Project Gotham Racing 3 Designer Diary
Ben Ward gives you a look inside the playtime and career modes in the upcoming Xbox 360 launch racer.
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Project Gotham 3 is without a doubt one of the biggest racing games of the year and one of the best early displays of just what the Xbox 360 is capable of. We all know PGR3 looks and sounds great and will feature a bevy of high-performance vehicles, but what's the gameplay like? For a detailed description of the playtime and Gotham career modes, we once again enlisted Bizarre Creations' Ben Ward to give us a full rundown.
By Ben Ward
Welcome back to Bizarre Creations' official development diary on all things PGR3. If you've already seen the previous parts of this diary, thanks for coming back! You'll remember that I'm Ben--the Web guy at Bizarre and the creator of Bizarre's community portal at www.bizarreonline.net. For more information on the game, check out part 1 and part 2 of our designer diary series.
So we've touched on the main pillars of PGR3 (racing, Kudos, speed, accessibility, and kick-ass presentation), and we've broken down the car selection we've chosen this time around. For this diary, I'm going to concentrate on the less-serious side of PGR3…playtime!
OK, first things first. You'll remember that our ethos for PGR3 changed somewhat from the previous Project Gotham games. This one was going to be fun right off the bat; not restrictive and linear like some other racing franchises. Somewhat famously, we said "You can now race any car, on any track, right out of the box."
However, we've still got the longevity and depth you now come to expect from a PGR game--so if you're a "hardcore" racer like me, fret not. There's more in this game than Project Gotham Racing 2! But how do we strike a balance between accessibility and challenge? Well, we split the single-player game into two distinct modes: Gotham career, and playtime!
So, the playtime mode. This is where you go when you just want to have fun and don't want to worry about unlocking cars or progressing through a career. Selecting Playtime from the main menu lets you do a whole bunch of cool stuff.
Playtime mode isn't limited to one Xbox 360. You can race split-screen, have a System Link game, or race over Xbox Live, too. However, this is where it gets interesting. The races you set up don't have to be normal street races (like PGR2). We support the following new game modes:
- Street Race – Race wheel-to-wheel against multiple opponents.
- Eliminator – Last driver to complete each lap is eliminated.
- Team Street Race – Red Team versus Blue Team racing.
- Team Eliminator – Last player each lap is eliminated. The last player standing wins the race for their team.
- Capture the Track – Capture as many track sections as you can for your team.
Of course, you can race these however you wish: on your own, against friends over System Link or Live, or against AI opponents of varying skill levels (from steel all the way up to platinum). You can even race on your own tracks (more on this later).
So what about city and car selections in playtime? Well, everything is available from the start. You can race any of the predefined routes in Tokyo, Las Vegas, New York, London, the Nürburgring, or a custom route as soon as you start the game. You can choose any of the 80 cars (from any of the five car classes) without having to buy them first.
The emphasis in playtime mode is really about having fun. How many times did you get annoyed in PGR2 when your friends wanted to race in Enzo Ferraris, but you hadn't unlocked that particular car yet? Or you wanted to show your friends something in the game, but didn't want to muck up your career mode? Or you just wanted a quick carefree blast when you got in from a night out? Now you don't have to worry about it; choose Playtime from the main menu and get into whichever game type takes your fancy.
Another new mode in the Playtime menu is slightly more serious. It's called "race against the clock," and it is based around the concept of setting the fastest lap time. You choose the track and car, and then try to set your best time. You can also race a ghost of the world's best time--we've had loads of fun doing this at Bizarre Creations over the last few weeks! Needless to say, there are plenty of online leaderboards for this section, so you can see how you stack up against your friends, or even the world's best.
The final part of playtime is the route creator. You can choose to make your own tracks through any of the five cities, in anything up to 100 million combinations. Choosing Route Creator from the playtime menu prompts you to pick a city, and then you're away!
Just point your cursor at any of the starting points, and hit A. Then join the dots between all the junctions to make your route. You don't have to make a circuit; point-to-point races are also possible. In fact, in the screenshot below, you can see one of my favorite point-to-point routes in Vegas.
This route (which I aptly name Holy Poop) is just a massive straight. It takes you the entire length of the Strip, and then throws you into a murderous hairpin at the end. You then head all the way back down the Strip again, finishing with a long, sweeping left-hand turn. The entire route takes about two minutes to drive, and I've taken the F1 LM to over 220mph on this track--it's scary!
So there we have it, that's playtime mode. Turn the page for the next installment, where I take you through the hardcore racing mode: Gotham career.
Gotham career is the more competitive side of PGR3. It's where the serious players come to do some serious racing. Do you want to prove you're the best? Want to thrash all of your friends online? Want to build up a collection of well-earned supercars in your own personal garage? Well, Gotham career is the place you should be.
Going into the Gotham career menu, you are presented with four initial options. The solo career lets you play on your own and progress through the ranks. Online career is your Xbox Live portal to the best players in the world. Pick Leaderboards to see exactly how you stack up against the rest of the world. Finally, View Your Cars takes you to your garage where you can see your collection.
Unlike playtime mode, in Gotham career you can only race with what you earn. Don't expect to be cruising around the Nordschleife in your first race; you'll have to prove you're capable first. Want to race in the fastest cars in the game? You'll have to save your credits before you can afford them! Of course, this applies to both the offline and online careers. You can't compete in an online career race unless you own the required car for that competition. You won't be featured on Gotham TV unless you race online career. If you want fame and fortune, you have to put the effort in.
First up is the solo career. This mode has changed significantly from PGR2, in that there are no longer events based around car classes. The championships are now themed according to location and type. For example, the first championship is called the Regent Street Speed Festival, and it's based around high-speed street races in London. Another is the Whitehall Walk-Style Cup, again based in London, but this time it revolves around speed camera, overtake, and cone challenges.
Although both championships are based in London, the courses couldn't be any more different. The Speed Festival is based alongside the river, where fast and wide roads are all over the place. The Whitehall Walk is more centralized in the city, and it has you racing through narrow streets and tight hairpin turns.
After selecting your first event, you must choose your first car. The game gives you a bunch of credits to get started, allowing you to buy your first ride without being restricted to the slower vehicles. As an example, you can buy an Ariel Atom 300 Supercharged right off the bat--one of the quickest cars to accelerate in the game.
Once you've decided on a car, you pick the color. It then gets delivered to your first garage--a small enclosed room with enough space for four vehicles. Choose where you want to place it, and the car is yours. You can walk around your garage, and even enter photo mode to take a snap of your new purchase. You might want to sell it later on to afford that new McLaren F1 LM, but for now this car is your baby. Treat her well!
The garages are a big part of the career mode in PGR3. Once you've filled your first garage (for example, purchased four cars), you get another, larger garage. There are seven in the game, with enough room for literally squillions of cars (perhaps). The garages are themed (so we have Asian garages in Tokyo, modern ones for Vegas, and so on) and decorated with exclusive PGR3 concept art hanging from the walls. Each garage also features two arcade machines…but I don't want to give the game away; you'll have to check these out yourself.
We don't restrict how you buy cars in Gotham career, though. If you want to buy 12 Jaguar XJ220s (one in every color), then be my guest! You can fill your garage with Ferraris, Lamborghinis, or whatever you want. In fact, a couple of our Xbox 360 Achievements encourage you to do exactly this (read: Ferrari Owner's Club).
So after you've finally chosen your first car, you must pick the difficulty of the event you're about to attempt. If you've played a previous PGR game, you know what to expect. Steel, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum are the available difficulty levels. Of course, the big deal with PGR3 is that you don't have to drive a car of a certain speed to compete in the event. Potentially, different players could enter the same event in a really, really fast car, or a relatively slower car.
Project Gotham Racing 3 is smart enough to adjust your opponents automatically, as well as gauge your targets according to which difficulty you select. For example, if I choose an Enzo at silver level, I'll race against comparable cars to the Enzo, which have medium AI difficulty. If I choose a slower car, but platinum difficulty, I'll race against a bunch of hardcore AI in slower vehicles. The game changes itself according to what you want, so you can play how you wish.
Next up is the online career. This mode uses the same car set as the solo career, so if your garage is a little bare you had better get collecting! The online career mode itself is based around a bunch of specialized championships, much like the solo game. One of these, for example, is the Nürburgring F1 Challenge. In this championship, Class A racers battle against each other in a three-lap street race around the F1 circuit. Of course, if you haven't bought a Class A racer you don't qualify to enter, so make sure you own a McLaren F1 LM or Ferrari F50GT, or suchlike.
Simply choose the championship that interests you, and the game will do the rest. You'll be matched up against similarly ranked players, in similar cars, all vying to improve your TrueSkill rating. If you've ever played Halo 2's matchmaking playlists, you'll have a rough idea of what to expect from online career. Of course, there's a massive variation in the available championships--my favorite being Dusk 'Til Dawn Racing. This one is based exclusively around night racing, on some of the prettiest and most deadly routes in the game.
As a final thing, I'll just comment briefly on how the game ranks you online. No longer are you rated exclusively by Kudos a la PGR2--that ultimately was just a measurement of how long you had played the game. While Kudos rating is still available in PGR3, we now use the Xbox Live TrueSkill ranking system. This was developed by some clever chaps in Cambridge, and it allows us to accurately see how good you are within four or five races.
It's not judged entirely on how much you play, or who you race against (although both of these things do affect your ranking in some way). The TrueSkill rating is calculated from lots of variables, and it gives an accurate and consistent measurement of exactly how good you are at racing supercars. I'm pretty happy with this system at the moment, as I'm at Rank 11 in the world…although I'm sure that'll change within a day of the game's release!
Thanks for reading these diaries from Ben at Bizarre Creations. My gamertag is "Wriggler"--I'll see you online in PGR3!