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Race Driver GRID 2 interview: 'Be the best or don't bother'

Games designer Ross Gowing talks hyper-real AI, quality over quantity, and next-gen

The world has changed since the original Race Driver: GRID. In the five years between original and sequel we'll have had three Forza games, three Colin McRae DIRTs, five Need for Speeds, Gran Turismo 5 and a handful of other racers - like Burnout - thrown in for good measure. Even the recent crop of kart racers have been surprisingly decent.

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Such a lengthy gap can highlight the shortcomings of any developer unwilling to change their vision, to roll with the technological punches. Many would argue that similar absentee Gran Turismo 5 felt old the day it was released because it refused to evolve into what the world expects from a truly modern racer.

Luckily, Codemasters has petrol in the blood; they know great racing games. So when we catch up with senior games designer Ross Gowing to find out how GRID is being fine-tuned for a 2013 release, we already know he's got some exciting ideas in his overalls...

CVG: It's been nearly five years since the release of the original Rice Driver GRID. Why do you think it's taken so long for the sequel to arrive?
GOWING: The studio started to think about what it wanted to do with a sequel almost immediately after finishing work on the original GRID, but as plans developed it became apparent that our ambitions outstripped what we were able to do with console hardware at that time.

Fast forward five years and we're now in a position to be able to do that vision justice given how much more we know about the platforms, and the improvements that have been made to the EGO engine.

How do you feel the racing landscape changed since the original GRID, and how have you accommodated that in your design process?
GOWING: It's difficult to define this in 'cause and effect' terms of what we do differently; but obviously since the original we've seen the bar raised by a number of our competitors so we're well aware of the need for every one of our features to be absolutely first class or it simply isn't worth including - the entire notion of something being 'tacked on' these days is a non-starter.

One easily quantifiable difference in the landscape though is what people expect from their online experience - whereas previously players enjoyed simply being able to compete on track against others in any capacity; these days you need to offer so much more in terms of progression, longevity and asynchronous play.

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What was your priority when looking at how to improve from the first game?
GOWING: There was so much we wanted to build on, but from a design point of view the handling model was top of the pile - we want every player to be able to pick the game up and within a couple of laps feel like a hero, power-sliding and paint-trading their way to victory.

I think we've really managed to achieve a setup where everyone can play the game immediately, whilst rewarding the players who dig even deeper and learn the ins-and-outs of each individual vehicle to shave tenths of seconds off their times.

What's more important? The quality or quantity of cars in a game?
Definitely quality - we're really excited about showing the world the amount of attention we've paid to each one of our vehicles and their subtleties and characteristics. We wouldn't want to be in a position where we were pumping out a conveyor belt of soulless boxes on wheels, we've hand-picked the vehicles that we want to work with and our handling team are really able to do each one justice.

I'd rather take the time to learn every nuance and feel like a hero in every vehicle I drive, rather than have twice the amount but notice no difference between any of them.

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