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‘I want to drive real cars’: The thinking that drove the development of PlayStation’s first Gran Turismo

Loudninja

Member
Oct 27, 2017
11,025
Always fun to read stuff like this how game series came to be.
In an office building nestled in the heart of Tokyo, a handful of developers spent the early 1990s working tirelessly, year after year. They would sleep under their desks and seasons would change without them noticing. After more than five years of labor, the small team produced one of the most successful games in history of Sony’s PlayStation, a console that celebrated its 25th anniversary Tuesday.
The game, Gran Turismo, a realistic racing simulation, would become the single best-selling title for the first PlayStation console with over 10 million units sold. It also birthed a series that has grossed more than $4 billion in revenue. With seven Guinness World Records (including most cars in a racing game, achieved by Gran Turismo 6 with a total of 1,237) and a collective sales total of over 80 million units, Gran Turismo has made a mark in both the automotive industry and games industry, becoming PlayStation’s best-selling exclusive franchise of all time.
It continues to be a labor of love for the team at Polyphony Digital, which expanded from its original five developers to a team of more than 170 today. But it all started with a scrappy, dedicated team making real a boyhood vision of project director Kazunori Yamauchi.
Yamauchi, now Polyphony’s CEO, is a lifelong car enthusiast. At the young age of three, he could name all the makes and models he’d spot around his hometown. This wealth of knowledge came in part from his father, who also loved cars and would share his knowledge with his son when making deliveries for their family’s porcelain shop.
“I used to ride in the car in which he made deliveries,” Yamauchi said when interviewed by The Washington Post by email. “I also used to watch the cars go by from the porcelain shop. And my father used to teach me, telling me things like, ‘now that’s a Mercedes-Benz.’”
At the age of 15, a visit to the arcade sparked the idea for Gran Turismo after Yamauchi was underwhelmed by the current technology of racing games.
“When I saw racing games in the arcade, I had thought to myself, this isn’t it — I want to drive real cars,” he said.
Yamauchi calls the original Gran Turismo’s development an “ambitious undertaking.” From start to finish the process took five years. While this is far from unheard of today, back then it was rare for a development cycle to last so long. Because the team was only 10 people (and grew to 20 near the end), development wasn’t too costly and the team was given the time it needed to perfect Gran Turismo. This allowed room for experimentation, too — and the game required a lot of it. According to Yamauchi, “everything was a first.”

“Realtime 3-D graphics, a physics engine for an automobile, a system for controlling this — each one was required in the end, but it wasn’t like we knew they were necessary from the start,” Yamauchi said. “The result of piecing together all the required things one by one, became Gran Turismo.”