Early impressions of Pro Street is that it's more of a simulator that maybe seeks to take on Forza and Gran Turismo. Is that accurate?
We're definitely not looking to make a simulation. I think 'simulation' is a bit of a dirty word — there's some baggage involved in [simulations] in that it's punishing or not fun. What we wanted to hit here is a game that's believable. This is still Need for Speed. It's still pick up and play, and about having fun but we wanted some believability.
The cars and environments look very real, they behave with physics — the way you'd expect a real car to behave — and there's damage. That's the reason for the [emphasis on the] tyre smoke — realising the way that powerful cars burn out.
What we hope we're doing is carving out a new space in the genre in which the game is easy to pick up and play, it's fun and it's believable. But it's definitely not a simulator.
So what would you say to fans who so far think that maybe they won't get what they want out of Pro Street?
One of the things we tried to do this time is build layers so the customisation system is like NFS games in the past where you can choose upgrade packages on a simple level and make your car go faster, or you can choose to go deeper into the customisation with the performance tuning.
The same goes for how you drive the game, so if you want to pick up and play the game like before, that level of control assistance is there by default and you can just floor it like before.
But if you want a greater challenge, turn some of those assists down and you'll drive the car the way the physics engine actually makes the car behave — it'll feel exactly like a real car.
We've tried to build this into every aspect of the game. There are layers and you define the experience that you want out of the game. If you want a traditional NFS experience it's there. If you want more of a detailed challenge, that's there too.
What online features will appear in NFS: Pro Street?
We're going be rolling out more info on the online mode within the next month or two. All I'm able to say so far is that my philosophy when designing online modes is that it's all about playing with people that matter to you — things like having the scores reflected around people that you actually care about beating.
So it's not about being number 50,000 on a leaderboard of 150,000, it's about beating your friend, or seeing the scores of people you actually know.
Are you saying there won't be any worldwide leaderboards in the game?
No, I'm not saying that. But it's just more about how we're focusing the online mode, it's all about friends — and I think you'll see that when we start to talk about the features that we've built this year. I think we've built some really unique online competition.
How many of the modes will be featured in the online mode?
You'll have to wait until we roll more out on that later, but there are loads of variants of each mode and certainly every type of the main single-player mode will be online.
You said that if you total a car you have to choose another one to retry that race. What happens if you smash up all your cars?
When you enter race weekends [multi-discipline events in the single-player mode — Ed] you choose a car per each type of race and a back-up car. During the race weekend you get to repair any damage you do unless you total it. When that happens that car's out for the rest of the weekend and you have to use your other car for that mode. If you total both cars you're finished with that race weekend.
Can we expect any new car types in the final game?
There are about 26 manufacturers in the game so everything from old-school American muscle to Japanese tuners and Euro high-tuned sports cars are in there.
The primary difference between the cars in this game and previous titles is that we've really reduced the number of ultra-high-end supercars in this game because they don't quite fit into the mould we're trying to build — you don't have to do anything to them, they're pretty impressive beasts.
There are some there but we've reduced the numbers to focus more on cars that you have to build up for yourself.
The police are gone, aren't they?
This time we didn't put police into the game. In the past the cops provided consequence, so if you mess around with them too much you get busted. In Pro Street, damage is that consequence — push it too far and you're going to smash your car up. Also it didn't really fit the type of game we're building.
It's hard to imagine police chasing you on a closed, licensed track. But I don't think it's the last you'll be seeing of police in Need for Speed though, there'll be more.
Could you tell us a little more about the locations in the game?
We picked iconic locations — places that make sense to the culture. We've put in the Willow Springs Raceway (a famous racecourse in Rosamond, California). There are a whole load of tracks — probably the kind you'd typically see in a Gran Turismo or an F1 game. As the summer goes on we'll be revealing more tracks and environments.
How's the PS3 version coming along?
It's going well. It'll be equivalent with the 360 version. We've had a team working on it to make sure the graphics are fantastic, and it'll have the same feature set as 360.
Are there any technical differences between the two versions?
I think the differences are primarily with how we develop them, so how we develop for 360 as opposed to how we develop for PS3. I think the product you see at the end will be very similar. I can't say it'll be identical in every respect because they have different strengths but they'll be equivalent.
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