I got on the phone and quizzed Ghost Game’s James Mouat on the development of Need for Speed: Rivals; a launch title racer coming to the PS4. He shared his insights working on the latest iteration of the staple racing title.
Rivals was recently moved up to be a PS4 launch title. As the only launch racer for the PS4, is there any added pressure that comes with that?
“Honestly, I’m not feeling any more pressure because I think the game is fantastic. If anything, I view it as a huge opportunity that we’re gonna get that much more exposure and people are gonna get more chances to see the game in action.”
Is coding for a next generation system like the PS4 and XB1 challenging? Has it impeded anything you want to do?
"No, it’s been very straightforward for us. We made a very conscious decision early in the project to make sure that we made the feature sets on all generations of hardware uniform so that way, we could then just focus on leveraging the power of the machines and not worry about trying to deliver different feature sets. That way, the fans, no matter where they play the game, will get the full experience."
So we won’t end up with the problems NFS ProStreet had, where the Wii version was different and was considered inferior to the PS3 and 360 versions?
"Yeah, exactly. My thinking is that our job is to make sure the fans get the fun experience they’re looking for. It’s not in our interest to be worrying about which generation is more important or better or easier. We wanna make sure they get the same game regardless of what they own."
Speaking of multiplayer, you’re ‘blurring the lines’ between single player, co-op and multiplayer with the Autolog and AllDrive systems. How will you ensure people don’t troll each other or ruin someone’s single player experience?
"Right off the bat the easiest way to deal with this kind of stuff, from a player’s point of view. We know that inevitably there are going to be people who want to ruin each other’s day. So you can set the AllDrive system to match make with only your friends, match make into a private game, so only people you invite can join, or turn it off all together so you strictly play an offline experience. We don’t want you to get stuck in an experience you don’t want, simply because the game told you to be there."
Need for Speed has now been moved to the EA Sports brand. Does this mean we’ll see it move to being more simulation and less arcade?
“I can’t speak to the high level management stuff, but what I can say is that it is Ghost Games’ responsibility to make sure the franchise stays true and exciting. We know that our fan base isn’t looking for that highly technical or realistic style of driving. They want that middle ground where the cars are awesome and feel like their real world counterparts, but can be fun and push the boundaries of reality a bit, so it’s still under our control. Joining the sports is actually going to be a positive thing for us because they definitely know how to create a solid experience and we can benefit from that.”
You’ve got two studios working on bi-annual release schedules so that we still get an annual release without putting too much pressure on one studio. What differences can we expect in the games? How are you keeping the brand/experience consistent?
“So, we’ve definitely looked at what’s been there in the last few iterations and what the fans really like and what works really well. So we’ve kept AutoLog in there because we know the fans like it. Initially when we brought AutoLog out, no one was quite sure what to make of it, but its been very much a strong anchor point for the series because it promotes a lot of social competitions. We’re making sure those aspects are there and we continue to innovate on them. The overall style is something that we wanna make sure we really anchor down.
One of the confusing points about NFS over the years has been the fact that you’re never quite sure year to year what the experience is going to be. Now we’re gonna work really hard to make sure that we can both innovate and create new experiences, but make sure that the player knows that when I buy a NFS game, I am going to get certain experiences every time, and I can count on that as a reason to come back. For example, cops are a huge part of NFS that all of our fans strongly identify with. The ability to be chased, or be a cop and chase people around. We’re gonna make sure we anchor this more firmly into the series, so that people really know what they’re getting.”
Ferrari is back after 11 years since Hot Pursuit 2. What kind of limitations are Ferrari imposing on the depictions of their vehicles?
“Every manufacturer has a lot of ways they do and don’t want their cars used and Ferrari is no different. But thankfully we’ve been able to reach an agreement where we are using the cars in a way that they’re happy with, and we’ve been able to add them to the roster. So you won’t see their cars behaving any differently than the rest of the cars in the game in that regard.”
Going back to Most Wanted, by Criterion. The general consensus was that the car driving engine was similar to a Burnout game. What’s changed in Rivals?
“We still try and walk that line between sim and arcade. What I find beautiful about our game, is that we simulate all of our cars so that they behave like their real world counterparts as closely as we can possibly make it, but not so much that you have to be a serious gear-head to really make the cars perform or have fun with them. So you should be able to feel the difference between the Porsche Cayman and the Porsche 911 GT, they are two different cars, and they will have different characteristics and behave somewhat differently depending on how you use them. But we still want to make sure that you can pick up that controller and start having fun with it. So we did stick with that sense of ‘ease of play’ and we’ve built the driving model around a really high speed experience and easy to control drifts, where you don’t feel like you can’t do what you want with the car. You can make the car bend to your will.”
On car mods. What are the limitations of car mods? Because deep car customisation tends to be a seller.
“In this version of NFS, we’ve taken the first steps towards bringing that back, but it is still a fairly light implementation. We wanna make sure that the racers have that ability to show off their customisation options. Part of the game’s innovation is that you play online and offline at the same time and you’re doing so against humans and AI players, which is actually a big step forward, we’ve never done that before. So as you’re customising your vehicle, you want to stand out. We’ve made sure the AI players always look more like factory stock, so that when you start to get your cool options and working towards ‘elite’ upgrades, you’ll always stand out amongst the crowd. So when you spot someone with an awesome wrap or a cool stripe, you know that’s a human player.”
Need for Speed: Rivals will be released for PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 on the 19th of November 2013 in North America and on the 21st of November in Europe. The PlayStation 4 version will launch on the 15th of November 2013 in North America, while the Xbox One versions will launch on 22nd of November 2013.
Last Updated: November 13, 2013