Gran Turismo 7 (GT7) is fast approaching its launch on to the PS4 and PS5 later this March, just in time for the series 25th anniversary and we got to speak with the game’s director Kazunori Yamauchi.
How fitting is it that this series about slick cars and the life of enthusiasts obsessed with slick cars was created and directed by one of those enthusiasts himself? We had the opportunity to interview Kazunori Yamauchi, the CEO of Polyphony Digital and director of every main series Gran Turismo game since the first back on the PS1 in 1997.
Mr. Yamauchi is not only a director but also a professional racing driver, who has entered 10 official competitions. You could say he’s pretty dedicated to his craft. However there is more to ‘car culture’ as he calls it than just races but also the overall lifestyle of a genuine motorhead, and owning big expensive cars you can drive and look cool in. This is something Kazunori Yamauchi has always aimed to replicate in the GT series.
He told us a bit about the making of Gran Turismo 7 as well as cars culture in general and how the game goes beyond simply simulating racing but speaks to the community as a whole.
Gran Turismo and car cutlure
For Kazunori Yamauchi, Gran Turismo is not just a car simulator but a car life simulator. We asked him if he’d describe his personal definition of car life and what aspects of GT7 would best show the concept.
He said the game’s best feature was the fact that it took place in a car-based city, where people’s main hobbies and desires relate to racing and learning about cars.
“I believe the World Map really reflects that the most because it represents the fact that this is a sort of a car resort or a car-based city.”
Gran Turismo Cafe
The GT Cafe is an area in Gran Turismo 7 that is pretty much a dedicated love letter to the art of automobiles.
Here you can listen to engineers of some of the most famous brands to ever put rubber to road talk about their achievements while looking at a menu to select quests to unlock new cars sorted by their collection and brand.
We asked Yamauchi what was his inspiration for the GT Cafe and if it was the best choice for new players to start with. He told us that the cafe was an idea he had apparently wanted to put in the games since GT1 on PS1.
“When I first wrote the project overview for Gran Turismo back in 1992, the GT Cafe was something that was actually there. It’s actually very interesting although it took 25 years until GT7 for the cafe to be actually included in the project plan.
And the thing about the cafe features it acts sort of a salon, where people gather and talk about cars, that is the kind of place that a cafe is. If you see a cafe in Vienna in Austria, you can see where musicians gather and talk about music. So in GT7, it’s a cafe for car enthusiasts and car lovers where you can go there and hear interesting stories about cars.
In the Gran Turismo’s most of the past, especially like back in Gran Turismo 1, it used to be that you’re giving this entire world from the outset and the players could kind of explore what they want through the game and find these features on their own. But nowadays, we believe that you sort of need navigation to really explain to people what it’s about cars or tuning, the meaning of the culture behind cars. So that’s what the cafe stands for. It’s a place that really expands your world and knowledge about cars and culture.”
There are about 30 menu books of cars in the cafe and he says the developers plan to add even more in the future.
Another new mode that we asked for more information on is the ‘Music Rally’. This mode is all about taking a chill drive and listening to some tunes while you align your speed to the tempo of the music. The game has an enormous library of tracks that cover a wide range of multiple genres and this mode is all about chilling to beat and enjoying the ride.
“The music rally has a few objectives to it. One of which is to really enjoy the music. The second is to allow new players to learn these tracks without always being in a hardcore racing situation. Along with the Music Rally, also there is Music Replay that allows you to really enjoy the music by combining your driving replay and matching it to the music.
But the point of the mode is to really listen to the all the way to the end of the music track by getting those beat extensions and to acquire that is actually not going to be very difficult. If the player knows and remembers the track, they should be able to clear it fairly easily.
Another important thing is that the Music Rally is a great mode to get your kids to start playing it for the first time. Because it’s very simple. It allows you to really enjoy music and racing at the same time. So, rather than giving the entire full system of Gran Turismo to kids from a start, that would be a little bit too complex for them.”
Music Rally will also offer a streamer mode. We asked if this meant that licensed songs will be free for streaming and for people to create content?
“Music rights are free for all. You can record with the background music that you want to use and then use it in the music replay mode to create a new recording of the car at different angles and speeds. The process is really fun to do.”
People aren’t talking about cars
Unfortunately, Yamauchi believes that car culture isn’t what it used to be as not a lot of people are talking about it the same way they did back in the day. We asked him to tell us more about this is and how it shaped the making of GT7.
“I believe society has changed quite a bit in the last 25 years. So, before you purchase a new car, you have this moment where your world sort of expands before you. And it was an experience that was shared by everyone from older students to younger students, from parents to child, that was the way it was 25 years ago kids all played with mini cars and hot wheels and things.
But nowadays, you have a lot more things to play with your smartphone, of course, video games and things like that as well. So, there are so many other fun things that kids are exposed to nowadays. Relatively there are just a few people talking about cars anymore. But there are still great things that should be appreciated.”
Well, hopefully, Gran Turismo 7 can get more people back into talking about cars.
25 years of Gran Turismo
Gran Turismo celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and Kazunori Yamauchi has been with the series since day one. We asked what kind of emotions he felt looking back on the first game and what the original Playstation version meant to him personally?
“I think the one thing is that the development of Gran Turismo was really started back in 1992, five years before the game’s release. So in that respect, we’ve been working for about 30 years with the same team. But to have been able to work with the same team for 30 years. It’s something that I’m very appreciative of. Because I really doubt that there are any other games like that where you have that kind of team.
The other thing is that I’m also very appreciative of the users who have supported this series for the last 25 years because, without them, it would have been impossible to continue it for so long. Back when Gran Turismo came out in 1997, it was a very experimental title. But, it’s something that we wanted to keep being innovative and experimental even now today, and that’s really satisfying for me to see.”
It was pretty eye-opening speaking to Kazunori Yamauchi about Gran Turismo. I personally always saw the series as just another racing game franchise but with really high-quality car models but it’s clear that to him and the game’s fans, it is far more than that. It’s a way for motorheads to embrace their love of fast expensive cars, their history, their construction, and the feeling of being able to drive them.
And let’s be honest, with how expensive some of these metal beasts are, this is probably the closest we’re gonna get to take them for a ride, and with some electric new music tracks to boot.