F1 23: How F1 World was inspired by looter shooters

F1 23: How F1 World was inspired by looter shooters

F1 23: How F1 World was inspired by looter shooters

F1 23 raced onto PC and consoles last month. Thanks to its vastly improved handling, the return of Braking Point, and the new F1 World mode, it's the most comprehensive F1 game yet.

We caught up with F1's Senior Creative Director Lee Mather to get an insight into the design inspiration and future plans for F1 World. We also discuss F1 23's improved handling, the challenges of creating the new Las Vegas Street Circuit, and keeping up with the ever-changing world of Formula 1.

A return to form

Whereas F1 22 was divisive, F1 23 has enjoyed a positive reception. Compared to last year’s game, F1 23 is a return to form for the series. “We’re really pleased with the feedback we’ve had so far,” said Mather. “The reception has been fantastic.”

“It’s easy to look at the review scores and be incredibly happy with those. But we also look at our community channels to get a feel for the sentiment of the user base. We also see how people are playing the game through a lot of the data.”

F1 23 screenshot Red Bull
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In particular, the car handling is a significant improvement. In F1 22, the cars felt noticeably heavier, reflecting new rules introduced in the 2022 season. For Codemasters, making the cars more enjoyable, predictable, and rewarding to drive in F1 23 was a key priority.

“One of the overwhelmingly negative areas of F1 22 we had feedback on was that the handling was challenging for a lot of people. That’s an area we’ve resolved significantly in F1 23,” said Mather.

“The handling isn’t just easier, it’s deeper and more engrossing. It lends itself to better racing and feeling the difference when the tyres start to wear or overheat. It gives players a more stable platform to race and enjoy."

"I think that’s the most noticeable difference between F1 22 and 23. We made a conscious effort to not only improve it but resolve the concerns raised for F1 22 by the community and esports drivers.”

F1 23 also sees the return of Braking Point. First introduced in F1 2021, Braking Point 2 continues the story of fictional drivers Aiden Jackson and his nemesis, the devious Devon Butler, who find themselves driving as teammates for the fictional Konnersport team.

F1 23 Braking Point Callie Mayer
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Not only are we reunited with Jackson and Butler, but Braking Point 2 also introduces us to Callie Mayer, Butler’s sister who becomes the first female driver to win Formula 2.

“The story was a bit different,” said Mather. “It was a groundbreaking story forging a new path with a female driver coming into F1 – that’s gone down very well.”

Brave new world

F1 23’s most significant addition, however, is F1 World. Replacing last year’s polarising F1 Life, this new mode combines Grand Prix, Time Trial, and Multiplayer into a cohesive central hub with regular challenges and rewards.

“Anything like that in a game like Formula 1 is a risk, but I think it’s landed really well and the reception has been very positive,” said Mather.

F1 23 F1 World
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"Braking Point, Career and My Team have natural endpoints. In Driver Career and My Team, you can become a Constructors Champion or Drivers Champion. But there's lots of other great content like multiplayer, divisional play, time trial, and events. These sat outside the main areas of the game. They didn’t have a connection – there was no real reward to them."

“We wanted to take these game modes and bring them together in a mode where you get rewarded whenever you play. We also wanted an area where we can be more live and agile and connected to what’s going on in the sport.”

F1 is taking a break for the summer soon, but F1 23’s updates aren’t slowing down. Regular rewards and updates in line with the real season are keeping players engaged with the world of Formula 1.

“We’ve been delivering helmets and liveries relevant to what’s going on in the sport when the teams bring new liveries. We can set challenges up that are relevant to which Formula 1 race weekend is coming up."

F1 23 Williams livery
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Recent limited-time rewards include Max Verstappen's special edition Miami Grand Prix race helmet and Williams’ 800th Grands Prix Celebration livery. Williams is also bringing back the iconic Gulf livery in Singapore, Japan and Qatar, but Codemasters was unable to confirm if it will be added to F1 23.

Thanks to close relationships with Formula 1 teams, these liveries are often added to F1 23 at the same time as the real race weekend.

"We have great relations with the teams,” said Mather. “A lot of the teams come to us and say ‘at this race we’re planning a specific livery relating to this moment in our history. Would you like to include it in the game?’”

“We work with them so we both get really good exposure from it. In the past, we brought the 2023 Alfa Romeo early in F1 22 for example - they revealed the car in the game. That relationship with the team means we do get access to a lot of these liveries early enough to deliver them around the same time they’re revealed to the public.”

F1 23 screenshot Red Bull Miami
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This isn’t always the case, though. “Sometimes they’re super top secret even amongst the teams," Mather revealed.

"Sometimes the teams have kept them under wraps from their own staff and a limited number of people have seen them because they’re tied to something significant they wanted to keep super-secret. But most of the time, we get a nice early heads up.”

Codemasters also monitor changes to the team's performance in the season. As we've recently seen with McLaren, upgrade packages can make struggling teams more competitive. “That’s something we plan from the beginning,” Mather explains.

“We generally have a plan of when we’re going to do performance updates, so we have a good understanding of how the season looks and which teams are performing in which way."

“We also have a plan B, particularly this year and last year. If things are so vastly out because one team is suddenly overperforming from previous years, we can look at making changes a little sooner."

"But they obviously need to be more limited because of the time available to us. We look to always make the vehicle changes updated so they stay relevant and in line with what’s happening in the real season.”

F1 World is "an integral part of the series"

F1 World isn’t a one-off mode. Codemasters sees it as “very much an integral part of the series.” Live service-style updates and regular item rewards are “very much the plan going forward” according to Mather.

“It’s a playground for us to continue giving players great experiences over the course of the year and into the beginning of next year,” he explained. “It gives us the freedom to do something different and try things to see what people like and engage with."

F1 23 F1 World Garage
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While F1 World was the primary focus in F1 23, Mather assures us that Career and My Team aren't forgotten. “Driver Career offers that beautiful authenticity and replication of Formula 1 with great progression, the R&D and contract system. My Team delivers the ability to have your own Formula 1 team. Those two modes are massively popular and played by hundreds of thousands of players."

"F1 World gives us the opportunity to preserve authenticity, to preserve the modes people love, and to try new things. It gives the game a longer tail for players to engage with and play for longer.”

This freedom allows Codemasters to experiment with new game modes and "see what people like and engage with."

For example, F1 Replay was added in the recent 1.08 update. This new mode lets players recreate the last race weekend’s grid positions and rewrite history.

Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri
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A future update will also add Daniel Ricciardo after the Honey Badger returned to F1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix racing for AlphaTauri. “We have every intention to bring Daniel Ricciardo back into the game,” said Mather.

“We’re going through the process of getting the reference together and building the assets. We’ll be bringing Daniel back into the series as soon as we can at the earliest convenience.”

Different worlds

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Live service models are nothing new in annual sports games. FIFA 09 introduced Ultimate Team, allowing players to build teams using players from leagues, complete objectives, and earn rewards. Since then, it’s become the most popular mode in the football franchise. F1 World has invited comparisons with Ultimate Team, but this wasn’t the inspiration.

“The goals and implementation we have for F1 World are very different,” said Mather. "The concept behind F1 World was less about building a team like in Ultimate Team and more about looter shooter mechanics where you have a technical level in the game.” As you progress in F1 World, you earn tech points to upgrade your F1 World car.

F1 23 F1 World goals
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“In a looter shooter, you have a technical level for your gun and armour. You would hit a point where you can’t get past a certain boss. Or you could overpower the boss by having a much higher tech level as it is in F1 World."

"The concept was that you would build the technical level of your car up to challenge yourself against the event level you wanted to enter. That would then open the opportunity to do more challenging events or go in and overpower an event, unlock items, and build that level up.”

“The thinking behind it was very different to Ultimate Team. Its core concepts were based on a Destiny-style model with how the progression is built. That was one of the reference points when we were discussing what we could do in that sort of game mode in an F1 game.”

Viva Las Vegas

Another major new addition is the Las Vegas Street Circuit. While it isn’t on the race calendar until November, F1 23 players can take a virtual tour of the tight and technical street circuit. Because the circuit is still under construction, recreating the circuit for F1 23 posed several challenges, much like Miami did for F1 22.

F1 23 Las Vegas Street Circuit
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“The main challenge for somewhere like Las Vegas is the density of the buildings and making sure we hit the performance targets we set ourselves,” Mather explained.

“Vegas also had some new lighting work done because the hoardings and banners project light across the track and illuminate things. As for the circuit itself, those roads exist so we got good photogrammetry done by one of our photographers who goes out to all of the circuits.”

“We also had good reference photography and CAD data from Formula 1 showing the layout and where the curves and grandstands are going to be. When we started, they hadn’t even decided what the paddock buildings were going to look like."

F1 23 Qatar screenshot
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"A few weeks later we saw the reference for the paddock building. We’ve built a lot of tracks that didn’t exist from CAD data. We did Korea many years ago. We built a bridge across the second straight and they didn’t get time to finish it in real life – we were ahead of the builders on that one!”

One of the most requested features in F1 games is laser-scanned tracks. Often seen in sim racers like Assetto Corsa and iRacing, this technology produces much more accurate representations of race tracks. While tracks like Zandvoort and Portimao were meticulously laser-scanned, most circuits are not.

“Wherever it’s achievable, we will try and get laser scan data for tracks we build in the future,” said Mather. “We’d like to go back and retrospectively upgrade tracks as well. That’s something we always want to do."

But the nature of laser scanning means this is a complex and time-consuming task. "It’s not the most straightforward of things and not just from a tech perspective - there are many things involved in that process. But we go to great lengths to make our tracks incredibly accurate.”

A new challenger

There was a time when Sony and EA had rights to the F1 game license and released rival game series. It meant that multiple licensed F1 games were released for the same season.

This hasn’t been the case since Codemasters acquired exclusive game rights to Formula 1, starting with F1 2010. But now there’s a new challenger on the grid.

F1 Manager 2023
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Last year saw the release of Frontier Development’s F1 Manager 2022, the first officially licensed F1 management game in over 20 years. A sequel is arriving later this month in the form of F1 Manager 2023, which is shaping up to be the deepest F1 game experience yet. 

While both games strive to create an authentic Formula 1 experience, they are fundamentally different titles aimed at different players. “I like to think we inspired some of their design decisions,” Mather joked. “There are certainly some similarities. But in terms of competition, we’re very different games.”

“They’re a management game. We’re a racing game with some management elements. I think they complement each other quite nicely and give players an opportunity to play the type of game they want to play.”

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