Project CARS has been one of the most talked about upcoming Wii U titles. Originally slated for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC, Slightly Mad Studios decided to skip the PS3 and 360 to focus more on the Wii U, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. This has led the gaming community to wonder how the Wii U would be able to handle this graphical beast of a game. To find out, I had a chat with Andy Tudor, the Creative Developer of Project CARS. Our snippet preview of the interview caused a bit of a buzz on the web, and I think the full interview may do that all over again.
NE: How did you get involved in the gaming industry, and how long have you been in it?
Andy: On the sole of my foot is a strange birthmark. I searched the globe for years and had many adventures until an ancient homeless man on the London underground spotted it over 10 years ago and recognised it as the icon of a game controller. Only then did I realise I must join the games industry immediately and discover what my destiny held.
The rather more boring answer, of course, is though that I’ve always known I wanted to do something in the games industry from an early age. My father worked in electronics and was constantly bringing home the latest computer or console so I always had access to new gaming devices. A combination therefore of being good at art, loving games, learning the Photoshop of the day (Deluxe Paint IV), and choosing appropriate subjects in education put me on a path to joining the games industry in 2000 with a first job as a Junior Artist at Sony.
NE: Do you feel like Need for Speed Shift/Shift 2 will influence Project CARS or do you see it as a separate entity?
Andy: Yes, the SHIFT franchise begins with the letter ’S’ whilst Project CARS has the letter ’S’ at the end so the two games definitely have similarities.
I’m joking around of course, but yes, Project CARS draws upon all our experience, knowledge, and pedigree of making racing games over the last 10 years. With Need For Speed: SHIFT we introduced circuit-based racing to a largely action-oriented audience. With Shift 2 Unleashed we then dug deeper with real-life motorsports, tuning, night racing, and a suite of social features. Now with Project CARS we’re taking that experience and going more authentic, with a huge variety of vehicle types, number of locations, weather, pit stops, a sports-like sandbox career mode, completely re-written physics and handling, and of course stunning graphics that truly deliver next-gen fidelity. So there are definitely comparisons to be made with our previous projects, but Project CARS is the start of a new franchise and should be thought of as a brand-new entity.
NE: What is going to set Project CARS apart from other racing sims such as Gran Turismo and Forza?
Andy: If you put GT, Forza, and Project CARS next to each other you’ll see they have different artwork on the boxes, so immediately Project CARS will stand apart right there. If there’s any confusion still, we’ve marked which product is ours with a stamp or ‘logo’ saying Project CARS on it to help customers identify it correctly in the shops.
When you’re in the game I think the difference will become apparent straight away. We all play games in different ways and our varied lifestyles and predilection for consuming multiple forms of media simultaneously mean that we’ve taken a much more “sandbox” approach with Project CARS than a traditional racer would. All cars and tracks are unlocked from day one for example (there’s no cash economy at all, in fact), and rather than a traditional “zero to hero” path, we’re providing multiple “endings” for you to go after. So freedom is definitely one defining factor that will set us apart. And then there are a number of features and innovations that the competition simply don’t have or don’t do to our high standards – pit stops, dynamic time of day and weather, 4K and Oculus Rift support, the ability to make your own support apps via our API etc. Plus, at its core the game was made through a combination of working alongside real players from our WMD community and real-life race drivers that have generously offered their expertise and time to make the game completely authentic and immersive.
NE: You skipped the PS3 and Xbox 360 and decided on Wii U, PS4, Xbox One and Steam. What prompted that decision?
Andy: As more information on the next-gen consoles became available, and as our own release date started to get more tightly locked down, we just looked into the future and saw that the jump to next-gen was going to provide gamers with the best possible version of the game. Plus, the PC-like hardware of those machines would aid ease of development.
We put this to the community and it sparked a lot of discussion for sure, but as people would have seen over the Xmas holidays, the uptake of the new consoles has been pretty rapid and retail space is already dwindling for the previous generation, so we believe it was the right decision.
NE: The Wii U version is the most intriguing because of the hardware differences between it and PS4/One. Visually speaking, how well do you think the Wii U version will retain the experience?
Andy: I literally just had a blast racing around one of our tracks in the rain (the most graphically-intensive weather setting) and it held up pretty damn well. Of course, there are optimizations still to be done, but side-by-side, the Wii U version we have running in the studio is extremely promising.
NE: Why choose the Wii U to release the game while many other third-party developers skip it and strictly develop for Sony of Microsoft?
Andy: We don’t comment on other people’s decisions. There are no realistic, authentic racing games on the Wii U currently, yet the way you interact with games on the Wii U has lots of possibilities when considering touch and gyroscope motion, so both things combined made our decision easy.
NE: Many companies that release multi-platform games hardly ever show Wii U specific screenshots/videos before release, which I feel can lead to smaller sales. Will we be seeing some footage and screenshots of the Wii U version of the game before the Fall?
Andy: Every screenshot or video you’ve seen from Project CARS so far has been taken by an actual player – any one of our WMD community members. So there should be trust already that what you see on websites or on YouTube is actually what you’re going to see in the game. There are no plans to abuse that trust when it comes to the Wii U version.
Project CARS is slated for a Fall 2014 release. Special thanks to Andy Tudor for taking the time to do this interview!