Need for Speed: Most Wanted's online play is equal parts chaos and confusion, going against the normal regimented competitions and controlled environments found in other racing games. Criterion Games creative director Alex Ward says this design is part of the studio's "philosophy" for online play.
In Most Wanted online, players are called to a meeting area before an event starts, without much warning or information. Unless you've played the particular event before, you have no idea what to do and – as mentioned in Joystiq's review – there's nothing stopping other players from foiling each other before the event starts.
"The philosophy there is that we know people are utter degenerate hooligans online," Ward says – and the actions of these "hooligans," as he calls them, is a "valid" part of the overall online experience.
"You know, griefing and being able to screw people over, finishing the race and driving backwards to screw people up, we think that's pretty valid. Too many online games are like straight-laced, you do a race and that's it or 3, 2, 1, go – we kind of like the idea of people jumping the line and being able to screw around with people. That's what it was, or else it'd just become a very straight-laced driving experience. It's just how we are. We're glad we do it, though – we just couldn't make anything straight-laced."
Ward says the open-minded approach has been there since the studio's first online game, Burnout 3: Takedown. "So there's how we want people to play and then there's how people really play. So with Paradise and then with Most Wanted our philosophy became, the more we could – there are a lot of things you can't design out."
Rather than attempt to police players, Ward suggests, Need for Speed strives to be mindful of how people end up behaving. "It's just our philosophy, it was to open it out and accept – see what the flaws could be as part of the gaming experience, as well. I mean, it sounds crazy, but that is the honest answer."