Interview with Andy Fletcher, Game Director of F1 Manager 2023
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Podium Life grabbed the opportunity to chat with F1 Manager’s Game Director, Andy Fletcher about this ultimate motorsports strategy video game and all the latest updates included in the recent launch.
As Game Director, can you describe your role?
The Game Director forms the initial vision for the game, which is to say the key themes and goals that guide what we do and define what we’re trying to achieve. F1 Manager is all about ensuring we’re creating the most authentic F1 management experience possible, allowing players to fully inhabit the role of a Team Principal, and of course giving rise to dramatic and unpredictable races. Then once the team is bought into the high level vision, the Game Director needs to ensure that the work we do to fulfill the vision is coming together as desired and creating a fantastic game, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day.
How did you get into this role/profession?
I knew video games was the passion I wanted to pursue after university, initially in a writing capacity. So I got my foot in every door I could and started writing for websites, arranging internships, and ultimately found myself in a junior designer role. From then on I worked as a designer and lead designer for many years across many games, and the game director role was a fairly natural evolution. Having a design background definitely helps, as your ultimate responsibility is to the game and the player experience.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to enter the gaming industry?
Identifying what kind of job you’d like to do seems a pretty good first step. It’s easy to have preconceptions about how games are made, so look around at the job descriptions that games companies post and get a feel for what kind of work excites you. See what kind of skillsets most companies are looking for in your preferred role, and don’t be too dissuaded by jobs that ask for years of experience. There is a lot you can do to develop your skills outside the industry using free tools, and ultimately a promising portfolio should get you noticed and hopefully some useful feedback even if you don’t get the job. Also try to get as much experience as you can working as part of a team, because that’s both one of the most important skills and one of the best things about working in the games industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about the latest F1 Manager?
F1 Manager 23 allows players to build their legacy as a Team Principal, calling all the shots both on the track and off as they manage one of the ten constructor teams. In addition to all the circuits, drivers and cars from the 2023 season, this year we’ve added new ways to play in the form of Race Replay mode, more depth to the team management systems via pit crew training and car part inspections, and more drama to the race day experience with driver confidence levels, new tactical commands, more dynamic racing and collisions, and improved AI competitors. It’s the ultimate F1 management experience and gets you closer to the 2023 season than ever before.
What role has AI played in this release?
We’ve overhauled the AI for rival teams to ensure that they react more dynamically to the race conditions. So teams are now more likely to capitalise on changing weather conditions and safety car opportunities, and they’ll be better at choosing the right time to push their tyres, burn fuel, and deploy electrical energy, and the right time to conserve those resources for the benefit of their whole race strategy.
What are you most proud of in F1 Manager 23?
I think the race simulation improvements, which make every race dynamic, unique, and challenging. The improvements to AI make races more authentically competitive, the new tyre simulation adds variety to tyre management approaches, and corner collisions make wheel-to-wheel battles fraught with peril. I also really like the interplay between driver tactics and confidence; you can tell your driver to take risks, but should only do so if you trust their confidence level, otherwise you’ll have some heart-in-mouth moments as they pull up alongside another car.
Tell us about the Race Replay Mode.
Race Replay allows you to rewrite the course of an individual race from the 2023 Championship, based on the starting grid and race conditions of the real life event. The weather forecast, ambient temperatures, and even car performance attributes are all accurate to the real race day, and so you get to see how the race could have played out (for a team of your choice) if you had been the one in charge. In addition to these Starting Grid scenarios, we also have Race Moments, which drop you into a pivotal moment of the race as a specific team, setting you a points or position target to achieve by the chequered flag. The game will update with new race scenarios after each real world Grand Prix, so this mode gives you a whole new sense of engagement with the 2023 F1 season, and allows you to play with different approaches to races and key moments while they’re still fresh in the memory.
What is one of the hardest aspects of developing this game?
As you would expect, our desire to be as up to date as possible with the 2023 season does mean that we need to develop some elements of the game later than you might normally want to. For example, we want to ensure that we have all the latest circuit adjustments, regulation changes, and photos for all the real staff members and drivers across F1, F2 and F3 Championships. This means we have to be especially reactive during the latter phase of development based on what the new season brings, but it’s a challenge we relish because evoking the latest Championship season as closely as possible is one of the coolest things about F1 Manager.
Can you share a funny story from developing this game?
One of the unexpected stories from soon after we launched the last game was definitely having the F1 World Champion Max Verstappen mention us over his team radio post-race, for giving his Race Engineer what he saw as a low overall rating. We’ve revised the way we calculate staff ratings for F1 Manager 23, so Max will hopefully be happier with GP’s updated rating this year. Still, it was definitely cool to hear that he’d played the game and found it fun and relaxing, so we’re looking forward to more feedback from the champ this year.
How do you measure success around this launch/game?
For me it’s all about hearing the stories that players are making with the game. When people are really engaged with the game they take great pleasure in talking you through how specific races or Championships seasons played out for them, so I can’t wait to hear what new stories people tell with F1 Manager 23, especially as the Race Replay scenarios roll out across the season.
What is something fans would be surprised to learn about F1 Manager?
One of the cool things about our data-influenced driver ratings is that they lead to some interesting track preferences for different drivers. For example, Sergio Perez’s ratings are such that he ought to perform well at the new Vegas circuit, whereas the other race calendar addition Qatar is one of is weakest tracks. Alex Albon has Montreal as one of his strongest circuits, and indeed he had a fantastic performance there in real life this year; his best finish of the year so far. We’ve created some ‘Equal Performance’ scenarios for the Deluxe Edition of the game, which equalises the performance of all the cars in order to reveal the drivers’ different qualities at different circuits.