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5 Things That The FIA Gran Turismo Championships Are Doing Right

The next 100 years of motorsport looks pretty good

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The first year of the FIA Gran Turismo Championships are at its end. This is the core component of Gran Turismo Sport that separates the latest racing series apart from its mainline numbered entries. It is focusing on multiplayer, both online and offline.

Three seasons have run throughout the year for two different championships: the Nations Cup and the Manufacturer Series where players either represent their country or their car manufacture of choice to bring home victory. Alongside that, there have been two Gran Turismo World Tour events. These are invite-only offline event separate from the FIA GT Championship serving as testing grounds for the production team as well as the spectators on how the real offline events unfold.

Suffice to say, we have come a long way from the first ever preview race back in 2016. There is still room for improvement, but these here are five things that the developers Polyphony Digital and the live event organisers got right.

The unique camera angles and the special overlays used only for live events like the Gran Turismo World Tour and the FIA GT Championships make for a great spectating experience. It’s just like watching a real car race.

The offline event-exclusive changes to make the racing better

Starting with the World Tour Event in Nurburgring, what we saw on the livestream is not the same build of Gran Turismo Sport as players have right now. One is the improved spectator suite. The UI is tweaked to look more like a racing broadcast, though the floating name and position above each car gives it away. The UI could be better however.

But what’s definitely a great addition is the extra camera angles. There’s a roof camera that focus on the car at front or back to follow battles unfolding on the track. The latest event (at the time of writing, the Asia/Oceania Regional Finals for the Nations Cup) even has static cameras placed dramatically so you can see cars swoosh by really fast looking. It’s great.

Designated penalty zones are where rives have to serve their penalties. Cars serving penalties are ghosted but for the live events, drivers are instructed to move out of the racing line while serving penalties to avoid shenanigans when the cars stopped ghosting.

Then we have the penalty system. Players online have a love-hate relationship with the penalty system as it fluctuates between super-harsh to too lenient as Polyphony tweaks the algorithm till this day. But on these live events, we have marshals investigating incidents, like a real race. Also, players have figured out that the best way to serve these penalties is to keep it until the end and start slowing down at the checkered flag.

So for offline events, starting with the World Tour at Salzburg, a special way of serving the penalties is introduced, whereby cars are automatically slowed down at designated penalty zones and ghosted out when it is slowed down serving it.

It’s great to see Polyphony is aware of current shortcomings. Plus, the use of different builds from the live game has made us anticipate new changes to the game, as we have seen cars, tracks and game changes revealed ahead of time.

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Anytime there’s a new live event, this will popup the soon you start GT Sport.

Promotion within the game itself

Like any good esports, Gran Turismo Sport is also promoting its live events and livestreams withing the game itself. Open the game and if an event has just happened, you will be prompted about its existence. This then leads you to a webpage for you to check out more details.

It’s a great idea, but maybe it’s a bit too forced. It’s not a one-time only prompt, if you login the next few days, the same prompt and webpage will be opened once the game loads up.

All live reports pertaining the championship, even the past online races are also available within the game itself. It helps get the word out and who better to target than the regular players of the game itself. Even if they don’t watch, at least having the players know that it is a thing is a great move.

Henlo! Jimmy Broadbent and the rest of the English commentators filling in the first seat has been always entertaining with the commentary.

The English commentary

The on-track action of these live events are usually good but what makes it more enjoyable is of course the commentators. For livestreams, Gran Turismo has not one, not two but up to five different languages. These livestreams also include several Top 24 Superstar races while the season was still ongoing as well as live events.

With a lot of practice time, the lineup of commentators are now pretty much settled in as we are close to the World Finals. The constant presence in the English commentary box, the sim boi himself Jimmy Broadbent, is of course the highlight, getting hyped as car closes in for the overtake and delivers good colour commentary when it’s all quiet on track. It’s not the usual play-by-play and colour shoutcasting esports goers might have used to, the roles flow between the two.

And good show on Jimmer for always looking for feedback and improving on each broadcast. The earlier streams have the commentary box second guessing what the drivers are doing too much, but as time goes on the quality of the commentary (from side banters to very useful insight on what’s currently happening) has improved.

And on that note…

They listen to feedback

Polyphony Digital has been notorious for two things: being very enclosed and always take their time with developing new games. But with GT Sport things have certainly changed for the better. The latter is proved by the constant monthly content updates, but the former is an interesting show.

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For example, there was a long conversation on how to portray these drivers. Do you put in their PSN ID names or use real names like in motorsports broadcast? When the streams went for the real names, many online commentators want to know their PSN ID to be find them in the game online. And when they used PSN IDs for the online race, another camp appears complaining those unreadable, sometimes ludicrous names the commentary box struggle to pronounce.

(Sony, please bring PSN ID changes)

What they’ve done in the recent Asia/Oceania finals is the best compromise- use both. You’ll see the PSN ID of each drivers when they are introduced on stage, as well as on the online article accessible within the game. Real names are now used for the overlays and commentary. These names are now attached to a face, thanks to the production team focusing on giving them camera time during events as well as in their short player profiles.

It’s great to see this change. But most importantly, the FIA GT Championships prove one important point.

It highlights that esports is as serious as sports

That man right there is Ryota Kokubun, the winner of the Asia/Oceania Regional Finals. That picture has him all drenched in sweat. But if you see him on track, you would have thought he would be sweating that bad. He was leading the pack in most of the races, simply too good. Yet, it still took a lot out of him to seal the win.

Other drivers even got the case of shaky hands on stage.

Driving on a simulation rig is a rigorous task, as proven by some of the players. Sure, it could just be the pressure, or the room is too hot. But sitting down playing video games at this level of competitiveness is not just a walk in the park.

Plus, these events have gone to length to have professional racers involved in some capacity. At the Asia/Ocenia finals, the Drift King himself Keiichi Tsuchiya is part of the Japanese commentary team. There is a good reason why Lucas Ordonez, the first GT Academy winner 10 years ago that proved that he is fast in the game and now a Nissan factory driver always appear in these events. He’s the living proof that the line between esports and sports (in this case motorsports), is blurry nowadays. And both can complement each other.

And it works the other way too. Matt Simmons of Austrailia, was a GT Academy winner and a real race driver yet he was present at the Asia/Oceania Regionals as a competitor, one of ten finalists confirmed to make it to the Nations Cup World Finals.

Of course, there’s plenty of interview sessions that focus on the sim racing versus real racing experience and how close these two are. Maybe too much, as the same points are being uttered repeatedly.

But the on-track action, and the look of these players after a long race is enough to give the audience the impression on how serious sim racing, and esports, really is.

Closing Thoughts

All in all, Polyphony Digital and the many parties that involved have truly stepped up their game and are really serious about making the FIA GT Championships a big thing. It’s a long time coming, but it’s getting there. Yes, there are still flaws. The Asia/Ocenia Regional Finals saw an audio issue for non-Japanese streams as the Japanese commentary overpower the localised commentary. Using a newer update saw some issues and bugs pop-up on stream. The race start for the second day of streaming in particular was embarrassing.

Yet, the team has the right mentality on achieving what Gran Turismo producer Kazunori Yamauchi wanted with Gran Turismo Sport, to “redefine the next 100 years in motorsport”. That’s a long way to g still. But like Polyphony usually are, they will take their sweet time to deliver the results. But at least this time we get to see them improve over time.