Since the launch of the PS4 and the XBOX One there have been no shortage of driving experiences for the platforms. From Forza to Drive Club to The Crew, everyone has been dropping there car game into shark tank hoping it will rise to the top. The developers at Slightly Mad Studios had a different approach to tackling the challenge. Let the community help design the final game. Known for their work on the Need For Speed Shift franchise, these are a team that have the pedigree to build a fantastic driving experience, but with the added bonus of finding out exactly what people are looking for, they have a competitive edge that may be hard to beat.
We got a chance to sit down and talk to Andy Tudor, the creative Director at Slightly Mad and dig in why Project Cars is so special and what people should expect on launch day.
Comics Gaming Magazine: So tell me about the studio and a little bit of an intro to Project CARS.
Andy Tudor : So it's a car game, but not just any car game. Project CARS is really is this journey that we’ve been on that started way back that 10 years ago, when we made GTR, GT Legends, and through the Need for Speed titles as well.
Every game we’ve done previously has gradually been like nipping at the heels of Forza and Gran Turismo. Here with Project Cars we’re here now and we can say we’re contenders or to even be mentioned or talked about in the same sentence as Forza and Gran Turismo is fantastic.
We're also multiplatform, PC, PS4, Xbox One and later in the year Wii U, Steam, OS as well. The difference is we've been making the game with the community involved from day one.
So we started back in October 2011, and we gave our community a version of the game right from the start and they have been telling us what features they want. Tried out the cars see what feels right or this thing needs fixing, oh this game feature’s cool or you can do this as well and expanding things.
So we had a vision for the game but it’s really been the gamers, the racing fans that actually kind of have molded it. And that's really unlike any of these games in this room or like any other game happens. It’s a crowdfunded game of course but not to the extent of how we’ve done it.
If you were to release Forza for example, you would have done it a traditional environment and you come up with ideas and two years later you pray that’s actually what people want to do or what they want to experience but with Project CARS, by having the community involved from day one it's already been approved by gamers.
They have been playing it for years now. You can jump into an online race with them right now. All the screenshots you have seen have been taken by the community, all the trailers have been done by the community. They’ve painted all the cars, they’ve done achievement icons. Done everything. So that gives us a level of confidence that game we are releasing is something that people actually want to play. So you pick it up in the shops and you know it’s been made by people like you and it has features you’ve always wanted in a racing game that the competition still doesn’t have.
The competition still don't have dynamic time of day and weather. They still don't have pit stops and we have the largest track roster of all of those racing games combined. That’s what makes it different.
CGM: So now, for someone that is more of a fan of arcade racers, how would they feel jumping into your game? Would it be a hard thing to get used to?
AT: When you launch the game the first thing it asks you is, where you are on the racing spectrum of things? If you're novice or expert it then dials to your level of expertise or your habits.
If you're a complete newcomer you can turn on all the assists and have more novice-handling model. Have turning indicators to tell you where to go, and all that kind of stuff. So it really does appeal to everyone.
So now, with that level you were saying, hardcore or novice, what sort of thing does that do to change the overall experience?
It changes your driving assists, like steering assistance, it starts to break for you a little bit, in terms of on-screen guides to help you around the track. Like the S line so you know where to break, or where to go and the opponent difficulty.
CGM: So now, you compare yourself in the same spectrum as Forza and Gran Turismo, what makes your game beyond the crowdfunding, something they want to pick up rather than Forza? They have their fanbase, and Gran Turismo has that fanbase, what about Project Cars would draw them away?
AT: Well we look at all the other games when they come out, we look on the forums and we keep seeing the same things coming up all the time. Like Gran Turismo for example, the tires squeal always sounds the same in every game you go into. The AI isn't reactive to you, and there’s no pit stops so you can't do endurance races.
So I think if you are losing interest or becoming disenfranchised with the games you currently got then Project CARS is definitely will be the one to take a look at and we're going to be around a long time. We aren't going to release this game then moving on. We will be discussing how we will be expanding Project CARS.
[The Red Lycan Car from Fast and Furious is in Project CARS] We announced that as an apology to the fans to move it of course, but it’s also a part of our long term strategy to give you a free car every month for all players, completely for free. There will also be more content to play, new ways to play and new features that will get added, support for new hardware that has yet to be unannounced.
The game also runs on virtual reality day one. Works with Oculus Rift. It works with Project Morpheus. We're looking at Valve’s but it was just recently announced.
If you’ve got an Apple watch, the reason for that is because many games have a second screen app for your phone. But since the game has been community created, then we let them make the apps that they want. So if you go to ProjectCars.com/apps, the community has created about 10 to 12 different apps for the game whether they are, speedos, telemetry data, or if you have a large Logitech keyboard with the LCD in the middle, so I hope I’m getting across we’re doing things differently.
CGM: I know a lot of racing game fans love to get in there and customize cars exactly how they want it to look, can you in Project Cars?
AT: You see that’s difficult because we are recreating specific motorsport, the idea of upgrading your car is not a thing. Also the other reason is, we’ve taken all currency out of the game so you don’t grind for cash and XP to unlock things. Everything is unlocked from day one and the reason behind that is because we’re all similar age and we’ve played many racing games before and you always start in a really slow car then you have to grind for cash to ultimately get the car maybe some weeks or months later that’s actually on the box of the game. We’ve been there, done that and we want to do new things.
We're trying to innovate with Project CARS, or in all the games we make so... its different way of progressing through the game in our career mode kind of like Madden or NBA 2K15. So you create your driver, you give him a name, a social media handle, give him a nationality and go into the game there and hear from your racing team or your pit engineer. Checking emails, you have a fan chat, a twitter feed or fans of who are supporting and you trying to earn accolades for winning championships. Getting scouted for other teams like signing deals, endorsements, getting invite invitations all stuff that drivers think of and all what's been done in sports games but not really in a racing game. We're trying to keep innovating in the racing space otherwise you will be playing the same game again and again.
CGM: Will different aspects of the car affect the race, like tires? Does the weather make a difference? It’s not just for show?
AT: Oh absolutely, we have one of the most robust physic engines like in the world running Project CARS. Everything we do is not for just graphics, everything we do tries to add new gameplay into it. So if you go to your garage you can change the tire compounds.
CGM: So does that change how your car acts? if there is damage on one side, does it make it harder to steer on that one side?
AT: Yeah, so I mean we’re talking about the guides and if I’m a newcomer that means my race is over potentially. So yeah, in damage you can change it to be just visual only or impact my performance and you can even put on mechanical failures on as well so you can actually blow your engine.
CGM: So now if you are coming from Need For Speed, and you want to get your racing game fix, could they jump in at this home would they have to learn this system?
AT: You’re going to have to put time into it like you would any other game. Easy to pick up, hard to master. We have multiple endings in the game, so if you want to do that zero to hero like path you can do that. But, if you know the motorsport you love, you know the tracks inside out, you’ve played many games like that before then you can do the defending champ multiple ending and that is where you have to repeatedly win same the championship three times in a row.