With the game only about 2 months away, the team from EA was eager to talk about the social elements of Hot Pursuit. Watch this video, then read my conversation with Need for Speed producer Jesse Abney, who not only answered my questions, but yours as well.
Jesse Abney, EA: Criterion’s a AAA developer of action-racing games, with many years of doing great designs, great innovations, and platform technologies – especially for PlayStation 3 and online connectivity. And they kind of just waited patiently for their turn to get the keys to develop their favorite Need for Speed – and revive Hot Pursuit. Hot Pursuit really is a milestone in the Need For Speed ethos of “grab an exotic car, pick an exotic location, and hit the pavement.” And that really is a core tenet of Criterion’s expertise. It was really their interest and their call to revive Hot Pursuit.
PSB: What fundamentally makes NFS NFS, as opposed to say, Burnout? Will elements of NFS: Hot Pursuit look familiar to Burnout vets?
EA: Need for Speed’s always been about licensed vehicles. Criterion made the call to throw back to Hot Pursuit… no distractions, no customization, no real performance tweaking. It’s all about car, pavement, location, the competition of the race, and in this particular game, it’s all about social connectivity.
Autolog is an innovation, really a step up from what we saw in Burnout [Paradise]. It’s a total social experience. Always connected, always exchanging information, and always establishing where you’re at in the product versus your friends.
And instead of the Blacklist like you saw in Most Wanted, Criterion has brought in the Blacklisted Speed Wall. Autolog Recommends is a facet of that, whereby it’s always listing where your friends are in their career versus your career, event for event, and giving you recommendations based on the scores you’re laying down both online and offline.
PSB: Criterion won over a lot of fans with its community involvement, and the feeling that the game stayed alive long, long after if came out, thanks to its “Year of Paradise” DLC and update rollout. Will that happen with NFS: HP?
EA: Absolutely. We give all the credit in the world to Criterion for really proving out this model at EA; doing telemetry gathering, and establishing which core features people are really attached to, what things we can go bigger on, and dedicating people to work on that 3, 6, even 12 months into a product’s life cycle. It’s no longer “ship and forget” for us; we really want the product to have a life, we want it to evolve, we want to continue to improve it. With such short development cycles, we really want that post-launch development to not only address potential problems, but also to improve gameplay features and modes. It’s an absolute commitment from the NFS franchise.
PSB: What have you learned about player behavior – especially in the multiplayer arena – that we’ll see in NFS: Hot Pursuit?
EA: They’ve been taking a ton of lessons from online telemetry gathering: what people love to play, how they compete, and how that metadata is conveyed online. We have a very in-your-face approach to the connected generation. And that is multiple points of data, always streaming in information, always giving the player updates through messaging. “I’m going to throw down the best time I can and all my friends are going to get this message,” and it’s going to challenge them to do it.
That’s the lessons, like the refinement of the experience, that Burnout really paved the way for. And Criterion has really been at the forefront for all of EA in a lot of ways in how they turn that data into actual gameplay feature sets. Hot Pursuit is really a culmination of all those lessons over the past 2 or 3 years, especially for the connected platforms.
PSB: Do you see the reach of NFS Hot Pursuit extending beyond those times when you’re on the PS3 to places like Facebook or Twitter?
EA: Absolutely, there’s interactivity based on Facebook Connect and other elements that they’ll be working on. You have a ton of connectivity through the web and then back to your platform. Don’t discount any medium that Criterion has at their disposal. They’re supporting the PlayStation Eye to do in-game captures of player profiles; fans of Burnout will remember that. Every action point in the race is capturable and uploadable via Autolog.
EA: There’s aspects of the Blacklist. Criterion really wanted to bring in elements of both Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted. Instead of the Blacklist being a grouping of AI players, our Blacklist is your friends list. You’re ranking up through the friends that you have via the Autolog, event for event, and knocking your friends off of the Blacklist. So you’re actually racing against real people, not just NPCs.
Question via Twitter (@RustyFirestar): What types of events are there? The gameplay seems fun, but not varied.
EA: Criterion is a great studio for creating dynamic game modes, and the introduction of cops and racers at high speeds, and exotic cars and exotic locations, for us it’s a playground. What we have are online modes where it’s 4 vs 4 where 4 of your friends are playing a career as a cop, and they’re entering into a Hot Pursuit with 4 of your friends who are running careers as racers.
General categorization of race events aside, Hot Pursuit is not about drag racing, it’s not about drift racing, it’s kind of a culmination of all those elements of driving within an action-driving design.
Question via Twitter (@BenSDixon): I’d like to know what games they would compare the handling to and whether it’s like Burnout Paradise. (does real cars = realistic handling?)
EA: Criterion is not a company to design a real-world physics simulator. One of the core tenets of Need for Speed is that action-driving experience. You don’t need a drivers license to play this game. That said, these are cars built upon a real-world-style physics simulator, and then amped up for arcade action. So this isn’t that you need to know how to drive, that you need to hit the apex of a corner, it’s much more in the vein of Burnout. It really is an action-arcade, pick-up-and-drive experience.
Question via Twitter (@DMax901): How many cars will there be? And what will the Racer’s equipment be like? Thanks PS!
EA: Over 65 top-end exotics, and maybe a few real key surprises. There are cars in our game you’ll never play anywhere else. And Criterion’s done a great job creating a career as a cop, so every car in the game comes in lovely cop colors. There’s always the idea that more cars can come via post launch development all the time.
Thanks go to those of you who asked us questions via Twitter, and to Jesse for answering them. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit comes to PS3 on November 16th.