If you've already checked out our hands-on preview of Need for Speed SHIFT, then you'll know it marks a change in direction for EA's mega-popular racing franchise. It's even drafted in UK developer Slightly Mad Studios, of GTR fame, to help turn the series into less of a gangster drive-by and more of a serious sim. But will it be to everyone's tastes? Here, Suzi Wallace, the game's producer, tells us why Forza and PGR should be keeping a close eye on their rear-view mirrors.
VideoGamer.com: Why should Forza and PGR fans be interested in SHIFT?
Suzi Wallace: We've got this real emphasis on the driver experience. We're trying to get as much of that as possible across to the user. We don't feel either PGR or Forza does this properly and does this to the extent that you actually feel like you're the driver. The focus in the game very much will be on the driver the whole way through. We're not disclosing any details today but there will be a full career mode in there and the focus is very much on you as a driver. It's not about the cars, it's about you. We don't think any other driving game really does that.
VideoGamer.com: How will SHIFT work online?
SW: I'm not talking about full modes today I'm afraid for online, but we will have full online support, up to 16 cars in a race as well. As for individual modes, I'm afraid we're not talking about that today.
VideoGamer.com: But you're confident that SHIFT's online modes will compare favourably with Forza and PGR's online modes?
SW: Yeah we're confident. Definitely.
VideoGamer.com: Going back, SHIFT is somewhat of a surprise for the Need for Speed franchise. How did it come to be?
SW: We were originally approached by EA. They were looking for somebody to produce a game within a franchise. They met us, came down to the studio, took a look at what we were doing, took a look at our engine and they were really impressed. We were really happy to speak to them and it's just progressed from there. It's great for us. Our games before were very hardcore and that end of the market is very niche, so it's exciting for us to be able to bring our games and our technology to more players as well. It's exciting times.
VideoGamer.com: The engine has been in development for a couple of years. How long has SHIFT been in development for?
SW: We've only been working on the game since last year. Less than a year at this point. In terms of development cycles that's an incredibly short time. We're happy with where we've got to at this point. There's still a ton of information to come about all the career and the core features of the game as well. There's a lot more still to come.
VideoGamer.com: When you were talking to EA about making a Need for Speed game, what did they tell you are the core values that make a Need for Speed game what it is?
SW: Obviously this is a big change for the series, but we've got lots of things that tie us into being a very noticeable Need for Speed game. None of the cars are standard. If you look to something like Gran Turismo you have very standard stock cars. In SHIFT we've got full race kits and full race liveries. I think this is very Need for Speed. Also customisation is going to be in there. This is a very core Need for Speed feature. We're not releasing full details on that at the moment but we feel it's very Need for Speed. The tracks as well, there's lots of life to them. Some of the more serious sim titles, they don't have what we call race day atmosphere going on. We think that connects us to previous Need for Speed titles. We know it is a big change for the series, but we've got lots of core features that will connect us.
VideoGamer.com: What led to the decision to split Need for Speed into three different directions?
SW: It was EA's decision to do that! You're going to have to speak to someone at EA about that. We're still an independent studio. Personally, speaking from a studio point of view, we think it's a good idea. Having one game to cater for racing gamers, you'll never be able to please everyone, so we think it's good to be able to separate it off and, for us, concentrate on the people who like a more realistic racer. We welcome that opportunity.