Test Drive Unlimited has been a long time coming, but not because of development issues - because developer Eden is so damn ambitious.
The sequel's sporting two '100% road accurate' virtual islands in Ibiza and Hawaii, a roster of exotic motors to explore the '20 hours worth' of challenges and road content on each, plus an entire social structure which has you purchasing your own pad, laying down the carpet and inviting some mates over.
We recently sat down with senior producer Nour Polloni to discuss the open-world racer. For more gameplay details read our Test Drive Unlimited 2 preview, or read on for the chat...
First off, the game looks great. You've obviously been working on Unlimited 2 for many years now... why did you decide to be as ambitious with it as you have?
We were already innovative in the first game in the sense that we did an online racing game, kicking off the MMOR kind of genre. We wanted to push that even further; more online, more social, a new island, a more persistent world... more of the MMOR aspect. Also, we really wanted to work on the car experience.
That was our vision for the game. We also wanted to listen to feedback from the community and make sure we got that into the game.
How much attention do you pay to what the fans want? Where do you draw the line?
It's a delicate balance because there are technical constraints, constraints linked to the car manufacturers and also it might not be in the vision of the game and where we want to take it. For example if they want only rally games that's a whole different type of genre so we won't go radically to only rally types of games.
In terms of feedback, a lot of the stuff we got back was asking for a day and night cycle, weather etc. Also a lot of players said they like to cruise around so we said 'why don't we give a reward for that?' The off-road was requested because players love to explore the environment, so we added specific off-road vehicles.
So there were some things that were quite easy to adapt following player feedback, but other stuff like vehicle damage we didn't go all the way because car manufacturers don't like their cars being all crunched up or blowing up. We kept it to a visual impact but not a performance impact.
Later on in Unlimited 2 players unlock a second island, Hawaii. Are you worried that this might split the community, with all the high end players camping out on the latter island?
In terms of the level up it's not that high before you go to Hawaii. We want to keep it quite low so if you start up and your friend says 'hey I just bought a new house in Hawaii, come and join me' you'll be able to progress quickly to join your friend on Hawaii.
There will be specific challenges that are different on Ibiza compared to Hawaii, so you'll have the variety. We'll see how that will flow through but we don't think players will just stay on one island until they finish it.
Do you consider yourself an MMO?
To a certain point. We're not World of Warcraft, no. We're building in things that are of the MMO world in a racing genre, yes.
Where would you limit the MMO elements? Would you ever consider giving the game away for free and introducing a subscription model?
Potentially we could but the thing about a subscription model is on consoles it's quite complicated. On Xbox you have to pay to play online and we don't want to put more pressure on the players to pay not only to play online but to play the game - it doesn't make any sense. So for us we prefer going more towards the micro-transaction possibilities than subscription.