One of the biggest surprises of the PlayStation VR 2 launch was bringing the full Gran Turismo 7 experience to this new headset. Not only did this give players who already owned the racing title another gameplay option, but it also brought it one step closer to the immersion that the motorsport saga has strived for over the years.
To mark the occasion, we caught up with the man behind the franchise, Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital and producer of the Gran Turismo series, to find out what it was like to bring his latest racing game to virtual reality.
Gran Turismo’s first steps in VR
Before we talk about the new release, let’s talk about the past. With the launch of the first PlayStation VR, some games tried to take advantage of the headset to make their first tests. Among these titles was Gran Turismo SPORT, which allowed some of the available tracks and cars to be played with the technology. For Yamauchi, this was an opportunity to test and discover “what was possible on the platform.”
“The development of VR technology is something that has a long history”, commented Kazunori Yamauchi. “What we did was really take all the different knowledge that we have on the VR into the PS VR and try testing and implementing different things and see what effect they had. So, the VR 1 was an opportunity to really see what is possible on the platform.”
One thing he told us is that it was just after the development of Gran Turismo SPORT, and although they didn’t have a release date, they had already “received the specs and what was needed to support PlayStation VR 2,” preparing them for the future.
Changes and adjustments for PS VR 2
While the development of Gran Turismo 7 delivered a product worthy of the franchise, the leap into virtual reality requires adjustments to ensure the game continues to deliver the immersion expected. During our conversation, three aspects were mentioned that will see significant changes: the interface, performance, and audio.
A well-designed interface
During races, the way the information appears on the screen changes dramatically with the VR 2 headset on, appearing to float inside the car as you drive. “How we display the race information is something we put a lot of thought into with each iteration of the game,” Kaz said, also mentioning the importance of immersion.
“If the main focus is really your sense of immersion to put those displays are not needed. But it’s information that when you are playing games that are needed you need to place it somewhere,” Kaz reflected. “It is adjusted to each and every car visually, we do place it in locations that is the only place it can be while driving a particular car.”
Historic performance now in VR 2
As for performance, Kaz himself reminds us, “Historically, Gran Turismo has always been a game that has placed a focus on framerates and resolution. That’s something that we are now able to apply to VR as well.”
However, he admits that there were adjustments that had to be made, considering that “when you are rendering for VR, you are rendering in stereo, one for each eye.” Although the historical approach remains and has to be applied to VR 2, he mentions that in order to achieve this, “we have to make sure that without dropping the quality of the data, we can reduce some load to the system and make sure that everything can be rendered at high speed.”
Audio powered by 3D Audio
Finally, there is audio, an aspect that has always been very important due to the different types of engines that exist. The jump to VR means that listening to it from inside the car has certain adjustments. Kaz mentions that all the noise, from the way you hear it through the chassis or the glass and how it reverberates inside the car, is something they call “impulse response”. This is based on some precise calculations that have already been done. For the producer, he believes that “3D Audio actually makes it feel more. The calculations were always there it’s just that the hardware now allows you to feel it more.”
An experience designed exclusively for PS VR 2
Although the full Gran Turismo 7 experience will not be ported to VR 2 (considering that what was left out was the 2-player split-screen mode), Kaz believes that Polyphony Digital has “done a perfect job with what we can do now.” Regarding the possibility of making a version of Gran Turismo completely focused on virtual reality, the producer mentioned that might take a little too much effort from our side” to make a game completely in VR, taking into account making the menus compatible with this technology. However, they believe that the way in which each individual approaches the headset is different from person to person, and they are considering adding “some features to be able to do some fine-tuning adjustments to match each individual.”
Favorite car to drive (on VR)
We couldn’t leave without asking Kaz what his favorite car is to drive on this platform, to which he responded with two options: the Mazda Miata MX-5, as well as the F1 race cars, the latter because “you see the tires right in front of you.”