Project Gotham Racing 2 Designer Diary #1
We check in with Bizarre Creations to find out more about the next installment in its Xbox racing franchise.
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We began our series of looks at the development of Project Gotham Racing 2 with a Q&A that looked back on the original game. This month, we hear from Bizarre Creations producer Peter Wallace, who talks about the start of development on Project Gotham Racing 2.
It was late November 2001. We had recently finished Project Gotham Racing, and it seemed to be going down well around the world. But where could we go from there? It's an amazing feeling to have developed a game that is popular and that people enjoy, but just like with any game that's done in a tight time frame, there's always something that you would have wanted to have added, changed, or tweaked--if only we'd had more time. But we did have time! We had Project Gotham Racing 2! The work on Project Gotham Racing 2 was started shortly after Project Gotham Racing was finished (Microsoft did actually let us have a couple of hours off in between), and it was here that we had the chance to put all our "not enough time" ideas, tweaks, and changes into action. We wanted outside feedback too, so we listened to comments from Gotham players in focus groups, on the Internet, and in magazines. Even the big man, Bill Gates himself, e-mailed us some suggestions of things we could include!
So, where do you start on a sequel to a game like Project Gotham Racing? Do you pull the whole game apart and rebuild it from scratch? Or do you take what you have and add to it? Well, from the Bizarre Creations' point of view, the programmers wanted to take the 3D engine and physics model to bits and start again, to make the most of all that extra Xbox knowledge. The artists wanted to do new environments, using the techniques they'd perfected on Project Gotham Racing, and the designers had plenty of new things they wanted to include in Project Gotham Racing 2, so we went back to basics.
The first important question we had to ask ourselves was, What made Project Gotham Racing fun? This was where we needed to start work on a sequel. Fast cars? Check. Real cities? Check. The idea of speed and style? Check. Competition? Check. We took these core values and then looked at the best ways that we could build up a game that captured the spirit and ethos of Project Gotham Racing. Then we built it into a new challenge that still had a familiar feel, rather than just making the same game over again with different cars and cities.
To us, as gamers, it's important to get value for money from the games we buy--which is what we're pitching for in Project Gotham Racing 2. You don't want just an update on a game, you want a full sequel. Jumping through identical hoops, albeit in a new environment, to get the same reward isn't going to be as challenging as trying something new--but with the same "flavor" of the racing that you enjoyed before.
So onward and upward was the way to go with the design. The next thing we had to look at was what made Project Gotham Racing frustrating for some people, but too simple for others. This was the main problem we had to address when beginning Project Gotham Racing 2: How could we develop a game that encompassed the challenge to show off style and skill, but maintain a structure that gamers with different driving tactics could master and enjoy, while still finding a challenge suitable for their style of gaming?
We then we had to work out what people wanted from the racing environments and cars. Did they want more of the same, different experiences, or a mixture? And were sports cars and super cars the ideal ones to use, or did people want more variety? These important questions will be answered in later installments of the development diary.
So after the framework for Project Gotham Racing 2 was set, we had to think about building up the Project Gotham Racing 2 team to suit the new plans. Project Gotham Racing was a short-timescale game, meaning that we had to have a relatively large team (by Bizarre standards) to complete the game in the time. We took our new and ambitious plans, worked out how long it was to build all the environments, model the cars, and program the game modes and features, and panicked! Not only did we have far too few people, but we also had no idea where we going to fit them in.
The recruitment had to start pretty much as soon as the project did. It's a long and hard process at Bizarre, because although we don't look for qualifications or experience, getting people with the right talent, interest, and enthusiasm who will also fit in with the existing team is tough! Gradually we increased our art, programming, and sound teams until we reached the ideal team for creating Project Gotham Racing 2.
We now have 20 artists working here on Project Gotham Racing 2: 16 environment artists, two 2D presentation artists, and two car artists. We also have two companies who are helping us build cars--and for those, we managed to find external people who are as mad about cars as we are! And of course there's a designer, overseeing those working on the design and gameplay, as well. On the programming side, we have six programmers working directly on the game and one who codes the modeling and game development package used for the artwork. More on this later too! There is an audio team on the game, consisting of a programmer and two sound engineers.
In terms of support for the team, we have a producer who works with the team full time, assisted by a production support guy. There's an executive producer, an IT department, a PR person, and a general company support staff--and of course Martyn Chudley, the managing director, is very involved in all the design issues. And so we have the team in place and the overall plan for the goals of the sequel in place, and we are ready to roll!