Need For Speed World takes the franchise into a brave new world - the online world of MMOs, in fact. EA Black Box is handling the transition from console matchmaking to computer social networking, and SPOnG recently had a test drive of the game. You can read that here.
Shortly after losing a couple of races I spoke to the game's producer, Jean-Charles Gaudechon, about where World fits on the grand scale of the franchise and the growing social gaming market. The man also loves MMOs. Who knew.
SPOnG: I've been turned off of Need For Speed games lately because they appear to miss the point. My favourites have to be Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted because they capture that essence of going against the law and just racing for the thrill. What does the Need For Speed franchise mean to you?
Good question (laughs). Obviously, I personally loved the action racing that you had in Carbon
and Most Wanted
. I think that was where the series was the best, but we're not trying to reclaim that back or anything.
What the franchise is doing right now, I feel, is simply adding all of these new elements to its portfolio. Shift
was more of a simulation game and it was awesome for that. World
is just another, hopefully great, game to add to the series. I wouldn't know which one is ultimately better, because each title speaks differently to each gamer.
SPOnG: You're the producer on Need For Speed World, but the MMO genre is quite a departure from the norm. Would you say that's your speciality, or have you had experience working on racing games or Need For Speed games in the past?
My speciality is much more in the online, MMO experience. There are a lot of people on board who have Need For Speed
experience too, that's equally as important.
This is my first product in the series though. I've been at Electronic Arts for seven years working on many different franchises and new IPs. Some went through and some didn't. I've always been a huge fan of the series though, so I'm really enjoying working on this project.
So, the main thing in terms of my role is the online experience - I'm crazy about MMOs. I play MMOs all the time... I want to do MMOs (laughs)! So if you give me any franchise I'll likely find a way to turn it into an MMO!
In racing, the concept works really well, and it was something we started talking about a couple of years ago actually. World isn't just a spinoff now, it's had a lot of time and production effort spent on it.
For instance, I was in Asia for the last two years learning about the free-to-play MMO market in Singapore and looking at how the business models stand up. The market is huge over there, and it's growing more and more in the USA and Europe.
SPOnG: What did you use for the game engine? Is it a remodel of an existing one, or have you been given the chance to build your own one?
Well, we definitely collaborate with other EA studios on projects like this for sure. It sounds funny to say, but we really are one big happy family (laughs).
, we actually decided to take the engine from an old, PC only product. The main reason being that we could work on it, overhaul it and make it look awesome. We're really proud of how the game looks right now.
More importantly is that it works and looks great on any machine. You can install it on really low-end machines and play it to your heart's content, and that was a very important goal for us. We want to reach out to the biggest crowd possible, and that includes high-end PC users as well.