What F1 23 Could Learn from a 26-Year-Old Game

PlayStation 1 Formula 1 Cover Artwork Screenshot.jpg
With its release just a month away, Formula 1 fans do not have to wait much longer to get in the virtual driver's seat and race along the real season in F1 23. Official games have not always been released during the season, however, and as a result, a PS1 classic had a feature that the current series should adopt: Race-specific driver and team lineups.

The very first F1 game for the PlayStation 1 simply called Formula 1 was released in September of 1996 and featured the full 1995 season - releasing a game featuring a season that has been over for almost a year at the time of its launch would be unthinkable today. As the PS1 itself was only released in late 1995 in the majority of the world (September for North America and Europe, November for Australia - almost a full year after the December 1994 release in Japan), some delay had to be factored in.

Even if the game's content was outdated by the time it launched, it did have an interesting advantage in an age when games could not simply be updated via the internet: Formula 1 included all 35 drivers and 13 teams of the 1995 season. Starting grids were limited to 26 cars at the time, though - so how did Psygnosis and Bizarre Creations make this work?

Screenshot 2023-05-15 141634.jpg


As the season progressed, multiple teams made or were forced to make driver changes. This is accurately reflected in the game, with the most prominent example being Nigel Mansell: The 1992 World Champion initially planned to race with McLaren in 1995, but could not fit properly in the MP4/10, which was subsequently reworked to accomodate Mansell in time for the San Marino Grand Prix. After finishing in 10th at Imola and retiring with handling issues from the next race in Spain, Mansell never raced in F1 again. Accordingly, he appears in those two races in Formula 1, replacing Mark Blundell.

Farewell, Simtek!​

Driver changes in other teams are accurately reflected as well, resulting in players being able to choose out of up to four drivers for certain teams. Meanwhile, the grid is slimmed down to 24 cars after the Monaco Grand Prix due to the Simtek team folding after that round, meaning it does not appear in the game anymore either unless the player decides to drive one of their cars - in that case, 25 cars take to the grid.

Screenshot 2023-05-15 141653.jpg


Interestingly, reserve drivers can replace the accurate ones, too, if the player wants to race as a substitute. An example: Even though Pedro Lamy only drove for Minardi from the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards, it is still possible to select the Portuguese for earlier rounds. He will then replace Pierluigi Martini, who was in the seat in the first half of the season.

More Immersion & Accuracy​

With driver changes being much less frequent, the current series of F1 games would have it relatively easy in theory if they added all drivers of a season to the respective titles. Driver transfers are already present in career mode, and real-world driver swaps are usually reflected in the games' updates.

The next step would be applying these changes to their specific races, which could be done via the updates that are released as the season progresses. After the real season concludes, players could be offered the option to use the grid that raced at the end of the season, or use race-specific grids.

Even better: As liveries get updated throughout the season and special car designs get released for limited times, seeing all these changes reflected for the respective races would add to the immersion of the game. Car models get updated as well, though with the pace of development, it would be tough to keep up with this for every race. Major updates or low-downforce versions for circuits like Monza would be more realistic to include.

As accurate as the series' representation of race weekends already are, this step would raise this bar even further - and by making it optional, it would not be forced upon those that would not want it.

Your Thoughts​

Did you know about the driver swaps in the Formula 1 PS1 game already? Would you like race-specific drivers and liveries in the modern F1 games? Let us know in the comments below!

Bonus Reading​

All 1995 Driver & Team Changes
Full Article
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Ole Marius Myrvold
Staff
Premium
It was F1 97 for me.... so much time spent on that game. It even had driver performance tweaks to match the real race results, like Arrows / Hill doing better at Hungary

Same with F1 World Championship on N64.
F1 97 had another thing that really made it stand out though.
Do one event in the dry. Then do the same event in the wet. Quite a bit of difference in the order then, the drivers had different speed depending on dry or wet!
 
Back in time, simulators (or even the more realistic arcade and casual games) used to be complete and very enjoyable products right out of the box. Today we are stuck with paid beta testing for two or more years or yearly games (that were a thing in the past, but were not the predominant format).

But I don't see this lesson being learned, since even the major devs are in this "long term game cicle" mentality (that is not bad itself, but pains to have to wait two or much more years to see if the sim is good).
 
If you think this was good, you probably never encountered F1 World Championship: Beyond The Limit (also known as the epically titled Heavenly Symphony in Japan!) on Sega/Mega-CD, which released in 1994. Featuring the entire 1993 F1 season, if featured two key modes:

1. A 1993 mode, where you had to replicate events that occurred at real-life races (e.g. Katayama's car losing power, can you still finish in a certain place? Each scenario was bookended by video from the 1993 season introducing the challenge, with "win" and "lose" clips depending on how you did. Some were really inventive, like you having to beat your own qualifying 3 times in a row with different drivers, as happened in real-life!

2. A World Championship mode, where you decide which teams want you by racing around a made-up track (lined with cows bizarrely!) and then you're offered a drive depending on how quick you went. You then meet the team principle, head of technology and an engine partner, as well as your team mate (yes, all real-life people!). During the season if your team mate was replaced in real-life it happened in the game. Car upgrades were introduced at the same race as per real-life (e.g. Williams adding anti-lock brakes at a certain track).

After qualifying and the race you'd get feedback from the team. Cars that ran unique liveries that year appeared in them (e.g. one Ligier alone had a different livery at the Japanese GP and it was there too!). I think even cars break down in the race at the same places as per real-life! Plus you could tweak car handling settings. Each car had its own engine noise, depending on what sort of engine the real-life car had.

Best of all, winning everything unlocked a video player, so you could watch all the action, and all the crashes(!) of the 1993 season! They also got around Ayrton Senna having his own license by you being able to rename him (alone!) in the game!

The only downside was the racing engine itself was a 15fps SNES Mode-7-style with hills and sprites, a somewhat jerky affair. You had a button to help you spin turn, should you crash, and a turbo/boost button (that would overheat eventually), but ultimately it made the actual game a bit too easy.

If you've never seen it before, watch some videos on YouTube about it! This one shows a bit of the World Championship mode, then some of the 1993 mode (about 43mins in - see JJ Lehto in South African rain!):
 
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Oh boy, dont have enough time to talk about it. But F1 '95 and '97. All those memoryes.. :inlove: But biggest thing after these two games was the unbeliavably big disappointment, when got hands on the F1 '98. Omg what a letdown :thumbsdown: Still getting bad vibes how depressed i was. I tried it, shut down console, was pissed off, give it another go, no it didnt get any better, and so on and on. Until put it in the bin. After that have been hoping that somehow those great seasons like '98 should have another chance to shine, with the new tech. Classic series is what i want. From F1, WRC etc. Just like they were :)
 
Oddly enough, I'm not convinced that an EA Games developer can code a 26 year old game so well, but that's just my opinion :p

Yes, talent cannot be bought.

Boredom is often the order of the day despite the quality and I'm looking for fun above all, which many developers tend to forget, to have fun...
 
Back in time, simulators (or even the more realistic arcade and casual games) used to be complete and very enjoyable products right out of the box. Today we are stuck with paid beta testing for two or more years or yearly games (that were a thing in the past, but were not the predominant format).

But I don't see this lesson being learned, since even the major devs are in this "long term game cicle" mentality (that is not bad itself, but pains to have to wait two or much more years to see if the sim is good).
Most all games used to be that way, especially before devs had the option of OTA patches. When the only option to fix a game was to send out a physical disc, devs had to be a lot more careful about their quality control.
 
If you think this was good, you probably never encountered F1 World Championship: Beyond The Limit (also known as the epically titled Heavenly Symphony in Japan!) on Sega/Mega-CD, which released in 1994. Featuring the entire 1993 F1 season, if featured two key modes:

1. A 1993 mode, where you had to replicate events that occurred at real-life races (e.g. Katayama's car losing power, can you still finish in a certain place? Each scenario was bookended by video from the 1993 season introducing the challenge, with "win" and "lose" clips depending on how you did. Some were really inventive, like you having to beat your own qualifying 3 times in a row with different drivers, as happened in real-life!

2. A World Championship mode, where you decide which teams want you by racing around a made-up track (lined with cows bizarrely!) and then you're offered a drive depending on how quick you went. You then meet the team principle, head of technology and an engine partner, as well as your team mate (yes, all real-life people!). During the season if your team mate was replaced in real-life it happened in the game. Car upgrades were introduced at the same race as per real-life (e.g. Williams adding anti-lock brakes at a certain track).

After qualifying and the race you'd get feedback from the team. Cars that ran unique liveries that year appeared in them (e.g. one Ligier alone had a different livery at the Japanese GP and it was there too!). I think even cars break down in the race at the same places as per real-life! Plus you could tweak car handling settings. Each car had its own engine noise, depending on what sort of engine the real-life car had.

Best of all, winning everything unlocked a video player, so you could watch all the action, and all the crashes(!) of the 1993 season! They also got around Ayrton Senna having his own license by you being able to rename him (alone!) in the game!

The only downside was the racing engine itself was a 15fps SNES Mode-7-style with hills and sprites, a somewhat jerky affair. You had a button to help you spin turn, should you crash, and a turbo/boost button (that would overheat eventually), but ultimately it made the actual game a bit too easy.

If you've never seen it before, watch some videos on YouTube about it! This one shows a bit of the World Championship mode, then some of the 1993 mode (about 43mins in - see JJ Lehto in South African rain!):

I bought my second Mega CD for that game!

It wasn't bad, although very difficult to control. I did get used to it and managed to have some good races. As you say, it was really in depth (especially for a console game) and made with passion for the sport.
 
jgf
Premium
"...releasing a game featuring a season that has been over for almost a year at the time of its launch would be unthinkable today"

GPL was released featuring a season that had been over for twenty years; it is still popular.

But you cannot release a sim accurately representing a current season, especially with F1. Teams are not going to give any useful data about their cars while they are competing, so any such sim would be based on "best guess" physics. But a decent sim will be computing the basic laws of physics using plug in variables for the specific cars, so it is a simple matter to edit those variables to depict different cars, thus that sim is not dated until the rest of the package (graphics, sounds, FFB, etc.) is no longer acceptable.

Of course from a marketing standpoint that is anathema, customers will stick with that sim until you release something appreciably better. So, "planned obsolescence", release a sim with hard-coded physics so next year everyone will buy the new one.

(GPL got away with it because people deciphered how to edit it, and nothing has yet come along that does what it does any better. N2k3 essentially died as far as mods went when it became illegal to edit it ...anything new was just 3D models and paint jobs; though I've heard there is now a physics editor. GTR2/GTL/rfactor are ancient by computer standards but still going strong because they are easily modded.)

FWIW, I've not had a console in over thirty years; a PC is just too versatile compared to a console.
 
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None of them compare to Microprose's Grand Prix series and especially GP4. Here is my old video.
 
Ole Marius Myrvold
Staff
Premium
1. A 1993 mode, where you had to replicate events that occurred at real-life races (e.g. Katayama's car losing power, can you still finish in a certain place? Each scenario was bookended by video from the 1993 season introducing the challenge, with "win" and "lose" clips depending on how you did. Some were really inventive, like you having to beat your own qualifying 3 times in a row with different drivers, as happened in real-life!

I'll drag out F1 World Championship for N64 again.
Granted they didn't have real life videos intoducing the challenges. However, they were all based on real events from the 1997 season, but your goal is often to surpass the actual results. And they were split into three categories. Offense, Defense and Trouble.

Offense A: Olivier Panis at Barcelona. Bridgestone entered F1 in 1997. Goodyear introduced a new super-soft tyre at the Spanish GP, and they produced brilliant qualifying times. However, the more durable Bridgestones didn't have to stop as often. The challenge is to pass as many drivers as you can while the Goodyear-runners make an extra stop. If you make it to third place, you get top score.

Offense B: Giancarlo Fisichella at Montreal. In Canada Goodyear re-introduced the super-soft tyres that they brought to Spain. Even though they were improved, there was still issues. Fisichella decided to stay out longer in the hope of gaining time with blistered tyres. If you manage to take the lead at the end of lap 53, you will get top score (the race was red flagged after that IRL).

Offense C: Shinji Nakano at Hungaroring: Nakano had an opportunity to score in Hungary, being close to and somewhat battling with Irvine and the Schumacher brothers. The goal here is to beat them all, and catch Johnny Herbert to get a podium!

Offense D: David Coulthard at Monza. In the 1997 Italian GP, Alesi took the early lead ahead of HH-Frentzen and Coulthard. After Frentzen pitted, Coulthard was following Alesi. The challenge here is to either pass Alesi on track, or follow him in the pits, and do a quicker stop and exit the pit in the lead.

Offense E: Michael Schumacher at Jerez. Here the challenge is to build up a large lead over "The Williams Driver". The issue is, Frentzen have not pitted yet, and when you catch up, he will do his best to slow you down to help his teammate catch up. Pass Frentzen as quick as you can, and build some distance.

Defense A: David Coulthard at Melbourne. Coulthard surprised everyone by leading the Australian GP. In the closing laps, Coulthard was under pressure from Frentzen while Schumacher tried to catch them both. The objective is to hold them behind and score the win!

Defense B: Gerhard Berger at Hockenheim. In Germany, Berger had a solid lead over Fisichella, but was getting close to running out of fuel, so it was time for a pit-stop. Fischella overtook Berger during the stop. The challenge is to build enoug gap to Fisichella behind that you can maintain your lead, and possibly extend it after exiting the pit.

Defense C: Michael Schumacher at Magny-Cours: Schumacher had a healthy lead in the French GP, and a victory was safe. However, his brother Ralf Schumacher was running a fine race in 6th place. Here the challenge is to not lap Ralf, so he may be able to benefit from last lap retirements, while at the same time, not letting Frentzen near and by yourself.

Defense D: Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Imola. During the San Marino GP, Frentzen tried desperately to hold Schumacher behind him. However, with several cars in front of them, there is a chance that Frentzen could build a little gap to Schumacher by passing them effectively. Use the lapped cars as help, and get around 10 seconds down to Schumacher to get top score.

Defense E: Mika Häkkinen at Silverstone. In the British GP, Häkkinen was in third, quite far behind the leaders. However, he kept himself out on the track after the leaders had pitted. The challenge is to build a gap to the ones who pitted. (How "defensive" this is, idk).

Trouble A: Michael Schumacher at Spa. Pre-race the track was drenched due to rain. After the start of the race it stopped. Almost all the drivers were on wet tyres and had to stop, but Schumacher on intermediate could continue on a drying track. Gain as much time as possible in these conditions.

Trouble B: Ukyo Katayama at Hungaroring. Katayama struggled to keep in the top 10 of the race, and did experience brake issues, with close to failure and not very effective brakes at all. The objective is to try and record as good lap times as you can in these conditons.

Trouble C: Giancarlo Fischella at Hockenheim. This is the only challenge that is in a way "connected" to another, as you raced against Fisichella in this race in Defense B. Fisichella had a great race in Germany, but disaster struck when he lost his left rear. He did manage to crawl to the pits and get new tyres on. Return to the circuit and gain back as much as you can. The challenge here isn't so much the comeback, but driving with 3 wheels on the car.

Trouble D: Heinz-Harald Frentzen at Monaco. Light downpour, but Williams decided to sent Frentzen out on slicks. The idea was to gain positions if/when the rain stopped. Sadly for them, the rain just got heavier. The aim here is to stay in the lead for as long as possible with slicks on a wet track.

Trouble E: Obviously this is the one. Damon Hill at Hungaroring. The most famous of the modern era. You are leading the Hungarian GP, and you'll experience issues that leaves you with just first and second gear to use. The goal is to manage what Hill didn't. Win the race!

If you manage to nail all of them. The ultimate challenge appears.
Eddie Irvine at Suzuka. It's time to be the ultimate team player. In Japan, Irvine got ahead of "The Williams Driver" and blocked him. Letting Schumacher to overtake them both. In the Ultimate Challenge, you must do this, and then try to finish as high up the order as possible as Irvine, while "The Williams Driver" finishes in a lower position.

In addition this, F1 World Championship on the N64 had the 107% rule implemented when you drove on the hardest difficulty (but only for you, not AI).
You could choose between 97 Events or not. With 97 Events on, the drivers qualify where they did, they retire at the same time in the races etc. With it off, this does not happen.
The game also have red flags(!). I have however, only experienced that once. I don't know how.
 
My first PS game! I still play with it once a year by average: simply fantastic, even with its huge bugs!
 
P
Premium
The only 'racer' I had on the Playstation was Gran Turismo, that came well after my Amiga 500 plus with Geff Crammonds Grand Prix, and to be honest I've never got myself into F1 games/sims since, with the two button control stick it got sweaty to say the least... later with the PS1 and Gran Turismo I'd get 'Playstation thumb' and 'Playstation itchy nose'

God bless technology for the PC and Wheel.
 
very much ahead of its time. the game is from a time when people weren't greedy and wanted the virtual drivers to be able to play decent games. nowadays, money is what matters, and the creators of the game are no longer aware of things like how the car behaves or what you can do in the game in general.
 

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