Simon Barlow, design director on Driveclub, answers the hard questions about the game’s delay, why it’s free, and ambitions to become the PS4’s flagship racer.
“We could have released it last year, it would have been a good game, it would have done the numbers. But good enough isn’t good enough for Evolution.”
I’m confused by all the options. There’s certain content that’s only unlocked playing as part of a club, or only accessible if you’ve paid full-price. It’s overwhelming and I worry I’m missing out on something. How do I get the full experience?
We do a lot of user testing and the first thing we discovered was they [users] were overwhelmed. There’s a lot of new concepts and it’s not the usual way racing games are structured. We push content to the player a lot more. That content is targeted and relevant. The way we suggest challenges, the way we’ve structured the tour mode. It’s a non-linear unlock structure and you can veer off paths if you want to. Your experience is largely going to be tailored on how you play the game. If you like to drift you’ll be pushed a lot of drift challenges.
Are you going to have an open beta for PS4 players because it’s such a social, online, connected game?
I’d be very keen to do a beta but at the moment I haven’t got any plans I can announce. We’re looking at multiple options for continuing user testing. We may very well do a friends and family private beta within the Sony family. But as for any open betas or closed betas there are no specific plans as yet.
Did you have to delay the game or could you have released it at the PS4’s launch?
“It would be lovely if this is one of the pillars on PlayStation 4. Nobody is doing this, certainly on PS4, and nobody is doing this on any other platform.”
We wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done – delay the game – without the support from Sony. We were very nervous. We could have released it last year, it would have been a good game, it would have done the numbers, people would have been happy. Off we’d go and make another one. But good enough isn’t good enough for Evolution. We’ve always tried to release the best that we possibly can. This was the first time we’ve ever had to delay a game so we were really nervous. We said directly to Shuhei Yoshida that we need some more time to make it better and he said “okay”. That kind of support is rare to find at a large publisher, particularly a platform holder.
Is the end goal to have Driveclub as the definitive PS4 racing experience – the racing game associated with PlayStation’s future?
It would be lovely if this is one of the pillars on PlayStation 4. It’s always been planned to be that way simply because of the social aspect. Nobody is doing this, certainly on PS4, and nobody is doing this on any other platform. Not to this level. And the PlayStation Network provides a really strong infrastructure. Particularly as it allows us to give it away as part of the PlayStation Plus subscription.
Can you clear up how much of the game is free and what those who pay will be getting access to?
The PS Plus version is feature complete. All you are missing is perhaps some of the higher end cars, you don’t get all of the tracks and locations. That’s basically it. We restrict on content, we don’t restrict on features. If you start closing the door on your community and stop restricting them on a feature by feature basis, your community dies.
There has to be parity across all players. Maybe you haven’t got all the cars but that’s only the same as if you haven’t got the game and haven’t unlocked them yet. Everybody starts with the same playing field. It means you can join a club, take part in challenges, play through the tour, play asynchronous multiplayer with the free PS Plus subscription version. All of that content will help give us a solid foundation to grow and evolve the game.
WRC games were sim-heavy and the Motorstorm series was very arcadey. Was it a conscious decision with Driveclub to sit somewhere in the middle?
“The PS Plus version is feature complete. All you are missing is perhaps some of the higher end cars, you don’t get all of the tracks and locations. That’s basically it.”
It was more subconscious, we naturally fell into that area. The original design pitch was ten years old when we started thinking about it. We originally wanted a really social, community based multiplayer racing game. But at the time Driveclub was a simulation.
So we built everything on the same core principles we’ve always done. Even Motorstorm, which was an arcade racer, it still had a very realistic physics simulation. Driveclub naturally progressed from physics based – everything is really accurate but it has to be rewarding for everybody.
We learnt a lot with Motorstorm Apocalypse and Motorstorm RC about how to engage players outside of coming first in a race. Traditionally racing games are only about coming first. But we need to energise people to keep playing or they will quit. Viral gameplay only works if you’ve got a level playing for everyone.