Slightly Mad Studios has grown to be a rather prominent name among those who develop racing games. The British company has worked on the Need for Speed Shift series, Test Drive, and the upcoming Project Cars. But its next step might not seem so logical. Enter World of Speed, an online free-to-play PC racing MMO published by My.com.
A racing MMO? What does that even mean? Well we were a bit perplexed by that proposition as well, but the studio emphasizes that more than anything this is a racing game. That means that it's all about driving the most famous cars in the world, owning a garage full of them, and racing them all around the world.
Free-to-play isn't all that common either when it comes to MMOs. But Slightly Mad says it truly is free. "We mean that you'll be able to create an account, download it, log in, and go from the very beginning all the way to the highest level without ever having to spend a penny," says Community Manager Drew Hahn. He declined to offer specifics instead indicating that it's just a philosophy the team shares.
"One of the things we've been inspired by is other MMO's," Hahn tells us. "Say you're playing World of Warcraft, you log in, meet up with your buddies, and go on quests, raids, and try to get loot. Everything you can do there. . .you can do here. [But] instead of battling with an axe, you're battling with a car."
You're car becomes an extension of you, much like your character in other games. And with customization being a huge part of any MMO, allowing players to differentiate themselves from the crows of hundreds of other players, Slightly Mad knows it needs to offer a lot to those who take time to play.
"If you're playing WoW, this is your armor and stuff like that [which is your customization]. What you can do in World of Speed is [allow you to] change your paint (matte, gloss, chrome, iridescent, everything across the spectrum) but we've also got a livery editor that allows you to apply decals, vinyls, manipulate them, put them in layers, and create your own personalized look."
Hahn continues to talk about performance upgrades and how Slightly Mad is taking a unique approach, "One thing that really differentiates us from other racing games is in other racing games you grind, you grind, you grind, get the cash and then go to the list of parts and buy the most expensive part because it's probably the best." But that's different in World of Speed, That's not how we're treating performance upgrades in our game," he repeats, "In an MMO you go around, find loot, and try to find the legendary drops. You never get people who have the same build, everyone's got their own character built into a specific role, and that's how we want to treat performance here."
That said, the developers also chose to separate visual appearance from performance. "The body kit does not affect performance," Hahn reveals. "The reason why we decided to do that is we looked at other racing games that have parts that affect performance, we found that when you get to the higher levels of competition all the cars look the same because everybody's just trying to get as much power out of it as they can." We instantly knew the feeling this presents in most racing games, "It kind of limits you and your freedom to express your creativity, and we want the cars to really be a personification of yourself. So we decided the best way to do that is to have it not affect the performance."
And all of this is crucial when you factor in clubs, World of Speed's equivalent of clans. '. . .In MMO's you meet up with your buddies and go off [on quests]. . .we actually allow players to team up and form a club, and when [you do that] you can define your club colors, logo, and whatnot. We hope players take that as a big inspiration [when it comes to] liveries."
According to Hahn, these are highlighted when you play with friends. "In actual racing we've got [an equivalent] of quests, which are in race objectives. Just for a few examples we've got [are] drift one hundred feet in total throughout the race or draft someone for thirty seconds in total. Stuff like that."
"So you would want to have parts that will allow you to achieve these objectives easier. That's kind of the big thing about it, if I want to be the guy going for these objectives I'd probably want to have tires that are a little more slick, to allow the rear end to come out easier, maybe a bottle of NOS that will burn a little bit longer just to keep me in the drift. Whereas if I'm a support and I want to make sure my buddy is always in first, I want something that will give me a bit more acceleration so I can hit someone and boost back up, maybe something that doesn't reduce the weight of my car too much so I can take some bumps.
"It works into the nonlinear style of performance, there's no golden part. Everything has a penalty and a bonus, so you really have to figure out what kind of role you want to play on your team [and outfit your car as such]."
This way players can have a car to fulfill each role, each position, each quest and continuously improve their play. The biggest thing about MMOs to many is the desire to improve yourself, to improve your character until you've maximized your efficiency. Just like other games, in World of Speed, the attention focused on clans allows you to continue growing, well past what you could do alone.