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Developer interview: Need for Speed Shift

Let’s talk a bit about the driver profiles in Shift. How does the player’s driving style affect the way the AI responds to it, and will the AI also adopt various driver profiles and levels of aggression?

It’s basically an event to event system, and I like to think of the AI as the third dimension to the driver experience. The grid contains AI with varying personalities based on the situation. For example, the lead car will drive more cautiously. If they’re pressured from behind, they get a little more nervous and if they drive too aggressively they’re prone to make a mistake, miss a corner, or lock up their brakes. They’re also likely to drive more defensively than others. So throughout the field there are various AI personalities that just create a more organic nature.

There’s also a bit of a grudge system at play, and the more contact you make with the AI from event to event, the more contact the AI will make in return. And if you drive clean and precise, they will be inclined to do the same. As you play the game, the AI will evolve and a lot of the jostling and bump and grind you associate with tight grid racing will be in evidence as you play on, but the degree of it will depend on what sort of approach you adopt.

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Will Shift have any offline multi-player options like split-screen and system link? And what are the online multi-player options on offer?

There won’t be any offline multi-player. It is a single-player career experience. Online, there are a number of requisite game modes that have become popular with the Need for Speed community in the past, as well as the new Championship Series. The Championship Series is just one of the exclusive game modes coming to our multi-player, where a whole tournament is created by a game room moderator and the tournament is competed in by a field of racers as they work to move up the ladder.

Slightly Mad Studios is comprised of some of the people involved in great sim titles like GTR2 and GT Legends. How has the involvement of Slightly Mad helped make Shift a more realistic experience?

Slightly Mad has been working on a new multi-threaded architected engine for the past two-and-a-half years, so they brought to the table a brand new racing engine based on their experience and pedigree in the simulation space. They also brought a passion and professionalism from their background in creating these types of games and their participation in car culture in the UK and the rest of Europe. They’re very much akin to the Black Box team and they had a really interest in participating on every level. So it was very much a symbiotic relationship; they had the experience, the engine, and the passion to drive the new era of Need for Speed forward in the authentic racing space.

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EA had announced that they would have two teams working on Need for Speed, and each would release a game every alternate year. Is that still going to happen?

In a way it’s still happening, and the fact that we have three titles locked and loaded for this year is an example of that. There are three teams working on Need for Speed for this year. There won’t be three teams working on Need for Speed next year, because some of these titles will live on. Shift will live on through post launch development and DLC. And the Shift team will be able to spend more than a year to redesign and retool the game and come back with something new and innovative the next time we announce a title.

There won’t be a Shift follow-up title next year?

Not necessarily.

So releases will be more spaced out.

Yes, much more spaced out. That’s what the three-pronged approach gives us. It allows us to unload one team, one design every year. So Shift will live on as our authentic racing experience, our action offering this year is World Online; next year it may be something new on next-gen. Our arcade title specifically for the Wii is Nitro, so next year there won’t necessarily be a Need for Speed Nitro on Wii because we’ve released one this year. It will give the team two-three years to redesign the next Wii title.

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Is there a demo for Shift coming anytime soon?

We’re nearing the end of August, so I would definitely expect it next month.

A big thanks to Jesse Abney, Producer, Need for Shift for his time. Need for Speed Shift is in stores September 17, 2009 on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and PSP.

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