Interview - Need for Speed: Most Wanted


  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted

Criterion's Matt Webster and Craig Sullivan talk about their Need for Speed
Criterion has its own ideas and gameplay in mind for its “reimagining” of Need for Speed: Most Wanted(read our hands on preview). Ahead of the game’s release later this year, Click caught up with Producer Matt Webster and Creative Director Craig Sullivan to see why they chose to follow up one of the most popular entries in the Need for Speed franchise and how they think that this title could shake up the racing game genre

CLICK: Do you feel that you’ve outdone yourselves with Hot Pursuit before and perhaps even the original Most Wanted?
Matt Webster:
Oh I dunno. I mean we’re always our hardest critics.
Craig Sullivan: Yeah, we’re never happy with anything we make.
MW: When you’ve lived with something for so long, you always notice the bad bits. All the things you didn’t quite get to or that wasn’t quite what you expected, so it’s…When it’s done come back and ask us .

CLICK: As you’ve said the Most Wanted list is a very interesting concept, so why did you decide to use that as a standalone feature rather than embedding it into a storyline as before?
MW: Well you talked about it Craig, we struggle with narrative…you know playing a faceless character is something for other people to do, we think. We’ve always majored on friends’ competition and that’s why. After we made Hot Pursuit it became a natural mechanism for us to say, “OK, let’s do Most Wanted and make it Most Wanted amongst your friends,” because you’ve got something like Autolog being able to power it and we understand that social competition and we know that there’s nothing more powerful than playing with friends and beating friends. So it just naturally fits for us. And making a narrative based game doesn’t naturally fit with us.
CS: Yeah, I mean the most powerful story to me is the story that I tell my friends about what I’ve done rather than something that I was forced to do because I was living through someone else. You know I would rather be in the movie than watch it, you know what I mean. It’s like we watched Batman recently right; I think it would be f***ing cool to be Batman, but I can’t be Batman so I’m going to have to settle for someone else being Batman, whereas we make videogames so we can make you Batman. We can make you that brilliant driver, we can make you the most wanted, we can make you the most wanted among your friends, we can make you the most wanted in the single player game where you become the most wanted driver in the city. You know we allow you to do that so I think that because video games are so immersive and they can be so reactive to the way you play and tailored situations to your experience that forcing players to, in a driving game, complete or play through a very linear storyline is quite kind of dated. You know it worked in the original Most Wanted, but that game was in 2005; this is seven years later. So the way we’ve set the game up so that it’s open from the start and you can drive any car if you can find it is a way more powerful story that I think people will talk about when you and your friends get together and go: I’ve played it for an hour – “I’ve played for an hour too. What did you do? Well I found a Lamborghini. I found the Porsche 911. I found a truck down an alleyway. Where was that? What did you do?” That’s immediately more engaging than when we meet after an hour of playing it and go: “What did you do? I did event one-two-three-four-five-six. I did event one-two-three-four-five-six-seven. OK, what’s event seven like? Yeah it’s kinda like six, but a bit harder and it’s raining.” So it’s just not what we do.

Become the Most Wanted
Become the Most WantedEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: So the whole social side is really what’s going to keep people progressing through it?
Yeah for sure. I mean Hot Pursuit just taught us so much about how people replay a piece of gameplay because that loop of friends’ competition is so powerful.

CLICK: Is it possible to ignore your elite friends on Autolog until you feel it’s possible to go wheel-to-wheel with them?
Well you can actually tune them. Autolog generates recommendations for you and you can actually tune those recommendations so if you’ve got someone who’s particularly suited to racing you can tune them out. But remember, it’s not just about the race times. There are many different ways for people of varying degrees of skill to compete. The racers are gonna go race, but if I just want to explore, well then I’m going to go hit the jumps or I’m gonna find security gates or I’m going to play multiplayer and get my speed points that way. The competition is multi-layered so it suits different skill levels, but also different actions and activities.

Road Rage never looked this good...
Road Rage never looked this good...Enlarge Enlarge

CLICK: The multiplayer seems to have its own unique spin on things with the meetups. How did you decide on the unconventional free-form grid and even the false start system?
Just cos it’s fun . I mean it’s obvious. What do you wanna do? Do you wanna get one over a mate and jump the start, or do you wanna just line up nicely inside that grid position? It’s obvious right? If there’s one thing we’re about it’s about subverting the rules and having a bit of fun. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of griefing. There are things that make you laugh and so in any way that we can engineer or offer that opportunity up to players to engineer that and just put a smile on their face, and you’ve just got to take it.

CLICK: Does it make you a little nervous at the same time that you’re putting people’s enjoyment of a game in the hands of other players?
Less so actually. There are still some controls in there. But without giving a bunch of freedom to people then the emergent play doesn’t emerge. At some point you’ve got to release the shackles and say, “there’s the game; go and have an experience.” And if you’re in a game where somebody’s deliberately trying to stop you, you can leave the game and if you wanna create a private game you can create a private game. But you can’t have those moments without relinquishing a little bit of control. In much the same way as we’ve done with the single player game, you can’t answer that question of “why can’t I play every car in the game?” without actually trying to give it a go. Why not? The answer to the question is because 20 years of game convention says you can’t.

Redefining multiplayer
Redefining multiplayerEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: Are you hoping to rewrite video game convention in terms of unlocks and progress?
Who knows?! I think some people will get it and some people won’t. With most of the games we’ve made, there’s still a big huge community that wants us to go off and make Burnout 1 again…or AirBlade…Or Black 2.
CS: Or Black 2
MW: There are so many opinions, but you can’t sit still. You can’t not try new stuff. But it’s just, the question naturally comes from people who haven’t lived in games for 20 years: “Why can’t I drive the Veyron right out of the box?” And the answer is, “20 years of convention says you can’t.” And if that’s an acceptable answer, we wouldn’t have done what we did. The truth is that’s not an acceptable answer. It’s similar to what people used to say to us with Hot Pursuit: “Why isn’t there a global leaderboard in the game?” And the answer is that strangers aren’t important to us, friends are important to us.

CLICK: What kind of reaction are you hoping to get from players?
Just have great fun! Go and explore this open world. Your first 20 minutes are going to be different to mine. That’s a special thing to do. And then see what it’s like to have fun in a significantly large release. Go play online in a way you’ve never seen before in a Need for Speed game; certainly in any other driving game doesn’t do online like we’re doing online.
CS: It doesn’t do single player like we are as well.
MW: No it doesn’t.
CS: I mean, with a lot of game development it’s kind of like…It’s one of the reasons why I work at Criterion. I get to work on something that’s as big as Need for Speed and we get to take risks as well. It’s very easy, and there are a lot of game developers out there that are guilty of making very safe bets. They’re kind of just doing something that is kind of the same as before. And that’s kind of OK, but at the same time it doesn’t really get you excited. I would much rather have a new experience rather than a slightly better experience. It’s kind of like when I go on holiday I don’t go to the same place every year because I kind of know what that’s going to be like. I’d rather go somewhere a bit different. And I think we’re pushing with innovation in single player and in multiplayer. People are going to have very different experiences. They will play the first hour or ten hours or thirty hours of either of those two sides of the game, with the Autolog 2 stuff in there as well, and they’re going to have experiences that hopefully they’ve never had before and that don’t exist in driving games outside of driving games that we make. That’s when we’ll have done our job well. When people are having fun in a new way and we change driving and shake it up and bring it back to where it should be in terms of fun, innovation, new ideas, new ways of thinking about socially connected gaming, then we’ll have done our jobs properly. That’s why we’re here and that’s why we make games.
MW: Yeah, I love it when someone comes to us and says, “I’m not normally a fan of driving games, but I love this.” If we can grow the people that have fun driving a car…That’s because cars are ubiquitous and hot cars turn…you know the sound of an incredible car turns heads and a beautiful car sitting at the side of a road turns heads. And that’s true whether you like cars or not. Our goal is to make people have fun irrespective of playing other driving games. And we do that by trying new stuff.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is set for release on October 30th in North America and November 2nd in Europe on PS$, Xbox 360, PS Vita and eventually Wii U. You can read our hands on preview here.

Need for Speed: Most Wanted box art
Need for Speed: Most Wanted box artEnlarge Enlarge

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