Burnout Revenge Designer Diary #1

Criterion's executive producer, Matt Webster, discusses the challenge of creating a sequel to a hit game like Burnout 3: Takedown.

UK-based Criterion is currently adding the finishing touches to Burnout Revenge, which is currently scheduled to ship in September--one year after the release of Burnout 3: Takedown. One of the greatest challenges for Criterion has been topping last year's game, as executive producer Matt Webster explains in our first Burnout Revenge designer diary.

The Definition of Pressure

By Matt Webster
Executive Producer

Hello! My name is Matt Webster, and I'm the executive producer of Burnout Revenge. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the development of the game. We're almost done over here, and I'll be reviewing some of the high (and low) points on the process to date. But let's start at the beginning...

Burnout 3 was released in September 2004 and achieved a level of success that I don't think anyone on the team really expected. I mean, we knew that we had a game that we thought was pretty special, and we were very pleased with what we did development-wise. It wasn't an easy project. We all worked exceptionally hard. This sounds like a cliché, as all developers say stuff like this. But Burnout 3 was tough. Plus we had so many people freaking out over the game that it was added pressure to deliver the game and also deliver the goods.

How do you top a monster hit like Burnout 3?

Burnout 3 was the most successful game Criterion had put out, and it received numerous game of the year awards and something like 43 global awards and amazing review scores. But the thing is, you never truly know how a game will be received until it's released and you see people spending their hard-earned cash to buy it. That's the ultimate test!

We were really happy to see so many people having fun with our game and immediately started to ramp up on Burnout Revenge. This is where the real pressure started to hit us. With great review scores come great expectations for the sequel, and our mission was clear.

We just knew there was so much more that we could do with Burnout to take it further. We had a ton of ideas in the bank, but we also took the time to watch people play the game. We were looking for feedback on what worked, what could be improved, and where players wanted the series to go.

I even took a trip out to the US to get some direct feedback from journalists who had reviewed us so highly. This was a month or two after release. We were working on the new game, but, of course, no one really knew that. I wanted to talk to people about the game, understand what they enjoyed, where they had problems, and what they didn't particularly understand or like. It was also very interesting to learn what "outsiders" thought about the general direction of the Burnout franchise.

We learned a number of lessons from this period of reflection. Aggressive driving, which we added in to Burnout 3, worked really well--better than any of us expected. Retrospectively, what could we have done better? There were a couple of corners on a couple of tracks that we could have tweaked to make it flow better. And I think we all agree that we could have tweaked the handling on the F1 and Indy-type cars we put in. They were a little too crazy for a lot of players, and you really need to understand how drift works in the game to be able to escape with your life in those cars.

User feedback helped shape Burnout Revenge's gameplay.

The main thing that we did realize was that we needed a central theme to pull the player through the game--to hook their achievements into. It didn't come right at the start, but the concept of revenge, the revenge ranking, and how we collect your ratings within the game and translate your performance was what we were looking for. The concept of revenge...the emotion was so well suited to Burnout that it even became the name!

So with all of this together, we took on the task of creating the next game in the Burnout series, a game to beat everyone's sky-high expectations. We started on our hardest challenge yet. Next time I'll tackle our philosophy on track design, which changed a great deal between Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge.

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