Game Console’s Darren Price recently took the road, on a shiny new PS4, with EA Games' Need for Speed Rivals. Afterwards he sat down with Rivals’ Lead Designer, James Mouat for a chat about the game.
Hello James, can you introduce yourself and explain your involvement with Need for Speed Rivals?
Yep, I’m James Mouat and I’m lead designer in Gothenburg, Sweden, at EA’s Ghost Studio working on Need for Speed Rivals.
You are stepping into some pretty big shoes, following Criterion’s excellent Need of Speed: Most Wanted. How does that feel?
It’s actually really good because whilst Criterion isn’t directly working on the game they are still supporting us. We are able to use their knowledge as a starting point, so we are not stuck reinventing the wheel as it were. It’s great to have the support of those guys and to have such a strong franchise.
I’ve worked on new IP before and it can be very difficult to figure out what you need to make, let alone what’s fun. So it’s good stating with a lot of things that we know people like and find fun.
So do you are building on what Criterion has done in the past?
Yes, it has been a good point of reference to be able to look at Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted to find parts that really work well and to use them as inspiration.
The racing genre is very saturated at the moment what separates Need for Speed Rivals from the crowd?
There are two really big aspects that make our game stand out. The first is the involvement of cops. Everyone I talk to, when I ask them what Need of Speed is, brings up cops and the ability to play with and against them.
Then there’s also our pursuit tech. We definitely have an advantage over a lot of hardcore sim racers, and even some of the open-world driving games, with some really cool gadgets like spike strips, stun mines and those sorts of things.
Can you tell me about AllDrive? How does it work?
AllDrive is about destroying the line between single and multiplayer. You hit the start screen and you don’t choose the single-player option or the multiplayer option. You just start the game and AllDrive will take it from there, matchmaking you as appropriately as it can into the right world with friends or people from the general public. At a high level, AllDrive is about matchmaking without the need for understanding lobby systems and fiddling with all those modes.
We are trying to reward people and allow them to play together as often as possible. Whenever you are driving near someone your HUD will light up and your scoring text will go green. It’ll show the icons of the gamer avatars of anyone that’s nearby and for every player that you’re driving around in close proximity to you are going to get an additional 20% bonus to your score.
We know it is fun to play together, but we are actually going to give you a bit of a reward for when you do. The game encourages you to go and play with your friends.
With AllDrive we’ve looked at all aspects of the game, both the big meta-level right down to moment-to-moment gameplay, to find out how and why we can bring people together.
On the subject of bring people together, Ken Block is now EA’s Racing Advisor. Can you tell me about his involvement in the development of Need for Speed Rivals?
We had Ken come in quite a number of months ago, sit down and look at some of the software mid-development. He gave us his personal feedback on how he drives cars and how it differs from what he was seeing in the software.
Ken’s feedback helped us keep a good balance between the arcade and the simulation style of racing that we do. It allowed cars to more accurately feel like their real-world counterparts, but still not be super-hardcore and punishing to drive.
Need for Speed Rivals uses Battlefield 4’s Frostbite 3 engine. When someone says Frostbite to me I think destructive environments. How have you made Frostbite work for you in Rivals?
Frostbite in the Battlefield sense isn’t about 200mph drifts around corners, so we have had to develop the Frostbite engine to suit our own means. This gives us is an amazingly solid technical base, supported by a large group of people. As the Battlefield team, or anyone else that is using the Frostbite engine comes up with some new tech we can all share it; stuff we might not have had the time to focus on and develop it for ourselves.
So yes, there have definitely been some big hurdles for us to clear to make Battlefield style tech work in a driving experience, but at the same time it’s bought us a wealth of technical groundwork that we could start from.
I’ve just been playing Battlefield 4 and the environmental effects are amazing in that game. What environmental effects are players going to be up against in Rivals? Now I think I saw a storm brewing in the game.
Yep, we’ve got a good weather system in the game as well as a good day/night cycle. If you put those two together you can create some pretty harsh and chaotic scenes. It’s one thing if it is dark and one thing if it is raining. But if it is dark and raining and then the attack helicopter goes up and starts shining a spotlight, the beam is going to start lighting up all the rain and it becomes like whoa! It’s really hard to see with the helicopter kicking up all the downdraft particles with the dirt and the rain.
We want the world to be alive and the weather is part of that. And it also is a very dramatic aspect of the world. It should be punishing to drive in the rain. It should be manic and tension building, but at the same time not unplayable.
This is another title that straddles console generations. What is the difference between say the PS3 and PS4 versions of the game?
We made the conscious decision to try to keep the game uniform across all platforms. This was in part to make our lives easier, but also because it’s our job to make sure that we deliver a great experience for the Need for Speed fans.
We’re not interested in trying to push the next-gen consoles for Microsoft and Sony. So when you buy Need for Speed Rivals, and you don’t happen to have an extra $500 lying around for a new console, you shouldn’t feel like you are missing half the game if you brought it for the 360 or PS3.
The feature set is intact and it’s uniform across all of the releases. We’ve simply tried to leverage the horsepower behind the newer machines so that it looks that much richer and lush. On next-gen the cars have more polygons and the world’s got more particles. The game has as much life as we could push into those high-spec machines.
But at the same time we want to make sure that you didn’t feel cheated because you bought the wrong copy, there’s no such thing. If you get your hands on a game for your machine you are going to have the full experience.
What feature in the game do you think gamers are going to enjoy the most?
One of the things that I’ve really pushed hard on internally was the tension aspect for racers. You are constantly growing your score and your multiplier, but the more you do, the more intense the police attention is going to be and if you get busted you are going to lose your points. That sense of consequence and everything that comes along with it is a more hardcore design than we’ve seen in Need for Speed in the past. I think that a lot of players are going to find it attractive because it is so tension-building.
Nice one. Thank you very much, James, and best of luck with your game.
Need for Speed: Rivals will be available in New Zealand for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 later this month.