With the impending launch of Need
for Speed World
coming closer, Ten Ton Hammer wanted to get some insight into the game.
To that end, we found John Doyle, Senior Producer, in his massive
garage building cars that aren’t exactly street legal. After
some minor keying of a Porsche, John Doyle agreed to talk to us.
Ton Hammer: Can you tell us a little bit about Need
for Speed World? How does it
the other games in the Need
for Speed franchise?
tried to do with Need for Speed World
is to build a PC only game from the ground up and incorporating things
that people have really enjoyed from the previous games like Most Wanted
and combining those into what we call a light MMO. It’s a
game that allows you to get together with your friends in what is a
massive, open, gigantic, and larger than we’ve ever done
world and do what you love to do with fast cars.
The world of
for Speed is different from the
worlds that most of Ten Ton Hammer readers are used to.
They’re used to giant flying dragons and a typical MMOG
world. What elements of an MMOG are there to suck in these people?
certainly massively multiplayer online; it us one giant world with
everybody in the world on the same server. They’re roaming
around this world. There’s your massively right there.
There’s an RPG element in the game as that you’re
leveling up, deciding on which skills you want to invest in. Do you
want to be great in dealing with the cops and being faster in the
pursuit or being better at leveling with your teammates? Those are all
things that you can do that give more of an RPG element into the game.
So that’s how we describe it as a light MMO which puts all
your friends and the entire world together into one place, and
you’re developing yourself as a persona of a driver and also
as a stable of cars you have.
I’m an old school MMOG guy from the MUD days, and while
it’s not a game with orcs, dragons, and end-game raiding, but
one thing that it does share with MMOGs is that it will continue to
grow and evolve.
What kind of content is in the game for a player to level himself? What
can you do in the game?
Certainly, Need for
is about racing and acquiring fast cars and making them look unique.
You can race against AI or against other players in a PvP manner or you
can do private matches where it is just you and your friends. In the
open world, you can smash into a cop, which will immediately lead to a
pursuit, which instances you off and you begin running from the cops,
which is one way of leveling in the game. Finally, and we’ve
seen this in the beta process, is that players can use the open world
in their own way. We’ve seen some amazing videos and movies
created. We’ve seen incredible screenshots where hundreds of
players have gathered in a procession through the city. We’ve
taken a look at all of that and we’ve introduced a new mode
in the latest beta where people can pose in certain areas and we give
them camera controls so they can take pictures any way they want. This
is the sort of thing that we’re investing in. The big thing
for us is that we built a pretty solid framework. We know people love
to play and that they love to play with the cops, and it’s
more straightforward for us to get more and more content into what we
think the players want to see next.
So we have racing against AI and other players as well as pursuits with
the cops, what other types of matches are available in the game?
I hope that
I’m answering your question right. You can race against
people based upon your level, using a traditional ranking system, or
you can do something with your friends where you’re racing
together. We have sprint races as well as circuit races that unlock in
a progression. We also break them up by the types of cars that
you’re driving, and then you have the pursuit.
That’s the base game that we call the base loop of the game,
the core game that the Need for Speed
people are used to. What we’ll be doing beyond that is
releasing additional modes, and even more exciting, but we
can’t go into detail as that we’re still working on
it, is allowing people to build their game onto our game. For us,
that’s the most exciting thing, but it’s a bummer
that I can’t really tell you about it.
The world itself in this game is just one big open world, correct?
It’s not a bunch of tiny instanced things. What kind of
challenges does that pose from a design standpoint?
It’s a huge
world from Need
standards. We took
the world of Carbon
and kind of glued them
together and built some new chunks of world to connect them. That was a
technical challenge in that our system wasn’t designed for a
world that big, so there was a lot of work on the pipeline side to make
sure it looked sharp. Technically, we had a challenge because you have
a ton of people. We made a decision not to shard the world off, but to
build just one giant world where everybody could be in the same lobby.
There aren’t a lot of rendering engines that will show that
many cars in the same spot at the same time, so we made some choices on
which cards to draw around you and we default generally to your
friends. We allow you to choose which channel you want to go to or to a
private channel, and anybody who’s in the same channel as
you, their car you will see. If there’s nobody in your
channel, then we choose cars around you. But for the big channel,
it’s how do we draw the cars? Do we allow collisions in the
open world? We decided not to, so players drive through each other. Of
course, as soon as you start an event, collisions turn back on. There
were several challenging things, especially for a game engine that
wasn’t originally designed to be online.
So, that process of taking something that wasn’t designed to
be online and moving that online, has that been the most difficult part
or is there an even more challenging aspect?
I don’t know
anybody associated with an online game, and I’ve been
involved in a couple, who doesn’t say as the launch date
approaches, “Man, there’s so much not yet done with
this game!” We’re no exception. There’s
stuff everyday that we wish was done already. The biggest technical
challenge was that we originally targeted this game at China and trying
to get an online game that’s working well in the network
environment in China. That’s not trivial. We decided to
launch first in North America and Europe, which is a little bit easier
of an environment. We’ve spent a year and a half getting the
game to run in China, which is a low spec environment. It even runs
well on Netbooks, which is something that we wanted to do, namely,
making a game that will run on a number of platforms so you
didn’t need a dedicated gaming machine.
What is the revenue model for this game?
you’re talking about revenue models, you can picture me
rubbing my hands together evilly in the background. (laughs) This game
is designed with a free-to-play component. Our intention is to get our
game into people’s hands, especially those who
haven’t played them before. Right now, we have limited
progression to level 10 out of 50 levels. Once you reach level 10, you
can’t level any more, but you can continue to play the game
forever for free. If you want to progress beyond level 10,
we’ll require you to purchase a Starter Pack. In that Starter
Pack, we give you an unlocked car, a bunch of power-ups in the game,
and we give you the same amount that you spent on the Starter Pack in
in-game virtual currency, which we call SpeedBoosts. You use
SpeedBoosts to rent cars that you haven’t unlocked yet, get
more power-ups, and various other things. We made sure that the revenue
model didn’t get in the way of the gameplay. We’re
not using it to provide performance parts or guarantee that you have
the fastest car on the block. Essentially, the game is free to play. If
you want to go beyond level 10, you have to purchase a Starter Pack
and, at your discretion, you can choose to spend more money later.
Are there certain areas or perks that you can’t access if
you’re level 10 forever?
Nope. The whole world
is open to you at all times. There are races that unlock by level, so
if you’re level 10 and you can’t get a tier 3 car
because you are unable to unlock that car, then there’s no
need to unlock a race with those requirements. Otherwise, the entire
world is open to you, the pursuits are open to you, and all the events
up to level 10 are open to you to play with.
You mentioned power-ups. When people think of power-ups, they think of
bananas that you throw at other cars and turtle shells and things like
that. What are the power-ups in this game and how do they work?
I think power-ups are
bit of a strategic element, but they’re certainly more of an
arcade style than you found in the Need
for Speed Shift
They are an arcade element to the game that hopefully doesn’t
feel like turtle shells; otherwise we screwed up the design a little
bit. They allow you to do certain things. For example, a power-up
called Traffic Magnet, which is loved or hated depending upon which
part of our community you talk to, which allows you, if
you’re losing the race, to call the traffic that’s
ahead of the winner to converge on him and cause him trouble, which is
really cool if you’re not the guy in first place and somewhat
frustrating if you are. This is why we have other power-ups to allow
you to get through things like that such as Juggernaught, which
increases your mass and knocks cars out of your way and is great for
breaking through a cop roadblock. What we’ve done with the
power-ups is to provide a bit of an arcade mechanic that we
haven’t seen in the last few Need
games, but which we think provides for a lot of fun and also provides a
bit of a strategic element to determine how I want to try to win this
race. Do I want to try it completely clean or do I want to use a
Nitrous? Do I need to use the Slingshot power if I’m in third
place or worse to get some extra speed and try to catch up to the
leader? The real intent is to keep the races fun, full of action, and
Is there a story to this game, something that a player can get lost in
besides the cool cars and the racing?
take the story that we used in Most
and bring them into this game. What we were thinking was to allow the
users to create their own stories. I know that that sounds fairly
tripe, but we provide the tools to do that. One of the things that
we’ll be doing later this summer, and I can’t talk
too much about this because we’re not ready to show it, is to
provide ways for users to create their own story, share it with their
friends, and use our engine as a medium to tell that story.
It’s been said that you guys have aimed this as a social
community-building game. What kind of tools do you offer to allow
players to build the community? Can you answer that or is that along
the lines of the previous question?
The tech is built and
it’s really cool. The way we want to start using that tech is
by getting together with some of the more active members of our
community and giving them a first shot at using the tools that we have
to build some really cool social features. Now, we start with some
already in the game. For instance, if you connect to Facebook from Need for Speed World
any of your friends on Facebook that are on Need for Speed World
are already added to your friends list. You have a newsfeed in the game
that allows you to know what your friends are doing. You can look at
their status and check a leader board that you share with your friends
and see their stats for races or pursuits. That’s all kind of
the basic stuff, but the more advanced stuff that really builds some
cool social features that they can share, such as competitions or a
story, that stuff will debut later in the summer.
Speaking of community, there have been a lot of special events. Can you
tell us about these? I believe the latest one was chicken runs?
We’ve run a
lot of events. One of the ways to keep people playing the game and
getting excited about the game is to run things that we can give prizes
for, be they bragging rights or something more permanent.
We’re continually working with our community management team.
Chicken Run was a kind of test run, a technical test. We wanted to see
if we could take a race in the world and change it up a bit.
There’s a pursuit breaker, one of those things that you can
knock down and it’ll block the road in the game, which we
made look like a giant chicken bucket. Chicken Run happens to be the
name of our fictional chicken store in the game, so we themed the whole
race around that chicken restaurant. We did that to see if we could,
which would open up things like holiday events and to make the world
more reflect those events. We’ll continue to run these events
and hopefully you’ll see things that aren’t as
cheesy as Chicken Run.