ZAM's Q&A with Need for Speed World's Eneko Bilbao

This free-to-play racing MMO recently surpassed three million registered users, and we got the chance to talk with the technical director about what's new with the game.

Updates for Electronic Arts' Need for Speed World MMO have been racing along at a steady pace. The game went free-to-play in September and recently received a new performance customization system that added more depth to the game. To top it off, EA studio Black Box announced earlier this month that NFSW has surpassed three million registered users.

We got the chance to talk with Technical Director Eneko Bilbao about the customization system, the game's free-to-play model and the future of Need for Speed World. Keep reading after the jump for his answers!

ZAM: Patch 5.00 introduced several new features, the most revolutionary of which was the new performance customization system. Please describe how this system differs from the one in place before?

Eneko Bilbao: Back in 4.0, we provided customization packages which would affect overall performance of the cars in 3 stages: street, race, pro. Today we have a system that allows you to change individual parts: engine, induction, transmission, suspension, brakes, tires and the “special slot” we reserve for future use. This system is very flexible and will allow you to tune a ride the way you want without having to worry too much about how a car works. It works by modifying the performance of the car on 3 axes: Handling, Acceleration and Top Speed. We’ve created some fictional part manufacturers, each with a certain bias towards one of the axes. Parts have also a rarity associated with them, and the rarer a part the better it generally is. You can get parts by buying booster packs or by racing; they drop at the end of the races during lucky draw.

ZAM: About how many new performance parts were added? Do you plan to add others in future patches, and, if so, how often will they be released?

Bilbao: We currently have close to 2,000 performance parts and we have plans to add many more. The release pace will mainly depend on how fast users progress through the content, which we are following on a daily basis.

ZAM: The new customization system seems to add an RPG-type feeling to this racing MMO. Is that a fair assessment? What were your goals with the new system?

Bilbao: Absolutely, we like racing games and MMOs. Most of us are gamers and we play a lot together. It felt like sometimes some racing games made it unnecessarily complex or mandatory to understand the ins and outs of car performance to be able to enjoy the game. We took another approach and tried to make it as much fun as gearing up your character in a RPG. You can approach it from a min-maxer point of view and try to build the ultimate ride, or just collect parts; up to you.

ZAM: Durability has made repairing a necessity, but currently is only applied by the number of races, not the damage taken during races themselves. How has feedback been with this new system? Any plans to change it in the future?

Bilbao: Our intention is to provide a great and fair experience and we felt that taking damage during races (like collisions) into account would open the door to griefing which is something we are trying to prevent as much as we can. The feedback has been very positive. For now we are very happy with the system and have no plans to change it. But as with any other feature, we listen and adapt when we feel we have to.

ZAM: The patch notes mentioned over 150 bugs had been resolved, but they were not posted in the notes in an effort to keep them short. Could you provide some examples of the bugs that were squashed?

Bilbao: We usually only mention the main issues fixed in a patch. This time we fixed lots of minor issues such as clipping shadows which didn’t need to be listed or explained. Patch details are usually focused on features, UI improvements and major bug fixes. I just want to add that this team has been doing a tremendous job fixing issues weekly and improving the overall experience since launch.

ZAM: With the new performance parts, has maintaining balance in the game become more difficult? How about balance between the free-to-play players and the Speedboost purchasers?

Bilbao: Not really. All parts can be obtained by just playing the game. Speedboost is an accelerator for people who simply cannot commit as much time in gaming as they used to.

ZAM: Following the last question, what are the strengths and difficulties you’ve found using a free-to-play model and Speedboost currency? How has the model been received by your players?

Bilbao: The difficulty is creating good value for money, what does make sense to sell and what does not. From what we are seeing, our players are sophisticated enough to understand that we are not a charity and somehow need to pay the bills. At the same time, we believe that money should only be an accelerator, it does not make you better, it just allows you to reach better things faster.

ZAM: What is next on the plate for the game? Any tidbits of upcoming NFSW action for our readers?

Bilbao: We have just released night time which looks absolutely amazing and makes the gameplay experience that much more interesting when racing the same tracks at night. Even if you don’t have the latest high-end PC you can enjoy all the effects we have added and it looks gorgeous. Next is Team Escape, the long awaited multiplayer co-op pursuit mode. Be ready for some frantic cop chases with your friends! The longer term plans are very exciting but it is too early to talk about. Let’s just say that players can expect more cars, more customization and more game modes!


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