World of Speed preview: a friendly shift

By Ozzie Mejia, Mar 25, 2014 6:00am PDT

Publisher My.com and Slightly Mad Studios are feeling ambitious with their upcoming racing game, World of Speed, which was first revealed last month. This racer from the Need for Speed: Shift developer isn't just about competing against your friends, it's about taking the race around the world in a free-to-play MMO setting.

During last week's Game Developers Conference, Shacknews got to try out World of Speed and drive through the game's new San Francisco track, offering a fresh insight as to how the game will operate beyond the simple parameters of winning and losing.

World of Speed sees two teams of up to four each take the track, based on licensed circuits from a large variety of real-world locations. Only the San Francisco track was available during my time at GDC, but the track was built to include many of the city's unique features, including the Moscone Center and many of its surrounding streets. Slightly Mad is aiming for painstaking re-creations of major cities, all of which will feature dynamic weather effects. While I raced through San Francisco in the middle of a sunny day, the game's developers noted that depending on when I go in for a race, the track could be covered in either rain or snow. Track layouts will also vary, with the developer adding that certain areas could be closed off or blocked-off areas could likewise be opened to create a fresh racing experience.

World of Speed's races focus on more than simply winning the race. During my time with the game, I raced in a pair of 2v2 sessions with a partner. While winning the race was certainly encouraged, there was also a progress bar at the top of the screen that would keep track of which team was completing more in-race objectives. These objectives included drifting for a certain amount of time, exchanging paint with opponents' cars, or holding the lead for a certain amount of time. Teamwork is sometimes needed to complete some of the goals, like making sure to keep a car out of your partner's way while he attempts to drift. Though I managed to come in first place in my race, I looked up to see that my team had come dangerously close to losing the game, because I didn't focus enough on the track's other goals.

While on the subject of teamwork, Slightly Mad is hoping that World of Speed will bring friends together, similar to how an MMORPG will unite guild members for raids. The game's Club system will allow friends to gather in a garage setting, where they can customize Club names and logos. Friends can complete races together to help each other earn new cars or unlock new circuits to expand their horizons.

Players begin World of Speed with few cars to choose from, but will be able to unlock better ones as they progress through races. Cars can be purchased through in-game currency. Slighlty Mad is also looking into ways to utilize the game's free-to-play model, like possibly paying real money for paint jobs or other cosmetic designs. However, those plans have not been finalized.

Slightly Mad plans to offer substantial content updates for World of Speed long after the game is released. Updates will include new game modes, cars, tracks, upgrades, and more. They hope to have the game ready to go for a 2014 release, but in the meantime, players can sign up for the beta through the World of Speed website.

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