Prior to E3 2009, Gran Turismo for the PSP was largely considered vaporware, a driving simulation that felt like little more than a five-year-old announcement. But Gran Turismo is real—and it's coming to the PlayStation Portable this October.
Why the long wait? Kazunori Yamauchi, president of developer Polyphony Digital, says it was just a matter of priorities. Following the Spring 2004 announcement of the game once known as Gran Turismo 4 Mobile, Polyphony shipped four titles, Gran Turismo 4, the "real riding simulator" Tourist Trophy, Gran Turismo HD and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Given how long it purportedly takes to render a car model at Polyphony standards—about a month for the PSP version and up to six months for the PlayStation 3 versions—one can see how five years quickly passes.
Yamauchi said that he wasn't interested in outsourcing development on Gran Turismo PSP to another developer. He considered the prospect of handing off the driving sim to someone else "unthinkable."
So Polyphony plowed ahead, creating a fleet of 800 cars for the PSP version, some of which are "reduced and streamlined" from their PS3 versions, with more than 30 real-world tracks on which to race those cars.
According to Yamauchi, the PSP version of Gran Turismo is a "fully specced" entry in the ten-year-old series, telling Kotaku that "no matter who plays it, they'll know immediately that it's a Gran Turismo game."
"I want to stress that it's not a subset to the series," Yamauchi said, despite there being "limitations" to the PSP's hardware specifications. In fact, it one-ups previous Gran Turismo games by letting players trade and share unlocked vehicles with other driving enthusiasts wirelessly over ad hoc mode.
One hurdle that Polyphony Digital is dealing with right now is designing the PSP iteration for two platforms: the original PSP and the recently announced PSPgo. While the internal hardware may be largely identical, the feel of Sony's new, smaller PlayStation Portable is noticeably different. On the PSPgo, the analog nub controller has been relocated and the buttons have been redesigned. The new hardware has a cross-pad controller and face buttons that feel more digital, with a tighter click to them than on the original.
"We're still have some difficulties [with the PSPgo]," Yamauchi said. "It's something we're very focused on, because that's very difficult to get right." The GT creator typically opts for digital, not analog control when playing his own game.
So, why not offer the option to play with a PlayStation 3 controller, I asked, and make use of the "PSP Plus" technology for more accurate control?
"If you want to play on a PS3 controller," Yamauchi responded, "you'll have to play Gran Turismo 5." That also means no support for Logitech's Driving Force GT wheel. It's PSP controls or nothing.
The PSP game will take advantage of the PlayStation 3 in another sense. Gran Turismo PSP one of the titles that will support Ad Hoc Party mode, letting gamers use the PS3 as an ad hoc server, taking the PSP experience online. Ad Hoc Party software is currently only available in Japan, but Sony Computer Entertainment America reps say a domestic release is in the works.
But what Kazunori Yamauchi and Polyphony Digital focused on was welcoming new players to the series—and sticking to a solid 60 frames-per-second presentation.
"We'd really like people to remember how fun it is to drive cars," he said, hoping that Gran Turismo fans will take advantage of the game's local wireless mode to get players together to talk about cars, to let them play whenever and wherever they can.