Last week, Need for Speed: Rivals executive producer and Ghost Games studio head Marcus Nilsson said that driving games need more innovation. For EA, part of that innovation is adding new features and technology to improve the player experience. In Part Two of our interview with Need for Speed: Rivals executive producer Marcus Nilsson, we talk about next-gen consoles, online features, and the new Overwatch second-screen mode.
According to Nilsson, Need for Speed: Rivals on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One looks "amazing". He declines to say if he has a preference for either consoles, but he does admit that next-generation NFS was the studio's focus.
"I think both consoles are more powerful than I thought they would be when we first got the specs and got the game running. We've pushed them both higher than I thought was possible," Nilsson says. "If I was going to have to pick a lead platform that we worked on, it would be the next-gen consoles. That doesn't mean that the current-gen consoles are a second thought. Current-gen consoles for us are really important. Our biggest market will be on PS3 and Xbox 360. The game needs to run and play really well on those consoles."
"I think both consoles are more powerful than I thought they would be when we first got the specs and got the game running."
"Frostbite 3 is a very capable engine. It's a PC engine from the beginning, really, and as such it's very scalable. Which means that we can build a game for the high end new consoles – which are very similar to the PC, by the way – and it's not that easy, but you can really get a current-gen version out of Frostbite pretty easily as well. I'd say that the next-gen consoles look amazing, whereas the current-gen consoles are definitely the best-looking current-gen Need for Speeds that we've ever done. I think it shows the power of Frostbite, and also the skill set from learning those machines, knowing how to get the most out of them."
This year's Need for Speed features All-Drive, which is supposed to seamlessly connect the single-player and online modes into a single, cohesive open-world. Players can switch back and forth, find rivals, and challenge their friends without changing to a different screen. Nilsson says All-Drive came about when Ghost Games thought about what the next-generation would bring to the franchise.
"When you start thinking about that, you're like, 'Okay, next generation, you'll be able to do everything. It'll all look absolutely real.' It's always like that, right? When we switched to PS3 and Xbox 360, it was going to look real," he explains. "This time around, it's going to look real. Something that we understood early on, though, is that this is going to be about far more than visuals. Next generation is about gameplay and how we can push gameplay."
For Ghost Games, the reasoning behind having a separate single-player and multiplayer experience became "almost like a philosophical question." Instead of sectioning off the different player experiences, what would happen if it was all in one world?
"I believe that playing with other people is creating additional fun. I want more Need for Speed gamers to try that. I think All-Drive is a very good way for you to test it without it being too scary."
"We put everyone into one world," Nilsson says. "Once we did that, we realized that, wow, this is really cool, because we're constantly seeing the unexpected happen because we have different people in the same world. You can start playing this game alone, having your progression playing it on your own. I can be in that same world because we're friends. I can have my progression. Then all of a sudden we meet up and we go into a race together, or we're cops and we go on a pursuit together, or you're a cop and I'm a racer and you go after me. Then some other friends come in and they're cops as well, and three cops are coming after me."
"Personally, I'm from Battlefield, obviously a very online-focused series," he adds. "I believe that playing with other people is creating additional fun. I want more Need for Speed gamers to try that. I think All-Drive is a very good way for you to test it without it being too scary. Pressing the 'multiplayer' button can be really scary, right? But in this game, we'll seamlessly let you go from single-player to playing with other people, if you choose to do so. I'm really proud of that feature. I think it's going to be something that's part of the Need for Speed experience as we go forward."
EA and Ghost Games are also getting in on the second-screen action. Like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch_Dogs, Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts, Need for Speed: Rivals will allow you to have part of your gaming experience on a tablet. Rivals' second-screen mode is called Overwatch and lets players on tablets place roadblocks or power-ups within the game. We can feel the friendly griefing even now.
"Wherever you are, with a connection, you can interact with the game experience," says Nilsson. "I can open up my app on my Android or my iPad, or on the PC or Mac, and interact with you. I can put a roadblock in your face. I can get a helicopter down to try and stop you. Or I can also help you. If you announce, 'I need some help, I can't finish this race fast enough, can you give me some extra boosts?' I can give you boosts."
"The more you use Overwatch, the more you unlock content that is exclusive to Overwatch users in the actual console game," he says. "It's all connected to a much wider degree than Need for Speed has ever done before. There's also the Need for Speed Network, which Overwatch is part of. It's basically the backbone of your Need for Speed experience. All your stats, all your events. There's a big world map, and on that map you can compare to all your friends, who is owning most of the map? All the roads, all the jumps, all the speed zones. It really shows who's the most successful in Redview County. It's all built up on rivalry, right? It's Need for Speed Rivals. It's you versus your friends, cops versus racers, and we've taken that to a really high degree."
Sadly, Overwatch cannot show gamers on competing platforms at the same time. Nilsson says that Overwatch can be switched between Xbox One and PlayStation 4 modes to see what friends on those consoles are up to, but it won't update both on the same map.
Need for Speed: Rivals is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on November 19, 2013. The next-gen release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be on November 22, 2013.