Interviews// Bruno Senna: Ferrari Challenge

Posted 28 Dec 2007 11:13 by
System 3's Ferrari Challenge: Trofeo Pirelli is shaping up to be a monster of a racing game when it eventually launches on PlayStation 3, Wii and DS this coming February. SPOnG has put in plenty of play-testing on the PS3 and DS versions, both of which are undoubtedly stand-out games, and we look forward to getting our mitts on final review builds of the game on all three formats early in the new year.

Adam has also managed to interview up-and-coming motor racing star, Bruno Senna a couple of times over the last five months. Bruno has worked as technical consultant on the game

SPOnG: Hi Bruno, I just wanted to catch up with you since we last spoke about Ferrari Challenge at [Italian racetrack] Mugello a few months ago, to talk a little more about your involvement in the game. So how did you meet Mark Cale and how did you become technical consultant on the game.

Bruno Senna: Well Mark decided that he wanted to make the game, so he spoke to Ferrari who told him that in order to get the System 3 car in the game, it would need to go through at least one of the races in the championship. Then he had a test race with the 430 and he was miles off the time and he was like “I can’t race, it won’t be a very good image for the car!”

So he spoke to Malcolm, one of the guys from Ferrari, to ask him who he thought would be a good driver for the System 3 car. Malcolm knew my old engineer from Formula Three, from last year, who called me and said, “look Bruno, just come over and do a test day and we’ll take it from there.”

So I had a test day and I went pretty quick around the Stowe circuit at Silverstone and then we said, “okay, let’s do it!”

Back then, I was still to meet Mark Cale. I had another test day at Silverstone, this time on the big circuit with everybody else on the track. I was quickest, with the System 3 car again. So I decided that this was a pretty cool thing to get involved in. So then I raced at Silverstone, I won both races, did both pole positions. Really had a pretty good weekend. Couldn’t ask for more, really and that was when I first met Mark. He was pretty happy with the results as his car had won both races!

SPOnG: So System 3 had started on the Ferrari: Challenge game at that point?

Bruno Senna: Yes, yes, the game was already in development at that time. What then happened was, because I had raced in the car and Mark wanted the game to be as realistic as possible, he saw me playing on the Ferrari simulator game at Silverstone. On the first day I sat down with the game, did three laps and was pretty happy with my lap-time.

The next day I went there again and this guy comes over to me and says “my twelve year old son beat your lap-time on the simulator!”

SPOnG: You didn’t like that then?

Bruno Senna: Oh my god, that is not something that you tell me! So I sat down on the simulator and I went four seconds quicker than this kid and two seconds quicker than the developer of the simulator had been. Mark had been watching all of this and had realised “this guy plays videogames well, too!”

So he said to me, “look, Bruno, I’m making this game and I’d like to know if you would like to get involved as a consultant, because you have good experience with the car so you can help us ensure we get the handling right.”

So that’s really how it started. I went up to the developers at Eutechnyx for the first time and we fiddled with the game, with the basics, trying to make the physics right, making sure the car was doing everything it should do.

SPOnG: And what was the next stage, after you had nailed the basics?

Bruno Senna: Then, after that, we started setting up the cars. Initially, we put a lot of effort into the F430. As soon as we were happy that the 430 was ready, then we started working on all the other cars. Each car has it’s own characteristics. The older cars have worse breaks, slightly thinner tires that are a little less responsive, so they drift better. Each car has a particular characteristic that is very much it’s own. That’s a large part of what my input into the game has been.

SPOnG: You mentioned previously that throughout development the game has moved more towards being an ‘arcade sim’ and less of a straight racing simulator.

Bruno Senna: Yeah, that’s right. The first thing Mark asked me to do was to help create a realistic Ferrari simulator, because I had just raced the System 3 F430 at Silverstone and I still had that very fresh in my mind. I sat with the guys at Eutechnyx for a few days until we had finished doing the simulation for the game using the Ferrari F430. Then Mark sat down and started to play it and he would spin and crash, spin and crash, spin and crash… because it was simply too hard.

You have to know everything that the car is going to do for you to be able to master a computer simulator. Remember, these cars are road cars, they don’t have downforce, they move around, if you push too hard or if you break too late then they are going to do something nasty to you! So that was just too hard to play. It’s of course important to be realistic, but it’s also more important for it to be fun as well. So then we backed off on the simulator.

SPOnG: Is that why the various assists were introduced into the game?

Bruno Senna: Not only the assists, we also made the car itself a little more forgiving. The car moves around a little more. There is a little bit more suspension movement than there is in the real car, so that you can feel that the car is moving in a different way before the car actually snaps. So, you come into a corner and you can see that the car is moving, so the player can immediately apply the correction on the steering and the car will just slide, you can correct it before it spins. That’s what happens in the real car, but you feel it slightly earlier. But remember, your eyes are much slower than your body, than your tactile feelings. That’s why games have to be toned down from reality, to enable you to play them, as most of the cues that are telling you what is going to happen are visual and aural.

SPOnG: Another thing you’ve mentioned to us is that you are a big fan of videogames yourself – what have been your personal favourite driving games over the years?

Bruno Senna: I like quite a few. I first started with some now very old games, like Geoff Crammond’s F1 Grand Prix 2 on the PC back in the early ‘90s and then World Grand Prix. I also used to play a lot of SEGA Rally on the SEGA Saturn. I just played racing games on every format I could get my hands on, basically.

References for me are Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4 which had a pretty good physics engine, it has its flaws nowadays, obviously, but the circuit models were pretty decent and the overall way the car handled was very nice. That was my first reference, for a single-seater game.

Then obviously, Gran Turismo 4 is a great game, handling-wise, with some of the best circuit modelling I’d seen in any game up to that point, the Nurburgring, in particular. So those are a couple of titles that I’ve taken as reference when working on this game.
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