AusGamers Need For Speed Most Wanted Criterion Developer Interview with Alex Ward
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 05:37pm 04/09/12 | Comments
At the 2012 GamesCom expo is Cologne, Germany, AusGamers caught up with Criterion Games' Vice President Alex Ward for a chat about the upcoming Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Read on or watch for what he had to say...
Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly. I have the man, who you might say is behind the steering wheel; in the driver’s seat, at Criterion: Mr. Alex Ward. Alex: thanks for joining us today.
Alex Ward: No problem.
AusGamers: I finally, actually got some hands-on with Most Wanted, and I most want it.
Alex: You most want it? Well that’s good, it’s coming in November Stephen, so if you can wait ‘till then, we’ve got what you need.
AusGamers: You guys have come a really long way. I have a bit of an anecdote: many moons ago, I was actually dragged into a room at E3 where you guys showed Burnout for the first time. It was a very small room, before Acclaim had even jumped on board. And now look at you, taking over the...
Alex: You saw the original little demo did you? You saw little red cars spinning around?
AusGamers: I saw little red cars spinning around. So I’ve been with this franchise for a long time, and I’ve loved it.
I know you guys took the Need For Speed reins to kind of mix it up, and put some more oomph behind it... yeah, it’s a technical term “oomph” [laughs]. But why did you guys, I guess expand on what you’d done with Burnout Paradise, with Need for Speed? Because it seems like this is almost Paradise 2.
Alex: You might think that. Following Paradise -- which is a pretty revolutionary game nobody understood, there’s no way that we could not not do an open-world game -- that is what Most Wanted always had to be for us -- without building on what we did before. There’s no way we couldn’t put easy drive in, there’s no way we couldn’t put social challenges in the multiplayer, and shake it up.
So to us it’s just about taking it further. We always said each game is a reflection of who we are at the time, and this game, Most Wanted, reflects who we are, probably more than anything else: which is social, connected, and everything a game needs to be in 2012. Like I said, we just need to change it up really; that’s what we’ve got to do.
I believe that in 2012, a game’s got to be very connected, they’ve got to have friends at the heart of the game. I’ve got to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. So obviously, Paradise was a great stepping-stone from there. We like a bit of revolution; we like to turn things on its head. We did it with Burnout, and now we’re doing it with Need for Speed.
AusGamers: It seems pretty apt though, because the sub-heading on the actual game is “A Criterion Game”. That means that EA obviously have a lot of faith in what you guys can do in the driving genre, and with their flagship racing franchise.
How much freedom did you guys have when you came into it?
Alex: We get asked this all the time. We have total freedom. We asked to take on Need for Speed, and we did; that was our first game: we did Hot Pursuit. We wanted to do real cars for years, and in Burnout, we had to make the cars up and pretend for a long time. So to finally get our hands on Aston Martins, and Porsche Carreras, and Lamborghini Aventadors, is just a total dream-come-true for us; and to do it our way.
And then following Hot Pursuit, we were thinking, well we wanted an open-world game, so we just looked back to that Need for Speed canon, and thought “well, we loved that premise of Most Wanted: become the most wanted”. But in 2012, that spoke to us as “become most wanted amongst your friends” right.
The old game -- which I loved, it was the first game I ever played on 360 -- that was of the time, right? That was how games were, they were more offline than online. There was more single-player than say, multiplayer. So with this game, like I said, we’ve tried to shake that up. We’ve built multiplayer first; we have to do it very online. We didn’t want to make a sequel to that, because we can’t make a sequel to somebody else’s game; it’s incredibly hard.
So we’re just trying to do something new with it really. I’m most proud of the handling model in the game. The physics guys have just done an amazing job.
AusGamers: That drift sequence was incredible.
Alex: Drifting is fun. Some of the multiplayer challenges are fantastic. I mean, we have to beat what we did in Paradise; I have to offer variety. And I mean, again, on Paradise, one of the design mantras was not playing “the game is the game”, and that helps to push us in directions we haven’t thought of.
You’ve seen Terminator 2 right? Remember that years ago? It’s one of my favourite movies, right? Remember they find the chip in Cyberdyne, and they covered it up, and Sarah Connor’s trying to find out how they know how to build a Terminator? The character in that movie, Miles Bennett Dyson, he said “oh, when we found that chip, it pushed us in ways we’ve never even thought of trying”, and that’s what making this game is like for us, right? We’re trying to push ourselves in ways that we’d never thought of before.
How can we integrate friends in the game? How can we do a truly open game? If it’s a car game, why don’t we stick all the cars in at the start? Why haven’t I got free choice to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it? I believe the game has to come to you as a player. Because again, in any other form of entertainment, I can do whatever I want.
If I want to watch the end of a movie, I just go onto YouTube and have a look at it. I would say if you went to see... have you seen The Avengers? When you went to the movie theatre, they didn’t stop you on the door and say “have you seen Iron Man 1, and 2, and Captain America? No you haven’t; you’d better go out”. That’s what games do sometimes, right? If you haven’t done the others, seen the others, you can’t come in.
Whereas in gaming, in a car game, traditionally, you start off with a slow car; grind it and get the fast car. We said “nah, give us all the cars, right from the start”.
AusGamers: It seems almost like I should be expecting some secret mode where I’m being outrun by a giant truck, and I’m on a motorbike, with that analogy -- which is the sewer sequence from Terminator 2.
Alex: Yeah, what a classic sequence. That Harley jump was amazing. I still think about that. Even though he’s on wires, but it still looks really good. That’d be awesome though, wouldn’t it? There’s a really good “Floodgates” part of the map actually, in Fairhaven. You’ll see it when you see some multiplayer; we have a speed test going on down there.
Multiplayer’s really cool as well, because we like social challenges in Paradise. We like connecting people really quickly, using the easy-drive. We like people to get... you know, dicking around in cars is a lot of fun for us. Dicking around in real cars is even better. But again, serving up a great variety of content: from races, to team races, to what we call speed tests, and like a playlist system. If you’re playing a public game, the console or PC is serving up that content.
So that solves the problem we had in Paradise, where one person wouldn’t want to play, and then everyone fails the challenge, right? We’ve had a lot of fun taking the concept of challenges further, and breaking up the primitives. Everyone’s saying how it kind of reminds them of Paradise, but I mean it kind of would right? Every time I see Paul McCartney, it reminds me he was in The Beatles. I mean, you can’t take that out of us.
I think our take on Need For Speed: it’s NFS -- hashtag NFS if you want to Tweet that; we say “hashtag FFS” which means “Fun, with your Friends, at high Speed” -- and that, to us, is our vision for Need For Speed, right? It just really is. Having fun, with your friends, on and offline, on a variety of different devices, at high speed, being chased by the law.
AusGamers: Can you guys foresee... one of the things you talk about is the cross-platform component of Autolog, and how no matter what platform you’re playing the game on...
Alex: Your speed points are being tracked, and compared. Because that’s a powerful idea of becoming most wanted amongst your friends, it shouldn’t matter what device they’re playing on right? We still have to unify those experiences and bring them together with scoring, so that’s what we’ve done.
Going forward; looking into my crystal ball, I just hope we’re able to break down those barriers even further, so it’s a truly... totally seamless experiences. I should be able to play now... I’m always talking to all these hardware guys, and just saying “I really want to get past playing one game at one time”. I really want to play two games at once. Maybe that’s just me, but I’m a big multi-tasker, you know?
AusGamers: So there’s over forty cars in the game...
Alex: That’s how we did that: “over”, I think.
AusGamers: Yeah, “over”.
Alex: We’re not really good with numbers actually, that’s really why.
AusGamers: Yeah, nothing quantifiable. Just “over forty”.
Alex: Well, because we might add some more, or we might not, you see?
AusGamers: Well that’s where I want to go, because many years ago EA actually localised Need For Speed in Australia, and we had two...
Alex: Was it utes or something like that?
AusGamres No. We don’t all have utes. No, because Australians love their HSV -- which is basically our Chevs -- and we’ve got our own Ford muscle cars.
Alex: One of the guys at Criterion used to have a Holden; that was a big car.
AusGamers: Is there any chance of that sort of thing happening again? Localisation, in terms of... even as DLC. Or are you guys just zipping that?
Alex: We could do. I mean, we just hooked up with that guy Tony, at EA Russia. There’s a Russian supercar company called Marussia. So I think very late, after E3, he rang us up and said “have you seen this car? You should stick it in”, and we’ve put that in. So yeah, we’d be totally up for some of that stuff.
It’s all possible. I mean, in Paradise, we had fans do a drawing, and they sent it in, and we put their design in the game. So, yeah.
AusGamers: Any of the perks when working with the actual car manufacturers come for you guys? Do you get to take them out on the track?
Alex: Yeah, one of everything for free! Which is really good. You get one of everything for free, and we got really excited about that. Then they just meant a game. So it just means you get a copy of Crysis...
AusGamers: But did the team actually go out and test drive and do all of that sort of stuff?
Alex: Well I have keys in my pocket here. Excuse me while I whip this out -- as we say in Inspector Calls -- my current car key at the moment.
That’s the car we see behind us there [holding up car key]. That’s a white Carrera S.
AusGamers: So it’s not bad being Alex Ward for a day?
Alex: You know what? It is. I’ll tell you why: because there’s another guy in the company called Alex Ward. But I get all his emails, and he gets all mine. So there’s two of us.
I actually met him at E3, and we wanted to see what magic forces would happen if we were both in the same spot at the same time. There were some cracks in the ceiling, and a small earthquake, but other than that nothing really bad happened.
Yeah, there’s another guy. So when people email him, they get me, and viceversa. That’s the downside.
AusGamers: Sounds like you guys need to get some techs in to actually fix that.
Alex: Yeah maybe. You’d think us being a tech company, we’d be able to solve that. But I tell you, after five years: no; still all the time.
AusGamers: Alright, we’ll leave it there Alex. The game does look fantastic though, and in November I will be Autologging to get my Most Wanted on.
Alex: Yeah, add me on your friends list, and we’ll see who really is the most wanted.
AusGamers: Thank you very much.
Alex: No problems.