Racing games are a commodity in the era of high-definition gaming. Rivals can deliver free-to-play driving games with cool graphics. It’s hard to tell them apart from the latest console games.
But Sony’s Evolution Studios is content to deliver a premium racing experience at $60 on the PlayStation 4. Evolution’s Driveclub debuts Oct. 8 with the promise of better car handling than any other racing title, exquisite graphics, and social gameplay. Paul Rustchynsky, the game director for Driveclub, said his team is trying to build a racing game that is social at its heart and will keep players coming back.
Are you buying it? See if Rustchynsky can convince you in the text below. Evolution Studios certainly has a good track record as the creator of the World Rally Championship and MotorStorm racing game series. We interviewed Rustchynsky at a Sony preview event. Here’s an edited transcript of our talk.
GamesBeat: You’ve been talking about working on this for a long time, I take it.
Paul Rustchynsky: It’s been a while. It’s not as long as you’d think, because we only announced in February of last year. Slightly over a year ago. It feels a lot longer because we said [it would come out in the PS4’s] launch window, and we haven’t hit that date.
It’s one of those things where, past that initial hit, I think gamers will appreciate that they’re going to get a much better product. Sony and Evolution have a heritage of all the games that we’ve put together. We wanted to make sure there was no compromise. We want to deliver on an ambitious vision and create this connected, accessible racer. We don’t want to release until it’s ready.
GamesBeat: Some of the other products out there have similar ideas, but they’re free-to-play games. Eutechnyx has its Auto Club Revolution in China and other places. If you’re shooting for a premium experience, what do you have to deliver to stay above that competition.
Rustchynsky: For a premium experience, it’s all about the visual detail, pushing the PlayStation 4 to its absolute limits. I truly believe that there’s no other racing game out there with cars of this level of detail. Not just in the showroom but actually in the race. We want to make sure that when you’re racing, that’s where you see the detail. And not just on the cars but on the tracks as well. We’ve got tracks spanning 10 kilometers. I don’t know all the stats, but we have massive vistas, as far as the eye can see.
Audio is such a big part of racing cars as well. We want to make sure that for each of the individual 50 cars, we truly captured the audio experience of what it’s like to be in that car. Same goes for the handling. We’ve been fortunate enough to go out and race a lot of these cars, on road and track.
GamesBeat: You made a point of showing that the sound is different outside of the car versus inside the car.
Rustchynsky: We have microphones rigged up inside and outside. It’s such a different experience. When you’re on the back, you want to hear that exhaust. But when you’re inside, it’s a very different experience. You have the air rushing over the cockpit. You have the muffled audio. It’s not just a filter we’re applying. It’s a different recording, specific to the interior.
We want to make that distinction between the two, because we’ve done driving games in the past and used filtering techniques. It never really gives the same experience. We wanted the raw audio for whatever angle you were playing from.
GamesBeat: What other places does Driveclub feature for races besides the United States?
Rustchynsky: We actually went all around the world. We covered locations like Canada, Chile, and Scotland. We did a huge amount of reference where we sent our art teams on a discovery process, to find what would be the best locations visually. What are the most interesting locations to create tracks? Areas with huge changes in heights, or a variety of environments. If you go to Norway, it’s all about snow. In Chile, it’s all about the baking heat in this arid location. In Canada, it’s all about the huge mountains and trees. We wanted to make sure that every location had its distinct and unique feel, which not only offered just a different look, but a different kind of gameplay as well.
We’ve been able to hand-craft every inch of our tracks and optimize the gameplay experience, whether it’s 10 kilometers point to point or a road circuit. It’s based along real locations, but we’re just using that as reference. It allows us to use our creativity to make something interesting and new.
GamesBeat: It looked like in one of the scenes there, you could drive above or below the fog.
Rustchynsky: That was a demonstration of our cloud system. It’s not faked. It’s not just an image in the background that looks like a skybox. These are dynamic, volumetric clouds. They’re all random as well. It’s not like the clouds will be in the same formation every time you play the same race. They’ll change. It might sound like a gimmick, but it changes the way the whole stage is lit. You’ll be racing in the same conditions – cloudy at noon – but because the cloud cover is different, it lights the stage completely differently, giving a whole different tone and feel to the stage.
GamesBeat: Social is where the future is, then, in racing games?
Rustchynsky: I think it’s one of the big areas where we’re going. The genre’s looking for, what can we do that’s new? The social integration is a great way to evolve the genre. We experimented with it on MotorStorm RC. We were trying to think about what were the best ways for people to challenge one another and create that gameplay loop where you’re battling back and forth.
The next evolution for us was creating these kinds of viral challenges. What we’ve seen through our testing to date is that they just explode, with tens or hundreds of people getting involved and competing against one another. It’s a cool new addition to the driving genre.
If you want to play offline, we cater to that as well. You can be completely disconnected, play through the tour, and have fun offline. But it’s more fun playing connected, having dynamic faceoffs dropped into the world. You’ll be competing against, friends, club members, or someone else. Or you can jump online and challenge people yourself.
GamesBeat: Does it look like you’re going to hit your framerate target easily?
Rustchynsky: Thirty frames? We’re nailing it right now. We’re locked at 30. There’s no drops. That’s very important. We want to make sure that — 30 frames was a choice by us, to make sure we can push the visual fidelity of the game. But we also didn’t want to compromise the gameplay in any way, shape, or form. We tried to make sure that latency between your inputs and what happens on screen is as rapid as humanly possible. You always feel completely in control of the car.