GRID 2 Interview – Multiplayer, Customization, Career Mode, AI and More!

Clive and Gehan gave us the inside scoop on the development of GRID 2 and let loose some interesting little details on the actual mechanics behind Grid 2.

It’d been a while since we’d heard about Codemaster’s GRID 2, so I managed to catch up with Clive Moody and Gehan Pathiraja at the Eurogamer Expo 2012 for an interview.

Clive and Gehan gave us the inside scoop on the development of GRID 2 and let loose some interesting little details on the actual mechanics behind the game, and all the little things that make GRID 2 so special.

It’s been a while in development but the buzz for it is pretty immense already considering the success of the first game. One of the things that I’ve been wondering about though is the competition. Obviously these next few months are jam-packed with releases including titles like Forza Horizon and Need for Speed: Most Wanted.

Do you have any plans to deal with that kind of competition?

Clive: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question actually. I think with a game like GRID 2 and a lot of the games that Codemasters are coming out with at the moment. Sure they’re racing games and in many ways that is competing with Need for Speed but we’re not necessarily directly in their space.

One of the reasons I say we’re not directly…well two reasons actually. One of them is Need for Speed is one of those games that is more about the chase, and I say that Codemasters games, in particular GRID 2 they’re more about the race. There’s a real distinction for me that’s not just about hunting that guy down that’s in front.

Obviously that is important, you need to get the guy in front, but it’s also about getting past someone and holding those guys off as well. Obviously it’s a slightly different thing that we’re able to deliver.

I say that the other aspect of that at the moment is that Need for Speed is at the more arcade-y end in terms of what they do and the experience. We’re not right down at that end; what we do is always grounded in reality.

It has real depth, it’s definitely based on all the little details and the complex physics system. What we do in terms of using that is kind of make accessibility in that depth. We kind of don’t think in the same segment, y’know? We’re in the racing and driving genre, but we’re not in the same market segment as Need for Speed in what the experience actually stitches together.

Would we go up against them in the future or something? Well, maybe. We certainly haven’t got anything that we can talk about today that we can consider to be a direct competitor to Need For Speed but sure, maybe one day.

Obviously we’re going to see things like Autolog coming up in the near future. With that in mind, what are your plans for GRID 2′s multiplayer, and what tools are you making available to the players to help cement a large community together?

Clive: There’s a couple of things, actually. I guess the most important thing from the GRID 2 point of view is that we’ve separated out the multiplayer component; It’s an entirely separate experience. So each of those game modes has it’s own progression, multiplayer has a real focus on customization and a real focus on ownership. We want to cater for all levels of skill.

We have a real variety of race types and ways that we can deliver those to the gamer. We want to bring all those elements to the forefront. But coupled with that we also have RaceNet – our own personal multiplayer tool. It’s being supported by Showdown, Formula 1 Race Stars and obviously it’s going to be supported in a really big way by GRID 2.

It gives us a one-stop shop, if you like, where fans of racing and fans of Codemasters can go. There’s a lot of stats that come out of the games and we can build competition around that be it player versus player or a community built challenge.

We want to grow the RaceNet segment an awful lot from GRID 2, so right now what you’re seeing is a lot of game to web elements in that. When GRID 2 launches you’ll be seeing a lot of web to game, so when you’re doing stuff online your RaceNet experiences will directly feedback to you in an online capacity. So a whole host of stuff, not all of which we’re talking about at the moment, but we’re planning to introduce.

Well, it seems like you’ve got some solid plans for the multiplayer options, but what about the singleplayer content? I note that you said it’s a separate component from the multiplayer content, but just how have you made it a separate package?

Clive: Well, it has its own progression and y’know there’s a narrative behind it. Again, we’re not talking about that narrative at the moment, but it is all about charting your rise from club racer through to a global star and everything that goes with that.

All the elements of the singleplayer experience are how your actions and your successes on the track get reflected back through to the world.

That manifests itself in a whole host of ways. Even at the simplest level, the more successful you are then obviously the bigger, more prestigious events you get to enter and it affects the cars that you get to drive as well. We have a tiering system for our cars.

The tiers separate the more powerful cars and show off the ones with a little bit more challenging handling. Your success gets reflected back to you as well as you go along. The hub is going to chart your career and your rise. Charting that is going to be a big, big part to us and the experience.

Variety is really key to GRID 2. If you go out to the [Eurogamer Expo] show floor you’ll really see that we have two aspects of the final product.

We’ve got street racing in the form of the Chicago demo, which is classic street circuit in the US – lots of corners, cars sort of set up with handling and a lot of over-steer so you really need to kick back a lot trying to drift round some of those corners. And that’s really different to the other show floor experience we’ve got which is Road Racing.

It’s a California coast which is quite different; it’s an open road rather than a circuit and it’s a point to point race. The event that we’ve actually got is a head to head, two cars on the track sort-of thing. It brings an all new element of danger, one of the things we’d taken away with road racing. So, a circuit or a track tends to be barriered off with walls, but most of those are taken away with road racing.

California coast, so you’ve got lighter trees to either side, to drive into. Sheer cliff edges so you need to really be on it in terms of control otherwise you might go over the edge. It adds a whole new dimension to that solo experience.

There’s a third element as well that we’re showing out there today, and that’s circuit racing. Traditional circuits from around the world, where it’s all about learning the circuit so you can take some seconds off of your lap times.

That’s what makes a difference between circuit and street racing, rather than just the glory and prestige. We bring all these elements together in singleplayer and then on top of that we make sure it’s not necessarily all about the win. We’re putting different parts of the challenge into it.

It’s good to see a lot of work going into both sides of the game. I’m curious about the customization you mentioned though, if you don’t mind elaborating?

Clive: Car color schemes are a definite start. It was part of the original game and we want it to be part of this. I think it’s a really important element of the online experience that you can customize and really have that sense of ownership. All that needs to come from the player. Beyond the paint job there will be plenty of upgrades as well.

When I talked about the tier system earlier; the upgrade system is going to let you straddle those tiers if you like. You can upgrade your car so that it can compete with say Tier 1 cars which are geared for competitive racing; we don’t want you to feel excluded because you haven’t got the right cars in the right tiers.

You can spend your cash how you want, and improve anything how you want. You can make it quicker, faster, give it better handling.

Gehan: I think that customization is really important. One thing we really want to get across at the presentation to the crowd and the public demonstration is that if you go and play our game you’ll really get to feel what our game is about.

It’s all about the handling for me, as a car handling designer it’s about each and every car being important to the game. We’re not going to throw 2,000 cars at you and say “Pick whichever one you like, they’re all roughly the same”. We’re looking to get a small group of cars that all excel in their own area, the kind that all have their own personality.

We’re all petrol-heads at Codemasters so we’re very selective about the cars. We’ve got a Mustang on demonstration here on the show floor, and you’ll probably know about that anyway.

Massive, American muscle-car. It’s got a lot of grunt under the hood, and that’s the sort of thing we want to get across – those positive, key characteristics of each and every car in the game. So sure, we’re gonna give you some sort of upgrade system and customization, but what’s really important is the individuality of each car in each tier and their personalities. We hope that really shines through to the player.

You can pick it up and it’ll be a different experience to every other car in the game.

Well, you’ve obviously got some fantastic ideas in the oven. There’s quite a bit of personality and individuality here, but something that I think both me and our readers want to know: why has there been such a gap between the first game and GRID 2?

Clive: Yeah, we’ve been asked that a lot. There’s actually a really good reason. When we came off the back of the first game, obviously that game was critical – a massive success, so we sat down and said “Where do we want to take this? What do we want to do with GRID?

What we concluded pretty quickly was that our technology as it stood off the back of the first game just wasn’t advanced enough to achieve the things that we wanted to do. You can see some of the stuff out on the [demo] in the improved visuals and physics.

We took time out to get it exactly how we wanted, and that actually took some time to get the tech up to speed. Once we’d actually got all that in a place we wanted it to be then we could actually begin to start building the game.

In actual fact, the reality is that GRID 2 has been in production for a really, really long time and it’s only now that we’re getting all of those elements together to create what we think is going to be the absolute-definitive racing experience, certainly on this project.

So, have you got any secrets that make GRID 2 so good – any little things that really set it apart from all the other games out there?

Gehan: Well, we can talk a little bit about our AI.

Clive: One of our goals was to create AI that felt as human as possible. We wanted to add a realistic feel to the game, so that your AI opponents didn’t feel robotic, it didn’t feel like it was just a bunch of cars in the game that you’re racing against.

Just racing against a computer that’s robotically going round the track would be boring. We wanted more. So we’ve come up with another new piece of technology called our Driver Ability System. What it gives us is more than 60 attributes that each define how people and race drivers would drive these cars.

There’s loads of different things, like reaction times, what are they going to do as they come towards a corner? Late breakers?

Are they going to duck in? Break early and aim for a perfect line? It’s all these kinds of things that we’ve used to build their behaviors. It’s these reactions that define what type of racer they are and exactly how they drive.

On top of that, we’ve added another layer. That other layer is systems dynamic and it will react to the race. Let’s take a scenario: There’s a guy you’re racing against and you’re being super aggressive towards. You’re nudging him, trying to hustle him and force him to panic and make a mistake. There’s loads of ways that a driver could react to that in real life.

One person might not stand for it and gets aggressive back and starts nudging you. Maybe they get even more defensive. Maybe they even decide that the situation is too dangerous and they want to finish the race, perhaps thinking to themselves “This is too far, I’m gonna get out of the way now and try again later on,” so all this stuff evolves within the game.

What we’re trying to do is build rivalries, because you’re going to see these drivers from race to race and championship to championship. It’s that extra dimension that it adds, when you think of the real world of motorsports you get these kinds of rivalries between drivers.

It also adds this extra goal and challenge; everyone wants to be first across the line to get the win but secondary to that is “I want to beat that guy”.

If you don’t win the race, you might still be aiming to be better than one particular opponent who you’re building a rivalry up with. The AI is evolved enough to start out aggressive towards you and always be giving you grief, so maybe you’ll want your own payback.

This is the kind of stuff we’re trying to bring to the fore of the game. I think it’s a real step up from other kinds of games that feel like they’re missing that bit of soul and character. It’s important for your AI to feel human.

Gehan: I think AI is really important to our game. Aside from the decision making and the Driver Ability System that we’ve got going on, we’ve actually trained the AI on every single car in the game as well.

They actually drift the cars like they should do, they drive them to the limits like they should do. If it’s a front wheel drive car, they’re not going to drive them in the same fashion as a rear-wheel drive car. So, it’s not like when you’re in some games where you’ve got a chain of AI drivers around you who are always driving the same way in the same fashion around the course.

You’re going to see our AI drifting around properly, taking their cars to the car’s limit. The decision making system that we’ve got in place makes for a much more dynamic and organic experience.

It definitely sounds like you’ve put a ton of personality into this game. There’s some real depth there that you don’t see in most games AI, let alone just the racing genre.

Gehan: That’s the goal. To create a unique experience.

Thank you for your time, Clive Moody and Gehan Pathiraja.

Editor’s Note: Well, from what the two fellows have shared, it does seem like GRID 2 is on the track to being a unique experience.

Of course it’s still too early for anyone to form firm opinions – the game is set for a release window of summer 2013, so there are still a good few months for Codemasters to work with.

Stay tuned for more news and features regarding GRID 2.

You might know Liam as the host of the XPGrind podcast and video series. Liam's a freelance writer who posts news for SegmentNext as well as recording, editing and publishing podcasts and video.