Given just how popular the management genre of gaming is, it’s remarkable that no one has offered a serious motorsport-themed management game since Microprose’s Grand Prix Manager series in the late nineties.
After all, we all know that 90 percent of a team’s success on the track is determined by what happens off it, and what better way to experience the highs and lows of running a top level racing team than through the reasonably affordable world of gaming.
Enter Motorsport Manager, an upcoming, fully-featured PC title from Playsport Games due to release next month that looks set to offer fans of the classic F1 management games the spiritual successor they have long awaited for.
Created by the same team that developed the popular mobile game released in 2014, Motorsport Manager gives players the opportunity to run their own professional single-seater team competing in one of three original racing series.
From signing drivers and team personnel to designing cars and investing in upgrades to building up a fully 3D-rendered factory and making key decisions on the pit wall during real time races, the game aims to provide a deep and challenging experience that will allow us all to channel our inner Toto Wolffs.
So when F1 Fanatic was offered a chance to meet Playsport Games founder Christian West and play an early build of Motorsport Manager, it seemed the perfect opportunity to learn more about this anticipated game.
After spending his early career working as a developer on a variety of PS3 and Wii games, Christian West has long held a desire to resurrect the seemingly-forgotten gaming genre of racing management simulations.
“I always wanted to make Motorsport Manager throughout that period,” West explains. “I played the Grand Prix Manager series back in the nineties and it’s been a long time – games have changed a lot and it was about time someone came along and made it! I’ve been fortunate enough to save up for it, quit my job and start coding it in my bedroom and making it.
“Motorsport is pretty big and I assumed there’d be a lot of people like me who wanted to make those strategy decisions that you see on TV every race weekend. So I took that risk and it’s seemed to go down pretty well with Sega approaching us to make a PC version, which is what I ultimately wanted it to be. It’s the spiritual home of strategy games, so it’s a bit of a privilege.”
Aiming to provide an accessible yet deep gameplay experience, West has focused on what made the original mobile game work so well and has developed and expanded on those core mechanics, rather than simply make a Grand Prix Manager clone for the modern era.
“There are things that I love about the sport that I want to make sure that they go in to the game,” says West.
“It’s the personalities and trying to make sure it feels like a world that is alive and kicking. People, drivers, have their career goals in the game and they have their peaks and declines and personalities and working on that to include in the game has been a big part of the focus, as well as getting the race strategy itself right. Motorsport has come a long way since those older games.”
Although Motorsport Manager includes no officially licensed series, teams, drivers or circuits, the lack of any restrictions that often come with those licenses – such as those faced by Codemasters’ in their official F1 series – has allowed the Playsport team the freedom to create an intriguing and fully original virtual world.
“We wanted to make it its own little encapsulated world that you get to be a little part of,” West explains. There are no reminders of who drivers could potentially be. It’s more about being in that world itself.
“There are the murkier elements of motorsport, like all the rules changes. You can even be bribed on how you vote. If you’re voting on a rule change that could impact a rival team, there’s a chance that you might be approached in the game by a rival team who says ‘vote in our favour and we’ll give you some money towards it…’. So there are some dodgy aspects to it.
“It’s all about having fun with the sport itself. On race day, that’s where your focus is – you’re there to win and it’s a pure racing experience. But when you’re away from that and back at the factory, I really like those elements of the sports away from that.”
Playsport have made a deliberate effort to reflect the growing diversity of modern motorsport by including many talented women drivers and team personnel to hire and compete against, as well featuring drivers and circuits from nations that are not currently represented in the real world championship.
“For me,” says West, “it showcases what the world of motorsport could and should be.
“On the mobile game, we had female engineers as well. People would email me and say ‘my daughter plays this and loves that there are female engineers and I love the fact that she can see that she could be an engineer.’ And so if you were living in that world, she could be that. And why shouldn’t it be like that? We get to make this world and it should feel that way – it should be open.
“Also, when you look at the current Formula One calendar, there is no race in Africa. So we went ‘okay, let’s put one there’. So we tried to imagine where it could possibly be and what that circuit could be like. And it’s really good fun.”
The fact that Sega – the publishers of the outstanding Football Manager series – are backing this project speaks volumes to the faith the company has in the Playsport team and the potential of their latest game. With the mobile version of the game having been so successful, it’s little surprise that many of the original team are back to develop the PC version.
“It’s quite a talented team,” says West. “The people I worked with previously, I kind of had in mind that I’d like to get to work with them again and they wanted to be a part of the project.
“We’ve also worked with Miles Jacobson who runs Sports Interactive [the developers of the Football Manager series] and what they offered was all the small little things that help really put you into that world, which Football Manager does really well. So we had little messages for the players that kind of reminded you that you were only playing a game, and Miles plays it and says ‘just tweak the wording of that and it’ll keep the immersion.'”
And immersion is the driving force behind all of the game play decisions on the game. Every aspect of running the team – from finding sponsors and signing drivers to developing parts and even running practice sessions – has been designed to be fun to do.
Running cars in practice sessions, for example, helps drivers earn experience points that can spent on bonuses to use in either qualifying or the race, depending on the programmes you choose to run. There’s even a challenging but fun mini-game during qualifying out-laps where you must help your driver to reach optimal tyre and engine temperatures by balancing their speed in a ‘sweet spot’ before they start their flying lap.
Even while creating his very own virtual world, West says he is still enjoying watching the real world drivers of Formula One battle it out on Sunday afternoons.
“To be honest I’ve really enjoyed the start of the season,” says West. “It’s been pretty interesting.
“It’ll be even more interesting to see where it goes from here. My hunch is that the gap that Hamilton has now probably won’t be overcome – which makes me worried for the rest of the championship battle – but race on race, I still really enjoy the racing that we have.”
With the finished product set for release in September, Sega has today announced players will receive a 10 percent discount off the game if they pre-order. West says the team are looking forward to finally sharing the game with fans next month.
“I hope they enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it,” says West. “I definitely encourage people to get involved in the community side of it and give us feedback on the game too when it’s released.”
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