If the mobile market has been good for one particular genre of game, itís racing. Have you ever played a game of Forza or Mario Kart and ended up turning the controller as if it really was a wheel? Well, Firemintís Real Racing series tapped into all of that rather quickly on smartphones and tablets, thanks to the built-in gyros of gadgets like the iPad.
Now the Australian studio is preparing its third iteration of the game, which aims to be the most authentic racing experience that you can find on a mobile gizmo. To that end, Real Racing 3
includes some crazy graphical improvements - for instance, the number of polygons that made up an entire car in Real Racing 2
form just one wheel in Real Racing 3
Itís not just presentation that has been improved either. Tracks now feature a 22-car starting grid, up from 16 in the previous game, and new Time Shifted Multiplayer allows players to set a race record which can be sent as a challenge to friends and rivals to beat. Throw in 46 licensed cars and nine licensed tracks, and you have a rather hefty sequel in the palm of your hand.
But the Real Racing
community hasnít necessarily been happy about all of the news concerning this game. It was recently revealed that the title will go free to play, meaning players will be earning two different types of in-game currency in order to repair and upgrade the cars in their virtual garage.
I had a chat with the gameís associate producer, Michael De Graaf, to learn more about the feature, and how mobile gaming can further evolve.SPOnG: What sets Real Racing apart from other iOS racing games?Michael De Graaf:
I guess the big distinguishing characteristic is that, compared to all the other racing games on the platform, weíre trying to bring the most realism to the genre. Weíre strongly focused on having licensed cars and tracks now, and tightening the gameplay to make it as close to an actual racing experience as possible.SPOnG: What were the challenges involved in getting the Time Shifted Multiplayer up and running?Michael De Graaf:
Probably the server side of things - the backend. It was a big task to try and support the feature across every race in the game, and to account for the number of people that we hope will be playing. We also had to think about refining the experience so that the time that a player sets can be reproduced consistently for another.SPOnG: How sophisticated do you see mobile games becoming in the future?Michael De Graaf:
I think itís... the way to be successful in the mobile platform is to simply make a game that everyone is able to play, and that everyone wants to play. It sounds obvious that you should want to have as many people playing your game as possible, I guess. But itís definitely very important, to have something appealing to a wide range of people.
Thatís what weíve tried to do with Real Racing 3
. Weíve got a wide variety of different control options, a large array of assists... anyone, no matter how you like to drive the car, no matter what your skill level is, can jump in and dart about the track without much hassle.SPOnG: The thing about accessibility... would you say thatís the main reason behind making the game free to play?Michael De Graaf:
Absolutely. The reason we went free to play is basically because we want as many people playing our games as possible. Particularly if we make a game like this, which looks gorgeous and is really deep, has a huge amount of content... if we werenít free, less people would get to see all of that.
Another aspect of that is in the Time Shifted Multiplayer. We think thatís a really compelling feature, and we wanted players to invite their friends to races as easily as possible. If you can say to a friend that the game is free, they can just download the app and jump in. Thatís more compelling than telling a mate that they have to spend five bucks in order to race against them.SPOnG: Have you found it difficult to decide what to make free and what to charge in terms of microtransactions? Thereís been something of a negative reaction to the free to play changes from your core audience.Michael De Graaf:
Yeah, but I think that once you actually play the game... youíll soon realise that you donít need to spend anything if you donít want to. Thereís no reason to open your wallet - the entirety of the game is open. Youíre not forced to spend money to access any of the content.
So far as the repairs and the service mechanics go... the time requirements are pretty minimal. And youíre going to be able to keep on racing by using any other cars you own in the game too.SPOnG: Do you think the negative reaction is somewhat overblown?Michael De Graaf:
Well, itís not a surprise. If you release any game on a free to play level, thereís always that strong reaciton from the core gamers. But again, I think that once people get a chance to play the game, they may see it differently. Weíre giving a lot away for free. Weíre not really holding anything back.SPOnG: iPads and iPhones have a pretty quick refresh cycle. There are new iPads coming out every six months these days. As a developer, do you see it as a pleasure or a hindrance to constantly working on devices with a regular update rate?Michael De Graaf:
Itís got its upsides, in that the devices are getting more powerful every time. Weíre getting cool new form factors as well, which is great in terms of having variety and something that suits everyone. There are drawbacks too, obviously, in that weíre having to code for multiple devices. But weíre set up to do that anyway, itís just a part of mobile development.
Itís not really a huge drawback, the fact that we get new devices all the time. Itís more that... we always know that weíre going to need to deliver something that will look cool on new devices six or twelve months from now, as well as current devices. So we always take that into account when building our games.SPOnG: Home consoles, on the other hand, keep the same architecture for many years. Itís very much a long-term device, while mobile gadgets are constantly evolving. Do you think home consoles could benefit from a refresh rate like the iPadís?Michael De Graaf:
I donít think it would help any great deal. The thing is, a device like a smartphone or tablet is something that people are willing to upgrade every could of years. Thatís because itís not the only thing that theyíre using that device for. With a console, itís a bit more dedicated.
The benefit with a console is that you donít get fragmentation. Youíre building for one device. And there are definitely plus points to doing that. You can see that with every console generation - the quality of the games improve over time, as developers better understand the architecture and become familiar with the hardware.
On mobile, you get that to some degree - you can see that with developers hitting the top end of what current phones and tablets can do before the next iteration is released. You can also use your experience on the current hardware to look back and plan how to deliver a better experience on its successor.
So yeah, itís interesting, but I think it would be challenging for Microsoft or Sony to actually produce a new console every year. I think it would be... it doesnít seem too likely that theyíll go down that path.SPOnG: Thank you for your time.Michael De Graaf: