Racing games have become stagnated, according to the Project Gotham boys at Bizarre Creations, who've jumped into bed with Activision to bring back the crowds that racing sims once gathered. And that means less right-angle corners, no more platinum medals and yes - power-ups.
During a recent trip to Bizarre's Liverpool studio, we sat down with lead designer of Blur, Ged Talbot to talk about the developer's shift in direction.
The last time we were here you were very much an independent studio. Now you're part of the world's largest third-party publisher. How are things now?
Ged Talbot: We have a whole group of new people to get used to and they're very much more part of the family than I suppose Microsoft was. But we had such a long relationship with Microsoft that it effectively felt like we were part of their family.
We were in their offices all of the time, they were always coming over here... so the relationship between us and Microsoft was really strong.
While Activision has come in and they now own us, the way they operate their company and dev studios is pretty much hands off - at least on the studio floor. There's a whole group of new people that are now becoming our partners and friends, but other than that I don't see a huge amount of difference. We're still making racing games.
Would the recession have hurt you if you hadn't been bought by Activision?
Talbot: I'm probably not the best person to answer that question because they don't trust me with money. However, I asked my boss the other day and he didn't seem to suggest that he was grateful that he was bought out at that point.
He sold the company so that he could concentrate more on making games rather than running the company. That's what Martin is first and foremost, he's a designer.
The company is much, much bigger than it was ten years ago so I would imagine that the trackings of being a managing director were maybe getting in the way. I think that was more of his primary motivation, I don't think he's wiping his brow.
We were very lucky. The company was built very much on security first. As a company we'd never had to take a bank loan before then, we weren't in the situation some companies are in now where they can't get finance to pay their staff - we've never had that situation.
In choosing to move to Activision you were also choosing to leave PGR behind. How did that feel?
Talbot: On a personal level I loved what we did with PGR and MSR. We put a lot of time into it and year-on-year we did everything we could to try and improve it. By the time we got to PGR4 I certainly felt that the time was right to move on and do different things. I think if you look at the game we're making now we seem to be mixing the skills that we have in a much better way.
We could've done another one but equally the challenge to do something else with a different appeal - a much broader appeal - was too big to pass up.
It was mentioned to us earlier that you'd decided not to do PGR5 even before the Activision deal was on the table?
Talbot: That's right. I think after we did bikes for PGR4 we would've struggled to find something that was that big to put in the game.
I think we were extremely lucky with the way things went with Microsoft. Some of our SKUs were launch titles so we were able to make graphical explosions and that was our platform for making the game. We debuted Xbox Live.