Interview / Shift 2 Unleashed lead designer Andy Tutor

Still enjoying Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit? Want more? You’re in luck; Slightly Mad Studios are returning to the Shift side of the franchise with Shift 2 Unleashed, heading for a Spring 2011 release. We caught up with the game’s lead designer, Andy Tutor at the EA showcase earlier this month to find out a bit more about the title and the franchise as a whole.

TVGB: Was Autolog taken from what Criterion developed?

Andy Tutor: Not taken; developed in collaboration.

TVGB: How did that work out?

Andy Tutor: Well ironically we had the same idea at the same time. We looked at each other and kind of went “we’re making the same thing here” so they’ve got a lot of features like being able to compete and share times with your friends, and lap times are obviously key in this type of track racing game, so it makes perfect sense to put Autolog into Shift 2 and then take it to the next level with being able to access it anywhere and share videos and see what everyone’s doing, what achievements they’ve got.

TVGB: Looking at Hot Pursuit, was there any other kind of influence you took from Criterion there despite the different style of racer?

Andy Tutor: Well Hot Pursuit is deliberately an action racer and we’re deliberately a simulation racer. Shift one was a bit of both but that was the only Need for Speed out that particular year. Now we got both bases covered so we’re going deliberately after the sim racing stuff. So there are ideas in there that perfectly fit their game and we’ve got ideas that perfectly fit our game, so it’s not like we’re extracting the entire thing and then squishing and cramming it into our game. There are differences but we’ve got additional features beyond Hot Pursuit, but basically it has that key Autolog experience you get from Hot Pursuit.

TVGB: Shift 2 is aiming for a Spring 2011 release instead of holiday; do you think there’s perhaps room for two Need for Speed games a year now? Will we see another before the end of 2011?

Andy Tutor: Maybe [nods].

TVGB: Why decide to bring two titles a year now?

Andy Tutor: So originally with Shift one previously there had been a new Need for Speed every single year and it changes – reinvents itself every single year and it’s always out before Christmas and it basically can’t please everyone all the time. Another year passes and there’s not another cop-based Need for Speed game so the people that love the cops get really disappointed. Then next year there is a cop-based one so the illegal street racing fans get really disappointed. So the decision was made to split the franchise into three – well not into three, into different areas and provide bespoke games from all those areas from different people. So this year we’ve got Hot Pursuit nearly out, we’ve got Shift 2 out but then the previous year we had Nitro and World out at the same time.

So there’s definitely space for more than one type of Need for Speed game out there. There are so many different types of people out there; Need for Speed has millions and millions of people who post on the forums and are really passionate, they buy every game; there is an ample market there to make sure that everyone gets the experience they want. And we’re also deliberately going after the Forza and Gran Turismo guys, so there’s definitely room in there.

TVGB: What kind of success do you see going out against those guys? GT is a huge franchise and taking them on is a massive task.

Andy Tutor: So Gran Turismo will be brilliant – if it ever comes out [Obviously since the interview… it’s come out]. There’s no doubt that GT and Forza are on pedestals at the moment as being the fantastic, best sim games. I look at both games and I see them as encyclopedias. They’ve got tonnes of cars, tonnes of tracks and their basic gameplay experience is race, get cash, buy a car, race, get cash, buy a car, and there’s so many cars to choose from but a lot of them are like 5 different variations of the same car.

So that’s not really where we’re coming from. We want to put the cars in that the community wanna see in there as opposed to putting 5 luxury things in. We want to put the ones in that people find cool and are exciting to race, drive and can be customised so turned from like factory cars into amazing works like GT3 based vehicles. And then we want to make sure we focus on the core experience of actually driving. It’d be the equivalent of Medal of Honor saying “we’ve got 500 guns in the game”, that’s not the right attitude is it? It’s about making sure that firing that one particular gun feels awesome. So for us we want to make sure that the core experience is getting the driving to make you shit your pants and then being able to play with friends as opposed to sitting there, alone trudging through career, grinding for cash to unlock news cars. We want people to start playing with each other and racing these amazing and different vehicles.

TVGB: What kind of additional modes will we see this time? Is there split-screen?

Andy Tutor: There’s no split-screen. There’s so much going on in the game, for example we’ve added if you’re drafting a guy now you’ll get all the little bits of crap from his car, all the gravel and rubber hit the car and they can hit your windscreen and things like that. It takes a lot of development time but it’s very authentic and that’s the experience we want. Unfortunately that means things like split screen aren’t possible.

But that’s not what we really want to concentrate on either. There’s very little chance of like you coming round to my house and you bring your controller and sign in with your profile and we have a night of actually playing. It’s more likely that I’ll see that you’ve beaten my time round a lap on Thursday and when I actually get a chance to sit down and play it on Saturday I can go back and kind of beat your time that way. Autolog basically means you can compete with your friends at any time when you’re free.

And obviously we’re improving on the multiplayer aspects from Shift one. We have the sort of classic versus mode, adding in new game modes and just making the whole experience more streamlined and fixing a few little things, putting things the community wanted in there; that’s our focus.

Shift 2 Unleashed is expected in ‘spring 2011’.