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Interviews

Need for Speed: Most Wanted - Criterion talks next gen, Burnout and always-online gaming

Massive chat with the champions of open world racing

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Sullivan: And you have to try new things. The best thing about making video games is you get a chance to literally create something from nothing. We're only as good as the ideas we have and what we can translate into software. It's our job as game creators to bring new experiences into people's living rooms, and have them do something that makes them say "wow, I didn't a video game could be this, or I could do this in a game".

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So, we push as hard as anybody else. There's stuff that we don't ship because we think either it's too far ahead or we don't understand how to make the best of the idea, but we're always trying to push. And other teams do that. Blackbox tried it, and you've got to applaud people for trying. I would rather have someone try and do something new than just do something that's just dull.

Webster: There's loads of people that just want us to make Burnout 2 again. Again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

Sullivan: Or Burnout 1, or Burnout 3, or Black 2 or Burnout Paradise 2.

I think EA isn't praised enough for its willingness to experiment with Need for Speed. There was that period a few years ago where you had Nitro on the Wii, you had Slightly Mad's Shift, and you had Hot Pursuit - completely different trajectories, coexisting within a single franchise. Are we entering a consolidation period now, where you focus on the most successful approach?

Webster: Who knows? I mean at any point in time you can only focus on what you're making at that point in time. We're choosing the direction for Need for Speed right now and the one that we're doing is this one. Who knows where it goes next?

Sullivan: We just try to make games that are fun, that put a smile on your face. It just so happens that at the moment Need for Speed is getting that treatment, so it's kind of just where we're at. Everybody asks us when we're working on a Need for Speed game, "when are you doing a Burnout game?" Or if we make a Burnout game everybody will be asking "when are you doing another Need for Speed game?" The good thing is that it seems people have faith in us. If it's got the Criterion label on the box then they think it's going to be good fun, which means that we're doing our jobs right. Hopefully that will continue!

Is the future pretty open right now, then? Or are you committed to Need for Speed for the moment?

Sullivan: We've got lots of ideas and there are people we're working with. Do we know exactly what we're going to do next? No. Have we got lots of ideas about what we could do next? Yes. We're doing this year's Need for Speed, we haven't got long to go, we're getting a good reaction from the people who play it, so we seem to be heading in the right direction, pushing the envelope and trying new stuff. We're looking at the finish line now and trying to make this game as good as it possibly can be in the time we have left.

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Before you settled on Most Wanted, did you consider remaking any of the other classic Need for Speeds? Pro Street? Underground?

Sullivan: The same ones keep coming up! When we finished Burnout Paradise we did a year of updates - nine updates to the game where we dramatically changed what that software was, and while we were doing that we got the Need for Speed gig, and it was an easy conversation for us to sit down and say: "right, which Need for Speeds do we really love?" Not which ones are most successful, or which ones could sell the most if we did another one - it's which ones do we love. And it was obvious, it was Most Wanted and Hot Pursuit.

So we looked at Hot Pursuit and we thought, "if we did Hot Pursuit we could really go to town on this Cops versus Racers gameplay", and give you epic drives in insanely fast, beautiful cars through amazing environments. And we had just done an open world driving game, Burnout Paradise, and if we did Most Wanted that would have to be another open world game, so we chose to do Hot Pursuit first.

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