I joined Criterion Games in February 2012 as a Designer. I was a Designer on the multiplayer part of Need For Speed Most Wanted – an open world racer (EA – PS3, Xbox360, PC, PsVita, WiiU) using an in-house engine.
This involved :
– Designing with creative leads to define a competitive and innovative multiplayer experience (intentions, game modes, balancing …)
– Designing all multiplayer events through iterations and playtests to provide a compelling and enjoyable experience
– Working with programmers to get quicker iterations
– Analysing games competitors to have a deep understanding on multiplayer features
– Working with artists, programmers and other designers to contribute to the vision of the game
– Involved in public and press events to promote the game
The game was well received by the press and players, and pick up a few awards, including D.I.C.E. Awards Racing Game of the Year. Most Wanted multiplayer received several nominations, including in the BAFTA Online Multiplayer 2013 category.
Defining a competitive and innovative multiplayer
When I joined, the team had just decided to restart from the scratch: they had literally just deleted everything. The intention was still there – building a competitive and innovative multiplayer, but the team was still looking for the right answer. So we went back to the drawing board, looking back at the previous games and looking for ideas. Quickly, it was clear that the game should be built around a deep progression, many various events and that “non-stop playing” from Burnout Paradise. So we decided to define two minutes of great gameplay – not more. As long as those 2 minutes weren’t fun, we weren’t moving forward. Only when we had a fun 2 minutes experience, we decided to move to 5 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 1 one hour … until we had a 20hours + experience !
Designing all multplayer events
To create our multiplayer, we needed to make sure that any event we were building were fun, easy to understand and replayable. The only way was through heavy playtesting : I organized playtests in the office every day to test all those events. With this, we were able to tune the difficulty or even to delete some events. It was also important not to bring the same people every time, to make sure that each event was easy to understand: that’s why I would often look around the office and brought any kind of profiles, even trying to mix types of players (expert versus beginners…).
Working with programmers to get quicker iterations
We were challenged to bring a lot of content for this game. At the start, we didn’t have the tools so we had to build something that allowed any content creators to be creative and independent from programmers: I wanted to have the freedom to test any idea that I had at any time, without waiting for builds or coding. To do so, we created an editor based on primitives (gameplay mechanics) and the possibility to mix primitives together. For example, we had “meet-up”, “stop moving” and “scoring”: I mixed those primitives and that’s how I created park up challenges! Most of Most Wanted multiplayer events are built like this: it’s a mix of various things that had already on the software, only presented differently. That editor allowed me to iterate quickly on events, as I was able to create many events while still testing new ideas. In the end, we created more than 500 events in 3 months !
Analysing games competitors to have a deep understanding on multiplayer features
We wanted to build a multiplayer that was as compelling as the big multiplayer titles on the market. To do so, I started looking for at various multiplayer games, from racing to shooters… Then, I would present them to the team, showing what were good or bad. I think it’s an important exercise for any team to take the discipline to stop what they are doing and looking at the current games: it can give you inspiration, but also shows you if you’re putting the efforts on the right things. Anyone in a team must play games, but it’s even more important to do as a team. For example, games like Call Of Duty or Left 4 Dead inspired us to make Most Wanted.
Working with artists, programmers and other designers to contribute to the vision of the game
During the making of this game, I was involved in various discussions, mostly related to the multiplayer but also the single player, the design of the world, sound design…. It was not only very fun to give ideas to anyone in the team, but it was also a great way to give fresh perspective on our own work.
Involved in public and press events to promote the game
When I joined Criterion, I didn’t expect that I would be involved in the promotion of the game. But the team believed that I was one of the best people to talk about the game. So they sent me for a couple showcases and then in France to present the game. It was a great experience, and I learnt so much from it that I even wrote an article about it.
During Most Wanted, I learnt that it is very important to focus on the core experience and then building a whole experience from it: don’t imagine your game is going fun for 10 hours if even 2 minutes from it isn’t! Start small, iterate on it and once you got 2 fun minutes, you can move on to 5 minutes.
It was also my first experience on multiplayer and I learnt that playtesting and quick iterations are keys to make an enjoyable multiplayer: you need to test your game all the time. And you need to bring new players as much as possible to always get a fresh look on your game. To get quick iterations, you will need to get the right tools: it is important to ask yourself if you have the right tools for the job, even if it means you need to stop what you’re doing and spend some time on your process.
Finally, The most valuable lesson I learnt is this one : “play games, have an opinion about them”. So you should always show games to our team: show them what it is fun about it, what is not, what we can learn from them… It is valuable for any kind of games you’re making, so do it.