Friday, March 16, 2012

What If... Gran Turismo for Kids?

John Marine | 11:38 PM | |
Remember "Gran Turismo for Boys?" It was to be a concept to get kids into Gran Turismo. I obviously feel offended in it being called "Gran Turismo for Boys" because you assume by its title that only boys love cars. So I call it "Gran Turismo for Kids." Educating children on things in a unique and fun way is a great way to get kids to love and/or appreciate something. And in the case of cars in the realm of Gran Turismo, it would be great to know how to educate kids better on cars and help them appreciate these machines more. I am not sure if PD is even still looking at this thing. For the purpose of this blog post, I will ask "What If?" And here- "what if 'Gran Turismo for Kids' actually materialized?"

If you want to get some insight on this before I discuss this topic, I invite you to read "Gran Turismo For Boys in 2005" on ps2.ign.com. "Gran Turismo for Kids" will be the hypothetical name I will use in discussing this concept.





--- What If: "Gran Turismo for Kids?" ---

Gran Turismo for Kids
^ What if Polyphony Digital created a more kid-friendly Gran Turismo? The 2005 concept of "Gran Turismo for Boys" is being revisited by me and given a different name.

I will use "Gran Turismo for Kids" rather than "Gran Turismo for Boys" in describing this concept. GT for Kids would be a concept in which all that made Gran Turismo so fun is made to be more accessible to kids.
If you follow the history of the Gran Turismo series, one of Kazunori Yamauchi's first games was Motor Toon Grand Prix. This was a cartoonish racing game with a cartoonish feel. So to say that such a kid-friendly racing game has never been developed by Kazunori Yamauchi would be an absolute lie. There is certainly potential that with a well-designed package, it is possible that a more kid-friendly racing title can surface within the realm of Gran Turismo. A number of challenges would await Polyphony Digital in case PD actually went ahead with and marketed this concept. Among other questions to ponder about GT for Kids:

• Can a simulation-type racing game be made more accessible and fun for kids?
• Can such a game teach kids about cars in a unique and fun way?
• Can this concept be executed from top to bottom the way only Gran Turismo knows how?


I'd say the risk-reward would be interesting as simulation racing be made more accessible and fun for kids. It would be a great way to pass on simulation racing games to a (much) younger generation. An already accessible sim like Gran Turismo would be even more so by providing children a fabulous gaming experience only GT can provide.

Let's face it- while simulation racing can be fun for all, this kind of action may be too daunting for some children. So it would be great to make this style of racing more fun and accessible. You have to speak in a kid's language to showcase racing to them and to teach it to them in a way they will understand. And because I'm offended with calling such a project as "Gran Turismo for Boys," I decided to call it "Gran Turismo for Kids." Just saying it's for boys notes that only males (let alone boys) care about cars. While it may be true that automobiles appeal more to boys than girls, I feel this should be a fun learning and gaming experience for girls too. There are even girls who learn all about cars and in taking care of them. So let's make the same experience fun and accessible to boys AND girls. That's why "Gran Turismo for Kids" is more fitting of a name.

Because tuning cars and racing in Gran Turismo games is fairly tough, a more kid-friendly GT would be great fun. I will explore the many different ways this project could thrive if everything were played properly.



--- Gran Turismo for Kids: Building the Game ---

How would you design GT for Kids? For one thing, you have to find the middle ground between traditional Gran Turismo gameplay and kid accessibility. How would you show kids the world of cars while also making it fun for them? I think it is important that the game still remains a simulation-type racing game. However, don't make the action too serious.

Most of what I am trying to visualize pertains to this principle:

"How can we make Gran Turismo more fun and more accessible to children while keeping the same Gran Turismo look and feel?"

Having said this, let's look at a number of ways to make this game come alive to be something magical.


Make it Fun!

Let children flex their creative muscle by coming up with a variety of cars and tuning options to make the action fun. Paramount to any racing game (let alone Gran Turismo) is a host of cars from around the world. You would have to have an interesting array of cars ranging from production cars to race cars.

On the car front, I think it is important to teach kids about certain cars in a great light. I find great importance in learning about and showcasing classic cars. Most people probably care more about today's cars than past cars. However, I find it to be immensely important that kids learn about and appreciate classic cars in addition to most of today's cars. This could be a challenge. However, I think it is a challenge PD could take on and succeed at. Imagine if a child could appreciate a Ford Mustang Mach 1 or a Ferrari 250 GTO as easily as he/she could a Bugatti Veyron or an Audi R8 Road Car. If PD could nail down the importance of classic cars to children, that can go a LONG way towards making this title fun for kids.


Make it Creative!

Children love being able to let their imagination run wild with all sorts of modifications and edits.

You also need a creative way to teach kids about tuning cars and working on cars. Don't just install parts on a car- let a child know about that part of the car and what is actually being upgraded. For example, let a kid know about performance brakes before he/she installs them onto a car.

Along with this, creativity should also pertain to tuning. Encourage kids to tinker around with car settings to help them learn about cars and racing. Teach them about properly tuning a car in a way that kids can understand and comprehend.


Put the Cars on Fun Tracks with Fun Races!

It would be great to see all or most of Gran Turismo's tracks made for this GT for Kids package. I think tracks don't have to be completely detailed or extremely long. The game should be fun for kids without being difficult or intensely intimidating. Maybe some longer tracks should be made a lot more condensed.

So imagine condensing longer tracks like the Nürburgring Nordschleife and Circuit de la Sarthe to make them more kid-friendly.


Kid-Friendly Versions of GT Pastimes.

Car collecting (and hunting). Races. Championships. Endurances. Rallies. And yes- even license tests. How do you take the GT experience and make them fun and accessible for kids? The goal is more about how you can change up the GT formula to make things more child-friendly. Is it possible? Only PD can answer that.


These are just a few of many different issues in making this game happen and making it great.



--- Gran Turismo for Kids: Working the Details ---

If you're going to make this game, I would favor a cell-shaded game with some unique graphics. Cell shaded racing games that come to mind include titles like "Auto Modellista" and "GT Pro Series." I'll look at as many different aspects of the game that I can think of and comment on. I willeven ask questions pertaining to specific elements of GT for Kids. Just because I'm presenting this information to all of you doesn't mean I there are elements even I am curious about.


Cars.

The cars don't need to be ultra-realistic GT5 Premium models for a game like this. To maintain a cartoonish appearance, I'd look at chibi racing car games like the Choro-Q series or even look to the popular Facebook game, Car Town. It may also be possible to make the cars and the racing more like in ModNation Racers. Designing the cars all depends on how PD wants to showcase cars in their game. Do they want to make the cars realistic and believable, or do they want to make them very cartoonish?

If Tim wants to paint his 2011 Ford Mustang in green with white stripes, or if Julie wants to paint her Lexus LFA in pastel pink with little hearts and flowers; let that sort of customization happen. Certain exterior options would be lovely for kids. Imagine changing the wheels to any sort of interesting options. Children can have immense imaginations. Why not allow immense imagination to be possible for kids in this game when customizing? I think the changes should be realistic. Not exactly thinking about equipping cars with rocket boosters or laser turrets or anything. Remember- this is Gran Turismo; not Mario Kart or ModNation Racers.


Tracks.

Accessibility is always a key word for any game. I don't think making such a game accessible to kids means you should have intensely long and difficult courses So condensing some of the longer tracks would make things fun for kids. And rather than impressively-detailed versions of tracks, some fun cartoonish renditions of classic GT race tracks. The tracks may be detailed with a lot of decorations to make them fun-looking, or they may even look a certain way that makes them fun for kids.


Driving Dynamics.

Gran Turismo has a driving model that is suitable for almost everyone. However, for this title, the driving model should be more forgiving for kids. Allow for mess-ups to happen while not offering severe consequences. I am not sure if you even go for a driving model that is more towards arcade rather than simulation. How deep of a driving model do you want to offer for children?


Avatars?

How do you dress up avatars? Should they be realistic-looking models, or do you make them cartoonish like in ModNation Racers? It would probably be best to have chibi-style characters just to offer unique Japanese flair. I also wonder what helmet and suit options would be offered.

Also, could it be possible to have unique characters you encounter in the game? Since this is a kid-oriented title, you may want to change things up a bit and offer a different experience from the usual Gran Turismo realm.


Races - Offline.

The races shouldn't be terribly long. I don't think championships should be very long either. Everything SHOULD be engaging and fun, however. A well-balanced number of series and championships would be great. The typical sort of races would make up the basic set. You know, drivetrain-limited races, engine aspiration races, nationality/region races, etc. Don't forget about rally racing as well. Make rallying fun for kids as well.

The one concern area would be long races, especially endurances. Endurance racing is as much an experience of Gran Turismo as any other. What would be an appropriate length for children to race an endurance in Gran Turismo for Kids? Or maybe do you have long races that can easily be saved to race again at later times? Long races are my biggest concern.


Races - Online.

While parental permission would be required to do get online, I don't know if the quality of racing online would be as good as offline racing. And I am not sure there are kids who would casually log minutes to hours near where most in the 18 and up set would log playing games.


Music and Sound.

The music surely has to be stuff kids will love to race with or listen to in menus. I probably wouldn't bother with the sounds too much. Speaking of menus...


Interface.

This would rile up most of us older GT fans- imagine if there was a free roam model in GT for Kids where kids can freely go around and visit various places. Maybe even imagine visiting showrooms. I wonder how you showcase cars to kids. Do you show them off like Premium cars or like Standard cars? What would Demo runs be like?

Or... do you go for a model similar to GT4 or GT5's rather unattractive GT Mode menu? You certainly want to make the game accessible and clean for kids.


These are all among many different elements to make "Gran Turismo for Kids" an enjoyable game.



--- How Might Critics Review This Game? ---

Since this is a game suitable for children, critics would have to consider that kids will likely be playing it and enjoying it, so games would have to be reviewed accordingly to what kids look for in a game.

NOTE: The following reviews are only demonstrations.

(sample magazine review)
"Polyphony Digital has done a great job downsizing Gran Turismo to be more kid-friendly. While there are kids who love traditional Gran Turismo action, at least this is a GT that can be just as fun and just as enjoyable as the major GT titles. It's too bad some of this game's features are what some of us older GT gamers wished we see in the big GT titles."


(sample online review)
"This kid-friendly Gran Turismo is a great game for teaching kids about cars while also keeping the classic Gran Turismo flair. It is really a different kind of racing game for kids to where it isn't another Mario Kart clone. Then again, why would an iconic franchise like the Gran Turismo series emulate any other racing game? Kids will absolutely love it... and even us big kids will too."



So I would think that the reviews would be very positive. Whether or not the title becomes a success depends on how much effort PD puts into actually putting the game together and making it fun and accessible.





What if Polyphony Digital made "Gran Turismo for Kids?" How would they market it? Could it be a success? Feel free to share your thoughts in this blog post and in my others. Remember to consider children would play this game, so your comments about improving this should be relevant to what a kid would want in a racing game like a Gran Turismo. Thank you for reading!

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