Zach Griffin is someone who has a lot on his plate. Having formerly opened the studio to create karting simulator KartKraft back in 2015 after his own professional karting career, the game was released into Early Access in 2018 and was recently acquired by Motorsport Games.
Following the formation of a new studio – Motorsport Games Australia – there is now the support to realise the full KartKraft dream by adding new features and the potential for release on different platforms down the road.
Just to give you an idea of how dedicated Zach, Director of Studio, is to his passion of creating a game for karting professionals and beginners alike, when we spoke I could see his complicated mathematics on a whiteboard behind him.
These calculations pertained to suspension and tyre physics and were way above my understanding. It’s details like this that provide KartKraft with a feeling through a wheel that is arguably unparalleled.
“It wasn’t a short road to get here, we went through many iterations and listened to our players,” explain Zach.
“What you are feeling are the direct forces calculated from the tyre and contact patch all the way through the kinematics of the steering. We don’t believe in faking any forces or generating any pre-canned effects.
“You’re experiencing the most real and tactile forces coming through the steering column and as exactly as you would feel them in real life.”
Despite the hardcore simulation approach – which immediately brings to mind an expensive sim setup in a spare room with triple monitors, Heusinkveld pedals and a direct drive wheel – KartKraft is also optimised for use with a controller from the off.
“One thing that was at the front of my mind when we started the studio was that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just those who have the budget to get a high-end steering wheel. Even the lower end is not that cheap either.
“I implemented a blanket rule for everyone at the studio working on KartKraft that we must play it with a controller. Except for the physics development, I did all of my development work with a controller and made sure it was fun.”
All this talk of controllers though makes me think about a potential console release, which had been touted previously, and if that means the game will change significantly.
“We’re very excited about where it’s heading. It’s not going to change as far as the core simulation experience that it currently is, but we’re certainly looking at things that might expand the market for KartKraft and allow other players on different platforms, whether that be Xbox or PlayStation, to experience it and to improve the accessibly.
“We’re not going to make a sim-cade version or dial down the physics at all. It’s always a concern when you hear of talks like this, but we’ll be adding more assists so players who are new to karting can experience what it’s like without going off the track every two seconds.
“[We’re looking at] some form of anti-lock braking system and secondly people find it shocking how little steering input you need at first. Those assists are the initial ideas. Not dialling down the physics at all, just making sure when a new person comes in they can enjoy the experience as much as a hardcore simulation experience.”
Before the consideration of KartKraft being on other platforms, however, there’s still a lot of work to be done within Early Access, including the addition of the International Circuit of Genk, where Max Verstappen set a lap record lap on his way up to Formula 1 stardom. Another item on the to-do list is wet weather.
Much like the entire project to date, the detail that will go into this feature sounds intense and should deliver something rarely seen in simulators so far.
“Wet weather in karting is so different to what you typically see in other motorsports. When you drive a kart [in the rain] typically all of the grip is found off the driving line.
“When you’re coming into a corner [in the wet] you will be braking closer to the middle of the circuit and then waiting until your cross that line, right until the last minute, before turning in fully by cranking on enough steering lock as you possibly can to get the kart to hook in and turn.
“It’s quite unique to karting and I think it will be pretty incredible to watch a wet weather race with 30 other karts around you [in the game].”
As it stands currently, there is online leaderboard integration, but this will soon be expanded into a more in-depth online gameplay mode.
“I think [online racing] is much closer than most people realise. We launched a private beta of the multiplayer in KartKraft to a select few last year to test our backend infrastructure. To make sure the scheduled racing is working, and our matchmaking algorithms are correct.
“That was a largely successful test and we’re now focusing our efforts on improving the prediction and collision code so that when we do launch it’s a fully-fledged online racing experience.”
There’s much more too, such as the hunt for new talent to expand the team, the team’s experience with the Unreal Engine and the potential for the developers to assist on BTCC and 24 Hours of Le Mans games within the wider Motorsport Games business.
To get all of the details, watch our chat with Zach on YouTube or listen to the audio podcast interview below. We’ll be back with more developer/creator interviews soon.