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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Standard vs. Premium - 200+ Cars or 1,000+ Cars?

John Marine | 11:18 AM | |
UPDATED: October 12, 2011)

The debate over Standard vs. Premium cars in Gran Turismo 5 has led many to feel like there are much fewer cars than what the game already has. I stayed away from this debate because I simply don't know and don't want to cause an already huge firestorm. Here are two trains of thought as far as the car count for Gran Turismo 5 is concerned. The first is that there are 200+ Premium cars. Premium cars are the highly-detailed and vastly customizable models. They also suffer great damage and include interior views. In addition to the 200+ Premium cars, the remaining 800+ cars are Standard. Standard Cars are essentially re-worked cars from Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo PSP. Standard cars don't have as much attention to detail or any interior views. The simple thought process of why Polyphony Digital didn't take their time making ALL cars Premium has led to most fans being infinitely disappointed. And because of this, many who are disappointed with the Standard cars think there are 200+ cars (the Premiums) rather than 1,000. Or for most people, 200+ cars... and 800+ leftovers.

Do you see this as 200+ cars or 1,000+ cars in GT5? Just because I can't incredibly damage or take advantage of interior views for Standard cars doesn't mean I still won't enjoy racing. An argument I get tired of is that the PlayStation 3 is a next-gen console, so next-gen consoles should be extremely realistic than the previous system. Almost as if serious evolution is REQUIRED to some people. Here's an example why I graciously disagree with this. I remembered playing the demo to "MotorStorm" when the PlayStation 3 first started showing up in department store kiosks. I noticed the grass structures were pseudo-3D grass sprites. There are also people who have complained about trees not looking realistic and believable. It is tough to model trees and leaves and stuff. Therefore, that's why you see some flat-looking trees even in this day and age in gaming.

Time to go to work!

Before I Begin...

This post about Standard vs. Premium cars in GT5 was taken from "John's Blog Space" and edited with some more content. I hope you enjoy this edit made exclusively for this blog.

--- The Standard vs. Premium Debate ---

GT5 Premium Standard
^ A Premium car (top) and a Standard car (bottom). Which do you favor in Gran Turismo 5?

All of what you're about to read concerns the Standard vs. Premium debate on cars in Gran Turismo 5. Feel free to read and offer your own commentary if you so choose.

Analyzing the Standard/Premium Debate.

What does all of this have to do with car counts for GT5? It took over six months to do each Premium car. Meticulous detail like this for this game would make this game take even longer. If you want to assume that it takes five years to make 200 Premium cars, then it would take 25 years to make every car Premium. It would probably be the PlayStation 5 (at least) that GT5. And in hindsight, Gran Turismo 5 would be the racing version of Duke Nukem Forever. So therefore, I thought it was a smart move to (1) carry over cars from Gran Turismo 4 and GT PSP and (2) re-work the carry-over cars to make them PS3-acceptable.

An Analytical Look at the Premium Details.

As a top-tier game series and a top-tier developer, you have to establish top-tier status by pushing the limits of the hardware you're working with. The fact that Polyphony Digital and Gran Turismo are Sony-specific, you have to not only make a quality product using Sony products, but you also have the secondary task of promoting and exhibiting what Sony entertainment is potential of. That's why I think Polyphony Digital tried out things like 3D and making racing action playable up to 1080p (1080i) resolution. Sony is not just a game system maker. Sony makes MANY things- including my recently-bought Bloggie MHS-PM5 camcorder. And so when you are a top-tier, Sony-exclusive game franchise like the Gran Turismo series, your primary goal is to make (and consistently make) great titles to not only promote your franchise, but also the system. Why do you think Sony-exclusive franchises like the God of War series, Little Big Planet, the new ModNation Racers, all the PlayStation Move games, and stuff like that are consistently featured and marketed? It's because they demonstrate what all the PlayStation systems are capable of.

Look at it from Microsoft's perspective as an analogy. You are probably viewing this blog right now with some Microsoft operating system. If you game with XBOX Live, you are probably aware of what Microsoft provides as a game maker and as a software maker. Gran Turismo is as much a promotion of Sony and the PlayStation as much as games like the HALO series, Fable, Forza Motorsport, and countless other XBOX-exclusive franchises are for the XBOX systems and for Microsoft.

All of this may sound like corporate B.S., but this is just one way of looking at this issue.

Now on to a more relevant idea of the Premium cars in GT5. Since Gran Turismo is a top-tier franchise exclusive to one console series and company, one goal is for Gran Turismo to further showcase what is possible with the PlayStation (the PS3 in this case) systems. What they are capable of in taking full advantage of the system and its capabilities will showcase just how much a top-tier developer and franchise is capable of with a system. So therefore, one way to show what the PS3 is capable of along with the fruits of Polyphony Digital's labor is by making material that pushes the limits of the PS3. One of those ways is in making Premium cars. For many people, Premium means PREMIUM, so many don't want to see Kei cars or oddball cars get excessive detail while other real cars get GT4 or GTPSP treatment. That's why people have complained that the Bugatti Veyron should have been a Premium car rather than a Standard carryover from GTPSP. It is also why people have been so hateful that a car like a VW Type-II is a Premium car rather than a much more deserving car.

If it is one thing I have learned in studying racing games, part of racing games is in providing racing. But also, you have to promote something outside of racing to give it its character. You sometimes have to provide unusual and unexpected content to appease to fans while also showing what is possible from the developer and the game. Premium cars, then, are not so much about deserving cars getting full treatment, but rather a showcase of two different things: (1) what PD can actually try to make as realistic and believable as possible and (2) how much attention-to-detail PD can provide to cars. Premium cars are just what Polyphony Digital is capable of if they pushed all the limits of designing and creating cars for Gran Turismo 5. If it has taken this much time to make 200+ Premium cars, imagine what they would probably be capable of if they took their time with 1,000+ cars (or with a much larger network of designers and developers in addition to Polyphony Digital's crew). Those who have played Forza Motorsport 3 and compared it to what Polyphony Digital has worked on for at least five years question how Forza Motorsport 3 was able to give great in-car views for all cars as opposed to GT5 having only roughly 20% of cars with Premium treatment. Think also about the diversity of Premium cars as well. The Premium treatment goes from mini/Kei cars to the fastest race cars. Premium cars can be thought of as promotion within promotion. Is it sad that an uninteresting car gets Premium treatment while more interesting cars are given Standard treatment? Absolutely. Does it take away from the joy of racing these cars? Absolutely not. What we are forgetting is that the driving model has mostly been improved from the ground up. We are seeing the most vicious crashes and most intense racing in GT history. And unlike in Gran Turismo 4, there are cars you CAN race along with all the others.

At least, I am looking at the Standard/Premium debate from perspectives other than simple gameplay elements. You have to imagine that there are MANY more dynamics to games besides gameplay. Even things we don't think usually about or regard are all elements to what makes games what they are.

Standard vs. Premium: a Gran Turismo 4 and Tourist Trophy Study.

What do cars like the Caterham 7 Fireblade, Toyota MTRC, and the Nike One (among others) have in common? They are all "Special Cars." These are cars that cannot be raced against the other cars. The "Special Cars" make up less than 10% of all cars in Gran Turismo 4. These Special cars in GT4 have much more detail to them that makes them too advanced in complexity and design to be raced in almost any event among five other cars. In addition, do you realize that you race with convertible tops down if racing in a convertible in Time Trials? If you want to follow this logic, then you can say that the experimentation of Premium probably began with Gran Turismo 4.

Why don't we take the Premium discussion to a non-related title? You might have played a game called Tourist Trophy, where every motorcycle had an interior view. One thing you probably should have learned from Tourist Trophy is what this game has to offer aside from being a great motorcycle racing game. A few ideas include visible racers, detailed on-board views, and vicious crashes (though bikes don't have vicious damage in this game). Keep in mind that this game ran on the Gran Turismo 4 engine, so there were great limitations- like only four bikes to a track. For what Polyphony Digital was able to do with GT4's engine in making Tourist Trophy, it was pretty impressive.

We've seen/played GT4. We've seen/played Tourist Trophy. Where does Gran Turismo 5 finally come in? Simple. What we could imply or speculate from material so far is all coming to form? The detailed interiors and other details provided greater details to better connect sim racing purists. Part of realistic games like this is to re-create realism and detail. How you execute this varies by the game developer and what the developer is capable of doing. We certainly know what PD is going for, and they'll do all they can to evolve their content.

Should Polyphony Digital Have Gone Premium All the Way?

It depends. You have to take gambles and try new things. This game would be out MUCH later if this game had every car Premium. Then too, many would complain that they wouldn't care about seeing certain economy cars and Kei cars getting Premium treatment. I don't think Premium cars are about deserving cars getting high-end treatment as it is about serious attention-to-detail to cars. I also don't think it is inexcusable for only 20% of all cars to be Premium while all the others are carry-over cars from GT4 and GTPSP. Twenty percent of 1,000 is still very solid for Premium cars regardless.

Also, if we are talking about Premium cars in terms of what DESERVING cars should get Premium treatment, this is as convoluted an argument as arguing to have more supercars in GT games than economy cars and Skylines/GT-R's. The Ferrari Enzo Ferrari is still an Enzo Ferrari regardless of whether it is Standard or Premium (and I think the Enzo is a Premium car). Premium just means much more attention to detail in its design and tuning than Standard cars. Those who base Standard vs. Premium on what cars should be deserving of it are probably thinking cars are Standard because they aren't interesting enough to Polyphony Digital. I think if cars weren't interesting enough (or if people/manufacturers didn't want to see them in Gran Turismo), they wouldn't even be in Gran Turismo to begin with. People have to remember that even daily driver cars are cars people want to see in Gran Turismo games. Even if you own a Honda Odyssey, you want to trick out your Odyssey as badly as any middle schooler in his/her middle teens want to trick out a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. Making a performance racing machine out of a car/truck/van not meant to be any kind of track star is one reason why we enjoy playing these games.

People are very bitchy (pardon my choice of words) on playing games right away or as soon as possible. Anything to add to delays is treated by more people as the world coming to an end at any given moment. If PD could have found more ways to more efficiently design the Premium cars, they'd probably take and execute those actions to make more cars Premium than the roughly 20% of all cars in GT5. I still see Premium as a learning experience. Gran Turismo 6 will probably have many more Premium cars. Conversely, there may not be ANY mention of Standard vs. Premium for Gran Turismo 6 since all cars would be as detailed as the Premium cars in GT5 (perhaps even more so if GT6 has some features to really blow away GT5).

--- What to Take Away From the Standard vs. Premium Debate ---

Be thankful you have many more cars than the 200+ Premium cars. You feel like you've already raced every car when you don't have as diverse a lineup of cars like we've experienced in Gran Turismo 3. Some people don't even want to race Standard cars in GT5 just because, "we've raced them before," or because they aren't up to Premium quality. What would you rather have- 200+ Premium cars ONLY, or having 1,000+ cars (roughly 80% of them Standard)? Would you rather have a racing game with only so many cars (200 doesn't seem like a lot for most people) or a car with a diverse array of cars, including cars from GT4 and GTPSP? More cars mean more machines to go race and tune. Just because you can't tune Standard cars as vastly as you can Premium cars doesn't mean Standard cars are worthless. Standard cars are only worthless if you feel you should ALWAYS be racing Premium cars and shouldn't be "forced to race" Standard cars.

That's my problem with some fans of the Gran Turismo series. Some people get easily excited and have unrealistic and unfathomable expectations, then become disappointed as quickly as they have been excited. People expect perfection and become disappointed when [at some times] just ONE element is short of perfect. Some people just need to be more realistic and mindful rather than have unrealistic expectations. Face it- it's one-thousand cars. EA Sports usually re-hashes their material, and hardly anyone says a damn thing about things looking no different from the previous title. So why hate on PD this way? And don't give me that thing about GT5 taking so long with no real evolution from GT4. No real evolution to me would be porting over GT4 while adding some here-and-there modifications. GT5 is NOT going to be GT4.5 or GT4.25 or some crap like that. It took years to work on and enhance the Gran Turismo experience from GT4. There IS evolution. GT5 is a SERIOUS evolution from GT4 and of other GTs past. Boo-hoo, cry me a river if this game is bad just because not every car is Premium. Even more laughable a comment is if GT5 is somehow GT4 with online play. You want perfection? You're not going to get it. Let's be realistic with GT5. We are discounting a lot of bare essentials as to what makes games REALLY good rather than hating on a game just because a few details not seriously important. I am an old-fashioned thinker and don't have sky-high expectations. The only expectations I have is that I hope to be living and be able to play the game regardless of how good or how bad it eventually is.

And one last thing... you can race Premium cars against Standard cars. Unlike GT4, you can have more-detailed cars along with the Standards racing on the same track. So racing with Premium and Standard cars is very possible. A picture from my friends on GTPlanet shown a Photo Mode picture of some Standard cars in the lineup in addition to Premium cars.

--- Gran Turismo 5: Standard vs. Premium ---

This blog post was initially made some time before GT5 eventually came out, so in this section, you will read certain thoughts of mine regarding the Standard/Premium debate.

One thing I've been disappointed with in GT5 is how Standards and Premiums are handled. Here are some talking points:

• How can you call carryover cars from GT4 and GTPSP as "Used" cars? That's even considering how there are older cars that have the Premium treatment!

• Premium cars are given lavish views from the Dealership, and Standard cars look more like, "you've already raced this car before, so there's no need to make this look any better."

Cars are even broken up between Premium and Standard. Standard cars are still worth driving and racing in this game. The real trouble is that Standards are treated so poorly. Almost as if Standard cars are just sharing spotlight reserved for the Premium cars. If you are going to make an effort to have Standard and Premium cars, the least you can do is make all cars customizable. It's the first time I used this to describe a Gran Turismo, but I think PD just got lazy with the Standards. There are a number of things you can't do with Standards that you can do with Premiums. I just wish more could have been done to make Standard cars more fun to race and customize. You can't even take Standard cars to take photos of in Photo Travel. Even some of the Standard cars you use in photos sometimes ask you to move away further. This takes away your ability to take really good close photos with Standards.

On the Premium front, I do wish there were more Premium race cars. The Premium cars include a vast array of machines of many categories. I look at the Premium cars as a demonstration of the depth of car design made by Polyphony Digital. Some people tend to think that PD can do more outsourcing to allow for more detailed and more enhanced coverage of Premium cars in Gran Turismo.

The biggest thing to take away is that you can still race these cars in Gran Turismo 5 with little or no penalty. Standard cars just feel like added extras rather than relevant and legitimate machines that are every bit as fun as any Premium car. I just wish the Standards could be better respected and treated. Someone on GTPlanet even petitioned that Standard wheels from Gran Turismo 4 should be offered for Standard cars (what do you make of that?). I mean, more could have been done with Standard cars than what Polyphony Digital has done with them. At least be thankful you could (for example) race your [Standard] Caterham in the FR Challenge.

--- Gran Turismo 5: Standard vs. Premium (Spec 2.0 Update) ---

(ADDED: October 12, 2011)
Have you downloaded the Spec 2.0 update for Gran Turismo 5 yet? If so, Standard cars now have interior views, but they are all silhouette views except for a few cars. Most of the open-top Standard cars have somewhat nicely detailed interior views. One example of an open-top Standard car is the lone Caterham in the game. Every other car has rather interesting interior views. Many people have considered it laziness to have all of these cars and not have all of them with a decent interior view. On the other hand, would you rather want these blacked-out interiors or no interiors at all? I've actually become fond of the interiors for most of the non open-top Standard cars. For Christ's sake, you even get a proper interior view of the Formula Gran Turismo (which many think should be Premium)!

So make sure to download and install the Spec 2.0 update on your PS3 to be able to race with interior views for Standard cars. It's better than nothing in my view.

So there are my views on Premium vs. Standard in Gran Turismo 5. Those are my views, not the definitive views for Gran Turismo 5. In other words, I could not care less what sites and companies like Gamespot, IGNore (IGN), X-Play, or any major company or publication thinks about GT5 because we are all our own best reviewers. Just because my ideas are left of the mainstream doesn't mean I have crappy commentary on Gran Turismo or any other game. It just means my thoughts are different from what most mainstream people and "fanboys"/"fangirls" complain about. Who cares if my comments are a bunch of crap? A difference between myself and some other people is that I can logistically and realistically back up my comments with relevant comments rather than go on an angry rant. I hope my comments and ideas have been to your liking. Regardless, these are MY comments. May not be your ideas, but this is how I perceive things.

Thank you for reading!

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