Interview: NASCAR Heat: Evolution

Posted on by Dale

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Today, we have an interview with Sean Wilson, the Executive Producer behind NASCAR Heat: Evolution. We want to first say thank you to him for taking the time to read through and answer our questions. NASCAR Heat: Evolution is the first NASCAR game coming to Xbox One and Playstation 4. The game will also see a release on PC through Steam. Dusenberry Martin Racing is working with Monster Games on this title. They are the same group behind Dirt to Daytona and the original NASCAR Heat series.

NASCAR Heat: Evolution looks to continue the success of its predecessors by providing fans of the motorsport with a career mode that will allow you to move up the ranks in the Sprint Cup Series. You will start out with having to gain sponsors and keep them happy by finishing or qualifying well enough in each race. On top of this the game will feature new damage models that will allow your cars to look like they just had a full night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. This game was a complete rebuild from what Eutechnyx was working on meaning the AI drivers will react in a different manner and the car you drive will also feel different. Dusenberry Martin Racing have been working on this game for a couple of years now and with it featuring more than 40 drivers and all 23 tracks from the Sprint Cup circuit it looks to make a lot of fans happy. I personally have been a NASCAR fan all of my life, I’ve been to Bristol Motor Speedway every year, and when I seen this Development Screenshot on Facebook from the team it got me excited about the game. You can check out the interview below the picture!

Development screenshot along with actual photo from Bristol Motor Speedway.
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Development screenshot along with actual photo from Bristol Motor Speedway.

Gaming Conviction: How exciting is it for the team to be able to have the NASCAR franchise back within the studio and to truly craft this game from the ground up?

Sean Wilson: The development team at Monster Games lost the NASCAR license in the early 2000s and always had a sense of unfinished business with NASCAR video games. They’re thrilled to work on a NASCAR game again. They spent years wondering what they could have done with the franchise and where they could have taken it. Once they got the license back, they played all the old NASCAR games and have been able to create something really great with NASCAR Heat Evolution. The sky’s the limit now that they have the license back. It’s a good time to be a NASCAR video game fan.

Gaming Conviction: Knowing the last few games Monster Games worked on were 3DS ports such as Xenoblade Chronicles 3D and Donkey Kong Country Returns, how hard of a transition was it for the team to go straight into a massive project such as this?

Sean Wilson: It was a very easy transition for the guys at Monster Games. They have a long history with console development and were itching to get back to the NASCAR franchise.

Gaming Conviction: Through the years NASCAR has changed dramatically on a technical level. How much of a challenge has it been to adapt to the new technology?

Sean Wilson: Ironically, it’s more like NASCAR is catching up to video games. We have always existed in the digital world. So the advent of things in the real NASCAR world like telemetry, fuel injection (which is obviously computer-controlled) and digital dashboards… those were all things that we programmed in the digital world and had to make them seem like their old mechanical counterparts in the real world. So the adoption of technology across the sport has actually made things easier for us to create and verify.

Cars racing in tight proximity to one another with tire smoke off the #22 of Joey Logano.
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Cars racing in tight proximity to one another with tire smoke off the #22 of Joey Logano.

Gaming Conviction: Recently Dusenberry-Martin Racing made an incredible move to Charlotte. How much has that helped the development process to be only a couple of miles away from most of NASCAR’s teams?

Sean Wilson: Working within NASCAR Plaza in Charlotte has been a huge benefit for us. We have direct access to key decision makers within the sport as well as the drivers and teams that define the sport. As a bonus, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is right downstairs in case we need a little dose of history. With the exception of Furniture Row Racing (based in Colorado), every Sprint Cup team that we have in the game is located within 10-15 miles of our office. So visiting and communicating is extremely efficient and effective. Plus, the entire NASCAR world seems to flow through this building – so we have a lot of drop-in visits across the sport, which is great!

Gaming Conviction: Some of the details you’ve already released mention that Evolution will have a tire model. How in depth will this be, considering that tire wear is an extremely important element to NASCAR?

Sean Wilson: It’s not just tires that we model. The entire car is based on the physical models and they perform accordingly. And the cars deteriorate over the course of a race like they do in the real world. But by existing in the virtual world, we can even accelerate things. So, if you want to crank up the wear factor to, let’s say “4x”, then your fuel, tires, etc. will all deteriorate 4x faster… as will those of all the AI cars in the game. So you can compact the Daytona 500 into the Daytona 125 if you run everything at 4x wear.

Gaming Conviction: Many are disappointed that the Paint Shop won’t be available at release. What customization options will be available? If you complete the Paint Shop will it be released in an update possibly?

Sean Wilson: Fans have been asking for years to be able to create a driver that looks like them, and now they have that opportunity. Players will be able to customize the appearance of their Career mode driver in over 20 different ways. In Career mode, you’ll earn sponsors and you’ll be able to choose which ones you want to feature on your car. Regarding the paint booth, it was a feature we didn’t want to release before it was ready. Building the game from scratch meant focusing on building a stable and fun experience that took precedence over certain features.

Gaming Conviction: Your previous NASCAR title, Dirt to Daytona, received great reviews for offering a career mode that let you race your way to the Cup level from dirt cars. Is it possible that a tiered campaign like this could come to NASCAR Heat in the future?

Sean Wilson: It’s absolutely a feature we’d like to bring back in a future game.

The #4 of Kevin Harvick at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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The #4 of Kevin Harvick at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Gaming Conviction: Twitter has become a major way to communicate with fans and I’ve noticed that you have been utilizing this as a way to announce some features. How big of a role has this connection to your audience played in the development of the game?

Sean Wilson: Social media has become a huge part of what we do. Our fans have been talking about our game on social media for years providing feedback and giving their unfiltered opinions. Tuning into these conversations and directly interacting with fans has been an amazing learning experience. We read through comments daily, notes are taken, and those notes are then relayed to our development team. It has turned out to be a great process as the feedback we receive directly impacts the development of the game.

Gaming Conviction: Have you had an opportunity to work with any NASCAR drivers or crew members while making this game? What impact has their input made on the game and the experience?

Sean Wilson: Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Matt Tifft, and Ben Kennedy have all played the game with us. It’s their subtle feedback that really helps us the most. For example, Joey Logano mentioned our sun glare at Phoenix was perfect and Kyle Larson explained that the straightaway at Charlotte felt a little long. The minor details like this really help use craft an authentic game that both a seasoned NASCAR driver and fan can enjoy. We’re very excited for people to play. We really think they’ll have a good time and be impressed with the work put into NASCAR Heat Evolution.

Again we would like to express our gratitude towards Sean Wilson and the rest of the team behind NASCAR Heat: Evolution, you can expect to see their game hitting store shelves and digital retailers on 9/13/16!