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Need for Speed: The Run producer Brian Lindley interview

Thursday 20 Oct 2011 5:58 p.m.

NFS: The Run main characters Sam Harper (Christina Hendricks) and Jack Rourke (Sean Faris)

NFS: The Run main characters Sam Harper (Christina Hendricks) and Jack Rourke (Sean Faris)

By Daniel Rutledge

The 18th title in the Need for Speed franchise, The Run, hopes to take the action racing game genre to the next level.

The game pits players in a high-speed race from San Francisco to New York after a prize of US$25 million.

I caught up with the game’s producer Brian Lindley in Las Vegas for a chat about the new Frostbite 2 engine, the franchise’s all new levels of epicness… and the super hot in-game babes.

What makes Need for Speed better than all the other racing games out there, and why would The Run be a great first racing game to get for someone who has just got a console?
Number one we’re the biggest racing brand out there, so we have that recognition. If somebody was new to gaming, they would probably have heard of Need for Speed before anything else. Secondly, it’s accessible. We’ve built the franchise to be accessible and easy to pick up and play. There’s a couple of different pockets within the driving genre – we have simulation, where you’re trying to replicate the experience of driving cars with as much realism as possible. We’re trying to land in between [simulator and arcade style racing games] with The Run. It’s going to feel challenging and rewarding as you master the controls and the cars, but it isn’t going to be overly punishing. We are going to give you some help here and there so you feel like you’re driving like a hero, rather than on some simulators where you start out and feel like you’re less good than maybe you really are. The Run is an awesome premise – it’s probably the biggest premise we’ve had in Need for Speed. If you’re looking for something that is going to satisfy your desire for action and give you a fun driving experience, Need for Speed is the franchise, rather than something that’s purely just focussed on the driving angle.

I’m very happy to learn of the collaboration with Sports Illustrated to bring two of the most beautiful girls in the world into Need for Speed: The Run. How are they involved in the game?
Well Chrissy and Irina are actually going to be two characters in the game that you encounter as you’re racing from San Francisco to New York. They’re friends that are racing together and they become rival racers for you. It’s about midway through the race that you’ll run into them and they’ll be a couple of the tougher competitors that you run into.

Need for Speed: The Run screenshot

I was a big fan of Maggie Q’s inclusion in NFS: Undercover. Do you think babes are an important part of Need for Speed?
We definitely have a rich heritage of having great up and coming models and actresses in Need for Speed so it was a very natural partnership with Sports Illustrated. Y’know, when you think of Need for Speed, you think of fast cars, high action and hot girls. So we’re keeping it together. 

The women look fantastic in the game thanks to the powerful Frostbite 2 engine. But everything looks fantastic in it, that avalanche is particularly epic. Has Frostbite 2 allowed you to do things you’ve always wanted to, but haven’t been able to before?
Absolutely, Frostbite 2 gives us a tonne of advantages. Like the destructibility, what we can do with the environments, what we can do in terms of scripting and things like that, and of course creating these big action moments. It’s stuff we couldn’t really do on this big a scale before, but now with Frostbite 2 and having the DICE team involved as great partners, it’s given us a huge canvas to let our imaginations run wild. It’s an engine that’s flexible enough to kind of let us do whatever we want to. That is good and bad in some cases – we overstretch ourselves sometimes, but it let’s us do crazy cool stuff like we have in the avalanche level.

Need for Speed has always emphasized speed and I think it actually feels like you’re going a lot faster in the game than a lot of other races. Now in The Run it just looks so much better and more epic with this new engine. Is it the most epic NFS title yet?
I think so. It’s definitely the biggest. The other benefit that Frostbite 2 gives us is it really allows us to build content and iterate on that content rather quickly. So in previous engines it would be pretty laborious process for us to create 100 – 105km of real track inside the game, but in The Run we have almost 300km. So that speaks to the volume of the content we can build and the quality in terms of the power with the toolset and the ability to iterate which is really where you get quality in the games industry. Getting to test and play and test again and iterate as you go to improve, and Frostbite 2 gives us that a lot better than we had with some of our previous technology. So yeah, I think it is probably the most epic one. If you think about how epic even just the premise is, driving from San Francisco to New York with the variety of landscapes and drives and tracks from one end of the US to the other, it just naturally feels more epic than anything we’ve ever done.

Need for Speed: The Run screenshot

Why is The Run San Fran – New York rather than LA – New York?
That’s a good question. I think we were maybe looking for more of a direct route. It’s more of a straight line route rather than being sort of corner to corner. But also, San Fran has some iconic landmarks and things like the bridge and the downtown. Also, what we can do with the environment with things like fog, it makes it of a bit cooler place to drive than LA. And my experiences driving in LA are largely being stuck in traffic! So that’s the primary reason, it’s just a cooler looking start for the game.

You’ve played through the game a lot during its development, so tell me what your favourite car in it is, and also your favourite track.
I really like the Porsche – it’s really fast and it’s nimble. My favourite track, well, the desert hills track we showed at Gamescon is easily one of my favourites. It’s not too technical but it’s got a lot of high speed but turns that you still need to brake for. It’s got some cool shortcuts, it looks really good and there’s a huge jump at the end of it. The avalanche level is probably a close second because it’s just so epic and non-stop.

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Need for Speed: The Run is the 18th title in the NFS franchise, and will be released for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and 3DS on November 17.

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