“We are the competitors of GTA 6, Forza, The Crew,” says TDU: Solar Crown’s game director

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After I previewed Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown last week in Paris, I sat down with Guillaume Guinet, the Game Director for KT Racing’s upcoming title. Test Drive Unlimited meshes a realistic driving experience with open-world role-playing for those who haven’t heard of the IP before. A CaRPG, if you will. Despite the franchise’s history dating back to the late 80s, it’s been lying dormant for a decade. It’s now back, this time with the extremely ambitious aim of competing with some of the biggest racing and role-play games in the industry.

Work in progress – gameplay footage, via Nacon

I asked Guinet if there was space for a live-service role-playing game with driving as a main focus, especially with Grand Theft Auto 6 seemingly so close.

“For me, we are the competitors of GTA 6, Forza, and The Crew,” Guinet said. “At first, we didn’t think we would make this game, but when we drew up the project, we thought it really could. I don’t have any fear of GTA 6 for now, as we’re not in the same window.” With GTA 6 expected to launch in Fall 2025, Test Drive’s director is entirely right. There’s about a year between the two launches, so it’s hard to see how Rockstar’s game could interfere with the Hong Kong based driving MMO. Though with GTA 5 and its online community still casting a daunting shadow over the live role-play genre, it’s got its work cut out.

Guinet continues, “I think that The Crew and Forza have really different propositions to us – I want to be their competitor.” Before Nacon and KT Racing previewed Solar Crown to the press, they treated us to a presentation re-introducing us to the IP. It became clear that – even though this was KT’s first Test Drive game – there was plenty of passion within the team for the franchise. Speaking to Guinet showed me it was not just passion, but ambition, too.

Work in progress – gameplay footage, via Nacon

I wanted to know what it was like reviving the IP and bringing it back into the world. Guinet mentioned Alain Jarniou who previously worked on Test Drive Unlimited and its sequel and is now the Creative Director at Kylotonn (KT Racing). “I think Alain has a good vision of how to do a new Test Drive, but also the limits you have to bring…It’s not just having features, features, features. It’s – at first – just driving.”

Speaking of features, the team at KT previously mentioned that there were going to be new features every three months at the start of Solar Crown’s life span. I asked the Game Director what exactly we can expect. “I can’t tell you, but you will have surprises for sure,” he said. He brought up the physical garage’s inclusion in the game, a feature heavily requested by fans, and suggested that even though they already have a pre-defined roadmap, they’re going to continue listening to the community to develop the game.

I had to know what feature in the game he thinks the fans will have the best reception to: “I think the most impressive feature is, maybe, the workshop. You can share with other players about what you’re doing in your car, because at some point you are going to the tuning shop. And for the first time in the game, you can just talk to one another. People might see your car and ask you ‘Oh man, it’s ugly what are you doing.’ It’s not just about the library or the cosmetics, but it’s about how you tune the car. Like I said, it’s not just a racing game, it’s a driving game. It’s about being comfortable behind the wheel. So when you put power into your car, handling is impacted, so it’s not just about putting HP, HP, HP in your car, because if you put too much handling it becomes difficult. So you need to speak with others to find the perfect balance with your car. I think the workshop is the perfect place for that. I love the hubs. Maybe the dealer too, perhaps because it’s a feature I worked a lot on – but the clans. Really important for me. In Test Drive, there is a big place for role playing. People want to be the driver, and there are two clans you can join, each with their different visions. Me, I’m straightforward. It’s a vision I love – extravaganza in the street. I imagine them just driving fast and showing moves in the city. I love this idea of having two kinds of opposing drivers in the city.”

While I wasn’t able to experience a taste of the clan rivalries in the Test Drive preview, this feels like it’s going to be a key component behind Solar Crown. While previewing the game, a few other press attendees were all on the same server. Most seemed happy figuring out their cars and getting to grips with the mechanics, which seemed like the best opportunity to stir chaos and ram them with my Nissan. This did bring a smile to most faces in the room, and if this is what Solar Crown plays like when it’s fully out there into the world, I think fans are going to enjoy it, too.

It did feel a bit like I was ‘griefing’ them too, which encouraged me to ask Guinet what type of anti-cheat measures would be implemented in the game. “I was working on it yesterday.” We both laughed. “We are looking for anti-cheat a lot. There is a real competitive season with competitive races. Of course, there are big rewards, such as special cars and exclusives. But, we will work on it for sure.”

In a similar vein, I asked Guillaume about what type of servers we can expect in the game. He said to expect regional servers because “if you have different pings, things get messy.” That’s understandable, though I was also curious about the possibility of private servers including mods and cosmetic overhauls, even if it’s years down the line.

“Of course, it’s something we are thinking about. There is a lot of discussion, but it’s something that needs to come from the community. To begin with, we don’t want to implement that because it’s a live game. We have to ensure quality and keep players in the game. If the game works, it’s because there are players. But for sure, in the next few years, it’s a discussion we will have, but it’s not in our plans for now. But like I said before, if we’re going to build the game with the community in mind, if it’s something they need, they will have it at some point.”

In light of the recent controversy with The Crew’s online-only servers shutting down, the general consensus within live-service-driving communities is one of distrust. If KT Racing and Nacon want to avoid the same pitfalls as Ubisoft, a failsafe against online-only servers is one of the crucial features that will make or break Test Drive, even if it’s not implemented at launch.

Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown had previously been delayed for quite a few years. It had originally been planned for a launch in 2023, though was pushed back. Similarly, it was lined up for a launch on previous-gen consoles, which has since been scrapped entirely. I asked Guinet if this had anything to do with the release delays, and also if it has impacted the performance and fidelity of the game positively.

“We dropped it because we want the game to reach a certain level at some point. When you want to create a new game with a big gap in the graphics, new levels, or new systems in hardware, if you keep game versions for this hardware, you can lose a big part of what you want to do. We want the player to have the best experience. To have a PS4 version, it’s kind of messy for all of us. The PS5 version is impacted, the PC version is impacted. I think it’s not a good idea.”

What struck me the most was Guillaume’s tenacity and belief in the latest Test Drive Unlimited game. “It’s kind of massive. I don’t think another game has done what we’re going to do. It’s unbelievable.” A lot is riding on KT Racing’s vision for the game. If their ambition is a testament to anything, then fans have little to worry about for the future.

You can read our full preview for Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown here.

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.

Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown

  • Release Date: TBA
    • - 31 December 2021 (PC)
  • Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S/X
  • Genre(s): Racing