At Gamescom this year, I had the pleasure to talk with the Senior Game Designer and Producer of the upcoming Need for Speed game Heat. There is a lot of information to take in, even from a 15-minute interview, but I’ve managed to get some intel about what we can expect from this racing game.
Interview with Yoni Rabinowitz – Senior Game Designer & John Wikberg – Producer
Want to fast travel?
Here is the overview, so you can scroll down to the question that finds you most interesting.
- The basics of Need for Speed Heat
- Can you play as the cop?
- Wheel support?
- Will, the game be an “always online” type of game?
- Crew system
- Handling physics
- License cars
- Personal question
1. Let’s start with the basic question first. What is Need for Speed Heat?
Yoni “Need for Speed Heat is a game where you focus on the street racing fantasy of going out and winning races on the streets of Palm City, which is a city and area inspired by the southeastern United States. So there’s a lot of interesting cultures there and we try to reflect a lot of that in an art style in the game. And it’s a game where players can choose to either play during the day or at night and that offers a lot of different options, it’s not just a lighting choice. So, during the day the player is competing in what we call the ‘Speed Hunter Showdown’.
So it’s a bit more organized sanctioned racing where the player is on the closed-off routes just against the other opponents and there they can earn bank to spend on buying new cars, upgrading their cars and customizing their cars. And then at night, they’re doing more illicit street racing attracting the attention of cops, getting into insane chases and running races on the streets with traffic and everything like that.”
John “Need for Speed Heat is set in the world of Palm City, which you said (Yoni) it’s influenced by the Southeastern of the US. We have a lot of influence from that area. It’s a vibrant game and you can really see the differences we’re trying to highlight, that we’re influenced by the culture & street out there. We tried to take a lot of those incorporate that into the game. It’s a complete open-world game basically, anywhere a car can go you can pretty much drive there. So it’s the most open-world we ever built and the entire world is built for racing and driving like almost every piece of road has a race on it, some way or form where you’re going to experience it is really built for driving and racing.”
2. Are you guys allowed to talk about the narrative/story?
Yoni “The story surrounds the player being a street racer in Palm City. Coming to town, getting a car and setting up obviously progressing in their fame within the city during this beat under showdown event. And then that, of course, attracts more and more attention from the cops of the city. They’re sort of a rogue task force that’s gone a little too far. And so they’re really going after the street racers in the city, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so they basically surround that.”
3. Can the player play as the cop, like in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit?
Yoni “No the player can’t. We’re really focused on the heat on the Speed Racer fantasy. So there are cops featured very heavily, but no playable cops in this game.”
4. Will, there be ‘Wheel Support’?
John “Right now we don’t have any wheel support for the launch.”
5. Will the game be an “always online”, or will there be a combination of some sorts of online/offline gameplay?
Yoni So we do have an open-world multiplayer, so you can choose to play with the servers up to 16 players and it’s the same game effectively, but you’re layering in other players, so you’ll run into them when youære going around at night. But the game doesn’t require that at all, you can play solo and you can play completely offline and disconnected. So we also have these crew system where you can join up with other players, compete over time trails so that you’ll need to at least be connected online for as well as things like sharing your rap, but you don’t have to do any of that stuff.”
6. You talk about being a street racer and crew system, elaborate.
John “Yeah, I mean we have a crew system which is you teaming up with your friends or whoever really. A crew is you know, you have a name, you can add branding to it so you can create a bit of crew identity. You can also see like all the crew of your crew members cars in the garage, you’re going to get a good connection with them and then we have something we call ‘Crew Time Trials’ where you can compete for the leaderboards and against ghost-cars. You would say and that’s mostly focused on the crews, so you would really compete with people you know which makes the competition a lot more fun, you can really perfect that driving.
We also featured a party place where you can party up with people on the server or with your friends to just join up temporarily and have the races together and just have fun.”
7. Have the handling physics changed much since Need for Speed Payback?
Yoni “Yeah, we’ve worked a lot on the handling for Need for Speed Heat. I think one of the focuses has been on changing the way that drifting fits in.
One of the things is that drifting by default is more initiated through handbrake or through a kind of releasing and then kicking the throttle to get the wheels to kick loose.
But another big thing is that in Payback specifically since you asked, we had these archetypes when you bought a car you decided whether this is a drift car or if it’s a race car. That sort of thing whereas in Need for Speed Heat it’s all about how you customize and upgrade the car. So you can buy drift tires and suspension set up and that starts to move the car’s characteristics in different directions, so you get a lot more choice for players that way.”
You can still have the light tuning options, you can really fine-tune your driving, and for people who like the more of the driving side they had in NFS Payback, that is still existing. A new feature which is added is the new way to customize your car so make the game even more fluid. Once you have purchased parts to your car, you can simply go to your menu and change your car’s parts, no need of driving to a garage or other stops to make changes.
8. How many different cars are there in Heat? And do you have any license ones?
John “All cars in Need for Speed Heat are licensed and the full car list is on our website now. I don’t know the exact number of it, but I’m super happy like, we’re expanding our car list, we’re adding more cars and if people really focusing on having a hand-picked set of cars which really fits our game, and this time around we like bringing in the Ferraris again, it’s such an iconic brand and it’ so fun. You know it’s such an aspirational car manufacturing that you know most of us will never afford a Ferrari, but in Need for Speed you can definitely drive one and have fun.”
Yoni “We’ve also added a lot of new variants, so convertibles that we’ve never had before, a lot of different special editions, releases of cars that manufacturers have made. Again these are licensed real special editions cars. So I think there’s a lot of depth there.”
9. Are you allowed to talk about the music options in the game?
Yoni “We haven’t announced any of the soundtracks yet, but we do know that the music is really important to us and to the vibe if the game. I think it adds so much and if the music is wrong it’s really off. So we will talk about it more, as we get closer to launch.”
10. Will there be crossplay?
John “We do not have any information on crossplay at this point.”
11. Which three people would you invite for dinner? Living, dead or fictional, and what would you serve as dinner?
John “Pele, Santa Claus and my wife, and I would serve a Swedish Chrismas table”
Yoni “Tesla or DaVinci may be, and I would serve a big turkey and stuff like banquet type of dinner.”
I tried to push in a last question at the end of the interview and asked the developers if they wanted to add more information about Need for Speed Heat. But they still struggled to figure out what to serve DaVinci for dinner and haven’t thought of the game for a while. “Damn you DaVinci” added John.
I would like to thank EA for this interview opportunity at Gamescom, and hopefully, you got a little bit smarter on what Need for Speed Heat is all about.