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Developer on features in 'The Crew' and why PS4 and Xbox One made it possible

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Examiner chats with 13-year racing game veteran and lead game designer at developer Ivory Tower, Serkan Hassan, about features in the studio's upcoming open-world action-racer The Crew and what makes the project a next generation only experience.

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Examiner: How will the world open up to players when they start playing The Crew? Each region has different terrain for players to cross, so does that mean people will start with a certain type of car for each region?

Serkan Hassan: After a short prologue, players will be free to explore the entire open world. Every region will be accessible and from this point it’s their choice to either go for a free roaming adventure or continue with their pursuit of the main story.

Whichever option they choose, this will in no way limit their progression and access to the different specs as each new spec is unlocked by reaching a determined level and every activity in the game rewards you with XP, at the very least. So should you want to explore the world, to compete in skill challenges, or to see how the story unfolds through missions, you will always be able to do so and unlock new content in the process. All of this can be done by playing with or without your friends.

Ex: What type of variety will we see in races and challenges? What dynamic of the game does each race type focus on?

SH: The Crew is not a traditional racing game, and as such, it offers players so much more than just races. The races that we do have showcase the game’s variety, ranging from intense street racing through the streets of New York, to no holds barred dirt and off-road racing through locations such as Monument Valley.

In addition to races, we have missions with a wide ranging set of objectives, from chasing and taking down a tough AI target, to making an escape from law enforcement. In every case, these activities can be played solo or cooperatively.

Beyond the missions lie hundreds of quick fire skill challenges, ensuring the world map is densely populated with interesting and varied things to do. These challenges are under a minute in length and encourage the player to use their entire range of vehicles to traverse the world in a fresh way. As with everything in The Crew, these challenges can be played solo, or against friends and asynchronously against the ‘ghosts’ of other players who have already completed the challenge.

Finally, exploration will offer players the possibility to take their time and really dive into The Crew’s world, from visiting iconic landmarks to seeking hidden vehicles.

Ex: Will players encounter loading screens while driving from the West Coast to the East Coast? What's the difference between a living world and an open world?

SH: A living world is one that evolves on its own, or as a result of the actions of the player or other players. So, for example, driving through LA you’ll see lots of traffic, people, perhaps a jet taking off from LAX. Head out into the country and you’ll see wildlife like deer, bears and more. Most exciting of all, is what you may see with other players. You might stumble upon a pick up race between other players and decide to join in, or even find a player being chased by the police. Do you help them, or impede them? The choice is yours. The world does not only react to your actions. It reacts to the actions of all players.

Ex: How does The Crew's engine differ from other games you've seen? What are its strengths as it relates to an open-world racing game like The Crew?

SH: The engine we’ve developed for The Crew allows us to really embrace our vision of an open-world racing game. First, with the way the world is generated, it allows for a diversity that otherwise would have required many more years of work. Second, the online infrastructure allows all of our players to be on a single server for a much more seamless experience.

Ex: What are all of the skills in the game? Can you run over pedestrians with your car, why or why not?

SH: As mentioned previously, the game’s world is densely populated with hundreds of skill challenges, which the player can tackle using any of their cars. Playing a skill challenge is entirely optional and allows you to compete against the ‘ghosts’ of friends and other players who have completed it before you.

As well as jumps, high speed runs and slaloms, we also have challenges where players are free to try out different strategies in order to succeed. One example is our “Climb” challenge, where the player must try to reach the top of a mountain. One strategy would be to use a high performance car and follow the winding asphalt road to the top. Alternatively, the player could opt for a raid car and try to reach the top in the most direct way possible, driving off-road through the trees and rocks, ignoring the roads completely.

And because we are targeting a teen rating, pedestrians will always be just swift enough to avoid collisions.

Ex: Music is always very important in racing games, so what artists can we expect to hear and do they vary based on region, race type or terrain?

SH: Music is indeed an important part of driving games, and more generally, a major part of any driving experience. One of the great parts of the game being set in the USA is that we have this huge of variety of styles and genres to pick from. I can’t tell you yet which artists will be featured specifically, but expect to hear more on that in the upcoming months. We’ve even been working on original tracks especially for the game.

Ex: What are things you can do on the PS4 and Xbox One that you couldn't do on Xbox 360 and PS3? Why not make a version on last-gen?

SH: The newest generation of consoles gave us the means to execute a vision we’ve had for a long time. The always online aspect is something we embrace and that wasn’t possible the same way with the previous generations. In terms of hardware, such a vast, dense and varied open world wouldn’t have reached the same level of quality if it wasn’t for the new generation of consoles.

Ex: Sounds like in a group race, players will be awarded different amounts of experience based on their contributions to the mission, how is that split determined?

SH: Earning rewards primarily depends on the requirements of the activity you participate in. If you’re transporting precious cargo across town, reaching the objective in quickly and without a scratch will reap the biggest rewards. Likewise, in a mission where the objective is the destruction of an enemy vehicle, players who display the most aggression are rewarded accordingly. The system allows us to place a unique emphasis on the gameplay of each activity, pushing players to mix.

The Crew is slated for release this fall on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Be sure to check out the game's latest trailer above.

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