It’s been over five years since fans have had a chance to get their hands on the next installment of GRID. However, instead of being a fourth entry in the series, the developers at Codemasters have decided to go with a reboot of the franchise and introduce GRID to a more diverse audience. Hardcore fans of the racing simulator will still find an enjoyable career mode that’s as intense as ever. But casual gamers may find many new features that will make this one of the most accessible racing sims on current generation platforms. We had a chance to sit down with Codemasters’ own Game Director Christopher Smith at this year’s E3 to find out how GRID is capable of being a game for veteran racers and newcomers alike.
"It’s the right time. It’s sort of a cheesy answer. If you look at the market now, there isn’t a lot of accessible motorsport games. There’s the same motor sport games. Then there’s everything else. And they’re great racing games but they’re not motorsport. What we wanted to do was create a motorsport game that was open to a wider audience."
Long time racing fans may be familiar with your work on the Forza series but have since moved onto GRID. Which franchise would you say you’ve put more work into Forza or GRID?
I have the best job in the world. Playground is an amazing studio, amazing team. As far as I’m concerned they make one of the best games on the planet. Our game isn’t a challenge to anything they’re making. So we get to sit beside them. I already know— Ralph Fulton (from PlayGround Games) has already messaged me, and is looking forward to playing GRID. I always put 100 percent in because I have the best job in the world.
GRID is returning after a long gap. What prompted Codemasters to return to the franchise now?
It’s the right time. It’s sort of a cheesy answer. If you look at the market now, there isn’t a lot of accessible motorsport games. There’s the same motor sport games. Then there’s everything else. And they’re great racing games but they’re not motorsport. What we wanted to do was create a motorsport game that was open to a wider audience.
Can you go into more on the accessibility features you’re speaking of and how they differs from others?
We’ve got three pillars. Our accessibility and choice pillar, our stories pillar, and our rewards. The accessibility side is out of the box. We wanted to tune the game so the average casual racer can engage with the game, they can get a podium or get close to podium if they put some effort into it. But the sim player can turn all the excess off, turn the AI up and get as close to the same challenge as they want.
The way we always vocalize it in the team is: It’s where sim players go to have fun, and it’s where casual players go for serious fun. The key word there being “fun“, and us understanding the number of cars you can choose from, the number of tracks, the ability to turn things on and off. That is how we’re trying to bring it into a group. You don’t have to finish first on every race, you don’t have to win everything to get serious. It’s about how do you want to complete? Do you want to complete the world series being first every time, or do you just want to get through and go to the final race?
"When you look back on the GRID— If you look at all the feedback for GRID, it’s a little indecisive on its personality. The first GRID game came out and everyone loved it. We kind of did what we’re doing now; it appealed to a lot of people. The second GRID, people said it went too casual, there wasn’t as much depth in the handling. The third one, Autosport, we sort of went the other way. So the reason we wanted to reboot, we’re bringing it back where it should’ve been in the two sequels."
Why is this a reboot rather than marching right into GRID 4?
The simple answer to that is, when you look back on the GRID— If you look at all the feedback for GRID, it’s a little indecisive on its personality. The first GRID game came out and everyone loved it. We kind of did what we’re doing now; it appealed to a lot of people. The second GRID, people said it went too casual, there wasn’t as much depth in the handling. The third one, Autosport, we sort of went the other way. So the reason we wanted to reboot, we’re bringing it back where it should’ve been in the two sequels. There’s a variety of vehicles, a variety of racing and an accessible game to a lot of people. And making it most important about the racing and the motor sport.
I want to turn to Gran Turismo Sport and how’s it’s created a new breed of racing. Where they have live tournaments in conjunction with FIA that add a whole new level of stakes and engagement to online racing. Have Codemasters considered something like that for this game given the close relationship with FIA that your team enjoys?
As far as eSports goes, we’ve got an eye for that in our future. The game that comes out, as you well know, will evolve. We want to see how people race, and what they want when going into the future with this title, or going into future titles where we have to engage. We have given a few tools for streamers. Certainly, you have the ability to create any event that you want or any race that you want for multiplayer or single player. So in conjunction with platform features and tournaments — and tournaments that are already there on the platform — if we want grassroots tournaments to occur with the current game— and if people start doing it where they want to embrace, then absolutely.
I would want any game that I’m working on to become a competitive sport. It shows that you have depth and you have a passion for that title that people want to watch it— Be it entertaining enough to watch, with enough entertainment variety so it’s not the same every time. What we’re doing with GRID and the unpredictable motorsport, I think from a streamer’s point of view initially, you can’t say you’ll gradually overtake people and become first. The race isn’t going to be the same. I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s sort of how I see it. I don’t think you can say this is going to be in eSports game. You have to say it has potential to become and eSports game and how it moves.
Forza really came into its own this generation. Has this GRID borrowed any influence from Forza?
They’re different products. If anything it’s the accessibility. They appeal to a wider audience but we’re a different game. An open world game is very different to an on-track game. So I don’t think it’s like comparing apples to apples. If anything I think we just respect everything they’ve done. And what they do is push every other racing game to compete. For me, I can’t say enough about Playground because they’re an awesome studio.
"We have a selection of 69 cars, we have 12 tracks, eight circuits in four cities, with a total of 92 routes. We also have morning, daytime, sunset, night. With all of those we have rain, wet, dry. So the combinations, as you can see, spiralled out there."
What can you tell us about GRID’S career mode and how it will improve on previous games?
Let’s take the last one: GRID: Autosport. It required you to play every single category and finish them all by finishing on podium to get to the final challenge. What we’re doing is we’re saying you complete every thread–there are six threads–to get to the final boss, if you will— the final challenge. The showdown of the thread you have to finish seven of the 13 events. And when I say that it’s just finish. No one ever said to Nigel Mansell, “You didn’t podium so you can’t do the next race.“ You can.
If you’re like me and a completionist and you want to finish first on everything, you can do that. You’ll be awarded with Achievements. But for our career, you can finish about 60 percent of the career and win it. In the previous Autosport sport you had to do 100 percent. We have all these driving styles, all these driving styles— no one does. We always have preference and favorites. We don’t want to have to force you to [compete every style]. So having a career mode you can pick a mix of how to get to the GRID world series final is about accessibility. Of course, if you want to complete it all there’s Achievements for that and there’s awards for that.
How many cars and tracks will the game have?
So we have a selection of 69 cars, we have 12 tracks, eight circuits in four cities, with a total of 92 routes. We also have morning, daytime, sunset, night. With all of those we have rain, wet, dry. So the combinations, as you can see, spiralled out there.
What can you tell us about the online offerings?
When you come in you have a Quick Race mode. So if you don’t want to set up a race, you can literally just go to a Quick Race, jump in, there’ll be a map rotation that will be updating periodically as new content comes in, and as we see people loving one race and may be wanting to see other races in that rotation. That will be community feedback. So if you just want to go in, that’s one button press, you’re up to the next race. The other one is the ability to setup any race that you want. So you can go ahead and setup the multiplayer event with as many races in it that you want and use any of those courses, any of those times a day, and vehicle classes, and open it up to anyone including your friends.
Speaking of the one button press Quick Play, will that queue you by rank or any race that’s currently available?
There is some filtering. You don’t want to race with prestige elite racers. We will be doing matchmaking to make sure people have competitive races.
"I hate microtransactions. Here’s one thing I can say, we’re also not going to be charging for tracks. Any new track that comes out everyone gets."
Will there be any micro transactions?
No. I hate microtransactions. Here’s one thing I can say, we’re also not going to be charging for tracks. Any new track that comes out everyone gets. The great reason why you want to buy the DLC: There’s new cars and new careers. New career has new rewards, new unlocks. So there’s a lot of cool stuff to get and play. But if you and me are playing, and we’re friends, and you don’t have the DLC, you can go into any new race modes, and any new classes. If you don’t have the car you have to rent one. The renting essentially reduces the money you get from the race. You always get more money in the race than the cost of rent. So you’ll never be negative. So what that allows you to do is still play. You won’t have a chance to change the livery.
If you want to have a choice of all the cars, and liveries, and rewards, and do the new career for that race mode, you need the DLC. But if you want to play with your friends we’ll never ward you from tracks. To me that’s our way of saying— In addition we’ll be adding new features in race modes to the game. A post release mode that we’re happy to announce today is split screen mode coming after release for everyone. Again, you have to buy the DLC. I have a three-year-old daughter and I want to play side-by-side with her. It’s really big for us that if you buy it we’re going to be supporting you. But microtransactions. No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
You spoke earlier about controlling the weather, but does GRID have dynamic weather?
We have rain on and off, and dry on and off. No dynamic. Again, as you look forward it’s always things you consider, right?
What improvements have you made to the damage system?
We have scratches, losing parts, and rattling, and crumple zones. We’re tuning that. People know GRID has a reputation for good damage on multi-levels, and certainly memorable from the damage point of you. Really hoping when the game comes out everyone’s going to enjoy what we’ve done.
GRID Autosport came to the Nintendo Switch, why isn’t the new GRID planned for it?
GRID Autosport is an older game. At the moment what we need to do is get it running great on the current consoles. Then we need to examine what we have to do to pull it back. Because as you know the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have as much oomph as the current consoles. As you can see coming off of Autosport on the Switch, we love the Switch. I’m a big Nintendo head. I have absolutely hundreds of Nintendo Switch games. Again, that’s something for the future. It’s something to talk about once we’ve got this launch out on the current consoles.
"We’re very excited for the next gen of consoles. Who isn’t if you’re a developer and you can make your game better? Any feature we get from processing to faster load times, or even removing load times is always great for us."
The PS5 and Xbox Scarlett will both have a Zen 2 CPU processor which is a major leap over the CPUs found in the PS4 and Xbox One. How will this help you in developing games of the future?
It’s a case of look forward to future announcements. We’re very excited for the next gen of consoles. Who isn’t if you’re a developer and you can make your game better? Any feature we get from processing to faster load times, or even removing load times is always great for us.