It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that a racing driver’s success is purely down to them; and with the attention they get and the column inches they fill, it’s understandable why that might be the case. But the fact is every true racing fan knows that, behind every charisma consumed primadonna racing driver is a team of hundreds of engineers, strategists, scientists and multimillionaire businessmen; a complex puzzle that, when all the pieces fit together in perfect harmony, results in success.
Motorsport Manager is exactly that; a game that gives you the opportunity to take the player off the track and plunge them into the business side of things, and at this year’s gamescom, we sat down with Sam from Playsport Games to have a look at the latest build of the PC version.
Right of the bat, I must stress that if you are looking at jumping into the shoes of Christian Horner, or looking forward to bossing around Lewis Hamilton, Motorsport Manager has no official Formula One licenses, but Sam insisted in makes for a more realistic experience. “With licenses you get into a funny world of ‘that driver can’t drive for that team’ or ‘when will he retire’, you get a lot more restrictions. Not having those restrictions is much cooler because we can make it all up.”
This also translates to the circuits, again, there are no official tracks, but they will be familiar, keeping some characteristics of the real thing: Japan for instance maintains the sweeping S-Curves of sector one and the UAE track takes place around a sleek and shiny billionaire’s harbour. “It meant the artists could have more freedom in designing the tracks and the surrounding areas” Sam told us.
Like other sport management games, on beginning your career, you can choose to either ply your trade in the lower Formulas (similar to something like GP2) or go straight for the glory and jump into the most prestigious Formula of the three available. What I found particularly interesting was how choosing your background can have an instant effect; if you choose engineer you’ll receive an R&D boost, if you’re a former racer you can have a better relationship with your drivers, it gives more purpose to the RPG side of things and as Sam said, “it makes it more about you”.
Every team will have a different set of stats, targets and sponsors, affecting how you will approach your management of them; for instance, teams lower down the grid will require more money spent on developing parts while those fighting for victory will see you trying to keep your star drivers happy and in your team. The drivers all have unique personalities that can fluctuate your team’s chemistry, much like how different players affect your FIFA Ultimate Team; two drivers who see themselves as a number one will naturally oppose each other, a youngster outracing his older teammate will want a promotion or will look elsewhere, it all boils down to an elaborate game or spinning plates, keeping everyone at just the right levels of happiness.
Of course it wouldn’t be motor racing without politics, palm greasing and dodgy deals and as Sam put it “we wanted to keep the personality of the sport”. During your career you’ll get the chance to vote on which tracks you want to race on during the following season, a hugely important vote depending on the skill of your car, you’ll want to keep as many tracks that suit your team as possible; but when the big teams come knocking, offering huge sums of cash if you vote in a way to suit them, do you stick to your guns or hope the decision will help your career at a later point? It's a decision that could benefit your career, but hinder your current team, so what do you do? Similarly, if you have your eyes on another team further down the line, you’re not likely to invest millions of pounds developing your SimCity-like factory, investing in wind tunnels and test circuits for another manager to benefit from. Every decision you make feels like it has a real repercussions, that can work in your favour, or ruin your career.
With everything off the track a complex web of research, finance and employment, once you get to race day, you’ll be pleased to hear it’s everything you would expect. You’re given a set of targets determined by your sponsors and/or team owner, be it along the lines of finish in the points, beat your rivals or win. Setting up your car to suit the track can be as complex or simple as you like it, essentially balancing a series of sliders (wing angle, brake bias, tyre camber etc) and fitting them into an optimum area for the circuit, and as you progress through the weekend the area gradually gets smaller as you familiarise yourself with the track. What this boils down to is finally giving Free Practice a purpose, every circuit and rotation of the wheel gets you more data, and in this sport data is king.
You’ll watch the race as if from the helicopter which frequents all motorsport races, giving you an aerial view of the circuit. Of course your focus will be on your two drivers; monitoring their tyre wear, advice and feedback as well as being able to give them direct instructions to push, ease up or pit. The longer the race, the more you’ll feel the pressure from your team below and boss above, wanting to achieve the targets you were set. Everything makes a difference.
If you’re a hardcore motor racing fan, this is certainly a game that you need to jump in with and play, capturing the true essence of the sport. However, don’t let it put you off if you perhaps don’t quite understand the intricacies of motorsport, yes it may seem hugely complex, but a friendly UI and simple tutorial can guide you through with relative ease. At the end of the day, you can make it as deep or shallow as you like; but ultimately, this is the game all motorsport fans have been waiting for.
Motorsport Manager is due for release on PC, Mac and Linux in Autumn of this year.