F1 Life gives the player the chance to really personalize and customize their F1 experience. F1 Life allows players the opportunity to have a space which is theirs, and to showcase the collection of supercars and trophies they’ve unlocked. They’ll also be able to change the look and feel of all of the F1 Life locations, changing everything from the floor to the walls to the furniture which you and your friends’ avatars sit on. This space is also extended to be used as the Multiplayer lobby, giving players the chance to showcase their style, and to see who they’re going to be racing with. Style is something which is synonymous with Formula 1 and the drivers, so we wanted players to be able to showcase their own style and personality in F1 Life through a range of amazing real clothing brands which they can use to dress their avatar.
In regards the visuals, the F1 series has always looked great, but what changes have been made this time to really make things pop?
I can’t take the credit for the answer, so this is from our Senior Art Director, Stuart Campbell.
We’ve continued to make improvements to our ray-tracing tech and this is particularly evident during wet weather. The new supercars feature required windscreen rain effects not seen before in the F1 Title.
We have also had the challenges of bringing in a whole new feature in F1 Life. This required a lot of new rendering techniques around how to handle customisation and dynamic objects, as well as making the new supercars look as good as they can in the F1 Life locations.
You’re also really pushing the boat out in terms of the broadcast and commentary side of things, drawing on some of the most iconic voices from the F1 circus to aid immersion. How has it been working with these guys and girls, ensuring all have a place in F1 22?
It’s great that we’re able to draw upon such amazing talent across the world of F1. Working with real talent not only increases the authenticity of the game, but also gives us a chance to do something new with our broadcast style presentation. Finding a place for everyone in the game is never a problem. In most cases people are playing the role they do in the real world, plus, with such a vast game, we’re never short of things for people to do and be involved in.
We can’t talk about F1 22 without mentioning the inclusion of VR. Please, tell us about the immersion that VR brings to the game and why you have chosen F1 22 as the first F1 title to implement it.
We’ve heard it loud and clear from our players that they wanted VR in the F1 series. We needed to make sure we were in a position to be able to deliver it to the level we expected of our work. We wanted to be sure that the VR on track experience was going to be as immersive and exciting as it deserves to be. We also had a great opportunity to partner with the team who delivered VR for the DiRT series so we knew we’d be getting quality. Alongside our amazingly detailed visuals, deep and immersive audio, and the sheer pace and excitement of Formula 1, I think everyone is going to love what we’ve achieved with VR.
And finally, if there is one dream addition that you would like to see added to any F1 game in the future, what would it be?
A research trip where I get to lap Spa in an F1 car would be top of my list 😉 In all seriousness though, we have so many ideas and cool things we want to do with F1. We’ve hit a number of dream features over the years and hopefully you will see many more of them materialize in upcoming releases, but if I tell you what I have in mind now, I’ll be giving too much away.
Huge thanks go out to Lee at Codemasters for giving us the time to ping some questions his way. We’ll be following this with a full review of F1 22 on Xbox Series X|S real soon.
You can pick up the game for yourself from July 1st 2022, when it releases on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC. If you pick up the Champions Edition, you’ll get access to the game three days earlier, plus some extra goodies for good measure.