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Joystiq interviews Polyphony Digital's Kazunori Yamauchi

During TGS, we had the opportunity to visit the studios of Polyphony Digital and meet with the man behind the Gran Turismo series, Kazunori Yamauchi. We had just finished watching a demo of their video-on-demand GTTV service – which was announced during a Japanese-press only event at TGS the preceding day – and got to poke around their studios (check out Gamespot's fancy video tour) before sitting down with the man himself. We talked about GTTV (of course), the current status for Gran Turismo on PSP, how they reached the elusive 1080p goal, and if their PSP/PS3 connectivity ideas are any better than a rear-view mirror.

Gallery: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue | 19 Photos

Thanks for taking the time to meet with us and show us the game and your studio. It's very much appreciated. Could you explain the rationale behind releasing GT5: Prologue before releasing the full Gran Turismo 5?

So there's basically two reasons behind GT5 Prologue. First one being, as we move with the franchise to a new generation of hardware, the PS3‚ and trying to extract the maximum out of it and being comfortable, it's already taken us three years to get to a point where we're almost happy with what we're delivering on the system.

But we thought it's about time we release something on our franchise. We thought if we waited until the full numbered series product is out, number one we'd keep our customers waiting too long and we wanted to keep people aware we're still around, and keep GT in people's minds. So that's the more obvious reason. The second reason kind of relates to the first one; if we waited for GT5 with the online elements that we're talking about, such as GTTV or whether it's the online dealership concept or given the basic racing head to head online capabilities, we wanted to keep those experiments to a rather smaller compact designed game and be able to experiment on a base that is small rather than having a humongous base to start with and for us to be for the first time bringing the online elements to the franchise with the scale of a huge mothership so to say.

Speaking of GTTV, you've just said that GT5 has taken so long to develop, are you worried that things like licensing complications could further delay the actual, final product?

Looking at the angle of our relationship with car manufacturers and licensing that surrounds those, luckily we have a history of ten years in our franchise and we've managed to establish a very good relationship with all if not most of those parties. so that really isn't affected in any way. So that's one thing. The other angle surrounding GTTV, again a lot of the content really doesn't have a deadline or an airing date that needs to be hit, so it's just a matter of us clearing the rights for the content and whatever is cleared first will appear within the window of GTTV and we can add and expand on that.

Gallery: Gran Turismo TV (PS3) | 11 Photos

Just yesterday at the keynote they announced the rumble controller. Is that something you guys have known about for awhile? Is it being built into GT5 Prologue?

Yes, we did know about the new DualShock 3 controller. In fact, we were part of the evaluation process here at PDi and, for obvious reasons, we've always historically supported DualShock controllers since the first generation and we will support DualShock 3 with GT5: Prologue.

How about things like SixAxis controls? Have you thought about implementing motion controls into the game?

Obviously, yes, there is a feature set of the SixAxis but we do not plan to implement that in using it to control the car, the actual car in the race, but we have studied the characteristics of the controller, we have experimented with it and the GTHD free download that we started last year. We implemented one feature which was, if the person puts the controller down, the user interface will disappear, and if they pick it up it will appear back. Features like that we plan on implementing in GT5: Prologue. We feel like that is a good match.

You've obviously been more than busy with GT5 over the years. A couple years back there was an announcement of Gran Turismo for PSP and we haven't heard much about it since then. Has that been put on hold for GT5, or are you still actively pursuing it? Sometime in the future or not at all?

This is still in the works, so we are still working on it, but this will be after GT5 on PS3. Because of the interaction of the PS3 – well, it's not that easy to develop on PS3 – we've had to put it aside a little bit, yes. But once we get GT5 out we hope to position it as the satellite to GT5 on PS3, GT on PSP.

Interactivity between PSP and PS3. One of the examples they showed at E3 two years ago was the idea of a rear-view mirror in a racing game ...


... so that example probably not being the best application of the PSP, have you considered any other kind of PSP interactivity with the PS3 and GT5?

Well, one example would be for people to utilize replays of their race experience. Take that outside the home, whereas at home you would need the PS3, but they can take that away and share. Another would be – and we would need to do further research, we're just talking ideals here – but it would be nice if we were able to allow people to compete whether they're on the road or in their living room on the PS3, compete in the same race. Even though the visual qualities will be different depending on which hardware they're on it would be nice if we could allow for that. Technically, we think we should be able to. Or another would be – a feature we had on GT4 B-spec – which is basically you're the race manager. You don't even need to steer the controller, you just set the car and let it go; you're managing it. Another example would be the PSP would be your management tool: give it input and give it instructions and the car would continue on with the race.

So the game runs at 1080p, 60 frames per second. That's something that, even on PS3, a lot of games haven't been able to accomplish. How much of a development concern was that when you were building it? How much time did it take to get the engine – which looks great running at that resolution – up to snuff?

First of all, Kazunori insists that a racing game runs at 60 frames per second. That's a must have from his point-of-view. And the characteristics of racing, or racing games, is that you're most of the time driving at high speeds. At high speeds, your view points are in the distance. You need detail, even for distant images, and 1080p was the only resolution that he could possibly think of. Both 60fps and 1080p were both must haves for the GT experience to be the GT experience. They've done some experiments on 720p to see if they could find a compromise but the minute they saw it, it was out the door.

So that's GT5. Gran Turismo PSP we already discussed. What's next after that? More Gran Turismo games?

Kazunori always wanted to do something beyond Gran Turismo, but with the PS3 and all the downloadable possibilities, that dream is further and further away. *laughs*

Thank you so much for your time!

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