NASCAR 06: Total Team Control Q&A
We corner producer Scott Stutsman to find out what's new in this year's edition of EA's stock-car-racing franchise.
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You know how that old adage goes: Another year, another NASCAR game. OK, we just made that up, but the fact remains that EA Sports consistently iterates its popular stock-car series on an annual basis just like all its other franchises. This year, though, EA's NASCAR effort has been split in twain. Now we've got the hardcore simulation of NASCAR SimRacing and the casual, arcade-style race action of the newly christened Total Team Control. To find out what's going on with the most recent version of the latter, we shot a few questions at producer Scott Stutsman.
GameSpot: What kind of experience are you aiming for with NASCAR 06?
Scott Stutsman: With NASCAR 06 we are looking to continue to build upon our legacy of innovation that we have established since this franchise came to the EA Tiburon studios. This year we have focused on squad-based racing where players will have the ability to communicate through our new interactive crew chief feature to command computer-controlled teammates on the track, voice recognition, and car swapping that help us establish total team control.
GS: Last year, players started off their NASCAR 2005: Chase for the Cup experience in a street race against Ryan Newman. What kind of unique interaction with real NASCAR drivers can we expect this time around?
SS: This year we put you into the last couple laps of the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. From there, you are trying to win the race by utilizing the car-swapping feature. You start out in Jimmie Johnson's car drafting with teammate Jeff Gordon. You are racing against teammates of another team, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip, when your car is taken out of the race. You will then have to swap to Jeff Gordon's car and fight back against your rival team for the win.
GS: One of the themes for this year's NASCAR is being part of a team. How will we see that theme reflected in all areas of the game?
SS: There are many ways that you will see it in, especially as you work your way through "fight to the top" mode. Your goal as an individual is to get signed by the top teams in the sport. You'll have teammates that you can share technologies and generate revenues with to help build that team toward success. By swapping cars and commanding computer-controlled teammates, you can improve everyone's finishing position, which will score you more prize winnings. Ultimately you can accumulate enough cash to buy one of the top teams in NASCAR racing.
GS: What kind of offtrack interaction with team members can we expect? How will you interact with your teammates and members of your crew when not in a race?
SS: If your team chemistry is high, you will see your teammates celebrating wins with you. Obviously, if you have poor chemistry on your team, your teammates will be nowhere to be found, and this spills over to the track where they will turn down your request to work with you.
GS: How will intrateam rivalries work? Are the real-life personalities of your teammates taken into consideration?
SS: Yes they are. But you can eventually get to the point where the chemistry of your team is so poor that you end up getting fired from the team. It's important that you work together to increase your exposure and team's prestige so that, quite possibly, you will get offered rides with the top teams in the sport.
GS: Will you be able to move from team to team over the course of a season or over multiple seasons? Can you be fired from a team or recruited by a rival team? If so, explain how that will work.
SS: You really want to work on writing your own ticket and your persona. By showing that you are a good teammate and winning races, you become valuable to other teams. But you need to be careful, because if you start jumping around, you are not going to be someone that a team can rely on.
GS: Explain how the communication between team members will work in the middle of a race. How will the user control requests for drafting help, pit strategy, and so on?
SS: In NASCAR 06 we innovated again with a couple of options that allow you to communicate through your crew chief with your teammates. For the first time in a console racing game, you will have the ability to use voice-recognition technology to communicate with your interactive crew chief through your online headset. With this feature, you can identify a computer-controlled teammate that you would like to command and then customize up to eight new controls, like drafting, blocking, and pitting with you. If you don't own an online headset, no worries, all of the same controls will be available to you through use of the right analog stick.
GS: How has online racing been improved this year? Will we see the same team-centric controls found in the single-player game available in online races?
SS: We are continuously trying to improve on the stability of the online experience, along with removing the exploits of your racing experience, to level the playing field of competition. With voice-over IP, you will be able to work with the other people you are racing against to draft past the other cars, so the team philosophy works very well online.
GS: From a driving standpoint, what should fans of the series know about how the cars handle in NASCAR 06?
SS: We are always tuning to make sure that the driving experience is fun and accessible to anyone that wants to play a NASCAR racing game. On the other hand, we try to ensure that the game can be adjusted to make it challenging to all users that choose to make it that way.
GS: What kind of graphical tweaks can we expect in the game?
SS: NASCAR 06 has taken great leaps to continue to improve on these fantastic venues that are raced throughout the season. We constantly are looking to take the graphics of our game to the next level, and this year, with a great new visual perspective, we really think that we've hit on something that gives you a great perspective on just how big these tracks are and how fast you are going.
GS: Now that the NASCAR brand has been split across two titles, NASCAR SimRacing and NASCAR 06, how do the two games complement one another? Can a hardcore sim fan enjoy NASCAR 06?
SS: I believe that this shows just how great of a job that our development teams can do to create an experience that caters to the wide range of fans that we have. If you are looking for a quick-hitting, fun experience, the console titles provide that. But I really believe that we also cater to the hardcore sim fans with the depth and multiple series contained in the fight to the top mode. NASCAR SimRacing really showed that we can also give the hardcore sim fans the deep product with all of the car-setup tweaks along with the beautiful tracks and great online experience that they expect.
GS: Thanks for your time.