World Of Speed

Slightly Mad Stu­dios’ MMO racer pulls out of the pit box



Most stu­dios toil­ing away on an am­bi­tious, high-pro­file racer might think twice about start­ing an­other. Not UK rac­ing specialist Slightly Mad, which has spent the past year work­ing on an MMO racer called World Of Speed along­side its par­tially crowd­funded Project Cars.

“De­vel­op­men­tally, they’re two com­pletely sep­a­rate games,” lead pro­ducer Pete Mor­rish tells us. “The things that are shared are mainly on the hu­man level, things like the ex­pe­ri­ence and know-how and just the way that we ap­proach stuff. It’s two com­pletely sep­a­rate teams, al­though leads are shared across both projects, be­cause we’ve been around long enough to be able to split our time equally ef­fec­tively across two things.”

The two games share an en­gine, too. Slightly Mad’s scal­able Mad­ness tech pow­ered Shift 2 Un­leashed, and its mod­u­lar na­ture has al­lowed the stu­dio to bolt on MMOG as­pects while dis­card­ing some of the more sim-ori­ented physics needed for Project Cars. It all makes sense from a de­vel­op­ment point of view, but in­vestors wait­ing to see a re­turn on Project Cars might be con­cerned about where their money is go­ing.

“We’re ahead of where we ex­pected to be on pCARS,” stu­dio head Ian Bell as­sured back­ers on the fo­rums at World Of Mass De­vel­op­ment, its crowd-de­vel­op­ment plat­form. “Let me put it clearly: pCARS would not be where it is now with­out WOS.”

In other posts, Bell re­veals that the additional fund­ing World Of Speed has at­tracted has al­lowed the stu­dio to grow its head­count to 110, and that Project Cars will ben­e­fit from “a lot of ve­hi­cles and li­cences it would other­wise not have got­ten”. The stu­dio is keen to stress, at least in the rel­a­tive

pri­vacy of a closed fo­rum, that Project Cars will not suf­fer from the si­mul­ta­ne­ous de­vel­op­ment of World Of Speed.

And it shouldn’t pose di­rect com­pe­ti­tion, ei­ther. “There’s a niche for a Burnout- style, ar­cadey, earn­ing points, twat­ting-into-oth­er­cars kind of ex­pe­ri­ence [on PC],” cre­ative di­rec­tor Andy Tu­dor says. “Con­sole gamers have had that for­ever. They’ve had Split Sec­ond, they’ve had Blur, all that kind of stuff.” That’s not to say World Of Speed won’t find its way to con­soles even­tu­ally, but for now it’s a PC game with the im­me­di­acy of con­sole pro­duc­tion val­ues.

It’s cer­tainly bold. World Of Speed’s fo­cus is on team play, with Slightly Mad aim­ing to ditch the fo­cus on podium places and en­sure ev­ery player’s con­tri­bu­tion is mean­ing­ful. Of course, you’ll earn XP for com­ing first, but you’ll grab some for a last­place fin­ish. And there are other ob­jec­tives: trad­ing paint with ev­ery car in a race, or drift­ing around ev­ery cor­ner.

“Other games say they have team-based rac­ing. They don’t. There may be ob­jec­tives, but ev­ery­one’s out for them­selves,” Tu­dor ex­plains. “For our Need For Speed: Shift team rac­ing DLC, we didn’t pro­vide the right toolset or com­mu­ni­cate to play­ers that it’s not all about you. It’s about you work­ing along­side ev­ery­one else.

“The on­line com­pet­i­tive arena is quite scary. If I go into a race and there’s a guy who shoots off into first place, I just think , ‘Why am both­er­ing?’ You give up, and that hap­pens in ev­ery genre. When you take away that pres­sure of vy­ing for first place, and you say, ‘You’re part of a team now’, [then] one of your guys can be amaz­ing and you pro­vide sup­port for them in a cer­tain role – ei­ther by do­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent to him, like drift­ing around all the cor­ners, or by block­ing people from po­ten­tially try­ing to over­take him – [and] it feels awe­some.”

Slightly Mad hopes to fur­ther fos­ter this team spirit with club­houses – 3D spa­ces in which to so­cialise with other driv­ers. Each track has one and own­er­ship will go to the vic­tors of reg­u­larly staged Ter­ri­tory Wars events. Once owned, your team’s logo will be plas­tered over the track and you’ll have ac­cess to club-exclusive events and ben­e­fit from, among other things, XP bonuses. Slightly Mad is still work­ing out the de­tails, but prom­ises to re­veal more specifics this year.

“There’s a niche for a Burnout­style, twat­ting-into-other-cars kind of ex­pe­ri­ence on PC”

Tracks in­clude Project Gotham- style ur­ban runs as well as real-world rac­ing cir­cuits. At this stage, the han­dling model is weighty, but for­giv­ing, at least with a driv­ing wheel; ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic steer­ing cen­tring made it hard to judge how the game feels with a pad. Even so, the hec­tic, ca­ma­raderie-in­fused rac­ing proves en­joy­able, and with brag­ging rights at stake, events are likely to be fiercely con­tested.

They should be well sub­scribed, too, since World Of Speed will be free – just don’t call it free-to-play. “It’s not free-to-play, it’s free,” says an ag­i­tated Tu­dor. “It’s very ob­vi­ous when you start putting walls into your game that re­quire people to pay money to get over. I don’t know why games do it; we’re cer­tainly not go­ing to do that, ever. It’s also an­noy­ing when an­other player gets an ad­van­tage be­cause they’ve put money into the game. We will never have a su­per-ni­trous pack that will al­low some­body to ac­cel­er­ate away from you. We ex­pect you to get to the up­per ech­e­lons of the game, with the best kit and best cars, and not have spent a sin­gle penny.”

ABOVE “Why can’t you have an ar­cade game that has beau­ti­ful Forza- style pris­tine cars?” asks Tu­dor. “We may have thrown it through the prism to make it a bit more Hol­ly­wood, but we want ar­cadey han­dling with amaz­ing-look­ing cars.” LEFT Grip isn’t hard to come by in World­Of­Speed, but cars have a sat­is­fy­ing weight to them. In mo­tion, things are more hec­tic than the seren­ity of this screen­shot sug­gests as cars clash and send track­side fur­ni­ture fly­ing about the place

Cre­ative di­rec­tor Andy Tu­dor prom­ises that in-game pay­ments will only ever be about sav­ing time and aes­thet­ics. “If I re­ally want those gold rims on my car, I’m stupid, but I’ll hap­pily throw money at any game!”

World­Of­Speed’s garage of cars in­cludes the usual sus­pects, but the range of roles avail­able – block­ing, drift­ing, even stunt work – should en­cour­age driv­ers to con­struct a fleet of more than sim­ply their favourites

The team spent weeks liv­ing in the cities fea­tured in the game, which so far in­clude Lon­don and Moscow. Slightly Mad will con­tinue adding cites to en­sure the game has a truly in­ter­na­tional ap­peal

From top: Andy Tu­dor, cre­ative di­rec­tor; Pete Mor­rish, lead pro­ducer

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