My visit to Polyphony Digital in Japan…

  • Thread starter BigJimmy
United Kingdom
Devon UK
As the gaming columnist for the Pullmans’ Weekly News (incorporating the View from Seaton and Colyton) newspaper, I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Polyphony Digital studios to get an update on the future of the GT series and to meet the fantastic and dedicated team behind this legendary under-steer simulator. Below is the copy from my article which will be published in this week’s addition and I thought you might like to read it first.

Gotta Drive em all!


1998 was a big year for the world and for myself. So much changed and began anew, so much in fact it’s tough to pick out just a few examples. There was Armageddon, a Sinking ship, Britney Spears, Gran Turismo was released and I learned the now all too familiar pain of romantic rejection.

Gran Turismo is now my one true love and I can claim to have spent many 1000’s of hours playing each iteration of this great series. For the unlikely few who are unaware of this game I will gladly elaborate. Gran Turismo is an amalgamation of car lover’s culture, intense racing action, car customization and an incessant preoccupation with missing content you feel should be added to the game as soon as possible, or otherwise it’s an affront to your basic human rights!

After many cycles of development, Polyphony Digital, the game’s developer, is at a key juncture. A recent shift to online racing has moved the franchise away from its tried and tested game mechanic (of hours of grinding for 1000’s of cars that you won’t ever drive as they might lose some BHP if you do) and its decisions now will have a huge impact on the company’s future. I am very happy to say that this great company extended a personal invite to me, asking that I visit the production offices and give my advice on the future direction the game should take.

The wonders of Japan…

I don’t consider myself a globe trotter, so a trip to Japan was an exciting change from the racing rig in the cupboard under my parent’s stairs. Polyphony Digital’s offices can be found in Pallet Town in the Kanto region of Japan (a city completely destroyed by a Kaiju in 1975, rebuilt and now seemingly dominated by online racing teams, racing car livery studios and professional “Scapes” Photographers). On my first night in Japan I did not sleep well as I was so unaccustomed to the wondrous space and light provided by my hotel capsule. Or was it perhaps the excitement of meeting my spiritual master Kazunori Yamauchi the next day.

After a delicious fishy breakfast at 7am I hailed a taxi and began preparing my mind for the best GT experience of my life (of course, besides that of using a rubber band to set a KTM X-bow on autopilot for my journey to level 50). The Cab was a boxy yellow Nissan Cube and to my shock, it was piloted by a waxy human looking automaton in a blue peaked cap. As I entered it said in a robotic tone “Hello you are in a B-spec Cab, where would you like to go”. Taken aback, I blurted out “How did I get myself in this situation”. B-spec Bob said “I'm sorry. Would you please rephrase the question”. Gathering myself I replied, “I’m sorry, please can you take me to Nakatomi Plaza”.

The journey was rather slow until I noticed a button that allowed me to change the current B-spec pace. I selected overtake mode and progress was marginally, if not noticeably better. However we did at one point get stuck behind a 4mph, 4 foot wide road sweeper and we seemed unable to navigate around it.

B-spec Bob posed for a Photo.

It was just before 10am by the time we reached our destination, 3 miles from the hotel. Polyphony Digital (PD) is on the 4th and 5th floor of the Nakatomi Tower so I took the lift to make sure I wasn’t sweaty when meeting my lord and savior. A nicely dressed man with a very smartly trimmed beard held the lift door for me as I got in. It was cramped in there with him and his three blonde counterparts. A short conversation revealed his name was Hans and he was traveling with his colleagues Karl, Fritz and Franko on business from Germany. I got off at the 4th floor and they continued upwards. As the door closed I warned him that his shoelaces were undone and that he was likely to fall and hurt himself if he wasn’t careful.

Hans was a polite chap. It was nice to meet another European in Japan.

The foyer of the PD office was as you would expect. A wall of expensive racing pods, each with an Play seat, Thrustmaster TGT wheel and a 50 inch 4K TV. There was a gold plated Daihatsu Midget on a plinth, Lenny Ibizarre busking in a corner and a diorama showing a Wax figure of Kazunori Yamauchi breaking bread with 12 of his closest friends. I approached the reception desk, introduced myself and showed my press card. The receptionist didn’t look up, instead just pointing to a large poster on the wall behind her. There were many languages on the board but the English section read “B license is required before entry to the office is given”. I made my way to one of the gaming pods. Assuming only Bronze level was required I was back at the reception desk just 2 hours later, holding aloft my B license with pride. After a short wait my visit could officially begin.

When the door opened, a portly bearded gentleman walked across the room towards me. I soon realised it was the Irascible Translator San who was standing before me. We bowed and he led me into the heart of the Gran Turismo operation centre. He informed me that it was lunch time and I should join him for some food. In the cafeteria there was a large board describing the food choices for the employees. He explained with pride that they had a whole team dedicated purely to deciding what different meals should be offered on a daily basis and that each week a new set of daily meals would be offered up to the hungry programmers. I viewed the board and exclaimed in confusion “but every day just says Miso soup”. “YES” he replied, “of course”.

The curmudgeonly Translator San and I ate our soup in silence, as he said he had no wish to ever talk about Gran Turismo again for as long as he lived. Much to my relief, after a few spoons of my lumpy broth the whole room went silent and Kazunori himself entered the dining room. His slender arms were outstretched in serine demeanor and with glowing brown hair he seemed to glide across the wet dining room floor as if his feet were inches off the ground. I felt my head turn to jelly and my stomach into a tight fist. He approached our table and I promptly vomited in my Miso bowl.

Communicating through the nettlesome Translator San, Kazunori immediately apologized for my being sick and waved over fresh bowls of soup and joined us at the table. He first asked me to outline my history with the GT series. I laid bare my dedication to the series and I described how each iteration of the game fills the gap where the warm bodily caress of a woman would be, if I had been endowed with social skills or a love of physical activity. I said I had many ideas for the future of the franchise. “Hai, Hai (yes yes)” replied Kazunori who then said “there would time for a Q and A session later in the day”. “But for now I have a meeting to attend discussing the new GT game, which you are welcome to observe”.

Kaz on the day.

Kaz excused himself politely and drifted across the room to speak to another man before he left. This man was clearly profoundly deaf as Kaz was communicating in sign language alone. I asked the redoubtable Translator San who it was, and he replied “That is Dr Okido, our head of engine sound design”.

Once I finished my Soup I headed up to the floor above to attend the meeting. On my way to the lift I passed many rooms that I longed to find out more about. The most notable rooms were identified as, Original Track design, Standard to Premium conversions, Dyson Sound Lab and DLC Community Announcement Facility. In actual fact the latter wasn’t a room as such, it was more a laminated sign attached to a waste paper basket.

The last room before the lift was the “GT-Planet wish list monitoring room”. I couldn’t resist, so I peeked into this last one but found it silent. It seemed to currently only be used to store concrete braking marker cones.

The Next Phase begins….

The mind-shower roadmap meeting for the next GT game was very enlightening. The working title for the game is currently “GT Sportier”, which gives a visceral insight into the mindset of the team and the total overhaul of the game they are not planning. The lightning fast minds of the dev team were throwing out ideas into the ether and it was tough to keep up. The best ideas that were eventually pulled from the chaos were written down and sealed in a titanium sarcophagus to be stored in Kaz’s burial chamber. I did however get to write some of them down in my pokedex. They were:

- A detailed timeline tracking the rise and fall of the Roman Empire

- Key ring livery editor

- Online chat option enhancements such as:

1 Sorry. I was punted into you

2 Stuck in auto-drive

3 I love your YouTube videos

- Laser scanned versions of all current Formula E circuits

- New fire extinguisher decals

- Thrustmaster TGT incompatibility

- Real-time switching between Cars, Boats and Stunt Planes

The mind shower

Our great GT Father beckoned me to remain in the room with him and the recalcitrant Translator San. I was excited as the Q & A was about to begin. All replies were, of course, relayed back through his ever present and sometimes intractable Translator San.

The questions you always wanted to ask…

Pullmans’ Weekly News: Gran Turismo is of course the greatest game ever created but are there any regrets you have about the series so far?

Kazunori Yamauchi: Regrets are part of life, and to live is to drive through your life with passion and an excellence of vision.

PWN: In a Nissan GTR I assume.

KY: Hai!

PWN: There have of course been many volumes of erotic fan literature involving yourself and Translator San, with the most popular of these being turned into the film Fifty Shades of Gray Paint Chips. Is there any truth behind these stories or do you just laugh them off as a fun aspect of the GT community?

KY: Seeking life’s fulfillment through engaging in the hysteria of rapture will not always be attainable through the physical exertion of your prowess upon the smooth anatomy of a quivering G29. Pleasures of tactile encasements are essential not only for the procurement of gestation but also the realization of harmonious interconnections.

PWN: ……

At this point I realize my mouth is dry and I ask for a glass of water. Kaz kindly goes to the water dispenser to get me a drink. As he pours I hear the bubbles rising to the top of the large bottle and try to focus on my next question. This proves difficult however, when on drinking the water I find it tastes like a velvety and delicious full bodied 2005 St Emilion Grand Cru, bursting with flavors of ripe plum, fresh blackberries and hand stitched Alcantara. I drink it with glee.

PWN: You have a dedicated fan base with a seemingly unlimited supply of pocket money. Will these dedicated drivers be able to fork out on a special collector’s edition of GT Sportier?

KY: Our more opulent silk-stocking wearing fans will of course be able to purchase a very special collectors addition.

As Kazunori finished his answer a member of staff appears and hands me a piece of paper with these details:

Special Collector’s Edition contents:

· Brushed Aluminum Case with raised lettering stamped with individual PSN IDs

· Special GT Sportier commemorative 1 Yen coin hand stamped at the Bradford Mint

· GT branded duvet and pillow case (single-bed only)

· Signed Topless Glamour photo of TRL Lightning

· 20% off eharmony subscription

PWN: I am an active member of website GT Planet and one of the most common questions in the forum is, will there be a free roam sandbox version of Gran Turismo in the future?

Before my beloved Kazunori can answer, Translator San shouts “Enough! My master must now ascend and has had enough of your questions”. I realize now that I will not be able to share my opinions on the future of the series. But my sadness is short lived however as the ceiling erupts with light, our ears are filled with the sounds of a million NSXs and my mind is overcome with wonder. Through the bright lights I can see Kazunori begin to levitate towards the wondrous kingdom now visible above, filled with an endless ribbon of beautiful tarmac, low fuel prices and V configuration engines.

I remember a burning question that is suddenly seared across my vision. I shout out… “what about backfire flames on 4K TVs”? The answer is muffled but over the sound of Vtechs kicking in I hear him bemoan, “I’m not a ****ing miracle worker”.

Gran Turismo… I choose you!!
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The curmudgeonly Translator San and I ate our soup in silence, as he said he had no wish to ever talk about Gran Turismo again for as long as he lived.

The memes were real Translator San doesn't give a 🤬 :lol::lol:

I stopped at "B-Spe.." waaait a minute....

I didn't think B License requirement to enter the office was weird for some reason,i thought "oh that's so PD"