While at Bandai Namco’s Global Gamer’s Day 2015 this year, PSLS’ own Dan Oravasaari got to sit down with Slightly Mad Studios Creative Director Andy Tudor and speak with him about the highly anticipated Project CARS. With only about a month to go before the launch, we learn about the history behind the game, what features we might see as DLC in the future and just how deep the mechanics are in the game.
PlayStation LifeStyle: With Project CARS having been in the works for some time, could you give us a brief history of the title and tell us about any inspirations that got things to where they are today?
Andy Tudor: Our studio has been making racing games for over ten years, like back in the day they did GTR, GTR 2 and GT Legends. We are most known for Need For Speed, doing the Shift titles, Shift, Shift 2, Shift Unleashed and at the end of those titles we worked on the Test Drive franchise as well and we wanted to do our own IP, we wanted to do our own thing, something that we are going to own and start our own franchise. It was at a time when the new consoles weren’t out just yet, like we didn’t even know what they were going to be called, we didn’t know how powerful they were going to be. So, therefore, we went to a lot of publishers and said, ‘we have this cool idea for a game, and it is going to take this long to make and probably cost about this much’, and everyone was like, ‘we don’t know when the new consoles are coming out. So, it would be super risky for us to get involved at this point’.
So, we were like, OK. We had seen that Kickstarter had been doing really well, and it wasn’t available in the UK at the time, and it hadn’t had the big success stories that we have been seeing nowadays, but it seemed to be a viable way to get your project off the ground and get people involved. So, we made our own. We made our own crowd funding platform called WMD Portal and put our idea for the game up there and, yeah, 80,000 people joined. We got 3.4 million Euros, and there were more people signing up. So, here we are, and the game is about to come out.
PSLS: With so much fan interaction, is it difficult to determine which ideas are best for the project as a whole?
AT: Like any forum system, like Reddit or NeoGAF, or whatever, you will see the hot topics, the ones that get the most posts, the most thumbs up, the most like controversial and the heated discussion. Those are the things that obviously the things that are really important to gamers, there are some other things that we say we would like to do, but it goes into the game, its brilliant and everyone’s happy. But, there are other things that are either not working quite how they imagined it to be, or the initial implementation is done and people see the possibilities and they go ‘oh, can we add this, can we add this?’ And, it kind of grows from there. So, it kind of polices itself actually.
Just like the internet, there’s going to be people who are flaming and hating, and there’s going to be people who are like real evangelists who say things like “oh, this is great” and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, the community by themselves kind of filter a lot of that stuff out, and we have community managers as well, who go through the posts and alert us to the most interesting things that people are talking about.
Initially, it was really tough, but now, it has gotten to that point where we know what are the key areas to go to to find the information that rises to the top. It has been a learning process for a lot of people.
PSLS: Could you give us any examples of a feature or idea that you wanted to do but didn’t quite work?
AT: Yeah, we wanted to Rally. The idea behind Project CARS is that we wanted to do all forms of car culture, motorsport and things like that. Growing up, Formula 1, Indy Car, Touring Cars, GT and Rally were all the kind of things that we grew up on. So, we are all really passionate about getting to Rally, but it was just one thing that the community were like, ‘you could probably do without it, just focus on the tarmac based stuff’. Cities, point to point tracks, circuits and with Rally it is a totally different thing, it is mud, gravel and sand and sliding and things like that. If you want to do that, you might as well do drifting as well at the same time, it was kind of like, ‘we appreciate that you guys want to do that, but we would much rather have it as downloadable content, or in a future game’. So, that was just like one example.
PSLS: Will there be a story mode, or some form of player campaign?
AT: There is no currency in the game whatsoever. You can’t grind for cash, grind for XP. The way that we have approached the career mode, I’m a massive Madden player, I’m a massive 2K15 player, and it is the same kind of idea in this. We treat the driver like an athlete. You create the driver, you give him a name, a nationality and a social-media handle. You then choose your starting point, so you don’t have to start at the slowest car and work your way to the top, you can do, because we have added these things called historic goals, which are kind of like multiple endings for the game. So, if you want to do a traditional Need For Speed style progression, and start from the slowest car and work your way all the way to the car that is on the cover of the box, you can do that. That is the zero to hero path. But, if you are someone who knows what they want, you bought the game and you know you want Formula 1, you can jump straight into that and do the defending champ historic goal. Which is to defend the same championship three years in a row.
So, it should feel exactly like Madden and that, where you join a team, you have your race manager and your pit engineer. You have got a social-media feed of your fans giving you feedback on how things are going, you are trying to earn accolades in the game. Accolades are the things that scouts use to encourage you to play for their team instead. Obviously there are achievements and things like that in there as well, you can sign endorsement deals, like where major brands will sponsor you. It should feel exactly like a sports franchise game, and that hasn’t been done in a racing game before.
PSLS: After getting some hands-on time with the game, I did notice that there was a very robust customization system behind the available car. Are you worried that such depth will be over the heads of the more casual racing fan?
AT: It is kind of a dark art, like tuning and things like that. We are actually using the community to help us there, because every game we have worked on has had tuning into it and we have tried to educate players on what things do to make them better at it. Initially we were going to have the actual help in the game, but nowadays with second screen apps and the community aspect of it, it is actually better to have it as a wiki. In the game there’s help, there’s text on the screen to inform you and tell you what to do, but if you go to our website, the community have created a frequently asked questions section.
So, if you ask why your car isn’t turning. It is as simple as that, and it will give you a description from a human being, not like a technical manual. If you go to our Youtube channel, we have a series of video’s called Race Control, and it is like humans, players, like yourselves playing the game and teaching you the game and how to drive, tuning aspects and things like that. So, we would rather your friends tell you what to do, than to have a game, or a technical manual tell you how to do it, and hopefully you will come into Project CARS with more information than you actually came in with.
PSLS: Given the huge emphasis on community, what aspects are going to include to help bring players together?
AT: People usually ask, what is your favorite moment of making a game, and a lot of people will say that is going into the shop and seeing it on the shelf. Me, personally I like going online, day one with players and hearing them give feedback, trash talking, beating me in a race and trying to get revenge in the next one. For me, it is the online, it is a personal favorite. Whenever our games come out, and whenever other games come out, we always have a look at what is going on, and what players are giving feedback on. I know that people play differently when they are playing with strangers around the world, than they do with their mates.
So, we have incorporated that feedback into the game, and so when you go into an online race with strangers, no one is in control. You go in there, there is a countdown timer, no one has specific choices over anything, you go in there and you are all treated equally. Because, if you don’t do that, one guy can be an absolute dick and just not press start and everyone has to leave the lobby, it is terrible. But, if you are playing with friends, you hopefully do trust your friends to have that amount of control, so he can change the car, the track type, the weather, if you can have forced manual gears and all the stuff like that, and there’s no countdown at all. Everyone just have to give a thumbs up and say they are ready.
There’s also another feature that will let players join mid-progress, or mid-session. So, say we are going to have a race at eight o’clock, what I can do is put a practice session, or qualifying session before that for like an hour, and you can turn up at any point during that hour.
That is playing competitively, but equally we have asynchronous ways of playing. We would probably play in different time zones I imagine, so the chances of us playing at the same time are slim to none, so if you look at our work, we have an Autolog in Need For Speed, which allows you to beat each other’s time and get notified of that, download ghosts and things like that. You can do the exact same thing in Project CARS, we have the Driver Network and that is way for us to try and beat someone’s time, there are various ways of photo sharing, replaying, streaming and uploading to YouTube with all of that kind of stuff.
If you go to our Flickr Page, and our YouTube channel, we are curating the best bits of players stories and there is also a weekly and monthly events. So, every time you go into the game there is going to be something new to play, whether it points to new content we put in the game, whether it coincides with a real life event. Say there is like an endurance race this weekend, and you will be able to do a recreation of that in the game, that same weekend. That is cool!
We have a track that goes down the California highway coast, why not do that in a cart, it seems like a silly little thing, but it is quite fun. So, yeah, there is a ton of different ways to play together, both online and offline.
Project Cars Interview With Slighty Mad Creative Director Andy Tudor
PSLS: Are there any plans for DLC post-launch?
AT: We do! We announced the Furious 7 car. One it is kind of a thank you to everyone for being patient, because we understand that with the delays and everyone wants the game to come out. It’s heartbreaking, someone takes the day off, or its their birthday that day, and are like, sorry! So, we announced the Furious 7 car, the Lykan, it is the first of the free cars. We are going to giveaway a car every single month, for the foreseeable future. We are not going to tell you our timeline, but that is just part one.
Project CARS is going to be around for a very long time because we have planned this out, it isn’t going to be a game where we just move on to the next one, as I said at the beginning of this interview, it is our own franchise, it is our own IP and therefore we are starting something brand new, and we are going to make sure that it is treated as a platform, a service, than something that is just like a fire and forget title. There will be more information on that soon, but the team is laser focused on getting everything finished.
We’d like to thank Slightly Mad and Andy Tudor for taking the time out to chat with PSLS. Project CARS will be out on May 7, 2015 for the PS4, Xbox One and PC.