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Gran Turismo founder Kazunori Yamauchi talks about PSVR 2’s surprisingly comfortable, and comforting, racing sim.
Gran Turismo 7 is fast and realistic. And in VR, it feels weirdly comforting.
I didn’t expect Gran Turismo 7 to be the most relaxing and comforting game on the PlayStation VR 2. Yes, it’s a high-speed racing game with extremely realistic physics. But for me it’s become the most meditative PSVR 2 experience next to Tetris Effect Connected. Even more surprising is that, despite its high speeds, Gran Turismo 7 in PSVR 2 doesn’t make me sick.
Gran Turismo series producer Kazunori Yamauchi spoke to me over video chat to discuss what makes GT7 feel so comfortably drivable, and what inspired its design decisions. Also, will we ever get a mode where I can talk to friends and listen to my own music, like I can in my own car?
Yamauchi is a notable racing driver in real life, with extensive experience of the legendary Nürburgring track.
I’ve really loved playing GT7. It’s also oddly the most comforting game. How much was VR a part of the original GT7 design?
Yamauchi: I do believe car games are a great fit for VR. In a car game, you’re surrounded by the interior of the car first. And then you have the view outside of the car around that as well. That actually makes it harder for you to get nauseous from the VR. The cars only move forward. And the cars actually don’t spin around very quickly. They turn very slowly, according to the user’s will when you’re driving.
For example, when you’re driving in a car game, the VR doesn’t often spin you around against your intent. When you’re racing on the track, you turn left or right near depending on what the driver wants to control. And that makes it so that the movement of your vision doesn’t go against what your brain is predicting will happen next, and that helps to keep down the nausea.
Those are things that apply to race games in general. But if you’re talking more specifically about how Gran Turismo 7 is a good fit for VR, the reason is that the interiors, the exterior view that you have, everything from the resolution to the preciseness of how everything is created, having the proper scale so that things are not too big or too small, making sure that all of that is really balanced and perfect, is what makes it a good VR experience.
Especially for a person who’s actually driven a car before, that space is something that you’re familiar with. When you’re inside of a car, you just sit in it, you immediately recognize the environment, and you say, “Hey, I know where I am. I know what I’m doing.”
Did you know from the beginning that GT7 was being designed with VR in mind? Or did this decision even precede GT7?
Yamauchi: Wanting to put in proper VR was something of a dream that I had since the very first Gran Turismo, to really bring true VR to the consumer level. I think we were just part of that group of people who were dreaming to see this actually happen.
Development for VR in Gran Turismo 7 began right after Gran Turismo Sport was completed. The first time we did the VR for Gran Turismo Sport, the development for the VR hardware and Gran Turismo Sport wasn’t synced: We were only able to provide limited support for the hardware [PSVR] at the time. But VR 2, we knew it was coming. We knew the specs of the hardware. We were able to, from the very beginning of development, make sure that everything would be supported in VR.
And GT7 is one of the very few games where we have native support for 4K 60fps rendering. We can do that because we had VR in mind from the beginning.
Now that you’ve worked on the PlayStation VR 2 support, are there things that you learned in this process that you think would be interesting to explore? Like eye tracking?
Yamauchi: When we did the development for Gran Turismo 7, the focus of development was to provide a very natural VR experience. And one of the key elements of that was how we would control nausea and prevent it from happening. It’s a difficult subject; it differs from person to person, how someone is more susceptible or more resistant to getting VR sickness. And the reason for that is because the prediction model of a person’s brain, of what is actually going to happen next, differs from person to person. Someone who’s a racing car driver, for example, will have a different prediction model in their brain of what’s going to happen in the next zero-point-X seconds, as opposed to someone who doesn’t normally drive at those speeds. It’s when there’s that discrepancy between what happens on screen, and what your brain is expecting, is what causes nausea.
After we had completed development, we were thinking that it would be nice if we had some ways to adjust some of that feedback that I personally would be expecting. For example, when you brake hard on a car, the car will nosedive, and the driver’s head will tilt forward. But the level of expectation of how much tilt there should be differs from person to person. That’s just a personal preference. It would have been nice if we had added more options to optimize that and personalize it from person to person.
And when you have a high bank on a track, your head doesn’t tilt with the horizon. But there are people who want the horizon to tilt with their head. And there are those that don’t want that to happen.
I really like using the DualSense controls for steering, and the haptics are fantastic. But will you ever support using the PSVR 2 Sense controllers as well?
Yamauchi: For us right now, we think that we can really provide all of the VR experiences possible on the standard DualSense controller. So we’re not really thinking about pursuing the Sense controller as of the present. If you haven’t used a steering wheel layout, you should definitely try it, because then you really will have a perfect VR experience.
Music Rally is a really interesting mode. And it brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about: the game is very meditative. When I drive in the real world, I connect my phone and make calls and listen to music while driving. Are there any possibilities for things like that?
Yamauchi: I guess it would be something like a voice chat, during the Music Rally. Music Rally is a mode that I really enjoy as well. I think it’s one of the great inventions we came up with in Gran Turismo 7. There is a possibility — when you drive relaxed, you can enjoy the driving, you can enjoy the music. I think being able to talk to friends might be something that might be interesting to do in VR as well.