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AusGamers Need for Speed: The Run Developer Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 03:59pm 02/09/11 | Comments
At this year's GamesCom, AusGamers had a chance to catch up with Jason DeLong, Executive Producer on Need for Speed: The Run

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for the HD option

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers, once again you’re here with Stephen Farrelly out at GamesCom. I’m here with Jason, who is the Executive Producer on Need for Speed: The Run.

I guess one of the biggest things about this game -- apart from being a Need for Speed game, because it has such heritage -- is that it’s the first game outside of Battlefield -- which is behind us [gestures] -- to use Frostbite 2.0. So I guess I want to kind of jump in to that.

For you guys, what was the teething like in getting your hands on this new technology. I mean obviously it’s quite powerful; it can do a lot of great lighting; it’s got massive environments and stuff like that. What was the process internally?

Jason DeLong: Well for us, it all started with us having the time to invest in The Run. Black Box hasn’t made a Need for Speed game for a few years now, so we had time to invest in our technology and figure out “what do we want to accomplish?”. With The Run, we knew we wanted to tell a narrative-based Need for Speed -- that’s what we’re known for traditionally: Most Wanted, Underground; they all have some sort of story woven around them -- but we wanted to do it in an effective way.

For us, that meant getting a character in the game first and foremost -- making sure we can make him look great and behave believably. We wanted to tell this epic story of this race across the US and treat it like a Hollywood action movie. And how would Hollywood do it? Well obviously there’d be some key some key action bits where Jack is forced out of his car, but has to get back in his car as quickly as possible. Or outrunning avalanches like we see here at GamesCom -- great visual effects.

So really, in aid of wanting to tell this most high adrenaline/octane story that we possibly could, Frostbite was a great engine for us. It provides -- like you said -- amazing looking characters, beautiful lighting, staggering worlds, great visual effects. All those things, those tools that we really wanted to tell our story.

Also, more importantly -- Frostbite 2 being such an amazing developer’s tool -- we were able to create more content than we ever have before as well. So we’ve got over 300 kilometres of track in the game, which is more than three times of any previous Need for Speed game. Because we really wanted to sell this epic journey across the US.

When you start in San Francisco and then you go along the highways through the rolling hills outside into Yosemite National Park and then into the deserts of Nevada and then into the forests in Colorado and into the Rocky Mountains. You know, the journey really is epic and Frostbite 2 really gave us that ability to create that journey in a way that was believable and fun.

AusGamers: So with the out-of-the-car stuff -- obviously, I know it’s less than 10 percent even of what the entire game is about; it’s kind of a way to drive the narrative forward and get people engaged in the story -- but to an extent you could almost call it... I don’t want to use the word “arbitrary”, but it’s kind of there for the sake of being there.

Did you guys test having it? Did you test not having it in? And what was the process in keeping it there? I mean obviously, we haven’t had enough substantial time with it to understand its strength.

Jason: Yeah, really for us it was all in aid of wanting to tell the story and do it in kind of a Hollywood-action interesting way. We did test it, we tested it multiple ways. We knew we had to have story bits in the game that were kind of high-adrenaline and high-action and we tested: do we just play it as a movie and let the player watch it and put the controller down? Do we let them have full control in the out-of-car sequences and walk around the city? But at the end of the day, it was about pacing and intensity and wanting the player to feel like they’re in this Hollywood movie and that the time behind the wheel -- that kind of white-knuckling feeling -- we want to continue that outside the car as well.

So like I said, we did test it multiple ways and as you said, it’s less than 10 percent of the game. But it is a way for us to kind of tell the story in an interesting way; give the player a bit of gameplay variety before he gets back behind the wheel and continues on with the race.

AusGamers: Now some of the hands-on I had yesterday -- it feels fantastic. The crashes -- which I did quite a lot of because I’m a terrible driver -- were spectacular, but I did find that it seemed fairly scripted in many sequences. Are there going to be a lot of, I guess dynamic systems in play when you’re racing or like how does the AI interact with you and how does the racing reflect them?

Jason: Yeah, the level that we’re showing here at GamesCom behind-closed-doors is our avalanche level and it is definitely an exception to our ordinary races throughout the game. We also have -- on the show floor here -- a level called desert hills, which is more of a traditional.. you know, you’re passing X number of racers, trying to get across the finish line first. That’s the primary mechanic of the game obviously, is you’re passing over 200 racers in this race.

But the avalanche level that we’ve shown is a little bit more scripted -- it’s more like a boss-battle really. It’s near the end of the stage of that section of the race; you’re about halfway through the race so the difficulty is appropriate for that part. And it really is meant to be one of those kind of memorable action bits of the game where you’re outrunning an avalanche and there’s another racer you’re having to contend with.

But it is an exception to our normal gameplay, which is 10 to 12 other racers; rival battles; one on one; cop chases; battle mode; time attack; all these standard racing mechanics that you would expect in a Need for Speed game are all present in The Run.

AusGamers: I’ve found also, that collision detection seemed a little bit unforgiving. You know, you could kind of just clip the side of one of the big boulders that had fallen and then that was just basically the end for you. Are you guys still working on that?

Jason: Oh yeah, I mean the game’s not out until November, so we’ve still got lots of time to polish and tune. And we’re showing alpha software at GamesCom; you’re going to see the occasional glitch obviously. But we’re still working on it and the levels that we have completed to final quality are testing extremely well and I think people are going to be really pleased with the game in the end.

AusGamers: Ok. Can you talk at all about multiplayer? Or are you guys kind of sheepishly...

Jason: I’m sheepishly PR, not talking about multiplayer modes at this point. I can confirm there will be obviously multiplayer in The Run. But we are talking obviously about Autolog -- which is a huge part of Need for Speed now -- and the social competition that that provides.

One thing we’re doing with The Run that’s a little bit different than the integration of Autolog in the past, is that it’s always been event based -- how you do in a single event -- but obviously with The Run being such an epic race across the country, we wanted to weave Autolog into the game’s career. So the idea is that Jack is racing against 200 other racers to be the first to New York, but at the same time, we’re also comparing your times -- stage by stage and second by second -- against your friends at that same time. So we know when you’re in the desert on turn three of race four, where you stack up against your friends in that exact moment and we surface that to the player.

So it actually creates a lot of intensity in The Run, because it’s not just about beating the 200 AI racers and finishing the story mode, it’s also about trying to beat your friends to New York. Maybe you got to Chicago two minutes behind your friends and you want to go back and try to beat them. It just makes that race more personal, because we could put 200,300,400 AI racers in the game, but it’s really the battles that matter most are the ones you’re battling against your friends.

AusGamers: Now Need for Speed as a brand has a special place in Australian’s hearts, because it was one of the first games way, way, way back in the day to actually feature Australian cars as exclusive to Australia. We haven’t seen that in quite some time and I’m wondering... you guys have licensed vehicles; is there any chance that we might see DLC -- or anything like that down the track -- where you might region-to-region feedback from different countries?

Jason: Well we can’t talk about plans for any DLC at this point, but we’ve got fans all over the world and we try to do everything we can to make sure that our regional fans are pleased with the offering we’re giving them.

AusGamers: I guess that’s another point -- and I know it’s a bit off-topic because you probably can’t even consider talking about the next game -- but it would be great to take the races out of the US. I mean, the Burnout series -- some of the first games there -- when you were racing around Europe, those hills are amazing and really, really scary. Kind of racing across the American flats is -- I don’t want to say boring, because obviously it’s all about speed -- but did you guys consider looking at not doing it in the US and doing it overseas? Is that on the drawing-board -- “other countries next time!”?

Jason: [Laughs] well I think for the story of The Run, we investigated a lot of different locations and the US is definitely not about the flats. If you look at The Run, it takes us through...

AusGamers: Oh yeah, of course you’ve got the whole avalanche...

Jason: Yeah, the diversity of the US is, I think, largely underestimated -- there’s a lot of really iconic, really exciting drives in there. Will Jack go to Europe? Hard to say. At this point, we’re really focusing on getting The Run out the door and hoping people really enjoy it when it comes out in November. And if Jack’s journeys go well, who knows where his adventures will take him in the future.

AusGamers: Ok, now since you guys are handling an EA racing franchise -- and this is absolutely off-topic, but I’m going to do it on-camera at an EA place, because I really want to. Did you or do you remember a game called Beetle Adventure Racing?

Jason: I was a quality assurance tester on Beetle Adventure Racing.

AusGamers: Can we please have that game back? Just HD it; put it out on XBLA or something, because that game was so much fun.

Jason: I agree, it was a fantastic racing experience. It’s still one of the highest-rated N64 games of all time -- it was fabulous.

AusGamers: Ok, well we’ll leave it there [laughs]. Thank you so much for your time today. The game does look really good. Cheers.

Jason: Thank you very much.
Read more about Need for Speed: The Run on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

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