Interview by Neema Amini
During my first night in Las Vegas for the 2011 SEMA Show, I had the pleasure of meeting Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi. Like me, he's just arrived in Vegas today, though his trip was a good deal longer.
The game creator-cum-race car driver has a light and relaxed mood about him as he shakes hands and chats with everyone in a suite on the 61st floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel. On occasion, he steals away to the balcony on his own to take a phone call or overlook the Bellagio fountains below. In between drinks, we sit down to have a chat, with the admirable assistance of his translator.
Complex: What's your favorite car?
Kazunori Yamauchi: Ford GT. The styling is simply beautiful.
How is the development of GT6 going?
It's a bit too early to talk about 6, we are starting some work on it. We just finished updating GT5, so it's a bit early to get into the future. [Laughs]
What have you been most excited about in the new DLC? Obviously the Red Bull prototype car stands out, but what else has been of particularly interest?
I think first off, the Francorchamps course has been particularly exciting. The X2011, the collaboration between Red Bull and us, was a very exciting project for us to work on. You have a car that really looks like the Batmobile! [Laughs]
That collaboration certainly was interesting. Do you think you'll ever make the jump from designing a video game prototype to perhaps designing the prototype for an actual automobile prototype?
Oh, I'd love to do that one day.
What's your favorite car in the game?
The Jaguar XJ13 is probably my favorite car in the game. Though the real XJ13 is quite a pain to drive, in the game it's a bit easier. In real life, the clutch is really heavy, as is the steering, while the throttle response is really, really sensitive.
It must be interesting to meet Bryan Heitkotter, the winner of GT Academy, because I feel that on some level the concept of Gran Turismo has been to bring a typically inaccessible experience -- racing cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars -- to the gaming masses. And now, a Gran Turismo gamer has actually become a race car driver because of your creation. How do you feel about that?
Actually, you know, when I first started developing the series of games, I hoped and knew that one day this happened. I knew one day someone who played this game would become a real life racing driver. But to actually witness it in person, is like a dream come true for me.
Do you get feedback from current race car drivers about the game?
I get that feedback daily, actually. I keep in contact with drivers like [French rally driver] Sebastien Loeb and [German Formula One driver] Sebastian Vettel.
Which helps give the game the real world seal of approval.
I actually just won a Class Victory in the 24 hour race in Nurburgring this year. That, in a way, proves the validity of the game in person.
Bryan of course further demonstrates that validity because his experience, unlike your own, was almost entirely restricted to the Gran Turismo series.
I realize to a large extent the next game is still being developed and details still haven't been hashed out, but of course I'm obliged by our readers to ask a few questions. What's the next step? Where do you see the series going from here?
There is a lot more left that I want to do for Gran Turismo, so its a matter of revisiting the last game and working on each thing one-by-one.
One thing I found very interesting was the debate surrounding the damage system in GT5 in that there seemed to be a camp that said "Well, there shouldn't be damage to the cars at all - that's not what we're here for, we're here for the driving experience."
Meanwhile, there was another camp that thought "Well, we want a precise simulation, we want everything as accurate as possible." This seems like a fine line to walk between fans, and I wonder what you personally think. Is the endeavor to make a pure simulation, or to take something that is necessarily complex and make it simpler for the average fan.
Of course, you can turn the damage system on or off in the game. You can tell from our servers how many people playing online have the damage system turned off and on, and we actually found that 90% of the people playing online have the damage system turned off. And we will continue to provide that as an option.
I think I personally endeavor for something closer to reality, because I think you can keep the game still accessible to people, even while it is complex. For example, World of Warcraft is a complex game, but there is a huge number of people still playing the game. [Laughs] But, ultimately this is not just the recreation of reality.
I am trying to create art. What I tell our staff all the time is that the reason I pursue realism all the time is not because I'm a realist -- it's because I'm a romantic. Otherwise I wouldn't do something crazy like this. [Laughs]
What are some other video games you've come to appreciate or enjoy?
There are a lot of old games that are my favorites. But looking at it as a video game creator, the games I think are great, for example, are games like Will Wright's Spore. The concept behind games like that are interesting and worthwhile.
Thank you very much for your time.