To add to the recent announcement for the latest trailer for Codemasters’ upcoming racer – Race Driver: GRID, today we bring you a Q&A with Ralph Fulton, Chief Game Designer for Race Driver: GRID, courtesy of the lovely Xbox Community Network (XCN), enjoy.
How realistic are you going to make the driving model? Will it be more simulation like Forza or more arcadey like PGR?
We’ve gone for as accessible a handling model as we felt comfortable with on default settings – we want everybody to be able to pick up the controller and enjoy the way the car feels. So I guess the answer to your question is that our handling is towards the PGR end of the spectrum. However, for those who like their car handling more challenging there are a number of handling assists which can be turned off – like Traction Control, Anti-lock braking and steering assists – in order to make the experience much more realistic.
The Race Driver series is known for varied racing style – what kind of race types are you planning for this game?
We wanted to make a game about a whole world of motorsport and the three regions we’re focussing on – Europe, the US and Japan – each offers us a completely different racing culture to draw upon. Europe has a rich heritage of motorsport, and it’s still a massively important part of our game. For us, European racing is all about track-based disciplines like touring cars, GT racing and open wheel, and we’ll be including some of the most famous racing circuits on the continent. By contrast, Japan’s racing culture comes from a completely different place and many of the events you’ll compete in there have their roots in street racing and youth culture. American cities presented us with an opportunity to design the kind of street circuits we really want to race, and the long tradition of US muscle cars are the perfect vehicles to race on them. We’ve managed to create three really diverse regions in some respects and you’ll really notice the difference as you move about the world, but all of them will share the same emphasis on close, aggressive, action-packed racing.
Aren’t you afraid that players will see your game as just another Need For Speed?
No, I think once people appreciate the breadth of content in the game that will cease to be an issue. First, GRID contains a whole world of motorsport, and the content which I think people are worried about in this respect is only a small part of the whole game. Second, I don’t accept that the NFS franchise has the exclusive right to sports like drift or street racing, which I think are elements of the racing genre that are still begging to be done well.
Will there be “weather effects” that affect the physics of the cars on the track?
No, it was something we looked at right from the start of the project, but as we refined what we wanted to achieve with the game we decided that we were much happier with creating a single visual style for each environment. To be perfectly honest, PGR4 has been released since then and done weather effects really well so I’m glad we spent our time on features which set the game apart instead…
The game looks amazing, will it run at 60 FPS and what graphical challenges are you facing?
Thanks! No, we’ll be locked to 30fps on consoles. That was a pretty easy decision to make right at the start of the project – we felt that the visual compromises we would have had to make to achieve 60fps were unacceptable, and I think the way the game looks now bears that decision out.
There have been lots of challenges along the way: we’ve rewritten our car damage system to ensure it’s still the best in the world; we needed to improve our car rendering to display 20 cars on track (which is double the biggest race in DiRT); we had to implement a dynamic 24 hour day-to-night cycle for Le Mans; and we had to look at our particle engine to make sure that we could generate enough tyre smoke to make drift look realistic. I think we’ve solved all of these problems now and you’ll see the results very soon.
How many cars will feature in the final game – and could you give us some examples of interesting motors we’ll be able to drive?
Just as a taster… We have the Aston Martin DBR9, Porsche 911 GT3-RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Dodge Viper SRT-10, GTR Mustang Concept, Mazda 787B, Nissan Silvia S15, Nissan Skyline R34 GTR Z-Tune and many more. The full list is to be announced but I can tell you now that every car in the game will be a fully-licensed racing car – there are no production cars or showroom models here. We said right at the start of the project that if you or I could buy a car and drive it to work then that car has no place in our game. As a result, our car list comprises some of the most exciting professional race cars to have been built in the last twenty to thirty years – everything from classic US Trans-Am cars to the most modern European GT cars.
How many tracks will feature in the game, and can you give us some examples? Are they real-world tracks or imagined?
We have over 90 circuit configurations playing host to more than 50 different events spread across the three regions, and they’ll be held at a mixture of fictional and real-world tracks. Each region will have a different style of race environment – all the US tracks are set on the streets of major cities, while Japan features races around temporary circuits in industrial areas. We think these fictional environments are a great addition to the game, but we have licensed some of the best racing circuits in the world as well – you’ll be able to race on tracks like Spa, Nürburgring and Le Mans amongst others.
There is a shortage of racing games that can be played in four player split screen. Will you address this with this title?
There’s a good reason for that ;-). No, GRID won’t feature 4-player split screen.
Will there be a cross-platform (PC) multiplayer?
Unfortunately not – we’re a Games for Windows game, but we’re not supporting Windows Live so no cross-platform gaming I’m afraid.
Like in a real race, competition amongst racers on 360 is fierce. It is the number one platform for fans of the genre. Take your fantastic DiRT for instance. Then you also have Forza, PGR4, NFS, Sega Rally, Test Drive and Moto GP. In what way will Race Driver: Grid differ?
Put simply, GRID is all about making racing cars exciting again. We got tired of playing games that are more about collecting or tuning or decorating cars than they are about actually racing them, and we feel we’ve got the perfect skills and technology to put that right. Our focus is on what happens between the grid and the chequered flag – the drama, the rivalries, the aggression, the crashes – all the things which make a full season of motorsport exciting in the real world, but concentrated into every thrilling race experience. It’s also key that this isn’t another TOCA game. The name change is important in that it signifies a change of direction away from our simulation roots. We’re not making an arcade game, but we believe there’s a gap between those two extremes in which we can create a more accessible, immediate experience. We’re still serious about building a realistically-simulated world, but we want it to be a world seen through the lens of a Hollywood director. That means ensuring that the game is fast-paced and rich with incident – after all, nobody ever complained about a race being too exciting…
How many players will be able to race at one time on Xbox Live?
We’re aiming for 12-player races over LIVE.
Will you be able to design your own tracks?
Not on the 360 edition, but check the Nintendo DS edition of the game if you’re feeling creative.
Are you supporting the game with downloadable content?
Yes – downloadable content has always been the plan to ensure the GRID experience is kept fresh after launch – we’re currently designing that content and will confirm plans nearer to launch.
Will there be much customisation of your car?
Players can also personalise their cars with distinctive team branding. There’s also space on cars for sponsor logos on the car; sponsors will offer you various packages as players progress through the game, earning more cash.
Will lap times and leaderboards be easily found? Any visible rankings in m/p lobbies?
Yes, we’ll have leaderboards for all tracks and all car classes, and we’ll update you on your progress on them throughout the game. In addition, we’ve got a cool online rankings system so you’ll be able to see the rank of everybody in your lobby.
In multiplayer; will you be able to race ALL classes on ALL tracks? (unlike RD3)
Pretty much – the only exceptions will be where licensing restrictions apply or where a track just isn’t suitable for a discipline.
Any “comedy” cars involved? (always enjoy racin’ Robin Reliants etc)
No, every car featured is a professional race car. When you have vehicles that include the Aston Martin DBR9, Porsche 911 GT3-RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Dodge Viper SRT-10, GTR Mustang Concept, Mazda 787B, Nissan Silvia S15, Nissan Skyline R34 GTR Z-Tune, who wants comedy?!
Will you have any new car types for us and haven’t been seen before?
I’m personally pretty excited about the two new Koenigseggs we’ve got in the game – the CCGT and the 1000+BHP, ethanol-fuelled CCXR. Also, I think the 2007 Pagani Zonda R is a video-game first, as is the classic Jupiter Eagleray Mk5.
In the previous games, it was possible to change the weather conditions on a number of tracks. Will this option return in GRID, or can’t this be done anymore for some reason?
Changeable weather was something we looked at right from the start of the project, but as we refined what we wanted to achieve with the game we decided that we were much happier with creating a single visual style for each environment. To be perfectly honest, PGR4 has been released since then and done weather effects really well so I’m glad we spent our time on features which set the game apart instead…
How many different camera angles will GRID include, and will there at least be a cockpit view?
There are 4 exterior cameras and a return of the “Helmet Cam” interior cam that was so popular in DiRT. We’ve really gone to town modelling unique hi-res interiors for all the cars, and in particular making sure that the dials and gadgets on the dash all work correctly – look out for fully functioning Driftbox computers in the drift cars and the rear-view flat panel screen in the Corvette C6-R, amongst other things.
How many cities and city tracks feature in GRID?
There are street circuits based in 6 cities in GRID – 4 US cities plus the Shibuya district of Tokyo and, of course, Milan.
Why did you decide to set up races in real cities? Does Race Driver really need this feature?
I definitely think so for several reasons. One, there’s a limit to what you can do visually with racing circuits and cities are simply much more exciting to look at. They gave our artists something to really get their teeth into, and are a much better test of this generation of graphics technology. Second, there’s a limit to the number of times you can see Monza or Silverstone in a videogame and get excited, so creating city tracks instead was an opportunity to try something new. And finally, street circuits offer a completely different style of racing. It’s no coincidence that the number of real-world street circuits are increasing in the Formula 1 calendar – they provide great racing and great spectacle.
The perfect mix of arcade and simulation drive-style is always been the distinctive mark of Race Driver franchise. Have you altered it in anyway, with GRID?
I’d like to think that we’re still maintaining a balance between the two. We’re definitely what I’d class a simulation, and I wouldn’t call the game arcadey either, but we think there’s a perfect point between the two which we’ve been aiming for from the start.
Will Codemasters work again to make a sim racing game like first TOCA in the near future? Or have we to expect only GRID-like sequels?
GRID itself is the reinvention of the Race Driver series, it’s not a TOCA sim-themed title. Of course we have a powerful engine so I guess we would never say never to more of simulation game.
We know you’ll be using the NEON engine from DiRT. Will you be inheriting the physics engine too or will it rebuilt from scratch?
We’re actually using the next-gen of the Neon engine – it’s a jump on from the tech behind DiRT and it has a new name: The EGO Engine. As for physics, we’ve been refining our systems pretty much constantly since last summer so there’s been no need to rewrite from scratch.
One of the main disappointments of DiRT has been the absence of “real” head-to-head multiplayer gameplay. Will it be present in GRID, and what kind of multiplayer modes will you be offering?
We’ll be making an announcement on our online plans shortly, but online multiplayer racing has been a key part of the Race Driver series for years and that will be even more true this time. I can tell you there will be 12-player races over Live, complete with full-on damage!
Will GRID feature a story element or has this idea been ditched?
No, this time we want the player to choose his own path through the game world. The game is about the journey of an unknown driver who climbs to the top of the world of motorsport, and it made sense to us to let the player decide how to achieve that – if you are a fan of European motorsport you will probably want to develop your career in the European region. However, to make it to the top of the career ladder you will need to take on the best in the US and Japan as well, which will entail learning different skills and mastering new racing disciplines.
Have you got any weird and wonderful achievements in the game? I always wanted to see a ‘Complete a Race in Reverse’ Achievement
Then you might be pleasantly surprised when GRID comes out then 😉 I think we’ve got a nice balance of Achievements in the game now – some easy ones, some difficult ones, and some quirky ones too. Achievements have become an incredibly important part of the 360 experience so we wanted to make sure we spent the time getting them right. We’ll also regularly update you on how you’re getting on with them in-game, so you don’t have to keep diving into the blades.
Can we look forward to a demo of the game before release?
Absolutely, we’re just designing the content for a demo. We’ll offer a taste of something from each of the three continents.
Will GRID support the wireless racing wheel?
Codemasters has a fantastic reputation for driving games – what’s next for the team? Another Colin McRae? Or something totally new?
It’s too early to tell really. (It’s certainly too early to tell you 😉 At the moment our focus is on finishing GRID, at which point I think we’ll all take a well-deserved day off. After that, some downloadable content and after that… who knows?
Thank you for your time Ralph!
So has this got you fired up for some GRID action? Let us know your opinions on Race Driver: GRID by leaving a comment below.