Move fast, make stuff. That's the ethos that drives Three Fields Entertainment, the indie studio established by Criterion Games co-founders Alex Ward and Fiona Sperry. Dissatisfied with the process of triple-A development, Ward and Sperry founded a smaller, more nimble studio. Three Fields is a team of just seven people, who have moved quickly from game-to-game over the studio's six years of life. And now, with Dangerous Driving 2, Three Fields continues to build on what came before.
At PAX East 2020, I played an early version of Dangerous Driving 2, and the improvements over the first game are readily apparent. There's a stronger feeling of weight to the demo car, instead of the floatier rides of the first Dangerous Driving or Danger Zone 2. The damage model also looks improved, even if crashing was tuned a little too tight in this build, leaving you careening off civilian cars and road barriers from the slightest tap.
What's surprising about what I played is how early the work is. According to Ward, who is wonderfully straightforward and doesn't mince words, the build on show at PAX East was coming in hot. "We started the development right after we finished Dangerous Driving. We started the last week of August," he says. "So what you're seeing there isn't the game. It might look like a game, but it's a demo we made to come to PAX. What we did last time I came, I showed Dangerous Driving. We'd just finished the development, right? It was in submission, so it was easy to come with a finished game. What you see here, yeah, we put together in a week and a bit."
Instead, this build is intended to grow awareness within the community for Dangerous Driving 2. While the last game tried to deliver on the promise of the early Burnout titles, Dangerous Driving 2 is taking another step forward, with an open-world presentation. While the demo itself was a single track that can be repeated, Three Fields is busy building a full open-world game, just like the beloved Burnout Paradise. There will be closed tracks for racing, but players will be able to freedrive around the world itself.
Even though Three Fields is a team of veteran developers, it's been a learning experience. If you follow its releases, you can see the growth and evolution. 2016's Dangerous Golf was all about learning Unreal Engine and its brand of physics. Danger Zone worked on car crashes, but it was set indoors because the team hadn't worked with Unreal Engine's landscaping tools. Danger Zone 2 moved outdoors, and Dangerous Driving focused on building an actual arcade racing game. This all all culminates in Dangerous Driving 2.
"This is our sixth anniversary. Every game we make is a stepping stone to the next one," Ward says. "Dangerous Driving 2, [we decided,] let's try and make an open-world—which is insanity for a seven person team. And let's start showing the game after six months of development."
At PAX East, the team was also showing off an early build of Dangerous Driving 2 for the Nintendo Switch, the first time Three Fields has worked on Nintendo's hybrid platform. What I played suffered from frame rate issues and a clear need for optimization, but it was important to Three Fields to be honest with its work so far. It wanted a proof of concept, to let players know that it's happening. "We only built the game on Switch for the first time in January, and the first build was a black screen. So what you're seeing on Switch, that's about 6-7 weeks work by one person. [Programmer] Ben Smith, who's not here," says Ward.
According to Ward, "making it run on the Switch" was one of the central pillars of Dangerous Driving 2. He sees a hunger for arcade racing games on the platform that's not being met. "We have a lot of requests for it, and there's not many arcade driving games on it," Ward tells me. "We work on Unreal Engine, right? [Epic Games] makes Fortnite, so if Epic does a good game on the Switch, all their work, tech, and expertise filters down to developers like us, which makes it quicker and more efficient for us to get on the Switch."
The first Dangerous Driving had a number of updates, adding new modes and bug fixes. However it's easier to add to a game that's comprised of discrete maps, rather than one huge open-world playground. I ask Ward how the team plans to update Dangerous Driving 2 post-launch, but my question is a little premature.
"I have no idea. What are you having for dinner on a Tuesday, the second week of November?" Ward asks. "We're showing two-player split-screen, which just went in last week. If you ask me that at PAX West, I'll be able to tell you. Small developers, you put the game out. Hopefully we've done our job and there aren't any issues, but if there are then we'll fix them and patch them in."
As Three Fields Entertainment continues to grow in expertise, Ward admits that he prefers working with a small, agile team to make games. As his old studio Criterion Games has bounced between Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Battlefield 5 before being handed the reins to the Need for Speed franchise once again, Ward and his compatriots have been able to work with a singular focus. Fewer resources, but no one standing in its way.
"It's a lot more fun, with a lot less money. Actually it's ten times the fun, with a million times less money. We feel like we're a high school football team playing in the Super Bowl in here. We're racing in the Indy 500 with a car we've just built ourselves," he says. "I haven't got a billion dollars, but imagination, talent, and creativity? They don't cost anything, so let's do it differently."
Despite its early state at PAX East 2020, Dangerous Driving 2 is drifting around the corner at high speed. It's coming Holiday 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, moving swiftly toward a multi-platform launch.