Project Gotham's Bizarre Evolution

DEVELOP '09: Bizarre designer reveals Geometry Wars' inclusion "a joke," how Microsoft nixed betting feature from the series.

BRIGHTON, UK--Bizarre Creations is undoubtedly one of the most respected racing development studios around. After working with Microsoft for several years on the Project Gotham Racing series, Bizarre is currently developing Blur for Activision, which acquired the studio earlier this year. At the Develop conference, designer Chris Pickford discussed the development of the PGR series, revealed that Geometry Wars inclusion was a "joke," and confessed that Halo 3's launch was a burden for the studio.

Bikes made their first entry into the series in PGR4.

The Project Gotham Racing franchise originally began as an Xbox port of Metropolis Street Racer, which Bizarre developed for the Sega Dreamcast. According to Pickford, Microsoft was impressed with MSR and asked Bizarre to rewrite it for the upcoming Xbox console within a 10-month period. The franchise got its name from the inclusion of a track based on New York City--commonly nicknamed Gotham. While other names were considered, including "Evo K," PGR inadvertently became the official title. Pickford said Microsoft asked Bizarre what the game's name was called at the time. The response from the studio was "Well, at the moment, Project Gotham Racing." This subsequently wound up being emblazoned across Microsoft's E3 2001 booth and became the official title.

When evaluating what went wrong in the first PGR's development, Pickford said there was no time to redefine the core design principles from MSR. "We were just doing a direct port," he said. It took a mere 11 months, thanks to plenty of "late nights and lots and lots of curry." Project Gotham Racing 2 (2003) added new features to the series; however, according to Pickford, one of the most popular inclusions was "Put it in there as a joke"--the Geometry Wars minigame.

Following PGR2's success, Microsoft asked Bizarre to develop another iteration in the series, 2005's Project Gotham 3, as a launch title for the Xbox 360. The console holder shipped to Bizarre a number of high-powered Macs for development, which he confessed "was a bit funny." Pickford also revealed that the team had originally planned to include a betting option in PGR3, which was appropriate given the inclusion of a Las Vegas circuit. However, apparently Microsoft deemed it "could not be involved in anything to do with betting because it would be like allowing minors to bet through an Xbox."

Project Gotham 4 included new features, such as Gotham TV on demand, Geometry Wars: Waves, and a daily worldwide tournament system. However, despite adding new features, Pickford believes that it became much harder to create subsequent iterations on existing hardware due to consumer demand for new features. "We had motorbikes [in PGR4], for example," he explained. "What are you going to do next, boats?"

While PGR4 got the nod of approval from critics , Pickford said it became lost in a sea of other games after its early October 2007 launch. He also felt it had fallen victim to what he dubbed "the Halo effect."

"If you're releasing [a title] anywhere around Halo--like literally three months either side--you're stumped. Halo 3 came out six weeks after we did," he elaborated. "We actually had to bring our project [forward] six weeks to try and get a little bit of time before Halo 3 launched. At the same time, Forza [MotorSport 2] shipped late, so we were sandwiched between two big hitters. It was a real burden at the time."

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Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

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Discussion

33 comments
na_X
na_X

Had this game since the launch, very good game. Been playing it more than Forza2 too, because it is easy to get in and just play a few stages and let it go again if you`re a bit in a hurry. :) I wouldn`t compare PGR againt Forza or GT5, it`s completely different settings because PGR are more arcadish. Anyway, get a wheel to this game because it feels even better with it and you`ll feel when the car slips, excellent! :D

X-RS
X-RS

not so sure i see a briht future with activision ?.?

ZedX-14Pilot
ZedX-14Pilot

Decent series. I just picked up PGR 4 myself. I have been playing Bizzare Creation's games since the original Formula 1 on the original Playstation. I wish they would make another Formula 1 game in the future. The first couple were great. I popped in Formula 1 Championship Edition a few days ago, the follow up to the original Formula 1, just for nostalgia's sake. Still great fun even after all these years. MAN am I getting old! lol

Pete5506
Pete5506

I love PGR I hope we see another one soon

joeallen06
joeallen06

@cube-gage gt5 has got damage in it it just didn't in the prologue and it is the best racing series ever but yes the music is crap

cube-gage
cube-gage

Either way, Gran Turismo 5 looks to be the don. Gran Turismo just has the best selection of cars, and nice stylish interface. The music sucks though and lack of damage was an issue. Plus its friggin hard to do some of the challenges which are almost impossible unless you can drive 100% perfect just like a cpu.

Nintendo_Man
Nintendo_Man moderator

PGR2 and 4 are the best racing games i have ever played.

Beltsu
Beltsu

Played them all. Actually, my favourite PGR is 2. Loved the progression system, the multiplayer and the amount of cars there. If it had PGR 3's graphics, would be a 9.5/10, I'm sure.

jrabbit99
jrabbit99

that sucks to be sandwiched between Forza 2 and Halo 3

KA12NAG3
KA12NAG3

I like the fact that Microsoft sent Bizarre a "number of high-powered Macs for development."

jimbob_1977
jimbob_1977

forza rules. fact. end of story. period.

fighter91
fighter91

PGR4 was a great game, I feel as though the game was highly underrated. The gameplay is better than most other racing games I've played.

thk123
thk123

@ StephenBassford I hear you man, that's probably my favourite racing game ever! :P It had controls down to a tea and looked so good at the time. Plus custom sound track, those were the days. Never really got in to the next gen PGR's though :(

drangel_jam
drangel_jam

I feel what he is saying. I have been a big PGR fan, but I felt like PGR4 was a little to hard, and the top medals became harder and hard to acquire. So it lost that sense of reward and progression. I know they are people out there who can get platinum on all events, but they are no more than 10%. IMO, racing games should be like Forza 2, allowing costumizable difficulty, and more importantly allow reasonably skilled gamers to get the highest accolades. And give the top hardcore gamers online to battle in pro lobbies and online leaderboards.

StephenBassford
StephenBassford

PGR2 on xbox live were some of my happiest days of gaming. :D

AstroChimp83
AstroChimp83

Microsoft sending Macs to the developers is more than just "a bit funny". I literally lol'd.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

pgr4 is still the best racing game, its the only game with handling that is realistic enough without being punishing and a proper selection of cars and race modes, if they updated the car list, put some customization options and released it again it would be amazing

SicklySunStorm
SicklySunStorm

Forza is most definitely king, but I still have time for PGR - it's always been a great game since MSR.

vengala31
vengala31

i would like to see a undergroundish type of game about motorcycles

Kokuro_Kun
Kokuro_Kun

It sounds like now Microsoft is really stupid for letting Bizarre go. Blur is gonna be really awesome.

Dante2710
Dante2710

i have it, i still cant enjoy a racing sim :(

admiral_picard
admiral_picard

Gee...why not release PGR5 with more cars, realistic car dashes that are made to where you can read them from the in-car camera view (You can't really read most of them from the current setup), more race tracks, and a few new interesting modes (We already have Bulldog and Cat and Mouse - come up with some more). I guess they think they need to earthshakingly create something new for it to matter but the truth is if they did these things to PGR5 people would love it, it would get rave reviews, and it would sell well. Don't know why they're beating themselves up, PGR is a great series. And someone else says Grid and Dirt replaced them? Not even by a longshot, I found Grid and Dirt very unappealing since there didn't really seem to be a point to why you were racing in them. PGR4 is still the boss to me...

ColdfireTrilogy
ColdfireTrilogy

@baystatethrashr very little MP support???!!!! are you KIDDING. if SC2 is anything like SC 1 then it will be receiving support for over a decade ... hell can you tell me one original Xbox online game that has gotten an update in the last year??? let alone a decade after its release. Blizzard keeps warden (the anticheat) updated on a regular interval AND is prepping another large patch soon with some additional content. The same goes for their Diablo2 franchise which is getting a very large update in the coming months. Please dont say little MP support ... that is just ludicrous.

XanderZane
XanderZane

The PGR series was great on the XBox. All 4 games got great reviews and even MSR did great on the Dreamcast. Bizarre Creations shouldn't be disappointed in their work. Geometry Wars turned out to be a great game. Whether it was a joke or not, but game made them some extra money. They probably were shocked by that since they didn't take the game seriously. I look forward to see how Blur will be different from PGR. I'm also looking forward to Split Second and NFS: Shift.

NuKkU
NuKkU

Bizarre is a great developer looking forward to Blur

NightRaVeN75
NightRaVeN75

PG3 and PGR4 were fun and good, but I think I like how Forza 2 might be even better, Turn 10 instead of Bizarre. Forza 2 with customization, PG4 with like an normal city racing, arcade style racing game, like Rush for N64 back in the day :)

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

Bring it to the Wii... you can't have a [blockbuster] effect without blockbusters!

fauljosh
fauljosh

I like the idea of betting. They should try to do that again. Maybe Microsoft will let them this time around.

childe_roland
childe_roland

Great series, PGR3 was the only game I bought at launch and I played it to death. 4 was good too but Codemasters really went all out this generation and one upped Bizarre on the race front with DiRT and Grid. As much as I like the PGR franchise, my racers these day come from Codemasters... Sorry Bizarre.

Nedemis
Nedemis

Woohooo!!! first. Anyways....what a load from them. If they were to release another PGR game, the fans would eat it up no matter what. I for one love the series but hated the inclusion of the motorcycles in PGR4.