Joe Barron, marketing and esports manager at Slightly Mad Studios, speaks with GamingBolt about the developer’s newest racer.
Project CARS has become one of the biggest names in the racing simulation genre over the last decade, but the newest entry in the series is taking some interesting risks as it looks to broaden its appeal and put less of an emphasis on simulation. That’s something that goes hand-in-hand with apprehension from the community, but Project CARS 3 certainly looks promising, from its overhauled career mode to its impressive visuals, and the potential of a finely struck balance between accessibility and authenticity. To learn more about just how it’s trying to do that and what else we can expect from the game in its post-launch period and in the esports space and much more, we recently spoke with Joe Barron, marketing and esports manager at Slightly Mad Studios. You can read our full interview with him below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"With the new game, we definitely wanted to broaden the appeal of the series, and to introduce new people to a genre that we love. The revamped gamepad handling, career mode, multiplayer, customisation tools and so on are all part of that approach."
One of the notable changes Project CARS 3 has made is veering away from being a 100% simulation experience in an attempt to have a broader appeal. With that in mind, what were the challenges you faced during the game’s development in terms of striking the right balance between appealing to fans of the first two games’ hardcore simulation and Project CARS 3’s bid to be a more accessible experience?
With the new game, we definitely wanted to broaden the appeal of the series, and to introduce new people to a genre that we love. The revamped gamepad handling, career mode, multiplayer, customisation tools and so on are all part of that approach. At the same time, this is still a game that has the Madness Engine powering it. The underlying technology and simulation remain the authentic driving experience that people have come to expect from Project CARS. If you jump straight in with the assists off in tricky weather conditions, you’ll find the game as challenging and rewarding as ever, but we also want to guide new players on their journey to becoming sim-racers.
Keeping in line with the previous question, can you talk to us about the assist options in Project CARS 3 and how they cater to both, the hardcore simulation enthusiasts and those looking for a more accessible experience?
The assists in Project CARS have always been rooted in reality, and Project CARS 3 is no exception. From Traction Control to ABS, the tools available to drivers are modelled on those found in real cars, and we’ve refined them in the new game to make them less intrusive to the driving experience. This time around, they will of course help you out in a pinch, but they don’t get in the way of the experience. We also took a long look at the traditional “racing line” assist for learning circuits, and we could see that, for a lot of players, it had become a bit of a crutch, meaning that they over-relied on it and were not really using it as a training option to get faster and better. And that’s not just in Project CARS, but across all racing games. So we replaced it in Project CARS 3 with a new corner marker system inspired by real-world track-days. Instead of reacting to a colour changing on a line on the ground, you now learn tracks through dynamic braking, apex, and exit markers, designed to improve your muscle memory for each circuit and teach you about driving technique in a more realistic manner.
What are your plans for Project CARS 3’s post-launch support as far as updates and new content are concerned?
As always, we will be reviewing the balance of the game post-launch with the community’s feedback, so fans can expect plenty of updates. We also have a Season Pass, so there will be lots of exciting additional cars and tracks coming that we can’t wait to start talking about in the near future.
"The overhauled multiplayer modes in Project CARS 3 are really going to open-up the opportunities for us to continue our fantastic track record of uncovering new talent in the sim-racing scene."
The esports scene is obviously something that Project CARS fans are quite invested in. With Project CARS 3, what are the steps you’re taking to grow in that area?
The overhauled multiplayer modes in Project CARS 3 are really going to open-up the opportunities for us to continue our fantastic track record of uncovering new talent in the sim-racing scene. We had skill and safety ratings in Project CARS 2, but with Project CARS 3, we have refined the ways in which those stats are calculated, and we’re using them for skill-based matchmaking across all of the game modes for the first time as well. From Quick Play to Scheduled Events, this will make online racing in Project CARS 3 fairer and more competitive than ever before. And of course, we’ll be backing that up with official tournaments too: we’ll have more to say on that as soon as those plans are locked in.
Project CARS 3’s career mode has seen a significant overhaul, with extensive progression, car classes, objectives, and more, and it’s an improvement that fans of the series are very excited about. When you were setting out to re-envision the career mode, what drove the decision that all these improvements and changes were necessary?
We really wanted to make each player’s journey through the game feel more personal, and to let you put your own stamp on your experience. Our previous Career Modes have been about picking one motorsport discipline, sticking with it, and winning every race. This time we wanted players to have more freedom to choose the races and cars that they are most passionate about, and to take the emphasis off the need to come first every time, and shift towards objectives that encourage you to learn more about racecraft—from learning racing line techniques to particular types of overtakes, drafting, and so on. You can forge your own path through the career mode now, while also building you your collection of personalised cars and finding your own driving style.
24 hour cycles and dynamic weather put together are an exciting combination, especially in a racing sim. What’s the biggest impact this will have on races in Project CARS 3?
It wouldn’t be Project CARS if we didn’t have dynamic weather and the freedom for players to setup their races exactly how they like. The biggest impact is of course on immersion: From the tunnel vision you get in the darkness of the night to the concentration you need to avoid any unpleasant surprises in low-grip wet conditions, this is all part of the Project CARS experience. The LiveTrack atmospheric and weather simulation is something that we continue to refine from game-to-game, and we’re super proud of it again in Project CARS 3. It’s particularly awesome if you’re lucky enough to have a PC VR setup.
"We’re super excited to see what the new platforms will be cable of, and what new experiences appear, but right now we’re just focused on getting Project CARS 3 into the hands of gamers on the current generation of platforms."
The decision to not have microtransactions in the game is obviously a popular one, especially because this is a genre that seems rife for in-game monetization with car packs, cosmetics, and the like. Can you to talk us about how you landed on that decision?
All of us working on Project CARS are gamers at the end of the day, and we want to make games that we ourselves feel inspired to play. Project CARS 3 is about expanding our audience and the sim-racing genre, so it needed to be an inclusive title, focused on the gameplay and the sense of reward and progression. With that in mind, it didn’t make sense to us to promote micro-transactions.
Project CARS 3’s support for 12K resolution and VR is something that many in the PC community are excited about. Can you talk to us more about that, and what they will add to the experience?
A bit like the weather simulation, 12K and VR are all about immersion. Triple screens are a great way to get that realistic sense of being surrounded by the cockpit of the car. Widening your field of view so that you can see more of your opponents and the road ahead. VR of course takes that a step further with the ability to turn your head in any direction, and combined with the 3D visuals and audio, it makes it that much easier to judge braking distances, apex kerbs, and so on. We continue to improve our support for both of these technologies with each new game we make, and the game’s performance in VR keeps getting better and better.
Given that next-gen consoles are right around the corner, have you given any thought to PS5 and Xbox Series X enhanced ports for the game?
We’re super excited to see what the new platforms will be cable of, and what new experiences appear, but right now we’re just focused on getting Project CARS 3 into the hands of gamers on the current generation of platforms.