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Q&A With The 'Racing Evoluzione' Product Originator

by Thomas on Aug. 15, 2002 @ 3:05 p.m. PDT

RE is the last game of the next generation of racing games created by the Infogrames Racing studio. Grand Prix 4, V-Rally 3 have already been launched and now, RE will push back the limits of the Xbox hardware and provide a real innovating gameplay. Check out some questions to Arthur Houtman, Infogrames Europe's VP Product Development, who is the originator of the project.

Q: How did the project start?

AH: My initial idea was to move away from the classical award system and routines we always see in Racing Games. My wish was to create a much more immersive and personal gaming experience.

Q: Where did the inspiration come from?

AH: Being a car lover myself, my initial inspiration came from the sports car industry, where for the past 100 years people with a dream try to add their names to the list of legendary sports car brands. The whole concept of racing actually started by individual car enthusiasts wanting to prove their creations and hoped to gain recognition through success on the track. I found this was an excellent mechanism to motivate a player to progress through the game and innovate the way that one gets rewarded.

Q: How have you managed to work this idea into a game?

AH: To start we needed to personalize the experience so we couldn't use real world cars. We talked to different design schools and found that they would like to enter a competition to create sports cars designed to realistic industrial specifications. The result was better that I expected and extremely desirable designs were produced. A jury composed of automobile press and designers elected the best ones. So the personalization starts presenting the player with different design blueprints to choose from, the player's mechanic will build the selected model.

Q: In other games players have been able to drive make believe cars, so even though RE's models are spectacular where does the game differ?

AH: True, but as the first car gets built the player chooses a logo out of a large database and creates his brand's name. The brand name and logo will be displayed in all kinds of places such as the employee clothing, cars, billboards, newspaper headlines, etc. The fact that he will be racing against prestigious real world brands such as Aston Martin, Viper, Mercedes, Lotus and more will enhance the feeling of achievement if the player succeeds in winning.

Q: There are a lot of areas where RE's design is breaking new grounds, can you tell us some more about the game's structure?

AH: Another innovation in the project is how the player unlocks cars. As one progresses a selection of new concepts will be presented and once a choice made R&D will start to develop the prototype. The speed at which it will be built once again depends on success at the track and public interest in one's Brand. At any time you can go into the R&D dept., check out how they are doing and see the development stages of the car. Once finished the car can be taken out to the test track and the player can evaluate if the car is ready to be entered in a race. Later the race engineer will also propose new evolutions of the car that can evolve from a standard street model to a full blown race car, which will enter the top level competitions. Even though it's an automated system, throughout the game the player has the choice which direction he wants to go, continue to develop the existing model to the highest level of competition or to develop new models and progress to other classes or both.

Q: How does the player understand what's going on and how he's doing?

AH: As the main aim of the project is to build your brand it was tempting to have progression feedback similar to a tycoon type project. I didn't want the project to be a car factory simulation so what we came up with was the 3D interface evolving and illustrating an automated expansion of your garage, which at the ultimate stages becomes a full blown high tech factory. The interface is continuously growing in to a bigger environment, with new departments, staff and an ever bigger production floor. We also wanted the feedback to be instinctive for the player, but avoid having a bank account. This interface delivers just that.

Q: Can you give an example?

AH: Imagine after having gone through a period of success and glory with lots of cars being produced in the factory, you develop a car that handles less easily and doesn't give you the results you hoped for. The factory floor won't be reduced in size but the lack of interest in your brand will be visually apparent as there are no or few cars on the production line and workers are standing around with their hands in their pockets. No game over here, but progress will come to a halt. Maybe take out one of the previous successful models and win some races and get your brand in the headlines again. The overall result is that the player will really feel in control of his destiny and if things go wrong be able to react accordingly.

Q: What would you say was the biggest challenge on the game design side?

AH: Where I think many games are poor is in the compensations a player gets after putting in hours of effort. So I would say the main originality of the project and at the same time most difficult to design fluidly is the multiple reward systems and make these all feel as one logical system. We hope that the player will feel proud of his achievements, rather than having beaten the code.

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