GamesBeat: You became a race driver yourself. How has that helped you make your games better?
Yamauchi: It was a surprise to me, too, but we can take the car to places like Yokohama Tires or KW Suspension and do bench tests on them. Then we take the car out to the track and do our driving tests. The cars are just packed with sensors when we’re doing this. That model that’s created from that data, I actually drive it in Gran Turismo 6. Having that triangle, going from the bench test to a test drive to a drive in the game, the simulation test — that loop is really interesting to follow. In the loop of that process, we learned a lot of different things.
In this year’s qualifying for the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, the Nissan GT-R GT3 that we were driving caught some air. It went quite a distance up off the track. It looked so dangerous that they were showing the video on loop for a while here internally. At the same time, in the pit lounge above the pits, we had a simulator there. We entered all the data from the car in that simulator, and when we set the car to exactly where it was going on the track, it did the exact same thing at the exact same spot in Gran Turismo. We were able to adjust the front ride height and the rear wing so it doesn’t do that anymore. I never would have imagined that a day would come when we could do something like that. It was a very dangerous moment in time, but at the same time, it was an interesting discovery for us.
GamesBeat: How many races have you competed in so far?
Yamauchi: I started racing about five years ago. Since then, I’ve run in about five or six races a year. I haven’t driven all that much.
GamesBeat: It’s a lot more than me. [Laughter]
Yamauchi: Here’s that picture from the Nürburgring. That’s the real car, wheelie-ing over a section called the Flugplatz. It’s one of the first spots where people are liable to jump on the course because of the way the track comes up before it and comes back down. The car came off the ground and kept doing the wheelie there for about 15 meters before it came back down.
GamesBeat: How fast were you going?
Yamauchi: About 230 kilometers per hour, I think? It was about 5 degrees up off the ground.
GamesBeat: The reason you were able to do that is because you’ve gotten very good at physics simulation within the engine, then?
Yamauchi: It’s true. Physics is something where you can’t just aim for it and come up with results. It’s really a lot of trial and error most of the time.
GamesBeat: Thinking forward, so many games have online interactions, but at least for me, GT has been a very single-player-focused experience. How important is online play for you moving forward?
Yamauchi: Online play is a feature that all games are going to have automatically now. Of course, Gran Turismo is going to have that as a feature. But when you think about it, what’s really important to a Real Driving Simulator isn’t that kind of competition. Online features are something that we have to have, but that’s not going to be the part of the game that will be the deciding factor for most people. The basic simulation is still the core of the game.
GamesBeat: I wonder what players will notice that will feel differently about Gran Turismo 6 as opposed to the last game. Is there a specific thing that you think people will latch on to, and why is that important?
Yamauchi: We’ve done things like relieving the stress of the menus and transitions, making it faster with things like that. But what I want people to be drawn to in GT6 is really the feeling of driving in the game. That’s what impresses me the most when I’m playing GT6 in the middle of testing out the system.
GamesBeat: All I can say is that if you make GT6 too good, maybe nobody will buy a PlayStation 4.
Yamauchi: Once everyone has played out GT6 on the PS3, we are thinking about a PS4 game. When that comes out, we’ll be testing the limits of the PS4, just like in this version we’re releasing now. We’ve really pushed the limits of the PS3 as far as it can go.