Car games tend to fall into one of two major subsets: arcade racing and simulation driving. The former usually relies on drifting, loose steering, and fictional vehicles, while the latter boasts real-world production cars and punishment for braking and turning at the same time. Blur is a melding of the two with real-world vehicles, crazy over-the-top stunts, and Mario Kart-style power-ups to blast your trackmates. We recently caught up with two of the game’s lead designers, Gareth Wilson and Ged Talbot, to chat about social networking, why storyline doesn’t matter to racing, and the return of split-screen.
GameSpot AU: You said last year that one of Blur’s biggest strengths was adding a storyline to the racing. Why was story so important?
Gareth Wilson: There’s no storyline in Blur. This was one of the features we thought wasn’t working great last year, so we replaced the storyline with social features where you and your friends progress the story.
GS AU: Race performance and actions will unlock additional content as you play. Explain how that works.
Ged Talbot: As you do cool things on-track: shoot power-ups, overtake drivers, do stunts, you earn fans. Earn enough fans and you’ll rank up, unlocking cool new cars, game modes, mods, and vehicle upgrades.
GS AU: How many vehicles does the game feature and which manufacturers are on board?
GT: Fifty-plus cars including BMW, Lotus, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Koenigsegg, Shelby, Audi, and Dodge.
GS AU: Blur appears to be more of a street arcade racer than a closed-track sim. Why then have you opted to go with licensed vehicles?
GW: Because real cars are cooler to drive than fake cars! Seriously, though, having licensed cars in a game gives it a feeling of quality. And we wanted gamers to know this is a triple A racing game.
While we are 100 percent an action game, the underlying physics and handling are still very much based in the real world. This sort of handling and gameplay suits the real world visuals much better than it would if we had tried to put a realistic handling model on obviously fake car models.
GS AU: Hoarding and then carefully deploying power-ups looks to be essential. How many items can you carry simultaneously? Will you be able to string a series of different items together to create combos?
GW: You can carry three power-ups at once, so keeping a selection to use is important. A good method is a nitro to get close to other racers, an offensive power-up like barge or bolt to take them out once close, and then a defensive power-up like shield once you’re ahead.
One of the most important skills you can have in Blur is knowing which power-ups are going to be most useful to you at any particular time. There are several factors you need to take into account during the race before deciding which power-up to select, including: Where am I in the field of racers? Are you at the front of the pack or bringing up the rear? And how close are my nearest opponents and are they in front of me or do you need to defend from an attacker coming up from behind?
GS AU: Tell us about how shunting placement on competitors will determine the effect you have on them.
GT: Shunt flings cars into the air, so using it when near a cliff or under a bridge can be devastating! Also, using it on corners or in hairpins will throw your opponents off the racing line, potentially with terrible consequences.
GS AU: How will the social media aspects in Blur help players find races both in the single-player and online modes?
GW: Blur has social network integration. This means you can update your progress via Twitter to your friends when they’re not at their consoles and let them know when you’re around to play.
Also, after completing a single-player race, you can send a Friends Challenge to any of your Xbox Live friends. This message appears in the Xbox dashboard and challenges your friends to do better than you in the event you just played. If your friend beats your challenge, he can send it back to you with new data. This is available for Xbox Live silver accounts and allows people to compete who are not usually online together.
GS AU: Split-screen racing has dropped off the map a bit of late. Why do you think this is and why are you working so hard to bring it back when you’re also including online play?
GT: Blur is about playing with friends, and one of the best ways to play with friends is getting your buddies around and playing on the same console! As games become more complicated, splitting the screen into four viewports becomes tougher to do, but we believe this is a super-important feature for a racing game.
With the rise of the Internet and online gaming, people seem to have forgotten how much fun it can be to actually sit next to someone while playing together. If you were to ask someone whether it’s better to go to the cinema or to a restaurant on your own or with a friend, the answer would be a no-brainer, right? Experiences are always better when you share them with friends. The same is true with gaming and it’s true whether you’re playing a multiplayer game together or you’re passing the pad between yourselves in a single-player game.
GS AU: Gareth and Ged, thanks for your time.