We’ve all been there. You’re tearing round the last lap in, say, Gran Turismo or Need For Speed, defending a narrow lead over the chasing pack, when your concentration slips for a second and you find your car buried in a hedge. With the race all but lost and any rewards snatched away, it’s understandable that throwing a quick tantrum and furiously jabbing Options > Quit Race can be an instinctive reaction.
The racing game rage-quit is a real conundrum for designers – not only does it rip you out of the game and compromise your enjoyment, but it also inhibits the integrity of the online multiplayer experience. Duly, it’s an obstacle that Evolution Studios is tackling head on in DRIVECLUB on PS4.
“I like the idea that that you don’t have to be in first place,” explained Game Director Paul Rustchynsky when we stopped by the studio last week. “I want everybody to enjoy the thrill of racing.”
“I play a lot of racing games and I’m a pretty good driver, but I’m not always the guy who’s in first place. I like to have fun and take risks, rather than obsess about perfecting every single corner. The problem for drivers like me, and I think we’re in the majority, is that racing becomes too intense and intimidating when it’s all about winning.
“It’s demoralising when you make a mistake and it costs you the race. With DRIVECLUB we challenged ourselves to design a better game that deals with this aspect of racing. What we’ve come up with is a racer that constantly gives you new goals to aim for, whether you’re way out in front of the pack or find yourself spinning out of control because you pushed your car a little too far.”
As explained in our recent video (see above), finishing first isn’t the be-all-and-end-all in DRIVECLUB. As you race, you’ll be given the option of taking part in smaller challenges on certain sections of the track – maintaining a high average speed, holding a racing line, or pulling off an impressive drift. Put in a good performance and you’ll accrue points for your club and set new markers for friends to try and match.
“In so many racing games there’s that ‘all or nothing’ mentality. One moment you’re in first place, and then suddenly you crash and you’ve lost everything. The preceding few minutes of superb driving count for nothing,” says Rustchynsky.
“With DRIVECLUB, if you’re racing online and you make a mistake it’s not game over. You don’t lose everything and you’ve still got dynamic Face-offs to keep playing for.
In short, it doesn’t pay to quit from a race in DRIVECLUB. Not only will you lose everything that you’ve already earned, but you’ll also stop contributing to your club as well. It’s always worth finishing the race – you still might record a good run which you can then set as a challenge – and there are then additional rewards tied in to that too.
This core competitive loop might be familiar to anyone who played Evolution’s last title, MotorStorm RC. That game came packed with bite-sized challenges which you could share with friends for bragging rights. And with DRIVECLUB, Evo has taken this idea and run with it.
“We tested an early version of our challenge system in RC,” he states. “It was a lot of fun and we got some great back-and-forth rivalries going between players, but we always found that after a while one of the players would reach their physical limit and the competition would dry up.
“Even so, we saw players repeat the same challenge hundreds of times in a single day. That surprised us. We didn’t think people would get that hooked. And with DRIVECLUB we’re taking it further and making it easier to compete and have fun.
“In RC there were no rewards off the back of it, other than ‘Ha, I beat you!’ and that was great, but we wanted to make sure we evolved that so there’s a reason to keep jumping into challenges over and above the bragging rights.
“As you improve, there’ll always be someone else out there to chase. This idea that it’s not over when one player puts the pad down, it just works so much better in DRIVECLUB.”
Believe me, he’s not wrong. Even for a gamer like myself who isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool petrolhead, Evo’s PS4 debut is seriously hard to put down. But there’s no need to take my word on face value. If you’ve been staying abreast of recent press of the latest playable build, you’ll know that DRIVECLUB is shaping up rather nicely. We can’t wait for you to check it out for yourself a little later this year.