We recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Jason DeLong, Executive Producer for Need for Speed: The Run. We got some details on what went into making the franchise, and, of course, talked cars for a bit. Here's what he had to say.
Cheat Code Central: What was the inspiration for The Run?
Jason DeLong: I think there [were] a lot of inspirations. The whole idea of a cross country road trip is sort of a romantic ideal, you know, and it's one that has been replicated in lots of movies and in real life with Gumball rallies and things. So for us, really, it came down to a few things… We're always inspired by these amazing drives that are across the U.S., but we've never actually replicated them factually in Need for Speed. It's always been a case of, you know, a fictional county or a fictional city that's inspired by these places. But we actually wanted to, for the first time in Need for Speed, recreate the feeling of this race across the U.S.
So for us, it came down to a few things, but the biggest one was just the romantic ideal and making sure that we were conveying that epic journey from San Fran to New York, and then obviously tying a story into it so that there was a motivation to it besides just doing a road trip…
At Black Box in Vancouver, we like to do narrative-based Need for Speeds, and in the past we've not had the best tools for storytelling because of technology being what it was in the past. We had to sort of separate storytelling from driving. But in this case, we've actually for the first time, using Frostbite 2, been able to weave storytelling into the gameplay in a way that we haven't been able to do before.
CCC: What was the process for choosing the locations that we get to see in the game?
JDL: We did a few things. We did a lot of driving, for starters, looked at a lot of Google Maps. But we knew that with the story being about this cross country race and the idea… that we had to go from one coast to the other coast, what was the most interesting way to do that and what were the most interesting places to go through? We sort of started with some of the major iconic cities—ones that we knew that we'd actually want to drive through—San Francisco versus L.A—San Francisco obviously has some benefits to it in terms of the jumps and the way that San Fran's laid out as opposed to being stuck on the 405 in traffic if we started in L.A.
And then, obviously, Vegas is quite an iconic city. We wanted to go through that. No disrespect to the Midwest—not a lot going on there until you get to Chicago—and then New York. So those were kind of our four major cities that we knew we wanted to visit and then what's the cleanest route between those? And that's kind of what led us to The Run.
CCC: Are they GPS scans of the locations, or are they more artistic representations of the areas?
JDL: They're sort of "inspired by." We did everything we can to make sure we're representing the cities as accurately as possible, of course. But at a certain point, we're making a racing game. We wanted to make sure we're providing the best experience for players.
When we were at E3 and we were showing off the Chicago level, there were tons of people playing in our behind-closed-doors, and a lot of people were actually pointing things out, like, "Hey, I used to live down on that corner." So we do a great job of conveying the spirit of the cities, but they're not actually GPS 100% accurate.
CCC: What was the process for choosing the cars?
JDL: I mean, really, it's like casting a movie, right? When you're thinking about the story that you're trying to tell, what's the best way to tell it? Who do you cast in the roles? And for us, being Need for Speed, obviously cars are a huge part of that. The most important thing is that we're conveying something that we feel is representative of current car culture. And that is actually quite a broad brush, so we have everything from super high-end exotic cars, which is obviously a staple of Need for Speed. But at the same time there's car culture out there where people love their 1981 GTI, and they spend tens of thousands of dollars souping it up to make it incredible. So we wanted to make sure that we were kind of satisfying that audience that just love cars and love the nature of cars.
And it did tie in well with the story, because the story of the game about this cross country race, of course you're going to see people that have no money to soup up their cars but they enter the race with a hope and a dream and a crappy car, and other people that have the money and can drive a Lamborghini Aventador across the country. So we wanted to make sure that we really were inspiring—or inspired by—the broad car culture that's out there.
CCC: The graphics look great. What led to the use of the Frostbite Engine? How did you guys work that out?
JDL: Well, we at Black Box, we've done Need for Speed games in the past. We've had a couple of years since we've done one, so we really had time to invest in technology, which is what we wanted. You know, to take time and go back and say "We want to do story-based Need for Speed. We want to do this epic cross country journey. We needed to create believable content quickly. What's the best way to achieve that?" And for us, we looked at other engines, we looked at rebuilding our own engine, and we looked at Frostbite. And Frostbite, in the end, was a clear winner. We were able to partner, obviously, with our friends at DICE, worked really hard to get things like our road tool, our physics, our handling into the Frostbite engine. And the benefits, as you've seen today, are pretty obvious in terms of what it gives us in terms of graphics and gameplay and visual effects, you know, character performance. All of those things all tied together really make The Run what it is, the epic story that it is.