Establishing a new racing game series to go up against giants of the sector such as Forza and Gran Turismo is no easy task, but the snazzy visuals, attention to detail and demanding driving experience in Project Cars certainly caused a stir when it was released in 2015.
Bugs, glitches, flawed AI and gamepad issues meant there was still plenty of room for improvement, but Slightly Mad Studios is back with Project Cars 2. It’s set for release in late 2017 and includes more cars, tracks and disciplines (Rallycross, for example) than ever before.
Taking a break from the blaring music of the recent Project Cars 2 VR event in London, where I got the chance to try out an early version of the up-coming release, I stepped outside with Slightly Mad Studios COO Rod Chong to hear more about the game and what we can expect:
How many cars and tracks are in the game?
“There’s over 170 cars, it might be a bit more than that in the end. We keep figuring out ways to add more. It’s over 50 track locations, the most on any console game. Within that, there’s multiple layouts.”
Have you been able to add new manufacturers?
“When we look back at the cars from the previous game, we see that as one of the weak points. There were some major gaps from important brands. There are some key announcements coming up of big brands that I think are quite obvious, but it’s pretty much the whose-who of the top sports car and performance car brands. We’ve added more Japanese manufacturers too. One of the earliest companies we started working with on the production of Project Cars 2 is Nissan, they have a rich motorsport history so we have gone right into their catalogue and had several trips to Japan. We got to cherry-pick their top racing cars and put them in. There’s a lot of very exciting announcements coming up.”
And what Rallycross cars can we expect?
“We’re being a little agnostic between the WRX and GRC championships. We’ve been cherry-picking the top cars from both, there’s the Honda Civic Coupe, VW Polo, Ford Focus and Mini Countryman, and we’ve made two fictional rallycross cars, a Renault and a Mercedes. We worked with them to get their thoughts on what their Rallycross cars could look like. We also have the Olsbergs MSE Supercars Lites beginner car, that’s a good car to get to grips with the driving style. What it’s like to drive these machines is very different from what you typically understand about driving powerful cars, you have to chuck them in the corner and drive sideways. In some ways, it is almost like an arcade game but we have ensured it is 100% simulation. We take our next-gen simulation engine and we’ve applied it to Rallycross, and we have come up with some pretty exciting stuff.”
What was the toughest thing about bringing in Rallycross?
“We had to completely rethink and relearn what we know about tyres. Our physics engine was built around grip driving, with Rallycross it is completely different. The tyres have to go sideways, we had to learn a lot about what that means. When our Rallycross drivers got involved, they said ‘no, this is totally wrong’ and ‘this is not how you drive the cars’. So, we had to really listen to them and reapply everything we knew about tyres and surface as well. We also had to rethink surface, normally you’re dealing with tarmac. We know what happens when it rains, we’ve got a brand-new rain simulation in Project Cars 2, but we had to add gravel, what happens when it rains on gravel, or dirt – it turns to mud. We had to simulate all these elements.”
And snow too?
“Yes, snow is in there too. We’ve actually added a snow Rallycross track. One of our drivers, Mitchell DeJong, entered Rally X on Ice this year and won it on his first try. It’s the Supercars Lites that you drive, so we’ve got a simulation of snow and ice racing as well, which is pretty wild.”
Which areas have been the main focus for Project Cars 2 after the first game?
“Well, there are a few things. One, we’re very excited about the development of the tyre model. The tyre model is more realistic but is also more forgiving, and more fun. So, when you go over the limit with the car, you can get it back. The acid test for that is just asking the question ‘can you drift the car?’ You don’t need any special physics or tyres, nothing. You just take a road car with a powerful engine and check if you can drift it.
“Secondly, we programmed and reengineered the gamepad from the ground up. We are focused 100% on realism but we want the millions of gamers around the world to have a realistic experience and have fun on the gamepad, we don’t want to compromise either. So, we completely redid that from the ground up.
“Then we have a new approach for multiplayer, the licensing. It is a way to match players who play the same way, or have similar skill levels. So, if there are players who wreak havoc in multiplayer, the game will track what you do and pair you up with people who race like you. If you like clean racing, you’ll be paired with people who race cleanly. That’s very important for us. There’s also a lot of new eSport functionality, you can broadcast races, organise your own championships. So those are some of the big steps.”
How about the career aspect?
“It is much bigger, there are a lot more disciplines. Rallycross has come in, IndyCar is in there too and we’ve also added historic racing into the career. A lot of the time, when you’re a real-world driver, say for Porsche, they take you out to historic events. It’s possible to be a champion in a lot of different types of racing in the new game.”
And what about virtual reality developments with Project Cars 2?
“We partnered with Oculus from the get-go and worked with them on VR for three years. So, we knew a lot about it, but once we finished Project Cars and the VR execution for PC, we had so many things we wanted to fix. We completely redid our lighting system, we had to do a lot of rendering work. It’s a lot smoother, a lot of small details have been worked on to optimise it.”
What about the visual elements of the game?
“We don’t distinguish between visuals and the living, breathing environments, which we are calling ‘Live Track 3.0’. Those are one in the same. So, we have a lot of new dynamic weather systems that we have updated, water simulation, water running on the track, you can really feel it in the force feedback as it hydroplanes.
“We’ve completely redone the lighting system from the ground up, we have a new sun, all these things we’re really excited about. When you get really into it and comparing them, it’s night and day. One of the things we pushed hard on was to update the looks of the race cars. They tend to not be that shiny, unlike a new supercar which has a layer of wax. A race car isn’t shiny in the same way, so we’ve added a lot of new rendering effects there.”
And the game’s coming out late 2017, any firmer dates?
“That’s all we’re saying right now, the date will be coming shortly.”
Thanks to Rod for chatting to us, are you hyped for Project Cars 2? Let us know in the comments!