Vroom! Need for Speed World A Q&A with Senior Producer John Doyle
With the impending launch of
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 style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Need
for Speed World style="font-weight: bold;">? How does it
the other games in the style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Need
for Speed style="font-weight: bold;"> franchise?
Doyle: What we’ve
tried to do with style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">
for Speed style="font-weight: bold;"> 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?
Doyle: Certainly, style="font-style: italic;">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?
Doyle: 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 style="font-style: italic;">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?
Doyle: It’s a huge
world from Need
for Speed standards. We took
the world of style="font-style: italic;">Carbon
Wanted 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?
Doyle: 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?
Doyle: Certainly, as
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?
Doyle: 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?
Doyle: I think power-ups are
bit of a strategic element, but they’re certainly more of an
arcade style than you found in the style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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?
Doyle: We didn’t
take the story that we used in style="font-style: italic;">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?
Doyle: 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 style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed World,
any of your friends on Facebook that are on style="font-style: italic;">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?
Doyle: 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.
You talked about how there’s a chicken restaurant in the
game. Does that mean that you can get out of your car and have an
experience besides just racing?
Doyle: Now you’re
making me feel bad, because you don’t get out of your car in
this game. We haven’t done an animation system yet, but
we’ve talked about it a great deal. It’s something
that we can do, but we initially wanted to focus on getting that core
racing and pursuit feeling right in a massively multiplayer way.
There’s a lot of stuff that we intend to add going forward.
Getting out of your car and getting chicken isn’t on the
Without a doubt, the biggest draw to this game is customization of
cars. Can you tell us about it? Basically, your car is your avatar, so
what can you do to your car?
Doyle: I’m glad you
brought this up as that we think that this is one of the more important
things in any racing game, and certainly in any RPG, you want to look
unique. Our customization is the way you can do that. What you can do
right now is a few things. You can paint parts of your car in different
colors, and we have a ton of different paint finishers and colors that
you can use. Probably the more exciting thing is to put vinyls on the
car. We have a bunch of premade vinyls you can put on the car, and you
can put them on in layers, scale them, skew them, and rotate them.
People have already used that system to make some really amazing pieces
of art, which is something that our art team gets a big kick out of.
We’ve seen the community do some amazing stuff. The UI is
built from the ground up for the PC so you can do all this work with a
click of a mouse, which is something that we haven’t been
able to do in the last few console style="font-style: italic;">Need
games. It can also support a really staggering number of layers.
We’re testing the layer numbers with the number of players in
terms of bandwidth, but the theoretical limit for this system is about
a million layers.
How many pre-created templates, or vinyls, do you have so far in the
Doyle: We have a couple
hundred in the game right now. Because you can skew, scale, and layer
these things on top of another, you can take anything that we have and
make essentially anything you want. More vinyls will be coming in the
Since you’re adding more vinyls later, then basically the
only limitations to what you want to do is in your mind?
right. For those people who don’t want to spend a ton of time
making the perfect car out of the primitives, the primitive shapes that
we have in the game, we’ll provide a bunch of things that we
think are pretty cool and we’ll just continue to roll those
out. It’s something that artists love to do, and
it’s not hard for us to take those and get those into the
game. We’d like to find a way, and we’ll do some
work on this over the summer, for the community, who do amazing stuff,
to submit their vinyls for us to include in the game. The community has
shown that they have an even greater capacity than we do in this
We recently did a contest in the community of who could create the best
3D model of a Porsche 959, and the winner’s submission will
be included in the next content update. The community got to build one
of the cars in the game and we’re going to extend that so
that users can get their vinyls in the game. We’ll continue
to have the community build cars, because there are some amazingly
creative people who play this game and are passionate about it and have
made some awesome content for the console style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
games. We never really supported it, but they figured out how to make
it work anyway and we’d love for them to take the passion and
skill they have and bring the cars they want into our game as well.
We’re going to try to make sure that it is easy to do.
Beyond that on the user-created content front, there are some things
that we’ll be doing with the community on story and
competition over the summer, like I mentioned before. We intend to make
it easy for anyone to create their content and share it with their
From a logistical point of view, how does that work in the example of
the user-created content, such as the car design? Did you have to get
approval from Porsche for that contest or did they give you some sort
of broad license to do that sort of thing?
Doyle: All of the cars that
we use in the game are approved by the manufacturers, so they say,
“Yeah that looks cool.” What we did in this case
was we approached Porsche and said that we’d love to have the
community build a car, and they were all for it. They were excited
about it. In fact, after the contest, they told us that some of their
people had actually entered the contest and they didn’t get
chosen. Some of the folks who do this do it out of passion. For the
contest, we tell them the file specs we need and then we render it and
put it into the game.
The 3D modeling fansites that have built up over the years around style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
served as an inspiration. We knew that we had to find a way to get
their content into the game. It’s not always practical in a
console game, but a PC dedicated game is easier to do.
We know that you guys are trying to finish up a lot of things before
launch. What is the priority that you’re focusing on right
Doyle: Right now, my priority
is stability, making sure that the game can handle all the people
showing up and that they all enjoy a good experience. That’s
what the team is really focused on right now. At the same time, about
half the team is focused on the next content release that
we’ll be doing. We’ve been watching the beta,
talking to people, sending out surveys, sitting in chats, and sitting
in the forums, trying to figure out what people want to see next, and
we’re building a lot of that content now. Over the summer,
what we’ll be doing is opening up more of those social
options, specially the user created content. That’s what
we’ll be doing this summer and a good chunk of fall is
getting that new content out, and then we’ll start looking at
the next new piece of content or what do people want in the game now?
It’s pretty fun to do these games because you get to talk to
the people who play the games and they tell you what they want to see.
Generally, what people have been telling us makes sense. It is up to us
to figure out how fast to build it and get it out.
I’m glad that you mentioned stability. We were talking about
this recently and about when a new MMOG comes out, if the first few
weeks of playing it isn’t stable, it becomes a death blow to
the game. MMOG players are a picky lot and they’ll bail on a
game that isn’t stable right away. I’m glad that
you guys are taking stability so seriously. Stability is the key.
Doyle: Yes. The
cliché we use here is that you get one shot at an online
launch. It’s something that is very important to us. While
it’s very complex, we know that consumers don’t
care about how complex it is, they just want it to work. For us, it
means that we have to put in a lot of effort to make sure that any
errors are invisible to the user.
Just for clarity’s sake, can you give us the end of beta date
and when we can expect the launch?
Doyle: The beta that
we’re running has just ended. We’re doing a head
start for those people who pre-ordered the Starter Pack the week of
July 20th, and the game will be open to everybody on July 27th. Chances
are that before we go into the head start, we’ll communicate
a stress test. We have some new hardware coming in, and we want to make
sure that we can get a bunch of people on at once and see if we have
any troubles to make sure that we get that stable launch.
Are there leader boards in this game? If so, how are they being done?
People get really excited about being able to brag.
there’ll be a lot of bragging. The leader boards that we have
in the game right now are focused on your friends, so when you look at
your feed gadget in the game, which is the news, you’ll see a
list of all of your friends and how they’ve done in a number
of events such as racing, cop pursuits, length of pursuit, amount of
money earned, etc. All those events are listed and are constantly being
cycled through. Deeper leader boards are part of that community social
stuff that we’ll be talking more about later on. What
we’re trying to do is to allow players to build their own
competitions and share them with friends,
Can you opt out of a friend’s leader board or are you forced
into it? Let’s say that I totally suck and I don’t
want people to know how much I suck. Is there a way to keep my
Doyle: No, right now your
suckage and public shame will be public.
What is your favorite aspect of the game? What do you think that
everybody will look forward to the most?
Doyle: Right now, the racing
is fantastic. With the power-ups system we have, it makes the races
action packed, and the races are very close. I’ve been
running a ton in the beta and I always seemed to be grouped against
people of a similar level with similar cars and similar skills. All the
races are coming down to the wire, so even if I finish fourth out of
eight, it’s a ton of fun because it’s so close the
whole race. I’m first, now I’m last, now
I’m in the middle. It’s a blast. As long as we get
that right, we have a great start for a style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
MMO and we can continue to add to the top of that. If we
don’t get the racing right, then I don’t know that
we can call ourselves style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed.
What is the actual racing feel like? Is it hyper-realistic? What is it
like using your computer rather than using a controller?
Doyle: Well, you can use a
controller in that you can plug in any USB controller in and it will be
supported. Some people race that way and some people race with a
keyboard. I tend to use the keyboard even though I like console racing
games as well. It feels good. It is pretty responsive. It is definitely
not like Shift;
it is not that hard core. What it is really is a lot like style="font-style: italic;">Carbon
Wanted. If you’re a
for Speed fan and you enjoyed
the feel of style="font-style: italic;">Carbon
Wanted, then this will feel
pretty familiar to you. I think that we’ve done a pretty good
job of tuning the way the controls feel on the keyboard and the
controller, so you can pick which one you like best.
We are supporting a bunch of the USB wheel gaming devices right now.
We’ll continue to add new ones as they come on the market. It
just takes time to code them up to add into the game for us to fully
support them. We know that the guys who really get into racing games
use them, and we want to make sure that they can use them to enjoy the
Is there different views? Can you go from inside to above the car?
Doyle: There are four total
cameras in right now. You have behind the car, a closer behind the car,
you have the view from the hood as if you’re looking through
the windshield, and you have right at the bumper. I prefer the hood
view when I race, but most people prefer the closer behind the car view.
What is your main goal with this game? How do you think this game will
affect the market?
Doyle: I think that
we’re trying to do a couple of things. One of them is to
build a persistent style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
experience for the PC. That’s our primary goal. If we can
deliver a quality product that plays good, is fun, and continue to
support it with a lot of new content and community features, then
we’ll be able to do that. We want to reach a lot of people
who gaming PCs are getting out of their range. There’s a
whole lot of PCs that have been sold to people who aren’t
looking for the most cutting edge PC games that are out today. We want
to be in the middle of that, reaching out to people who want to try out
a new racing game and we want that game to be style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed.
That’s our big deal. We want to build an enduring, persistent
experience for folks.
What kind of music is in the game?
Doyle: Right now, all the
music in the game is our internally composed stuff. We have some great
music from past style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
games and we have some great new stuff. We have some original stuff and
some things that people have heard before. Again, as that this is an
online game, we’ll be adding new music over time and we have
plans to keep the music fresh.
What is the last thing that you want to say about your game?
Doyle: The last thing that I
want to see is that we have a pretty fun style="font-style: italic;">Need for Speed
racing experience on the PC, and we love for everybody to come give it
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