As one of the Xbox 360's anticipated launch titles, Project Gotham Racing 3 had a lot riding on its performance. Considered by many to be one of the best-looking games for the next-generation platform, Bizarre Creations' PGR3 still remains one of the highest-rated Xbox 360 games.
There are many challenges when creating a launch title. Final system specifications are constantly changing throughout development, the pressure of a deadline is magnified for a console's first crop of games, and expectations of new technology are incredibly high.
Bringing a new edition of a storied Xbox franchise to an untested platform brings even more obstacles. The game's online components are a main attraction and had to be revving right out of the gate. Plus, the new idea of microtransactions and increased focus on downloadable content was heaped specifically on PGR3 by Microsoft. And, once the game finally makes it out to stores, there is still the added task of keeping the game fresh.
GameSpot UK recently caught up with Gareth Wilson, project manager at Bizarre Creations in Liverpool, to find out what went into the development of Project Gotham Racing 3 and what's in store for the future of the game and Bizarre Creations.
GameSpot UK: Looking back, how would you evaluate the development period of PGR3? Are there things you would have done differently?
Gareth Wilson: I think things went as well as could be expected. It's always tricky building a game for a console in development, so we all expected some overtime. If there's one thing we would have done differently it would have been to lock down the design of the game a little earlier, but overall we got the game out on time to a good quality level--we achieved our goals for PGR3.
GSUK: What was preparing an Xbox 360 launch title like?
GW: Hard but exciting work!!! It's really the ultimate dream of any developer to be working on a launch title for a new console, where we get our hands on the new technology before anyone else. New possibilities open up to you that weren't possible before, which is very exciting. Then the flip side is the hard work of developing the systems to run on the new hardware.
GSUK: How much involvement/support did Microsoft give you throughout?
GW: Our relationship with Microsoft was key to getting PGR3 out on time to the level of detail we wanted. As new information emerged about the 360, they were great at explaining what that meant to us as developers. Also, the support for any technical questions we had was excellent.
GSUK: At least one high-profile game didn't make the console's launch and slipped behind. Were you ever in danger of that?
GW: I'd be lying if I said things didn't look hairy at certain points. But we always believed we had the staff and the plan to launch on day one--and we achieved that without sacrificing quality. When things looked like they might be late, we were fortunate to be able to add extra resources where needed.
GSUK: What are your thoughts on how PGR3 has performed on Xbox Live?
GW: We are very pleased--it's good to see the game is still very popular on Live nearly 10 months since launch. We were particularly pleased with the popularity of the tournaments. The first one had tens of thousands of contestants! We've also added a load of new game modes through [downloadable content packs] to keep people interested.
GSUK: You've continued to support PGR3 with additional downloads; what else will you do in this area?
GW: We've already released three download packs for PGR3, which had a lot of new, free functionality--tournaments, free cars, new game modes. We may be doing some other small stuff: Watch this space.
GSUK: If you had an ultimate wish list of things you could do with PGR3, what would be the top three?
GW: (3) Unlimited players on track!, (2) A GothamTV show that we can put on terrestrial, cable, and satellite TV, (1) Race an Enzo against a Halo Warthog!
GSUK: The online racing model works well, although it's difficult to stop cheaters from barging people in corners. Is there anything anybody can do about that?
GW: It's a tricky one, as we see some collision as part of the Gotham experience; we would never be a 'serious' racer that would penalise or disqualify a player for hitting another. In fact, we did do some tweaking to the online racing in one of the download packs--we reduced the effect of collisions slightly in competitive games, to make it harder to spin players out.
GSUK: The visuals in PGR3 seem to have become the accepted standard for next-gen games now. How does it feel to be the benchmark?
GW: It's great! I think we were very fortunate to have a team of engine coders who really knew where the next-generation bar was. Working so closely with Microsoft meant we really got to know the console and the guys that made the hardware, so we got most things right first time round.
GSUK: Do you have any plans to develop for the PlayStation 3 or Wii?
GW: Bizarre is an independent developer, so we'll always produce games for all sorts of hardware. We're currently working on a game called The Club for Sega that will be a multiformat release.
GSUK: What's the next title in the pipeline--give us some juicy, exclusive details...
GW: Besides The Club, we are working on a couple of exciting next-gen projects I'd love to talk about, but you'll have to wait for our official announcements!