Need For Speed World
If You Had To Choose one way of describing Jean-Charles Gaudechon, lead producer on Need For Speed World at Black Box, it'd be "excitedly optimistic yet realistic." While not some kind of producing renegade, he's loose enough when describing his game to recognise the challenges NFSW faces.
"We've wanted to do an MMO for a while, but we've been waiting for the player base to grow," he explains. "Even two years ago, people would ask what MMO meant, but this isn't the case any more. In other games, they're going for online, but they're looking at one aspect I We're looking to have multiple ways of fusing the game, so on the one hand phere'll be a Pursuit mode, but people will, also just be able to hang out and chat".
And when Gaudechon says "MMO", he means lots of players racing online at the same time, which could get rather hectic, not to mention crippling internet connections. You've seen the "But no!" coming a mile away, haven't you?
"You can match-make or chat with anyone, but you may not be able to see everyone who's online as there are rendering limits. We also don't want to compromise on how the game looks, it's Need for Speed and we're known for the polished high-detail cars. We could put 100 cars around you, but you'd lose detail and it wouldn't look gorgeous." I He's right, too. For an online game, NFSW does look very pretty indeed. The world itself is a mash-up of nevy and old material, with some older NFS worlds being remodelled for a modern audience. The world itself will continue to grow through the addition of free content every four months or so.
One of the ideas thrown up by Gaudechon is for desert canyon races, although expansions could also take the form of extra stuff being crammed into the existing areas.
Black Box aren't ruling anything out just yet, although currently there will be only eight players per race. "As we said, we don't want to compromise on quality dr performance," Gaudechon reiterates. "The biggest hit is because the cars have so many polygons. There are a couple of multi-player modes that we're working on that we'd want more players for. There have been some awesome modes in our previous games that we want to carry over, which would be awesome in an MMO, such as having the whole cop experience and being able to take turns with your friends."
Being an MMO, the idea of levelling has made the transition from the world of beards and elves to that of pimping and cruising. There will be 50 levels for your character to progress through, RPG-style, but it's not going to be like a grind , where you have to get to Level 28 togey that new car.
"Racing games should be 'pick up and play' so that's why we've got the rental system that'll be a few pence or a few pounds, but you can download the game for free," Gaudechon stresses. "It's worth the money. You can get a GTO or a Lambo for a couple of days. So NFSW is pick up and play."
With micro-transactions being the order of the day, the bulk of the game will be free up to a point, after which things will only become available if you stump up a small amount of cash.
Play Not Pay
"You don't have to pay your way through the game," Gaudechon says. "You pay to accelerate your progression or to 'rent' a high-powered car.
"Say all your friends are level 45 and you're level 30 as you haven't been able to play with them for a while, and they say 'Hey, we're doing a Porsche Cup this weekend.' You can rent a Porsche to make sure you're able to race with them. It removes some of the grinding and connects people. We're going to see what happens if things get unbalanced then well react to that. We'll be listening to the users and the community as today's 'gurus' are the users. They tell us what they want."
This won't matter one bit if the game itself is rubbish, but thankfully it's looking like that will be far from the case. The driving model is sharp, with even the usage of keyboard controls feeling slick and convincing. Almost as importantly, server and bandwidth issues should be few and far between, as even when playing on Canadian-hosted servers, latency issues are negligible.
With Black Box promising that the main hub of NFSW will be in England, us Brit-dwellers should experience some seriously good connections to the game. And as Gaudechon says "We've always felt that you can have loads of cool features, but if it's not a smooth experience, people won't come back to the game." Very true.
The lengths car fans will go to to get their engine fix
"During the beta," explains Gaudechon, "I always have the chat panel open and it's amazing what some people are already coming up with, taking the game off on a tangent, we're seeing emergent gameplay already! Like these guys playing 'golf' with garbage cans and cars, these other guys doing car beauty contests in the stadium, taking photos. If you give power to the community, you find that they support the game more than you can and it's one of the successes of MMOs such as World of Warcraft."
Download Need For Speed World
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Here's a Terrifying thought: the Need For Speed series has been around for 16 years. Spookily, seconds after writing that sentence, a press release appeared in my inbox for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit, developed by Criterion, some eight years after Black Box made its sequel. This is confusing, so listen carefully: four years ago, Black Box made the half-decent NFS: Carbon, a pseudo-open world affair, the core engine of which is being used for NFS: World, a game that represents the series' opening foray into the massively multiplayer online space.
This is that most rare of genres: a driving-based MMO. As such it comes with all the trappings of traditional MMOs - levelling, guilds (of sorts), personalisation and socialisation, all wrapped in shiny graphics and accessible gameplay. It may use a four year-old engine, but the game's been worked on for some time, and the cars, features and world have all been refreshed. Black Box don't want to leave anybody out, so its team is optimising down to netbooks and up to new graphics slingers. So will anybody will be able to play World?
"That is the ultimate goal," says producer Jesse Abney. "The bottom of the barrel to the very top."
I tried the beta on an ancient laptop, and while it ran, it wasn't exactly fun. Upstairs on my monster gaming PC from Alienware World was a different matter, boasting an instantly familiar Need For Speed look and feel, with the keyboard proving perfectly functional during a few hours tearing round what looked like San Francisco. As Abney says, "This is a level of quality that has never before been seen in a free online game."
When Abney says World is free, it's not strictly true. Technically it is, but you will eventually reach a point at which microtransactions are the only way you'll be able to progress. These will enable you to buy - or rent - new cars, and crucially stock up on power-ups. It's these modifiers that largely define the three I 'classes' - Race, Explore and Pursuit - each of which has specific power-ups -kind of like Blur. For instance, if you specialise in Races, you'll be looking to stock up on Nitrous, and maybe a bit of Slingshot, which enables you to instantly catch up to the car in front. If you like getting chased by the cops, an Emergency Evade power-up flips any nearby cars into the air, and the Juggernaut rams anyone out of the way, including the roadblocks that will spring up.
As you may have guessed, this isn't a hardcore driving simulation. It's even more arcade-oriented than previous NFS titles it's all about action. There are even scripted demolition events that enable you to cause mass damage while increasing your reputation.
Shades Of Mario
As for the races, they can be entered by driving to the starting hub or simply by clicking on the world map. While online multiplayer racing is Worlds focus, there are also single-player races against AI opponents that can also reward you in terms of cash and reputation. And even if you're piss-poor you can still acquire a random power-up through a lottery system in which you click on one of five facedown cards at the end of a race.
Teams (guilds) can be formed, each with their own distinctive look. "Guilds require representation, individuality and livery," says Abner. "We enable them to organically create a hive mind."
While hardcore Need For Speed fans will want to buy the best, fastest cars, it does seem as if the game will also cater for Sunday drivers and lunchtime dabblers. Indeed, it's already being integrated with Facebook and other tedious social networks, so you can invite your pretend friends to drive a pretend car around a pretend world. With only the forthcoming Test Drive Unlimited2 competing for online driving space, NFS: World would appear to have the heritage to carve out a sizable niche, particularly among those who like winding up the old bill.
Henceforth to be known as NSFW for the entirety of its existence, Need For Speed: World is another attempt by the EA juggernaut to attempt to make money out of the pirate-riddled PC market. It's a free-to-play racing MMO, a bolted together spaghetti junction of former iterations of Need for Speed, designed to suck coins from the sweaty hands of its players through microtransactions and paid-for content packs.
As you enter its world, which will initially comprise of the towns of Rockport and Silverton extracted from Need for Speed Carbon and Need for Speed Most Wanted, you're presented with the ghost cars of other players running amok. Someone with too many exclamation marks in his name will hurtle by with a police car in hot pursuit, while another car might choose to excitedly drive in circles around you, either eager to make a new friend or to insult you through the chat window below.
To access the different races just requires a brief click on the map. This will line you up with fellow competitors in an instanced race away from the hubbub, where ethereal forms are replaced by solid livery. It's here that the true MMO trappings of NSFW become more evident, with four chosen power-ups lurking in your numerical keys much as troll-bashes and buffs do in World of Wcircraft. Nos, for example, will give a familiar burst of speed, while more amusing abilities such as Emergency Evade and Traffic Magnet respectively throw cars surrounding you into the air, and instructs passing NPC cars on a morning commute to bundle in on the car in front.
Access to the skill-trees that ladle these delights into your menu bars is granted through levelling, since during each race you'll earn XP (although NFS cool kids call it 'Rep') as well as in-game cash to spend on refilling your power-ups. And those who want power-ups on tap can purchase Boost, another in-game currency, with their own real-world cash and make sure that their stocks never dwindle.
This is a fascinating project, and one scaled to run on the lowliest of laptops, but whether the somewhat utilitarian and chunky graphics of NFSW will truly hook the masses is yet to be seen. As indeed, is whether or not it is safe for work.