At gamescom 2012 we met Luca Garattoni, Executive Producer and Game Designer at Vae Victus, to discuss upcoming MMO racing title Victory: The Age of Racing. During our appointment we got to see many of the features of this free-to-play title.
Victory is set in a world where an organisation known as Drivenet, in the name of safety, has created a fully automated road traffic system in which computer controlled vehicles have replaced the human operated cars of our day. As a result, conventional motorsport and car manufacturing has been made extinct.
However, a new underground movement has emerged in which driving enthusiasts have salvaged working parts from old vehicles, creating custom racing cars with which to compete on hand-built circuits outside of Drivenet control and bringing back ‘the Age of Racing’.
This is about as far as the plot goes and there appears to be no overarching story to proceedings beyond this, which is just fine really. As an MMO racer there is no real need for plot as such but the background tale serves to explain the unusual collection of cars and tracks on offer.
Customisation is key in Victory. Behind this design choice lies the fact that official licences are expensive to obtain and as a free-to-play title there isn’t much scope to throw money away on unnecessary costs. The solution, in this case, was to develop a fully fictional, creative world with new and interesting tracks and fully customisable user-created cars. Licensing rights then become a non-issue and this leaves the developers, and the players, with the freedom to create a fully unique experience.
Players design their own vehicles in Victory based on numerous parts available. The ‘block’ system lets the players design the shape of the car based on selection of a basic front, middle and back forms which can then fully edited in terms of shape, colours, patterns, effects and decals.
There are three leagues available in the game and each is based on a different car style, rookie, semi-pro and pro class equating to 60s, 70s and modern day in terms of car appearance and feel. This too has an effect of the parts available in car design and separate vehicles must be developed for each class.
One the basic body has been created the player will be given a price that must be paid to buy the vehicle, which can be paid either in ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ currency, soft currency being earned by racing and competing and hard currency representing real world cash purchases.
Vae Victus were keen to point out that the game is not a ‘pay-to-win’ title and that all content in the game can be purchased with ‘soft’ currency, with microtransactions simply allowing the player to unlock content faster.
The base body informs some of the statistics of your base vehicle but is far from the end of the road with regards to customisation. The next step is to specialise the vehicle by distributing performance points among a variety of key areas such as power, grip, and aerodynamics to create specialist cars to be used in different circumstances. It is anticipated each player will have a number of different cars and choose between them based on the requirements of each race. Performance points are not purchased with currency but are earned by competing in races with the vehicle.
Car customisation is still not finished at this point and there are a variety of engines to choose from to further refine the vehicle’s power, speed and a selection of tyres which tweak further statistics such as grip and handling. Finally a number of accessories can be bought and added to the vehicle which are mostly aesthetic, although some grant small bonuses like increasing the rate of performance point gain.
Given the huge levels of customisation and hundreds of available building options, each of which can then be hand-tweaked by the user, the chances of seeing two similar cars on the same track is tiny and players really have the scope to create truly unique vehicles in their own personal style.
Graphically the game is certainly impressive enough with regards to the vehicles. Each custom-built creation is brought to life with fully moving parts, vibrant colours and smooth animations. The textures on some aspects of the vehicles and, more noticeably, in the environments and backgrounds are somewhat bland and uninspiring. This is a conscious move on the part of the development team, with the decision to play safe on graphical quality resulting in quite modest system requirements and an altogether more accessible title.
Victory currently has three racing zones, each of which have five tracks, and the team are currently working on the design a of a fourth zone to bring the track total up to a healthy 20. The gameplay is designed around being simple to pick up and play, but tough to master.
Controls were specifically designed with the keyboard user in mind. However, the lack of analog input on keyboard control is a persistent issue in racing simulation and Victory attempts to address this by adapting the turning controls to respond differently depending on the section of the track. It’s difficult to comment on this without first-hand play, but the worry is that this will take too much control of the turning circle out of the players hands and reduce the skill level. Mouse and gamepad controls are optional and the team are working on creating a control system to allow for the use of a wheel control option.
While the controls are easy to pick up, Vae Victus promises that the game will be tough, but rewarding, to master. Given the wealth of customisation and fine-tuning in terms of vehicles part of the challenge is having the right car for any given situation tuned to perfection, but realistic car physics and persistent development through performance points mean there is a lot to the title outside of it’s simple pick-up-and-play premise.
The wealth of customisation options and the accessible, yet deep, gameplay promise to make Victory an interesting title. As with any free-to-play product a key factor in determining success will be ensuring that the payment system straddles the fine line between giving a suitable reward to paying players without leaving the free-players with an unfair disadvantage.
Victory: The Age of Racing is currently in open Beta and players can try the game out for themselves by downloading the free client from http://victorythegame.com/.