Speaking to VideoGamer.com at a recent press event in London, Wheelman creative director Simon Woodroffe revealed that Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV has changed what gamers expect from an open world action title.
"Our game was already quite different, but GTA 4 moved the bar in terms of what people expected from an open-world driving game," said Woodroffe. "Before GTA 4, open-world driving games generally had more accessible, more arcade-like, handling. Even the previous GTAs were like that. But GTA IV moved the bar towards realism - even super-realism, you know?
Woodroffe noted that this change from easy Arcade-style vehicle handling to something more realistic dramatically affected the feedback he was getting on his game.
"At first I found it fairly frustrating, in comparison with Wheelman, but it was different enough to make us say, 'Look, people obviously want a more realistic experience. They don't want to be given things for free'. They want to feel like the ultimate driving hero, but they don't want to feel like they're being given it for nothing - otherwise there's no sense of accomplishment," Woodroffe explained. "We started to get feedback from our focus testers, within weeks of GTA 4 coming out, that the basic driving was dropping in popularity. It had gone from being the most highly rated element, to one of the lowest on the list. And I'm looking at this and thinking, "There's only one reason for this. GTA 4 has changed gamers' expectations"."
He continued: "... our job is to be up-to-date with current expectations and to manage them well. I'm very big on choice, and I'm very big on design and control systems. All the physics stuff stays very close to me and the design team, so it was work for a few hours or so, and polishing things up for a week or two, to change the way Wheelman felt to be a little more realistic and a little more grounded, based upon the feedback we were getting, based upon the impact of GTA 4."
Woodroffe now feels that Wheelman has been adapted based on feedback from testers and is "right on the money in terms of what people expect from an open-world racer".
Check back later this week for VideoGamer.com's interview with Simon Woodroffe in full.