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F1 23 might not have revolutionary features, but it sure does some work under the hood that Formula 1 enthusiasts will notice right away.

If you’re wondering why you’re losing the rear end of your car, or why do you lose control for a split second when touching the curbs with the underbody of your vehicle, we’re here to answer these questions and more.

GLHF sat down with senior creative director Lee Mather to discuss all the nuances Codemasters was able to add to this year’s Formula 1 game.

GLHF: I liked how you simulated the new ground effect on curbs, losing control for a bit when you touch them. It feels like you learned a lot from watching the new cars on track last year. I recall crashes happening to Mick Schumacher in Jeddah and Monaco feeling a lot like that. It’s nice to see how you reacted to the live feedback.

Lee Mather: Yes, that was also feedback from the community as well, and it’s an area that we’ve been working on for a while. It’s quite difficult to replicate the behavior of the underbody of the car on the curbs and get something that has an impact but isn’t always a very severe impact. We found on some of the exit curbs, in particular, that some of our cars were riding them very aggressively, and it was causing the player to lose control.

So, that was an interesting one for the underbody of the car, and we changed the way that works. But also there were corners on Bahrain where the tire would snag into the curb a little, which would cause the car to spin. So we’ve done work there to refine those as well. Curbs are there to deter players from cutting and driving in areas they shouldn’t.

But in the real world, there are specific areas where they find them beneficial, and I think - even back to Catalonia last [race] weekend, in the UK broadcast, they were interviewing one of the drivers, and they were talking about how risky some corners are, where you can almost hook the car on the inside of the curb or on the inside edge of the rumbles. And I think that’s something players will experiment with in the game as well.

F1 22's Alfa Romeo C43.

The effects of curbs on your car have been refined in F1 23

It also feels like you fixed curb behavior compared to the last few years, as they look less slippery now. On the other hand, it looks a bit easier to lose the rear end in the middle of certain corners, like in Imola, Monza, and even Las Vegas. Is there any reason behind that?

So, the rear of the car, it depends on the circumstances. Obviously, it depends on the downforce levels, tire wear, all of those things. But essentially, we’ve made a more stable rear on throttle. I think it was the feedback that we’ve had from previous years - on throttle, the rear end was incredibly loose, and players were spinning up the rear tires and spinning the car. So we think now that what we’ve achieved is the ability to really feed that throttle in both on pad and on wheel and pedals.

In terms of the rear being looser. Again, we believe that it’s very similar to real life in that, if you push the car to the limits, the back will move around, but it’s in a way more controllable fashion in F1 23. So we’ve got that level of movement in the car, that rotation in the car, but it’s a lot easier to control than it was in, say, F1 22. And this came about really through the feedback we got from not only the community but also in the early talks we’ve had this year with Mercedes and with Anthony Davidson - he found that the level of traction we had in 22 was more realistic when you had medium traction control on.

F1 23 Vegas

The upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix and its street circuit on the Strip are one of the highlights of F1 23.

So that was what we were trying to achieve in F1 23 - without assists, we wanted to have a tire model and a car that was stable, that was controllable on throttle. If the back end did become loose through cornering aggressively or, in particular, on some of the slower corners, when you’ve got less of the downforce, that rear end could move but was controllable because [it’s] another area which we’ve done a significant amount of work on.

And again, some great data from some of our partners in F1 was the balance between what’s mechanical grip and what’s arrow grip. And we were able to compare real-life graphs and traces of how a Formula 1 car achieved its lap time and mirror that with our car setup. So again, those are all things that we’ve done to increase authenticity, but also, you know, make a car that’s more controllable, and it’s got a more engaging and deeper handling model.

It’s just interesting to see you have this active relationship with the teams and the drivers, learning from their inputs and tweaking the game accordingly.

Yeah, we’ve learned a lot this year. And I say in particular, we’ve shared some good sessions with the Mercedes team and their esports drivers early in the process. And Anthony Davidson. We traveled down to visit them when we got two versions of the handling model that we wanted to trial. We didn’t tell them what the differences were. We let them play them and [give] feedback, and what was fantastic was I knew what the differences were, and I knew what my perception of them was. You know, I’m not a racing driver but I know what I felt and what I knew them to be, and their feedback was exactly what I was hoping to hear.

So it validated the work that we’ve been doing, but also they’re quite happy to share a lot of the data that they’ve learned over the years doing the sports, as well as McLaren and Red Bull. All of the big teams have all got really great data.

They use the UDP output from the game, and they use it in the same way as they do from their real cars so they can analyze laps. They get to the point where they even know when they should be maybe not at full throttle, so they can charge the ERS a little bit more effectively. They’re really good at using the data in the game, and they’re happy to share that with us as well so that we can refine things year on year.

How was it to design the Las Vegas circuit even before drivers could get on track, and did you have any insight, like with last year’s Miami, where you could use info and data from Madden?

So this year was a little different. As soon as we knew what the circuit layout was for Vegas, that gave us a really good indication of which bits would be 100% guaranteed and wouldn’t change. We know what was being built on the Vegas Strip. There’s some changes that have been occurring more recently, that they’ve renamed the Bally’s to the Horseshoe.

For example, that’s a change that’s on the actual main part of the Strip. But things like the Madison Square Garden Sphere that was already in production, we knew that it was going to be built, that’s planned for completion when the game’s out. So we’ve obviously built that with the view that it will be completed. The rest of the Strip obviously isn’t changing. So we actually were able to get really good early photogrammetry data and good photographic data of all of the buildings, all of the region.

F1 23 Vegas

The real-life Madison Square Garden Sphere is not complete yet, but you'll see it in the game.

So we were able to build those areas that, of course, were new. Formula 1 have actually invested in Vegas themselves and put money into this race. So it’s been run in conjunction with Formula 1 with the local tourist board in Las Vegas and a number of the casinos. And that’s a first for Formula 1 to actually invest in a circuit in that way, and they’ve purchased a plot of land which at the moment is currently under construction. When we started building, it was still just wasteland, and that’s actually where they’re going to have all the pit garages, the race start line, and also the hospitality suites and things like that.

So things like that we’ve built from data provided by Formula 1. We’ve built the circuit based on photos, and great photographic imagery that we’ve got there, and of course, things like the grandstands we’ll be building from data. There’s never any guarantee that what they build is identical to what we’ve built because, obviously, we’re ahead of the game.

You know, we’ve built this track before it actually exists. But as you say, that’s exactly what we did in Miami. And then this year, we’ve refined Miami further, so it’s closer to what we saw this year.

In my F1 23 review, I mentioned how Las Vegas feels like a super-fast track that should make overtakings easier for this new generation of cars.

I think there’s a lot of corners that will wrong-foot the driver quite easily. I mean, we’ve had Lando [Norris] playing it and watching him learn the circuit. You could see where he was making those small mistakes in the braking zones into some of the slower chicanes around Las Vegas. And then, of course, any track that’s got a big straight with a tricky braking zone at the end of it as the Strip does in Las Vegas, it leads into a really sort of cheeky little chicane.

F1 23 Vegas

Las Vegas' many corners and long straight with a tricky braking zone at the end surely make it a challenging track.

It’s not like a complete just left turn. It’s just a slightly cheeky left turn. I think that’s going to cause some interest as well. I definitely think, because of the close proximity of the barriers as well, as we see in Jeddah, I think that some drivers will have to steer on the side of caution. They’ll have to get out of moves because the price for the first staying out on the outside, or throwing one up the inside is so extreme when you’ve got a street circuit. So I think it’s gonna definitely throw up some interest in racing.

At times, it even feels like the hardest part of the job - keeping the game as fresh as possible - comes down to F1 adding more and more tracks every year. They’re making your job easier in that, to a certain extent.

Yeah, we would never turn down the great stuff that comes with the sport. It’s fantastic for us. We love new circuits. It’s always exciting for everybody. We enjoy racing them, the fans enjoy racing them, and then, of course, we enjoy watching them when we watch Formula 1 as well. So new circuits are always a good bonus for us.

Team performances already looked updated from our F1 23 hands-on preview build. When did you have time to learn about Aston Martin being faster than Ferrari, for example, and what did you do behind the scenes to tweak them in the game?

Yeah, it’s always a very tricky one and because our launch this year is a little bit earlier as well, we didn’t have as much time to process and understand the flow of the season. But thankfully it didn’t take too long to get a grasp of the team orders. Obviously Mercedes have now thrown a slight spanner in the works with their upgrades. But that was just one track. We won’t know how they’ll perform, you know, going forward, but they were particularly strong in Spain.

But we take the first three or four races and then we rework the performance order of the teams. In some cases, it’s as simple as moving setups around. In others, it’s significantly more work and involves those individual changes. And then of course, we have to train the AI to drive that car as well.

So, for example, in the likes of the Aston Martin or the Ferrari, we have to train the AI to drive the changes to the car as well. So what we have at launch will highly likely change again at some point. If the season evolves in that way, we always like to ensure that our car performance is always in line with what we see in the real season as close as we can get it over the course of the year.

F1 23 preview screenshot

Having each team's cars perform just like their real-life counterparts is a big part of F1 23's immersion.

So, if Mercedes do make a big deal, we can look at readjusting the performance of Mercedes and it just takes a little time to train the AI to make sure that the racing lines are all correct for a player who’s driving that car because those training aids are also derived from the AI. If you run with a dynamic racing line that needs to be trained and presented to the player for the car that they’re driving, there’s obviously a large scope for things in multiplayer because the carnage can get quite extreme.

Red flags are included in the game for the first time, but I’ve not met them yet, luckily enough. When and where do you expect them to impact gameplay? Maybe in multiplayer?

The chaos can be quite extreme, depending on the quality of the lobby that you’re racing in. But hopefully, the license level will get people cleaning things up a little bit more in multiplayer. I mean, we want to see some clean racing and that’s something we’re hoping that the license level will help to deliver, definitely in multiplayer, but also in the single-player campaign as well.

And through any of the single-player races, there’s always the likelihood that it could be a safety car, virtual safety car or a red flag. We have continued to tweak the probabilities of those again, based on feedback. We’ve also done a lot of internal testing, and we’ve been looking at the likelihood of red flags triggering and the outcomes there.

So we’ll continue to refine that because obviously it’s a new feature that we’ve put in and if people don’t see it regularly or see it the amount that they wouldn’t expect to see it, that’s not realistic. And we want people to be experiencing red flags on a similar level to as they see in real life because it is a very interesting feature, and it really throws the race into a whole new window, it resets things.

Drivers who’ve got extra tires can put on a fresh set of tires. If you’ve got a slight bit of damage to the wing, you can do that under red flag as well. So it really does mix things up. But yeah, we’re going to continue to monitor the sort of regularity of the red flag and ensure that it strikes a good balance with what we see in the real world.

Braking Point 2 clearly shows how you took advantage of the additional development year on the mode, offering multiple perspectives, a team principal-like experience, and more. Are you planning on doing the same next year, skipping F1 24 and starting to plan for Braking Point 3 already?

Yeah, I mean, I think something I said back in 21 was that it was always going to be a two-year cadence for a story. That’s not confirming that we’re going to do one in 24 [or] in 25. But we always said it would always need to be two years to achieve something, the quality that we’ve achieved again this year in F1 23.

You only have to look at not only the changes to the gameplay that we brought in now with the additional secondary narrative and the extra objectives, and the way that the player can even impact the objectives when they play the role of the team principal, but also the changes to the visuals - it’s significantly moved forward again this year with the character models, also the acting and the voice capture.

F1 23 Braking Point

F1 23's Braking Point 2 is one of the most intriguing game modes yet 

So it feels like it’s one of those things where it’s always going to take longer than one year to create something of that scale. And of course, the time it takes the writers to actually write all of that, it’s not something they can just bash out overnight that takes months and months. It’s not just writing something that’s compelling and fun and exciting, it’s writing something that’s gelled within the world of F1 as well. It needs to feel authentic and believable, with a little bit of additional drama injected into it, but it’s still part of Formula 1. So it still needs to feel authentic to the player.

We spent time this year speaking with Jamie Chadwick and understanding how we could really represent Callie’s place in the world of Formula 2 and her rise through Formula 2 in the game effectively as well. So none of these things happen quickly or overnight. They all take time, and they’re certainly worth doing - if they’re doing well, it’s worth taking that time.

It’s nice how you create a connection with the real world with stuff like Audi joining F1 in 2026, and touch upon topics such as billionaires’ sons becoming F1 drivers and litigious teammates. I found it particularly bold compared to other story modes in sports games.

Yeah, I think we’re very lucky that not only is Formula 1 a very storied sport anyway, but in recent years, Liberty Media have really lifted the lid on what goes on behind the scenes of Formula 1, the drivers, the team principals are now given a lot more air time and they can be quite outspoken.

So we can be really fed into what drives us to write the story, and then Drive to Survive is also giving us some great insight and there’s a lot about history in Formula 1 as well. So anybody who’s a fan of the sport recently or even back in the day will pick things up through the story that are easy to relate to

The story modes in other games can feed off the drama of the sports. These sports are very exciting, very glamorous, dramatic sports. And I think that’s where Braking Point gives us the opportunity to drive a career in My Team. You’re creating the story yourself in your head as you’re playing through. In Braking Point, we’re creating the story and giving something that’s a little bit different.

F1 World feels much bigger than I anticipated, blending the scenario-based structure from Braking Point and the management side of things from the Career mode. Aren’t you worried about it kind of overshadowing those two modes?

No, not at all. But it’s a really, really strong compliment. This will be proven out by the fans, whether they gel in the same ways that I do when I play something like F1 - you know, maybe play My Team and reach the point where I’ve achieved a number of my goals. I’ve become a Formula One world champion, I’ve developed a team that can win races. Or I play Braking Point, which obviously has a natural endpoint. And then, maybe a few months in, I’ve played those modes significantly. I’ve done a bit of multiplayer and I still want to play F1 and I want things that are new and fresh that keep giving me a different challenge.

And that’s where our F1 World really comes into its own. F1 World is great for people who are maybe a little bit time limited as well. So you can drop in daily and do a couple of daily challenges. You don’t need to be always doing full races or 35% race distances, or progressing your career or My Team - you can drop in and do a daily challenge. You can commit to doing weekly challenges or you can chip away at the seasonal ones. And it essentially gives us the chance to take a lot of really popular game modes that were outside of the progression structure of the game.

F1 23 World Mode

World Mode offers plenty of events and challenges, keeping the game fresh and also catering to players who can't invest too much time in F1 23.

So Grand Prix and Time Trial, the event sort of style modes that we have in multiplayer. We’ve been able to add the licenses there as well. And of course, the new rank division play - all of those come under the F1 World banner. So that gave us a great opportunity to take lots of very popular game modes, put them into one space, tie them to a new reward structure that keeps building on your car, upgrading the tech level on your F1 World car.

Again, it’s a very different experience. The way I like to look at it is: Braking Point is the drama, the TV side of it, the Netflix series. You’ve got a Driver Career and you’ve got My Team, which is the true authenticity of the sport. They represent Formula 1 authentically. And then we’ve got F1 World, which is that really long tail, constantly changing gameplay, but also a little bit more abstract.

It’s a slightly different experience. It’s not the traditional way you would upgrade a car. It’s not the traditional way that you would engage with Formula 1 content. So I think it’s a really great way to give the players even more value in the game, because it’ll just keep them playing and coming back for much longer.

I know it’s been a few years already, but I was wondering how was it for you to join the EA Sports family, and if you noticed any major change since the acquisition?

It’s been fantastic. So as you can imagine, whenever an acquisition of that scale goes through, there’s a lot of initial meetings and a lot of big promises, and so far they’ve all been delivered on. We’ve gained so much across the team, the ability to deliver a game, the scale that we have has come about because we’ve been able to grow the team, we’ve been supported to grow the team, and increase the scale of what we’re actually able to deliver.

We have the opportunity to make use of the internal resources, which make life easier. It might not sound glamorous to you, but there’s so many departments that handle things like the localization, which we didn’t have at Codemasters, and it was down to a much smaller team. We can have an entire crew of people who are handling those things, people who look after the legal side or the licensing side, we had a great team of those people at Codemasters, but now it’s much bigger.

And again, it means that we can push the boundaries more, we can do that a little bit more. And of course, the marketing support from EA is obviously fantastic as well. They’ve got great leads, they can talk to an audience that maybe we weren’t hitting before.

And it really energized the team to be able to deliver even more because that’s always the concern on an annual franchise - there’s so many ideas and there’s a limited amount of time to deliver them, and you want to do everything. Now we’re able to, you know, set out what we want to do on an annual basis and achieve those goals.

Speaking of which, do you happen to have any updates for rally fans?

Unfortunately, I don’t - it’s not a project I’m involved in.

F1 23 is out today, June 16, 2023, for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.