World of Speed is a free-to-play racing-based online game on the PC that wants to change how you think about winning. Going as fast as possible and coming in first is important, but you can do so and still lose the event.
"It’s our way of trying to fix racing games a little bit," Pete Morrish, lead producer at Slightly Mad Studios, told Polygon.
"All racing games are about crossing the line first, if you transfer that into an online environment with an eight-player race that means seven players are coming away a little bit annoyed at your win," he continued. Playing online isn’t fun if you crash at the first corner and are stuck having to finish a race you know you can’t win.
Which is why World of Speed introduces objectives and points to the mix. You get points for coming in first, sure, but you also gets points for clean turns, for drafting other cars and bullying the other team around the track. There are many things you can do to earn points to put towards an eventual win; speed is only one part of the strategy.
Rewarding diverse behavior
Each event has a series of objectives that allow you to earn points on your own or to work towards a goal as a team. If you get a set amount of points for leading the race for two minutes, one team member can be in the lead for one minute 30 seconds, and if another racer on that team leads for an additional 30 seconds you earn the points. A bar at the top of the screen gives you a clear and always-visible indicator that shows which team is leading in points. That bar can shift quickly if someone finished a major objective.
This point system helps World of Speed attract different sorts of players with different strengths, allowing them to compete together. You can lead the race and come in first to grab those points, but you can’t be in first place and also work towards the points you earn by drafting the competition. No matter where you are in the standings, you have options to earn points.
This creates an interesting dynamic: During our demo races at the preview event my team finished first, but it was still important to watch the last-place car to make sure they didn’t fulfill a series of objectives that would have tipped the scales. The sense of tension, and the importance placed on every car in the race, makes every player feel like part of the experience.
"That’s exactly what we want to see," Morrish explained. It also allows players to race and tune certain cars for certain jobs, creating a sort of class system.
"We want to set up a structure and a toy set, and watch how teams strategize getting those particular objectives," he continued. So you can race a heavier car and shove the other cars into the wall. Or you can focus on speed and get the points for being first and perfecting your cornering.
There could be an objective where a huge number of points are awarded to the car that finishes the race without taking any damage; Morrish said a good strategy for that particular objective would be to surround a fast, maneuverable car with heavier models that can soak damage. The race becomes almost like an escort mission, as if one could drive the golden snitch.
The social aspects of the game
Slightly Mad is also spending a significant amount of time and resources making the game social, since the racing requires juggling different goals and requires a large amount of focus. There needs to be a place to relax and hang out.
The Airfield is a non-competitive zone where you can show off your car, meet with your club and take a look at the upgraded cars others are driving. There will also be an area where the top performing cars player-owned cars in the game will be displayed.
Your car club can also "own" tracks. If you win a series of highly competitive events your club's name and branding will be put on specific tracks in the game, spreading your name and reputation to everyone who races on that track. "We expect it to be quite a draw," Morrish said.
The race becomes almost like an escort mission, as if one could drive the golden snitch
There will also be a stunt zone that will allow you to try some jumps, and a track to benchmark your upgrades. All of these aspects of the game will be fleshed out as the game is developed, and Morrish was upfront about this being a game as a service, which ties into the free-to-play monetization.
He wouldn’t give any details on what we’d be paying for or how much, but Polygon was told that they "won’t be selling competitive advantage."
Slightly Mad is shooting for a "huge" variety of tracks and cars, with events that cycle hourly, daily, or even weekly. I was able to take part in two races, and the game looks and feels as good as some of the best racing games on the market. The racing is heavy, with cars that feel like they have weight and power.
It was fun to hang back and beat up the other cars, trying to gain the most points by being the biggest jerk. The final "feel" for the game has yet to be determined, but this is an interesting way to race, and to make every decision in every turn and straightaway feel significant.
"Ridge Racer this is not," Morrish admitted. "We probably need to lighten up a little bit. It’s great for tussling."