E3 2010: Revving up Need For Speed World

"This is Need for Speed World. It is a Massively Multiplayer Action Racing Game. This is the first time for the franchise to go on the Massively Multi[player] Online market, so that is really exciting for us," Producer Jean-Charles Gaudechon announces to Massively at E3 as he gives us a tour of this brand new step into the MMO world. He could not wait to show of the innovative and (dare it be said) powerful features of this, yes, free-to-play game.

How does someone transform one of the best-selling console racing franchises into an online living world that players expect from an MMOG? The producers at EA make it seem simple. It actually seems as if this game should have been an online world the whole time. From customizable cars to character leveling and achievements to exportable leaderboards -- this game is any MMO without even thinking. All you need now is a couple thousand friends for you to race against.

"The world is the biggest we've ever done, it's a seamless open world that you can explore." Well, that sounds like an invitation from Mister Gaudechon. Follow the break, and we will explore!
The Chassis

Let's start with the most important: What kinds of cars can we drive?! Gaudechon is quick to answer this question for us: "In terms of cars we have, basically, the whole Need For Speed catalog will be available. And we are going to be patching the game, on like a monthly basis with new cars and new content." So like the Hot Pursuit stuff, too? "It's two different products," Gaudechon explains, "but in terms of cars and stuff, as we get licenses for new cars then we can, if we choose to, get them in this game, too. Although if there is a game mode in Hot Pursuit, it doesn't mean there will be a game mode in Need For Speed World. But the Need For Speed franchise is a happy family, so we can discuss."

To begin racing you create a character. Any player can create multiple characters, and any character can have multiple cars. The player's goal is to join events and unlock other events. Events come in two types: sprints and circuits. Also any time the player sees police vehicles around the world he can engage in pursuits. After each race the character gains Reputation (XP) and cash to be spent within the end game shop for upgrades, power-ups and different vehicles. Vroom! Vroom!

The Motor

The basic game is completely free-to-download and play; even the new expansions and content updates are free. Apparently there was some concern that there would be a hidden fee or cost to the customer for playing the game, but Gaudechon clears the air: "There is some confusion with some people: is it a hidden subscription model? No it's not. The first ten levels will be for a regular user. [It is] about 4 to 6 hours of play. You can keep playing the game at level 10, you are just going to get locked there."

EA designed the mechanics for ease of use so it could appeal to a large number of people, and so players could immediately begin racing without the need for heavy instructions. Although hardcore gamers can still enjoy pushing through the level progression. The purchasable power-ups are logically on the 1, 2, and 3 buttons. As the developers call it, it is "the three-finger easy-to-play experience."

"We want the game to be very user-driven. We want to see how people are using our game and plan accordingly."

The game conveniently has an event feed to which the player can expeditiously teleport. The designers feel the average person who will play their game will only have an hour or two to play. They believe it is important not to waste the player's time by having them travel to each area just to race. Each gamer is different in his pursuit. Some will wish to get to level 50 as fast as he can. Whereas, other will be perfectly content to stay at level 5 with a great car tracks he loves. The designers desire for the game to be fun without the grind. "It's not about pwning everyone else, it's about everyone having a good experience," we were told on our tour. Although let's face it, sometimes it is about pwning, but everyone should have fun doing it.

As a player levels-up, we are told, he or she will earn skill points. Each of these skill points can be set in one of three talent trees. The Race talent tree is the one the designers are pushing at launch. Some of the skills the designers mentioned where Dragster, Acceleration, Jump Start (allows the player to use power-ups faster), and Need for Speed. Ultimately, not all skills will be filled. The player will just not have enough points, so he or she will have to trade-off some skills for others based on the way he plays the game. It was explained that currently there is not a way to respec the character's skill, but the designers assure us there will be one after launch.

The Tires

At launch, when a player teleports to a location he will be able to set up for three different types of racing events: A single-player event which gives an acceptable amount of experience points and cash, the multiplayer event will grant a greater rewards, if the player chooses this option and a private multi-player event. Although this even has nominal pay out so it is not a complete waste of your time, it is mostly designed for the player and his friends to directly compete with each other. The nominal pay out does make sense because the private events could easily be exploited to power level and earn money quickly. At the end of the race when you earn reputation and cash, there is also what is called the "Lucky Draw." Power-ups and other items can be earn during this event, which allows everyone to walk away with something.

Multiplayer races are not completely random. Gaudechon explains that it is a system based on elo rating, the car's performance, the character level and skills. Gaudechon expounds on one of the reasons they use this method of match-making: "That is always a question that comes back all the time: Am I going to get a gameplay advantage by paying? The answer is no. It is really important for people to have great experience and not have to pay a lot." The developers are working very hard to cut down the queue for events down to ten to fifteen seconds.

This article was originally published on Massively.