Interviews// Ferrari Challenge - Interview with Producer, Mark South

Ferrari Challenge – Interview with Producer, Mark South

Posted 14 Sep 2007 17:39 by
I recently took a trip out to the glorious Mugello race track in northern Italy to check out System 3’s hugely ambitious Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli, due for release on PlayStation 3, Wii and DS later this coming November - and billed as the 'spiritual successor' to SEGA's mighty three-screen arcade classic F355 Challenge.

System 3’s ultimate aim is to have every single Ferrari ever made available in the game, so if you are tifoso (or Tifosa) or if you just love the cars, you will be able to get them all, from the very earliest 166 model though to the very latest 430 Scuderia model, recently unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

Eutechnyx’s Mark South is the producer on the game, which has been built around his company’s proprietary game engine, one that has been tweaked and perfected over many years of developing racing games.

South’s team has worked hand-in-hand with Ferrari in painstakingly modelling the cars and tracks of the Ferrari Championship, so I collared him for a quick chat about the background to what may well become one of the PlayStation 3’s surprise hits this coming Christmas. Mark was deep in conversation with Ferrari’s mechanics, discussing how he could get some data on the minutiae of some new steering technology… Clearly a man with a mission to make a great game.

SPOnG: Hi, Mark, so what is your actual job title and responsibility on the project?

Mark South: Hi, I’m the producer from Eutechnyx responsible for Ferrari Challenge.

SPOnG: What’s your own background and the background and history of Eutechnyx?

Mark South: Well, in terms of my own background, I was an operations manager. I started off working at IBM for a while, then I came to the UK when the opportunity arose to work at Eutechnyx as a project manager. I’ve always had a love for race cars and driving – I mean, cars are like my life really, right? So it was a good fit for me, for what I wanted to do.

Eutechnyx has a good pedigree when it comes to working on racing games. We did Fast and the Furious and a bunch of other racing games, both licensed and original stuff. Ferrari is the pinnacle of what we’ve been doing though. It’s the first opportunity to use our PS3 engine for something, which has been in development now for over four years.

SPOnG: So, Ferrari Challenge is based on your own engine?

Mark South: Yes it is. It’s always been our core engine. We use Aegea for physics and simple rigid-body stuff like collisions, but aside from that the whole vehicle dynamics is ours. The engine – what we are using on Ferrari Challenge on PS3 - hasn’t been used in any of our games so far.

But this is the first time we have really used the stuff in the engine that is particular to the vehicle dynamics.

SPOnG: What was the whole experience of developing for PlayStation 3 like?

Mark South: Heh! It’s always a good question. It’s a learning curve, of course, because it’s a new platform. Online was a little bit tricky to get running because they were a little bit late in getting that to us. But now, PS3 is a great platform to develop on. There’s a lot of support for it. There’s good access to hardware. They’re very onside with helping you get your product done, you know, they will send technicians if you need help – we have a great account manager. I think PS3 has caught up a lot of ground in a very short space of time.

I’m not saying that there’s further to go, because I’m sure there is, but right now I’d say it was a nice platform to develop on.

SPOnG: What about working with Ferrari – who was that guy you were just deep in conversation with again?

Mark South: Oh, that was Malcolm, from Ferrari, he helped us loads, showing us in the pit-lane at Silverstone what we could actually modify on the cars. So, we went in with him and a mechanic and he showed us exactly what happened to the car when different adjustments were made. It’s one thing to say that you can adjust roll-bar stiffness, but what does it actually mean? We’re looking at a quarter of a turn on a nut on the car to make an essential difference to the handling – and we’ve recreated that level of detail in the game. And Ferrari was more than willing to give this information to us.

We have the service manual for the F430 – one of the few Ferraris that has literature published about it – and we were able to get it for ourselves. So, it’s stuff like that which is a big help because you can’t get that in any other place.

If you think of the hand-built heritage of race cars, to get it in your game and to get it working right you need the opinions of experienced people who know what works and what doesn’t work. It’s the same with Bruno [Senna] (nephew of three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton Senna) as well. He races for System 3 and he has a really good relationship with the Ferrari guys as well.

SPOnG: So, has Bruno had quite a lot of active involvement in the development of Ferrari Challenge?

Mark South: Oh God, a massive involvement! Every week he is down. He sits with the guys and he helps us develop the handling. He’ll test something and say, “Oh, your differential is no good” or whatever and he’ll work with us until its right.

He’ll pick up things that I would never, ever have thought of. In the end, we ended up with a driving model that is very good, very realistic but we also put stuff on top of it to make it a little bit more accessible. That was the biggest thing for us, because while the simulation is fun, to some, to really make it accessible you really need to be able to build up to it. Rather than just throwing someone in a sim so they hit the gas and their car spins off the track.

So, Bruno’s been very critical in getting this set up and, even more than that, he’s taken that car [indicates System 3’s race car, pictured here] over to Spa and run a couple of laps and we pull the telemetry from his laps and then match it to what we have in-game, to ensure that it’s consistent. That’s a good practical example of the kind of thing we’re doing to make sure that we’re doing the right thing.

SPOnG: One of the weird things today was that I found the game pretty challenging on the first few quick plays, but then after being out on the actual Mugello circuit driving real Ferraris the game seemed much easier to play. It clearly works!

Mark South: [laughs] That’s good! You have a new found respect for braking points, which is key. You know when to lift off the brake, you know not to brake and turn. It gives you a much better race, when you play it online.

SPOnG: Personally, I’m usually more of a fan of non-realistic arcade drifting type racers – Ridge Racer, Outrun, SEGA Rally and so on…

Mark South: Oh yeah, I love Ridge Racer and I played Outrun to death in the arcades.

SPOnG: But Ferrari Challenge is quite a different type of experience.

Mark South: Yeah, it’s a different feel, although this game will never be ‘true’ arcade, because that’s just a different genre, we want to have the accessibility too. So, you can turn up your in-game assists and you can still go pretty hard into a corner but so long as you roughly hit your braking points then you won’t spin the car out of control. So, it offers a little bit more of a ‘mixed’ experience.

We didn’t want to make a game that was too much ‘simulation’ because there are already a number of good games out there that do that, we wanted to offer something a little bit different to gamers.
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ozfunghi 15 Sep 2007 19:14
This interview shows what Wii owners can expect. Other than in the opening sentence, the platform wasn't once mentioned. Expect a watered down port, made as a sideproject to fund their expensive PS3 engine.
need4speed 16 Sep 2007 19:56
This seems like the kind of gaming experience a true Ferrari aficionado like myself can really sink his teeth into. Especially if these thoroughbred machines do get a bit banged up.

Looks like a whole lot of research went into this production. If Mark put half the virtual automotive realism and driver "feel" he spoke of into this game, I know I'll be hooked...
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whiny wii wii 16 Sep 2007 22:22
what do you expect for the wii version?
wii is a gamecube on proplus so its always gonna get lame ports cuz its got decade old hardware.
with an over rated controller that few devs have a clue how to exploit maybe ppl will finally see wii for what it is - a one trick pony that is the flailathon party game
ozfunghi 17 Sep 2007 20:22
whiny wii wii wrote:
what do you expect for the wii version?
wii is a gamecube on proplus so its always gonna get lame ports cuz its got decade old hardware.
with an over rated controller that few devs have a clue how to exploit maybe ppl will finally see wii for what it is - a one trick pony that is the flailathon party game

Wow, a troll that doesn't even have the balls to use his true account. Shocking. A one trick pony? Okay, buddy. What exactly would be the one trick? Metroid Prime 3? Super Paper Mario? Dewy? Mario Galaxy? No More Heroes? Manhunt 2? Mercury? Or were you referring to that pony game by Ubisoft? Lol.

I bet if we go back 2 years, this is exactly what you said about the DS, mirite? I'm laughing my ass off, knowing you're probably reaching boiling point every time sales data get released, and Wii is ridiculing PS3 and 360, and more and more devs start restructuring their development spendings towards Wii. Maybe then people will start seeing the HD systems for what they really are: lastgen experiences with pretty graphics. OMG! T3h Biaz!!!
kitkat 18 Sep 2007 14:50
what can i say.....awesome, awesome, awesome! Just the work alone involved in such a game! I commend Mark and the team.... can't wait to try it!
scorpion 18 Sep 2007 20:36
before you get too excited about this, ask yourself why he only mentions one previous game.i guess they are not too proud off big mutha truckers or pimp my ride or any of the other lame ass games before that,i may be wrong though but i'd keep it in your pants for the mo.
RiseFromYourGrave 20 Sep 2007 12:20
i think youre right about the wii version ozfunghi. theres a chance that even with the minor focus theyve given the wii version, it still be good if the ps3 version is hot, but i wouldnt expect decent wiimote implementation. it wouldve been a massive deal getting the wiimote to feel right with all the different ferraris, he wouldve mentioned it if it had been done well
Rappin Dazza J 2 Oct 2007 15:11
Your comments about Wii are incorrect. Ferrari Challenge really pushes the envelope on Wii with a dedicated engine - you cannot port from PS3 to Wii. There is nothing else like it on the market and it is every bit as impressive as the PS3 version considering the hardware. Don't take my word for it - check out the features in the UK's Official Nintendo Magazine for an un-biased opinion.
tyrion 2 Oct 2007 16:42
Rappin Dazza J wrote:
Don't take my word for it - check out the features in the UK's Official Nintendo Magazine for an un-biased opinion.

Heh! Paid for by manufacturer magazine, un-biased?
matt 30 Jul 2010 10:15
no the wii is an evolution of gamecube its so much more powerful u are stupid to think how u think factor 5 said that the wii can do every game out there with his engine ect and at higher frame rates wii can do HDR/AA as found in darkside chronicles and MH3,ps2,gamecub,xbox could not do HDR/AA/MOTION BLUR without faking it wii can do it at 60fps with 16 texture passes and programmable shaders ect so now your stuff before chatting rubbish
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