Need For Speed Most Wanted
Lead Designer, Multiplayer
License Plate Artist, Multiplayer
My most recently completed project is Need For Speed: Most Wanted for Electronic Arts.
Knowing that my reason for leaving Criterion in the first place was a desire to work closer to my home in Derbyshire, the guys at Criterion offered me the unique chance to telecommute - splitting my time between working in the office in Guildford, in the Southeast of England and dialing in a couple of days a week from my home.
It was a bold experiment, took a lot of discipline, but it's a proud personal achievement to say that we managed to go all the way from concept through to final on the game (including an intense summer of very hard work by everyone at the studio) with me working remotely. It's a real credit to the forward-thinking folks at Criterion that I was able to do this, and my family (who had suffered me working away for over a decade) really appreciated seeing more of me as a result.
Regarding my role on the project - I began work on Most Wanted helping out with the initial concept work - providing ideas and generating a massive heap of storyboards to help communicate them.
Once the game was underway, we formed a Multiplayer team with me in the Design role and we set about to work out how to bring a new twist to 'Multiplayer in Cars'. The goal: create a new kind of Multiplayer driving experience that rewarded everyone who played it and had the depth and potential to be played for a comparable number of hours as a modern-day First Person Shooter.
I think it is fair to say that during the course of the project we tried EVERYTHING. Some ideas worked, and we stuck with them. Others just didn't make the cut. (Believe me, Criterion understands when to cut. One of their many strengths is always being unfraid to 'Press the Delete button' in favour of making a better product.)
But in the end, thanks to everyone's hard work and ideas we came through, with an Open World Driving Multiplayer experience that constantly served up a variety of races and driving challenges, both competitive and cooperative. This, backed by deep scoring and a huge progression that offered up further rewards and challenges for many, many hours of play.
For me this meant that one of my more important roles in all this was creating that Multiplayer progression. This was the first time I'd ever ventured into building this kind of system for a game, but it wasn't long before I became 'the guy with the spreadsheets' creating hundreds of challenges for the player and wrangling graphs of 'Speed Points' (our version of 'XP'.) It was an daunting task at first, knowing that if I got the numbers wrong the game could take too long (or, perhaps worse) be completed in a few sessions of play, but seeing the game's telemetry coming through when real players hit the servers at launch was incredibly satisfying.
As seems to always be the case, I didn't stay strictly within the confines of Design on this project either. In April 2012, we were preparing our E3 software and since our Art Team was really stretched. I was asked if I could create some placeholder artwork for the unlockable 'License Plates' that act as rewards for the player. So I did.
With our E3 success, I signed myself up for sourcing and creating the artwork for the 500+ License Plates that appeared in the final game. Since I'd created the Multiplayer challenges that unlocked them, I knew what I wanted and so it made most sense for me to create the themed artwork to accompany them. This meant that in addition to my other tasks, I spent many, many hours of summer 2012 driving the in-progress software, capturing screenshots, retouching and compositing imagery in Photoshop. It was tremendous fun (my first 2D artwork in a finished game for some 16 years) - but still, a lot to work to get through.
The game shipped in October 2012, but I was straight onto helping out build Downloadable Content in the form of the Ultimate Speed Pack...
...and the three additional packs that made up the Deluxe DLC Bundle. All of which saw me creating even more content and artwork.
In addition to all the cool reviews, I'm pleased to say that the game picked up many nominations and awards. Including D.I.C.E. Awards Racing Game of the Year and a nomination in the BAFTA Online Multiplayer 2013 category.