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Project Gotham Racing 4 Interview

Project Gotham Racing 4 pack shot
Developer:Bizarre Creations
Publisher:Microsoft Game Studios
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.bizarrecreations.com/games/pgr4/
Release Date:October 12th, 2007 (UK)
Writer:James Barlow (malis)
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It's with good reason that many Xbox 360 owners are familiar with the Project Gotham series; PGR 3 was a launch title for Microsoft's next-gen console. Driving fans who invested in the 360 were rewarded with a truly next-gen racer, sporting sublime arcade handling and jaw-dropping visuals. Two years on and it still impresses, and is still played religiously by some over Xbox Live.

It all bodes well for next instalment, PGR 4, which boasts more cities, more cars, bikes, weather effects, and more online functionality. Enough to whet any fan's appetite. So, with the UK release of Project Gotham Racing 4 just over a month away, it seemed like a good time to catch up with Ben Ward, Community & Web Lead at Bizarre Creations again.

One of PGR4's biggest new features is an advanced dynamic weather system - can you elaborate just how much this will affect races?

Sure can! We have quite a few different types of weather in the game - rain, snow, fog, ice, storms, etc. - and all of these affect your vehicles dynamics in different ways. For example, driving on black ice is obviously much more treacherous than driving in clear conditions as you'd expect. As the weather is dynamic, the race might start in gentle snow but then progress to a full-blown blizzard by the third lap, or any combination like this.

The main gameplay-changing element that the new weather system brings to the table is the puddles. Standing water appears during storms or heavy rain, and even freezes over when racing in snow or ice. This will change the fastest route around the course, and force you from the racing line.

Will changes in weather be completely random, or will they blend into each other naturally? Bright sunshine to sudden snow might be a little hard to swallow!

Yep I agree. Our dynamic weather system stays in the realms of realism, so you won't see stuff like bright sunshine to snow inside 3 minutes. You'll notice the weather changing, but it won't seem over the top.

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PGR will also include bikes which will obviously bring an entirely new dynamic to the gameplay. Just how hard was it to balance the inclusion of bikes - particularly in regards to multiplayer?

It was a difficult one, but fortunately this time around we've had the time to get it just right. The racing team includes quite a few hardcore bikers on it, so we really had a personal interest to make it feel just right and really do a service to the two-wheeled rockets . So we've been busy balancing the cars and bikes together for several months now, and we're definitely happy with how it's worked out.

The portfolio of cities has expanded considerably over PGR3 - how did you go about choosing which cities to include, and just how much research was put into each location?

We've been thinking about cities to include ever since PGR1! Fortunately once the decision was made to bring back the cities from PGR3, this narrowed down the choices for the new cities in number 4. We didn't need to pick any more "mega cities" like NYC and Tokyo - we could have some smaller and lesser-known locations. Macau, Quebec, St Petersburg, and Shanghai came top of all the lists.

Our teams run several research trips to each location, taking thousands of photos and hundreds of hours of video. The environments themselves have been in production for almost 2 years since then, so it's an awful lot of manhours dedicated to making these places come to life in the game.

Project Gotham games have always felt like they effortlessly blend the sophisticated cool of serious driving sims with the fun factor of more arcadey titles. Just how much do titles like Forza, Gran Turismo and Need For Speed influence or inspire you - if it all?

We aren't really influenced or inspired by any other titles… we have our own aims and ambitions and we're very much heads down and getting on with achieving them.

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One of PGR3's greatest achievements was the sense of fun that came from sliding around and watching the Kudos rack up. Are there any new tricks in PGR4 for us to try - how do bikes fit into the Kudos model?

Damn right. We've tweaked and tuned the Kudos model for cars, but we've introduced some brand new moves for bikes. Wheeling, doing endos, and performing stunts all gets you Kudos points, allowing us to balance the two sets of vehicles not only in terms of racing… but also in terms of Kudos gathering.

Forza Motorsport 2 allowed us to totally trash some very expensive cars - what sort of damage modelling does PGR4 include, or is it something you don't feel is really necessary to the game?

As before, the damage is cosmetic only and will not affect performance. We've tweaked the damage model so that it's slightly more comprehensive than number 3, but don't expect to smash the heck out of a Ferrari. That's not what we're about..

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Bulldog mode sounds like an interesting new multiplayer mode, how much time was spent improving multiplayer experience? With more and more games aiming for the online crowd, has PGR4 ended up weighted towards the multiplayer gamer - or is there enough for the singleplayer to do?

We've put a firm emphasis on both single and multiplayer - there is something for everyone (or that's what we hope!).

PGR3 briefly started to explore the possibilities of Xbox Live with GothamTV; how will PGR4 expand on this? What can you tell us about PGR On Demand?

We'll be announcing details on PGR On Demand in the next week or two.

A few of us spent more time blasting in Geometry Wars than we did racing in Project Gotham - can we expect a new incarnation of the infamous minigame in PGR4?

We are shipping a minigame of Geometry Wars in PGR4, called GW Waves. This is based on GW:RE, and is a new game mode rather than a true sequel.

Where do you feel Project Gotham can go next, are there ideas you had to leave out of PGR4, or does it reflect the pinnacle of what you've been trying to achieve of the series?

We're playing our cards close to our chest at the moment.

Finally, could you give us a hint at the total number of vehicles you intend to include in PGR4, and will the Bugatti Veyron be one of them?

There are about 130 vehicles in the game, and unfortunately no the Veyron won't be one of them due to licensing reasons.

Thanks Ben! Project Gotham Racing 4 is due in UK stores on October 12th.

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