Codemasters is best known these days for its racing pedigree. And it has satisfied petrol heads the world over countless times this generation, with the F1 series, DiRT, Fuel and F1 Race Stars to name a few. But now the studio is going back to one of its most treasured franchises - GRID. And Senior Game Designer Ross Gowing thinks his team has the chops to leave the competition in the dust.
We’ll be telling you all about GRID 2
in an upcoming preview that will go live tomorrow, but in the meantime here’s what Gowing had to say on the sequel - as well as the future of console and mobile gaming. Oh my.
SPOnG: You guys have said that you wanted to build on the success and foundations of GRID 1. What were the most challenging things about that process?
Well, the challenges mostly came down to trying to capture what GRID 1
was all about. That total ‘race day’ immersion, the moment to moment action within a pack of cars. It was making sure we were doing that, whilst bringing all of our new ideas to the table as well. We wanted to craft in a new narrative, the world series of racing, but we also wanted to ensure that we stuck to the core principle of what the original was all about.
SPOnG: Development wise, did you build from the foundations of GRID 1, or was it a completely new creation from the ground up?
The EGO engine that we use has constantly evolved over many years, so we didn’t have to do any rebuilding of that. But all the assets are all from scratch, and so generally the game is built from the ground up. When the first one had been done and released, we were surprised at how many people were really interested in it. We sat down to think of ways to top that, and... there were so many ideas that we decided that we couldn’t really do it justice at the time.
So that’s why it’s been five years since GRID 1
- we wanted to make sure our technology was in the right place to be able to get everything out there and do it how we visualised it - rather than pumping out something we wouldn’t be proud of.
SPOnG: You obviously must have had a lot of pressure to live up to that expectation, especially since Codemasters is largely known these days for doing top end racing games. How did you deal with that?
I developed a twitch in one eye and tore out half of my hair [laughs]! There has been pressure on us to succeed, but then again we have an awesome team of really talented people - who are really passionate about their cars, and passionate about great racing games. It’s been about making sure we keep everyone focused on the goal and remember what we’re living up to here, that we raise our standards every time. You look across Codemasters’ games from now until way back when, and every time we’ve been able to step it up a little bit.
That’s what we’ve got to do this time, but even more so - we’re coming out with such a fanfare, that we need to make sure that our fans are getting the game that they deserve.
SPOnG: What about pressure from other racing studios? This generation has pretty much been peppered with serious racing games from all kinds of studios. Do you think there’s a lot of competition out there for what you guys are doing?
Yeah, the competition is out there, but that’s quite a good thing I think. It pushes us to make sure that we’re doing the best we can - and hopefully better than our competitors. At the same time, if it invigorates the marketplace for racing games then that’s a good thing. If we’re bringing in people who necessarily wouldn’t pick up a racing game, or if they end up picking up a competitor’s game before moving on and sticking with us, then that’s a really great thing.
With the individuals we have in the studio... there’s a lot of us who know racing developers at other studios, and there’s an element of cross-pollination. It’s a good industry and a good genre to be in. People are super passionate about it. As long as everything keeps going forward and everyone focuses on making better racing games, I think it’s great for players and us as developers as well.
SPOnG: Can you explain a little bit more about Racenet and the features it can bring to GRID 2?
Racenet has appeared in a few of our previous games, but it’s always been in something of a beta phase. In GRID 2
it marks its all-singing, all-dancing release. What we’re really excited about is the global challenges, where every week Racenet will pump out nine new events for players to compete in for the best performance.
You can also register and search for rivals as well using Racenet - it looks at every single player on the game and then matches you with someone who’s roughly on the same skillset, playing at around the same time as you. Throughout the week you’ll be competing to see who can perform best on certain events. And they’ll populate your global leaderboards too, so even if you haven’t got many friends on the same platform, you always have someone to compete against - someone relevant to you.
SPOnG: A lot of different games and brands are adopting this approach of in-game community portals. Was Racenet’s birth influenced in some ways by what other games were doing?
There are a few similar things out there and we’re always keeping an eye on what they’re up to, but Racenet was something we felt we could really use to benefit our players and fans. The ability to look across your entire Codemasters racing career, not just isolate it to one game. You can also hook up with friends on different platforms via Racenet.
We thought the platform really strengthened our raft of titles, but to also be able to do all this cool stuff in game just stepped things up a notch. It’s about extending the play experience away from the console, as well. We all have to go from our house to work and spend time away from your game. We’ve been thinking of ways to allow people to interact with their console games while they’re out of the house. If you can hop on to an app or website and do something meaningful, then it’s a big win from our point of view.
SPOnG: How do you see it evolving in future? Is there potential for cross-platform play in some form?
It’ll be interesting to see what form cross-platform play really takes in the next generation of consoles. At the moment, obviously, the major console companies are quite particular about you playing their experiences on just their systems. But yeah, that would be the kind of stuff we’d look at - just how far we can push it. We already do cross-platform comparisons - if you’re on PS3 and I’m on 360, we can befriend each other on Racenet and see how we fare against each other.
SPOnG: Next generation consoles seem to be exploring the great unknown between console and mobile. Knowing what we do about the PS4 and going on what little we’ve heard about the next Xbox, what’s your opinion of how the next wave of consoles are bringing that forward?
I think the connectivity stuff is really exciting. And obviously the convenience they’re bringing to the game - that you can leave the console on sleep and when you come back your game is fully downloaded and ready to go - that stuff is really great. I’m a player as well as a developer, so anything that benefits me on a personal level is all good.
But if you look at the kind of murmurs that are coming out for next-generation... you know, we’re already bringing a lot of that to the table with GRID 2
. You look at the visual quality that we’re hitting, and the extended experience with Racenet and the companion app... it’s next-gen now, to some extent. We’re looking at what we’re doing in the future that is going to take other people time to catch up with, and then by the time they’re catching up we’re looking to be one step ahead again.
SPOnG: Thanks a lot for your time.