The Crew Interview: Developing The Biggest Open World Racer Ever

How Ivory Tower are innovating the racing genre with The Crew.

The team at Ivory Tower are innovating the racing genre. Instead of keeping the player confined to racing tracks, the developers are giving the player this vast open and persistent racing world. Just to give you an idea how big the world is, it will take the player a mammoth 90 minutes to drive from coast to coast. This is a phenomenal achievement by the team at Ivory Tower and kudos to them for thinking out of the box for the otherwise bland racing genre.

GamingBolt got the opportunity to speak to Stephane Beley who is the Game Director of The Crew and we were able to ask a variety of questions ranging from adding new worlds and damage simulation to the various technologies they have used in the game. Check out Stephane’s response below.

Rashid Sayed: The Crew almost sounds like a car role playing game. The idea sounds absolutely fantastic but do you think the game will feel restricted since the player will still be confined to his/her vehicle?

Stephane Beley: THE CREW is an open world driving RPG, and in that regard, your car will be your avatar. Every car is a 20-piece puzzle that you can customize and upgrade at will as you unlock body and performance parts along your progression. Regarding possibilities, hundreds of thousands of different tunings are available.

So with a massive Open-World of 5000km² to explore on and off-roads, collaborative and competitive gameplay, and an unprecedented amount of tunings we believe players won’t feel too confined in their multiple vehicles.

the crew

When exploring the world in free-drive mode, there are absolutely no barriers preventing players from going where they want and discovering new places. Even when playing a mission (may it be a race, a time attack or any other type of mission) players can still decide to turn around at the very beginning and drive away.

Rashid Sayed: The Crew did not start its life as a PS4 and Xbox One title. Have you reused the assets from last gen or is it a complete revamp from your original vision?

Stephane Beley: We began developing the game on PC several years ago but were never able to fulfil our vision. We adapted our base technology and reworked all the assets of the game (VFX, lighting, landscape etc…) to adapt to the new generation of console when we had the opportunity to start developing for it.

Rashid Sayed: The Crew takes place in this vast open world where there are multiple routes to approach a situation. Are you restricting players in anyway by providing rails or barriers so that the essence of racing ismaintained?

Stephane Beley: When exploring the world in free-drive mode, there are absolutely no barriers preventing players from going where they want and discovering new places. Even when playing a mission (may it be a race, a time attack or any other type of mission) players can still decide to turn around at the very beginning and drive away. This definitely won’t lead to a victory or the mission’s completion but it’s one more example of how free the players are in THE CREW.

However we maintained the essence of racing in various other ways. First, through a checkpoint system.Players who deviate too much from the race’s path won’t reach the checkpoints and won’t be rewarded for finishing the race. Additionally the spec system, with classes of vehicles better suited for specific types of driving, provides a natural “barrier”. Level design was thought out in a way that encourages players to follow the most natural and efficient path for the spec they are using.

But keep in mind that not all missions are races in the game. Several of them will actually let you build your own path entirely. Simple examples are our delivery missions, where players have to drive from A to B with specific constraints (take no damage, as fast as possible, picking up someone or something on your way …). Exploration and discovering your own best path then becomes a key element of those missions.

So there’s still room for creative driving of course but the boundaries making the essence of racing are present to allow for a compelling competition when it’s needed.

Rashid Sayed: Being a RPG at its core, what kind of car abilities, customizationand skill system can players expect in the game?

Stephane Beley: At the core of THE CREW’s promise are “all the adventures of driving”, a variety in experiences that our spec system allows us to fully embrace. Just like you’d pick a class based on your play style in a traditional MMORPG, you’ll be able to pick a spec for you vehicle. For example you can take your Chevy Camaro and put it in Perf spec for a long highway race, but you could also put it in Raid Spec for an off-road takedown. Vehicles behave differently in each spec allowing you to tackle all the aspects of driving efficiently.

Like we said earlier every car in the game is a 20-piece puzzle. 9 of these pieces are purely cosmetics (body parts) while the other 11 are technical parts (engine and chassis) that will affect your vehicle’s stats and how it handles. It’s up to you to get new parts to customize your vehicle’s looks and enhance its performances.

You’ll be rewarded with experience and money for every activity you take part in, and missions and skill challenges will also earn you parts for your cars. Note that these parts’ quality will vary based on your performance in the activity you earned it from. With experience, you’ll be levelling up and unlock new missions to progress in the main storyline. With money you’ll be able to buy new cars at a car dealer and buy new parts at a car tuner.

Additionally to all the car customization, players will be able to choose from a set of perks that will grow as they progress through the game. Perks have effects ranging from enhancing your car’s performance to boosting cash and XP earning or granting abilities to make your experience more convenient.

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Whether we should include engine breakdown or not in the game is actually a topic we’ve been pretty divided on at the studio. In the end we decided not to include it as we thought it was a very simulation oriented feature that didn’t fit that much into our vision of the driving experience.

Rashid Sayed: Tell us about the weather system? Will it have a direct effect on the physics and car handling?

Stephane Beley: Being set in the entire USA, one of our main goals in developing THE CREW was to recreate the atmosphere of each region. We identified several eco systems defining the landscape throughout the country and built each area around one of them. The game, of course, features a day / night cycle but lighting and weather are also different from one region to another. You’ll feel the sun heating your car’s body in the desert around Vegas, its warmth inNappa Valley and the biting cold and snowflakes falling in the snowy mountains of Colorado.

As far as affecting your driving goes, each terrain will affect how your car behaves, encouraging players to switch spec or car depending on where they are. Weather elements like snow will also impact your driving, making vehicles much more slippery, on and off road, and requiring players to be much more careful. And we’re definitely looking to further develop this aspect once the game releases.

Rashid Sayed: I am wondering if you are planning to put dynamic simulations like puncture and engine breakdown. The races are going to be pretty long after all.

Stephane Beley: As you hit vehicles and decor elements throughout the game your car will become more and more damaged but it won’t directly affect your handling. Whether we should include engine breakdown or not in the game is actually a topic we’ve been pretty divided on at the studio. In the end we decided not to include it as we thought it was a very simulation oriented feature that didn’t fit that much into our vision of the driving experience.

But although, at the current moment, the game doesn’t feature it, it’s definitely something we’d consider putting back should the community ask for it.

Rashid Sayed: Can you explain how infiltrating criminal groups will work in the game? Can players form their own criminal group, if yes, how?

Stephane Beley: The infiltration of a criminal organization is the base of THE CREW’s story. Every mission in the game will allow the player to get closer to his goal within those organizations. We won’t reveal too much about the story for now but you’ll learn more about it soon enough.

Players can form their own Crew to play cooperatively in every mission or to enter some Crew VS Crew races in PvP mode. All they need to do is to group and select the kind of activity they want to go for. This won’t make them a criminal organization per se but will make them progress together and earn rewards based on their collective performances.

the crew

THE CREW is truly designed as a seamless social experience, letting you apprehend it the way you feel most comfortable with. It is freedom above all else.

Rashid Sayed: The single player will last roughly 20 hours. How will it be different from the multiplayer component? Different modes perhaps?

Stephane Beley: THE CREW is an MMORPG and as such, lets player evolve in its open world either alone or as groups. Whichever you chose, you’ll never be bound to this choice for the rest of the game. If you want to start out in solo and later, play with friends, it will be possible. And just the same way if your friends can’t keep playing with you and you want to keep progressing alone, you can move-on with the campaign missions in solo again.

Basically, every mission in the game can be played in single player or cooperatively. You can also free-roam and explore the world with whoever you want. PvP will of course offer several races that can only be played against other players, and even skill challenges will feature “ghosts”, allowing you to compete with your friends even when they’re not around or to observe and learn from the best players in the world.

THE CREW is truly designed as a seamless social experience, letting you apprehend it the way you feel most comfortable with. It is freedom above all else.

Rashid Sayed: With the launch of the beta, how will the feedback you receive shape the final retail version?

Stephane Beley: With the beta, our plan is to let players get their hands on the game as soon as possible to stress test some of our online infrastructure, but also get bug reports and of course, feedback regarding gameplay elements.
We’ll take into consideration all feedbacks and do our best to apply the changes our community judges necessary.

Rashid Sayed: We know that the game will take place across the United States. Are there any plans to add more land/country post launch?

Stephane Beley: The game is currently set in the entire USA and that is an unprecedented scope. We’re definitely entertaining the possibility of adding more regions later on but we’re confident players will have their hands-full for quite some time with what the game currently offers.

Rashid Sayed: How many cars can we expect in the final build of the game?

Stephane Beley: THE CREW will offer a large variety of vehicles featuring revered constructors. From the mythical Lamborghini Aventador to the iconic Chevrolet Impala, expect the best from most of them. And with 6 specs to choose from, an unlimited amount of driving experiences is at reach. Because, at its core, that’s what THE CREW is all about!

Rashid Sayed: The game is already confirmed to be running at 1080p and 30fps on PS4 and Xbox One. Any specific reason why you guys did not pushed for 60fps?

Stephane Beley: The reason is pretty straightforward. Building such a massive playground and filling it to make it a living-breathing world requires a lot of resources. Our choice is to offer the most compelling gameplay experience possible and for that, we preferred a solid 30 FPS rather than a flimsy 60 FPS.

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We use a deferred engine to render the game. It allowed us to work with an almost unlimited amount of lighting as well as multiple ambient occlusion modes. This is at the very core of how we give each area of the game a specific mood.

Rashid Sayed: Can you talk us about the lighting and Anti-aliasing solution that you have used for the PS4 and Xbox One versions?

Stephane Beley: We use a deferred engine to render the game. It allowed us to work with an almost unlimited amount of lighting as well as multiple ambient occlusion modes. This is at the very core of how we give each area of the game a specific mood.

Rashid Sayed: It’s kind of remarkable that you guys have been able to achieve parity between the PS4 and Xbox One versions. We have spoken with several developers who have claimed that the eSRAM is simply too small to output 1080p. How did you guys manage this development situation?

Stephane Beley: The team at Ivory Tower is a very senior team with designers and programmers with over 15 years of experience in the driving genre. They’ve been optimizing game on PS1, PS2, PS3, Xbox and Xbox360 before that so it was a challenge for them but nothing wildly unknown. We’ve also benefitted a lot from Microsoft allowing developers that don’t need Kinect that much to use the extra ~ 5% CPU that were originally allocated to it.

Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us before we take off?

Stephane Beley: Thanks for interviewing us. We hope everyone enjoys the game as much as we enjoyed working on it, and remember to join our Beta.


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