Game Console: The Need For Speed franchise is historically rather famous for its arcade-style gameplay. What’s behind the decision to take Need For Speed SHIFT into the “authentic racing” sub-genre?
Jesse Abney: We spent a few years talking to our fans & community leaders, as well as researching the market. It was clear the racing category was broader than one Need for Speed title could satisfy. Our fans have grown up over 16 years with this franchise, and their interests have evolved; some really like open world action racing, while others have migrated towards the GT and Forza Motorsport experience due to their interest in serious driving.
GC: Will fans of the traditional, arcade Need For Speed gameplay feel alienated with this release, or has the team taken steps to cater to them also?
JA: We want to bring both [types of] fans along for the ride in SHIFT through exciting and innovative first-person driving – teach open world racers rules of the track, as well as offer GT and Forza players an authentic racing game all wrapped up in a cool and contemporary Need for Speed experience.
GC: Do you see Need For Speed SHIFT as entering into direct competition with any other titles in particular?
JA: We definitely don’t play in the same sandbox as GT or Forza. Need for Speed is about fun, exciting, and innovative gameplay. Since it’s an authentic racing game with a measure of forgiveness and scalability in the physics, damage, and AI system it’s more comparable to (Porsche Unleashed, Pro Street, and Grid.)
GC: In what ways did the development process differ from that of previous entries into the series?
JA: This is a full collaboration between Slightly Mad Studios, who’ve used a distributed development model since their inception, Black Box Games, and Patrick Soderlund of Dice. Each has a wealth of experience with simulation racing, NFS, and endurance racing respectively. This project has team members on all of seven continents, in somewhere around 12 countries – truly distributed.
GC: What does Need For Speed SHIFT bring to the “authentic racing” sub-genre that hasn’t been done before?
JA: This is a track-based racing design, so the difference from open world action racing is obvious. It’s built upon the brand new SMS racing engine for next gen consoles, so innovation in the visual space is very apparent. A new selection of cars that compliment the ALMS and LMS performance and livery styles are also a part of the overall offering. First-person driving and the brutality of the crash played up in the VFX is an entirely new experience that we feel is redefining the racing experience in video games.
GC: What are your proudest achievements in the development of Need For Speed SHIFT?
JA: Shipping it on time to such acclaim and appreciation from the fans and industry press as we have.
GC: I’ve seen Need For Speed SHIFT referred to as the “first-person shooter of racing games”. What does this statement mean, exactly?
JA: As gamers we’ve had a lot of lessons from the great 1st POV games, like Battlefield. This genre has succeeded in creating a wholly immersive quality that and community fervor few other genres have achieved. Racing became an obvious selection to merge these traits of first-person perspective, dynamic camera, evolved VFX and audio system to make for a completely innovative driving experience.
GC: What kind of post-release support do you have planned for the title?
JA: Lots! Nothing we can talk to in detail today but we have shown our commitment to DLC with the half-step on Undercover. SHIFT presents the opportunity for a full step forward and some exciting announcements in the months to come.
Thanks to Jesse for taking the time to answer our questions and to EA New Zealand for providing the opportunity. Keep an eye out for the October issue of NetGuide/Game Console (available Monday, September 20) for our full review of Need For Speed SHIFT.