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Posted November 6, 2014 by Peter in News
 
 

Hands on: World of Speed (PC)

World of Speed logo
World of Speed logo

In writing, Slightly Mad Studios do seem slightly mad – developing two driving games at the same time seems to be double the effort needed. But having gotten hands-on with both, Games Fiends now has a clearer idea of where they differ.

At the end of September we got hands-on with Project CARS, and more recently it was World of Speed‘s turn, overseen by lead producer Pete Morrish. The two games do share some elements – most notably the graphics engine – but there are many more differences, and perhaps the greatest of these is the underlying philosophy of what the games are. Whereas Project CARS is a simulation, World of Speed is a team-based MMO, aiming to get the same thought process from raid groups onto street tracks around the world.

Morrish explained why simply having online racing wasn’t the goal. “I don’t know your experiences with online racing, but if they’re anything like mine you sit there and are all excited about playing, and you scortch off the line and get bashed in on the first corner, [...] and you haven’t got a hope in hell of catching up… and because these games are all about getting past the post first – they’re all about winning, winning, winning – once you’re in eight and you’re against people that are actually quite good you haven’t got a hope in hell of having a positive experience.”
World of Speed screen
Ok, in terms of being runner up to every other competitor in driving games he is already preaching to the converted. But as an MMORPG fan the comparison to those is unexpected in a racing game too. The team-based mechanic is there to see from the start – player put into red and blue teams on the grid. But to compete, various objectives are set to complete during the race.

Car handling is far more arcadey here than with it’s sister title, meaning you quickly feel like a racing hero as you power slide around corners or weave through chicanes… and usually gain points for doing so. It follows in the footsteps of Need for Speed: Shift – also a Slightly Mad Studios title from 2009 – where driving was rated via a system called Driver Score. Performing various driving actions awarded points, giving players a way of rating their performance in various areas. World of Speed uses an “imaginatively titled iteration” called Driver Score 2.0, allowing each driver to contribute to the team’s success.

It may not be as simple as getting all the podium spots. “The problem is that we as gamers have twenty years of muscle memory when it comes to racing – it’s all about ‘we must finish this game, we must cross the line first!’. And what objectives do it make that not the most important thing any more.”
World of Speed screen
As well as general point scoring, there are also several randomly selected objectives each race for bonuses – the “quest” side of the MMORPG approach perhaps. Objectives come in many flavours – one of the most fun in the demo session was to “trade paint” with opposing team cars, something achieved within seconds thanks to both members of my team colliding with an opponent on the second turn; others include maintaining top speed, or racing through sections flawlessly. Completing them all isn’t essential, but helps greatly.

For Morrish, this is how to keep players of all abilities involved. “Even if you’re in sixth, seventh, eighth position you can still be doing this stuff, you can still be skidding around corners if that’s one of the objectives, you can be drafting if that’s one of the objectives. And we’ve seen several times racers come in first – cross the line first, second and third, but the opposing team have still got thirty seconds to try and get their objectives.”

Players are encouraged to form clubs – the guild system if we continue using the MMORPG analogy, and drive co-operatively with fellow club members against rivals However, being able to quickly grasp the controls and scoring means that lone wolf players could still enjoy their time too, albeit placed into teams at random.
World of Speed screen
The two vs two sessions played at the demo were fun and frantic – four people all trying to convince the others that they were terrible at driving games, but still able to race, score points and enjoy their laps of a Moscow street circuit. Streets are also promised in London and San Francisco, as well as more conventional racing circuits, with clubs able to take possession of specific venues from other clubs for currently-undefined rewards.

There are also “50 or 60 cars coming in the initial release”, with a focus towards street cars rather than specific racing vehicles – ranging from sports cars to coupes and muscle cars. These are all due to be customisable, although Morrish says the aim is that this is more for specific roles than simply becoming better. Progression is through a tech tree, and “each step that you do gives you different benefits and drawbacks – you can balance various bits of the car to have a very specialised drifting car, or racing line car, or a heavy car.”

The game is currently is currently in early closed testing, with a wider closed beta due soon – if you want to apply for a chance to participate you can do so at the World of Speed website.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.