Today we feature something pretty special. RaceDepartment has a discussion with the relatively young Australian team Black Delta Studios, responsible for upcoming kart racing simulation KartKraft. We have the most detailed and frank discussion released to date with the CEO, Zach Griffin, and discuss many aspects of the title due to hit the digital shelves of gamers very soon. Black Delta is a leading interactive entertainment and commercial software company that delivers games, simulation software, hardware, and commercial solutions for PC, console, mobile, tablets and Virtual Reality headsets. Black Delta is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia With the much anticipated release into Early Access just around the corner RaceDepartment.com take this opportunity to sit down with the guys and have a frank discussion about many aspects of exciting new kart racing sim, KartKraft. RD: Hi and thank you for speaking with us here at RaceDepartment today. It’s an exciting time for fans of Kart racing with the upcoming Early Access release of the hotly anticipated KartKraft sim, first things first and to keep up our tradition of opening these interviews in a gentle way, why don’t you introduce yourselves to our readers and tell us what it is you do at Black Delta? ZG: Hi I’m Zach Griffin, Black Delta CEO. Alongside overseeing the development of KartKraft, the majority of my time is spent managing the company and ensuring that our supporting business units all run smoothly. That includes everything from finance and marketing, to operations and HR. RD: Many of our readers might not be too familiar with your studio, how did Black Delta come about and what inspired you to create a game in the relatively niche sim racing genre, simulating the relatively niche karting formula? ZG: Growing up I played only racing games; titles like Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix and Grand Prix 2, then moved across to GPL, F1 2001 and a lot of the old classic sim racing titles. At the same time I was a huge F1 fan attending my first Grand Prix with my dad in 1996, just as my grandfather had taken him 40 years earlier. Off the back of that, in High School I had already planned to make a racing game without having any knowledge of how to make a game, other than a small bit of modding in Grand Prix 3 and Grand Prix 4 back in the early 2000’s. From there I studied Computer Science followed by a game development course that had an assignment to create any game that we wanted. I’d just started karting and racing around Australia, and my two passions progressed from there. After completing a business degree, I finished the prototype and raised private equity to launch the studio. RD: You obviously must have a keen passion for all things karting, does any other of your team at the studio have a karting background? Is it a passion that runs though the studio? ZG: I have to say when we first started most of the guys that are now developing the game weren’t into motorsports and were not as aware of karting as a sport where all these great champions like Senna, Schumacher and Alonso all honed their racing skills. That’s changed having worked on the title. I believe that for people to be working on something like this, they need to share the same passion that I do for Karting and motorsport. We try to inspire and foster that as much as possible in all of the team. When you are passionate about something yourself it’s a lot easier to seed that in other people. RD: Back on to Black Delta for a moment, how many guys and girls do you have working for the studio on this title? ZG: We currently have 14 people employed at Black Delta; we have 9 developers working on the title, with other personnel employed in supporting activities including Finance, PR, Marketing, and Social media Management. In terms of the development team, we have 5 programmers and 4 artists; all of the KartKraft assets are produced in house. RD: Jumping back to the world of virtual racing for a while, it’s always nice to hear what sort of sim race vehicles you enjoy in your spare time, what is your favourite sim car to drive either past or present? ZG: I was a massive massive fan of the Enduracers mod. I’ve spent a lot of time league racing in that mod so I think I’d have to say I’m a huge fan of the 997 GT3, for racing certainly. That said, I love driving all cars; it’s great to jump in and do some GT3 racing, then switch into driving some LeMans prototypes or even go back into the Lotus 49. But certainly the best racing I’ve had is the 997 GT3 in the Enduracers mod for rFactor 1. RD: Moving away from virtual and back into the real world momentarily, what sort of road car do you guys drive at home? You’re based in Australia so it’s either a Ford or Holden right? ZG: I currently drive a BMW at the moment alongside a ‘64 Mercedes 220 SE Coupe. RD: I suppose from time to time we have to have a break from the world of motorsports for a short period, what’s on your hard drive at the moment that you like to pick up and play away from racing games? ZG: *laughs* We play a game called Squad, which we use for research purposes as they use the same engine, Unreal Engine 4, in the development of the game and that’s a nice little way to release off some steam at the end of the day. It’s also going through Early Access and it’s a good way for us to see how the community engages with the game in terms of what they are thinking, feeling and suggesting during the Early Access lifecycle. RD: So now we move on to discussing your new title, Karting simulator KartKraft. The title was first announced back in 2007, why has it taken so long to get to this stage? ZG: The original prototype was a 2D version of what was formerly KartSim, made back in 2005. In 2006, I began working on the 3D version. At the time, I knew little about making a game and the complexity and time involved, especially a sim racing game which is one of the more difficult genres out there. The physics must be perfect, and there are no strong physics middleware solutions that are available off the shelf. Until 2010/2011, the only suitable middleware that existed was a rendering engine called Ogre that handled the graphical side of things. That was great, but when you were making a game back then, most of the time was spent creating a game engine with all the capabilities that we required. Not only was it the rendering library; I had to create the physics engine from scratch, alongside integrating the input, networking and all of the other sub systems that make up an engine. It was at that time that I moved to using Unity that just been released, and had matured enough to start using. I wrote the prototype using Unity, essentially re-writing the game back in 2011/2012. I spent 12 months buried deep in code, all while developing the art, audio alongside the main game. The prototype was completed 2012, having spent considerable time writing the physics specifically for karting. Karts are like no other vehicle in sim racing, where you have for simulation purposes, a chassis that behaves like a rigid body. There existed no solution for simulating karts in real time, neither off the shelf or described in whitepapers. So really up to about 2011 – 2012, those 4 or 5 years were spent developing a game engine from scratch, learning how to develop the physics engine and actually coming up with my own solution to correctly simulates chassis flex. It was a time of huge personal growth, a time for learning about what KartKraft was, and indeed making games in general. It was at that time that I realised KartKraft wouldn’t see the light in the way I wanted, if I didn’t seek external funding and have more resources to develop this game. Off the back of that realisation, I spent all of 2014 raising capital through private equity sources. It was also the start of that year that the game went on Steam Greenlight and had tremendous success thanks to our incredible community. We went from a rank of 2000, to the number 2 game on Greenlight in 23 hours with 20,000 people who voted to buy the game. Using that as a springboard, I raised our first round of funding (seven figures) and started the studio at the beginning of last year. And now here we are with 14 people all working on KartKraft! RD: What sort of simulation are you aiming for here, are we looking at a faithful recreation of kart racing in a hardcore simulation style or maybe something more entry level and “simcade” orientated. ZG: We’ve been getting this question quite a lot lately and let me assure you, KartKraft is a pure bred karting simulation. To explain what that actually means, a physics simulation at its core (in this explanation, an internal combustion engine revving by itself), is a set of parametric inputs (RPM, moment of inertia, torque vs RPM, throttle position etc), a set of equations called the model (angular acceleration = torque / moment of inertia, angular velocity = current angular velocity + angular acceleration * time) and a set of outputs (angular velocity / engine RPM). So essentially, you take the inputs, plug them into the equations, integrate them, and now you have the resulting angular velocity/RPM and torque output. Changing the amount of torque will change how fast the engine revs, as will the moment of inertia. The physics engine is made up of multiple models (engine, tyres, gearbox, suspension, aero etc) that all communicate with each other to simulate the complete vehicle. Our goal in this example, is to have a realistic simulation. So we measure the inertia of all the moving components, we measure the torque output on the dyno and plug them into our model and we get quite accurate results. Now with simulation, it is always an approximation of real life. In this example, the power loss caused by friction from the piston ring, and bottom end bearings as well as other thermodynamic phenomena, isn’t dynamically simulated, as it is far too expensive to process in real-time with 30 other vehicles. That power loss is already captured when we measured the torque at different RPM intervals on the dyno, and it gives us a close enough approximation of the loss of power. However, let’s say we want to make the simulation even more accurate. There are only a few areas where we can gain accuracy. The inertia and torque output may be incorrect due to the methods used to measure them. The amount of simulated time between each integration (solving the equations) may be too large and we can gain some accuracy through taking more frequent calculations (This is what developers talk about when they say their physics engine runs at 450hz, albeit above a certain frequency there are diminishing returns); or the model can be expanded and we can begin to calculate other phenomena like the effect of air/fuel ratio on torque output. In reality, with the exception of tyre parameters, we can measure and collect data with a high level of accuracy, and the models used in more recent racing games (both sim and ‘simcade’) are advanced enough to simulate most of the complex phenomena that you experience when driving cars. We can simulate drivetrains, suspension and steering kinematics, all with very high levels of fidelity. This is why you can quite easily capture simulated telemetry graphs that when overlaid on real telemetry, look more or less identical. Unfortunately, these graphs don’t automatically translate to having an accurate simulation or driving experience, but more on that another time. So how does that all apply to KartKraft? In every other game with karts, the model used to simulate chassis flex has been A-Arm suspension with input parameters that try and get the inside rear wheel to lift around the corner, due to the lack of a differential. If you look at the other games, you can even see the wheels move exactly like they do in a car. And just by hearing that, you know it will never work. So in KartKraft, we’ve created a model that correctly simulates chassis flex and drives exactly like the real thing. Now going back to your question regarding the ‘simcade’ portmanteau. Simcade exists because a subset of racing game fans enjoy driving vehicles that are easier to drive than they otherwise would be, when driving with a controller or steering wheel strapped to their desk. So how do you make a vehicle easier or more forgiving to drive? You can either change the underlying data you feed into the model and make it less accurate (i.e. Increasing lateral tyre grip above specific yaw angles) or you can leave the highly accurate physics model and provide optional filters that handle some of the driving for you (I.e. Counter steer). In KartKraft, we’ve chosen to do the latter as it doesn’t change the vehicle dynamics, and instead allows both sim and ‘simcade’ racers to enjoy the game. We’ve also added a multitude of options so you can turn off driving aids, turn off the steering wheel display, the hands, visor overlays , HUDS and everything we would typically do as sim racers.If you enjoy more of a ‘simcade’ experience, and all you have access to is a gamepad, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the game, so we have spent considerable time making sure you can set competitive lap times with the controller. Sure you will always set better lap times with a wheel, but we wanted to ensure you can enjoy the game regardless of what device you play with, or what preference you have. RD: Of course it’s probably early days to be speaking about this already but would the team have any desire to move across to console once the PC release has been launched and reaches version 1? ZG: Our immediate focus is on the PC version of KartKraft, however, we are currently in talks with several publishers and platform holders. RD: Will modding be supported in the title? When we talk about modding I refer to both the karts themselves and of course the circuits on which they race. ZG: Yes absolutely. We are strong advocates of modding. It’s where I first started creating content in GP3, and before then obviously using mods in games like GP2 and GPL; so all of our development roots have stemmed from modding. In terms of how that applies in KartKraft, Steam have a great system in their “Workshop” and we are setting up the processes now to have that integration during Early Access, where community members can use the content and templates which we provide to develop their own helmets or race apparel, the karts themselves, bodywork, engines or whatever else they might like to mod. They can then submit that to us, to curate and release. Something we are passionate about, is having high quality modded content. We don’t want a free for all out there, with mods that don’t meet the quality expectations of the community. So we will work with the content creators to give them that feedback on what we would like to see to meet that quality standard. Once they meet that level, it will then be released on Steam Workshop as an officially supported mod. We will be announcing a lot more on how modding will be supported in the future. RD: Could we expect to see DLC further down the line and would you expect that to be included in the base-game price or released as additional paid DLC? ZG: We will be releasing content on an ongoing basis for those who buy into Early Access. In terms of “paid-for” DLC, that’s something that must add significant value to the game, to justify itself having an additional cost over and above the initial purchase price. So for the most part, when people buy into Early Access, they know they’ll be getting content all the way through. We don’t want to extract money out of the community for no reason. RD: How long do you plan to support content additions and how long will the shelf life of the title be? ZG: We won’t be abandoning KartKraft at all in terms of support or additional content. We want KartKraft to be a fully polished product so at this stage, that’s where our focus is. In terms of the future, yes we’ve talked about a KartKraft 2, we’ve talked about other products, particularly other racing games because the engine we’ve built allows us to simulate other genres of motorsport, but at the moment, our full focus is on KartKraft. RD: Will all content be licensed or will the title include some fictional cars and tracks? ZG: All content has been licensed. RD: Specifically looking at early access, are you looking at recreating championship in their entirety or just the Karts and classes? ZG: We will launch with the first chapter of the career mode. What that first chapter entails is buying your first chassis, buying your racing gear, starting off in the lower ranked classes and racing in a low powered championship. It’s primarily single events at this stage, because we don’t have a large amount of content relative to games like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Launching with four tracks, the single event championships will form part of the full career mode experience. The second chapter of this, will be based on what the community wants to see and where they want the career mode to go, so we will be quite flexible in that regard. We’ve already received a lot of suggestions on the Steam forums, including sponsorship, being scouted for other teams and other features which we’ve already begun to implement for the second chapter. RD: Something close to our hearts here at RaceDepartment is obviously racing against our fellow sim racers online, so I’d like to take a moment or two to discuss the planned functionality for online play. Can we expect dedicated servers are supported on release or planned in future updates? ZG: Multiplayer will be released after the initial launch. We will have 2 branches of the game. The first is the release version which is what is available in Steam by default. The second version, is the beta development branch, and this allows those in the community who want to be more active in KartKraft’s development, to experience and give their feedback on newly developed features on a fortnightly basis. So that’s where online will first make its appearance, alongside beta testing with groups like RaceDepartment. Online will feature dedicated servers and support for leagues. League racing is something we are highly passionate about and we want to work with existing groups to support league racing as much as possible. In regard to team skins and liveries; you can already customise your gear with your team livery and whatever other livery you would like to run so that’s all in from day one. In terms of the portal, iRacing handles online exceptionally well and we are looking at what they offer in terms of their core online experience, in addition to their league support. We’re also looking at what makes a good experience if you just want to jump online and race with other people in a more casual setting. Given the experience of RaceDepartment’s members, it would be wonderful to know what kind of experience your readers are looking for. We’d love to get the community’s feedback on what their ideal online experience looks like. RD: That’s an excellent idea that I couldn’t agree more about. Please keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for a piece on this exact subject where we ask you, the readers, what you want to see in the multiplayer environment in KartKraft. RD: How many slots will multiplayer have? ZG: Our goal is to have 40 karts all online; with the initial release closer to 16. Again this will evolve during Early Access. The main objective is that online racing is done properly; there is nothing worse than being taken out by a kart or a driver when you didn’t feel any contact or didn’t think you were next to him at all. So we need to make sure that collisions and deterrents for wreckers are handled correctly. Supporting more vehicles is down to us extracting more performance over the network through more advanced compression and prediction algorithms. One of the most exciting parts of kart racing, particularly in qualifying, is you must bump draft to get a good lap time. And when you’re racing, from a strategic point of view, on lap one you have 30 other drivers around you; you need to break away from that pack, and only start fighting for the lead in the last 2 or 3 laps, once you’ve got that distance from everyone else. So in KartKraft, you have to be able to bump draft. One thing you experience with the AI at the moment and some of the online races we’ve done in the office, is just how much bump drafting adds to the racing. Karting is one of those unique categories in that you have this massive train of karts glued nose to tail and for us it is very important that this translates well offline and online. RD: The recent release trailer showed some exciting looking footage of the game in action, looks like you have some nice weather effects planned! Will the weather effects be dynamic or are we talking about set wet/dry options? ZG: Yes, again in Karting one of the biggest differences between other motorsports is how slippery that racing line is in the wet. You change your line; so rather than braking on the racing line you brake off it, you cross it and you’re balancing the brake pedal and trying not to aquaplane and lock the rear brakes. Through every corner you always think you’re going too fast for it, and during that last half a meter before you’re on the grass, the front tyres decide to bite in, and pitch you around ready to do it all over again for the next corner. And we’ve captured that in KartKraft. It’s a lot of fun, every corner is a challenge, and it feels like life and death as you try to stay on track. RD: Fantastic, so is that dynamic? By that I mean will you get increasing/decreasing levels of grip and rainfall ZG: Yes it will. You can see and feel the track go from dry to wet. We also want to make sure people can have a mode that’s consistent from a hot lapping and comparative point of view. So dry is dry, and players are competing on the same surface; but in terms of going from wet to dry, then yes, that’s completely dynamic. RD: Same sort of question for fully dry, do you have grip build up, dynamic race lines in a dry environment? ZG: We’ve got the ability to do that. It’s something we want to get feedback from the community on. One think I think we’ll do, and it’s getting back to your earlier Simcade question, is a lot of these options will be available to change. If players want to be able to drive on the same track all the time then they can, but if most of the community want to drive on an evolving track, then we’ll add that feature so they can do that as well. Personally for myself, I’ve always found it great to be able to jump online and drive the track you’ve been testing with during the week and hitting those same lap times. However, at the same time back when I was competing in karting, the track would evolve heavily throughout the weekend. So again a lot of this we will be reasonably flexible on and wait to hear the community’s feedback first, before we decide on how to implement it. RD: Looking at the makeup of a race weekend in game, how will this be represented in game? Can users decide how long a race/qualifying/practice lasts and what are the configuration options? ZG: The first racing mode we have is the ability to have a quick race and just jump in on a rolling start. That’s for most classes unless it’s a KZ2 Shifter class, where you’ll have a standing start. This mode is a quick 8 lap race. For the championship mode and online, you have a 5 minute practice session, and a 5 minute qualifying session. This is followed by 2 heats of 8 – 10 laps, a pre final of 15-18 laps and a 21 lap final that mirrors how the real sport. One of the other modes we have is the quick club day; that’s 3x 8 lap heats with heat one in random grid order, heat two a reverse grid, and a final heat based on the finishing positions of the first two sessions. RD: Do you want to say anything we haven’t covered already in this interview, and bits of information you think might be of interest to our readers? ZG: I think the main point we want to get across is we’ve got an incredible product in KartKraft which is truly the first next gen racing game. We want to involve the community as much as possible in the development of the game. We are listening to what they have to say, we want to hear what they would like to see in game, and we’ll work with them all the way through Early Access. The community will be able to see firsthand what their input does, and how it shapes development of the game. That’s the first thing, we want to listen to the community and work with them to create what essentially becomes their game. The second thing is we’re just excited to get the game out there and have people experience what it’s like to race in KartKraft. We’d like to thank the community for the support we’ve had over the years during its development. We want people to enjoy the racing as much as we are. We’re having an incredible time over here in the office developing, and racing in KartKraft. A big thank you to Black Delta CEO Zach Griffin for getting up nice and early to have this chat with RaceDepartment. Keep an eye out on the RD forums for more news and features on this promising title and don't forget to participate in our upcoming Community Feedback request feature which will be held in the coming weeks. KartKraft will be launching on Windows PC via the Steam platform in the coming weeks. Did you enjoy our Black Delta interview? What are you looking forward to the most from KartKraft? Got a message for the developers? Leave your comments below!