Nintendo eShop developer discussion: FAST Racing Neo with Shin'en
If you’ve been keeping tabs on this Nintendo eShop-exclusive sci-fi racer then you’ll know that when it comes to intense speed, FAST Racing Neo on Wii U has got you covered! But what else? With its release fast approaching, we sat down with Martin Sauter from developer Shin’en to talk development, sci-fi inspirations, multiplayer, and more.
Nintendo of Europe: Thanks for joining us today! For the people at home, please introduce yourself and your role on FAST Racing NEO.
Martin Sauter: I’m Martin Sauter, the art director from Shin’en and I'm responsible for visuals in FAST Racing NEO.
NoE: Fantastic! So, what’s FAST Racing NEO all about?
MS: FAST Racing NEO is a science fiction racing game that’s about…fast racing!
MS: It’s fast! It’s 60 frames per second. We push the Wii U technically to its limits. That’s something that’s been important to our company for a long time.
On the content side, we’ve included a lot of different game modes to make the game big and to give everybody the chance to enjoy the game. We have a single-player campaign with 16 tracks. We have online gaming where you can play online worldwide whenever you want. We also have local split-screen multiplayer for between 2-4 players.
Although FAST Racing NEO is only releasing on the Nintendo eShop, we developed this game like a full retail game. We’ve been working on it for nearly three years and put a lot of resources into its development.
NoE: How many people can play online together?
MS: Right now, eight, but it’s not finalised yet.
NoE: What sets FAST Racing NEO apart from other science fiction racers available?
MS: Our game is all about speed mixed with unique gameplay mechanics. We really wanted to nail that, to make players feel the fastness of the game, and I think that worked out really well.
We also have a switch mechanic, where you can change between two different phases, or colours, and this will affect the way your vehicle behaves on the track.
NoE: Can you explain a little more about the phase-shifting dynamic? You can play it as a normal racer but you can get a little extra boost from the phase-shifting, right?
MS: That’s right. It's hard to master the tracks without switching the phase at the right moment, because you’d get slowed down, or you wouldn’t be fast enough to finish in the top three.
NoE: There’s a kind of rhythm to it then?
MS: Yeah, there’s a little bit of a rhythm to it. When you play for a short time it becomes second nature and you can start looking for new opportunities to use this mechanic to improve your race times.
We also have orbs scattered along the track that give you boost power, which you can trigger at any time. It’s totally separate from phase-switching. In combination with those speed-ups and boosts you get this great feeling of speed. Sometimes you say “Oh this is too fast!” but it’s not – you can do it!
NoE: So you’re racing, you’re reacting to the curves and colours of the tracks, and you’re also collecting orbs. There’s a lot to get stuck into!
MS: Actually, you can decide what’s more important to you. You could avoid speed pads and concentrate on boosting. We have a couple of sections where we divide a track, and on one side we have the boost pads and orbs on the other. You’ll have to find out what’s better for you.
We tried to create something special for Nintendo eShop, like nothing you've played before! We’ve put all of these layers and little secrets together to give FAST Racing NEO lots of replay value.
Whenever we create a track, we want exciting stuff to happen. We tried a lot of things. For example somebody in the office asked, “Why not put a giant mech spider into the track?” So we tried it and it worked great. It felt like in a movie. So we added those moments throughout the 16 tracks to give players these spectacular and thrilling events to enjoy during each race. I don’t want to spoil too much, but hopefully people will say while playing, “What was that cool thing there!?”
NoE: You wanted the feeling that something is going on in the background?
MS: Yeah, it should feel like a real world and not just like a plain racing track. Each track is very unique and there is crazy stuff happening.
NoE: We’ll have to look out for that!
MS: Another example of this is the space station track. All of a sudden the track ends and you start floating in space. Then asteroids appear in front of you! If you’re smart you might think, “Let’s try to boost through them!” Those are the moments that separate FAST Racing NEO from the other sci-fi racers. We tried to have different layers of excitement and gameplay to make it something special.
But in its core, it’s of course still fast sci-fi racing, but with an extra portion of thrilling moments.
NoE: You’ve already mentioned some of the different tracks, of which there will be a large variety. What locations can people look forward to?
MS: From the beginning, our goal was that every track has to be different in look and feeling. We go to space, into the clouds, we’ve got lava, deserts, canyons, abandoned mines, jungles and so on.
NoE: So you tried to include all the sci-fi landscapes you could think of?
MS: Yeah, but we still tried to keep things somehow 'real'. In our opinion, good science fiction comes with things you still understand, and if you go too crazy you lose a sense of scale and speed. It’s still insane, but reasonable too. We’ve also got different weather settings, like snow or rain with raindrops on your screen and on the track. We’ve got asteroids flying into your track in the space level. Or in the mine track, where you go deep down, there are big boulders crashing after you.
NoE: So what about the difficulty level? Will new racing players enjoy this as much as experienced players?
MS: It's very easy to pick up, but there is a lot to explore in the handling of the different vehicles. Especially things like strafing and sliding will allow you to master the later parts of the game better. More experienced players will really get to grips with the subtleties of the controls.
NoE: Sounds like there’s something for everybody! What can you tell us about Hero mode?
MS: Hero mode is for the experienced players that are looking for tough challenges. We changed some of the rules: your shield energy is now also your boost energy, so you should avoid bumping into walls and other drivers too often. Also, the tracks are altered in this mode. Ultimately, you must become number one in a race to master this challenge.
NoE: You’ve talked about online, what kind of options are there for local multiplayer?
MS: You can setup you own game, number of laps, how many players and if CPU drivers should race along human players. You can also decide in which cup and what speed class you want to race in.
NoE: A lot of people like to play split-screen, but it’s not a very common feature in racing games.
MS: Right, it’s not common anymore and for us, as “old school” gamers, this was very important. You can also play with all controllers available: I personally prefer the Wii U Pro Controller because it’s a little lighter. You also can play off-screen with the Wii U GamePad, if someone else is occupying the TV. You can also play with Wii Remote and Nunchuk. You can even play with the Wii Wheel or Wii Remote. This way everyone can play the game the way they like best.
NoE: Does FAST Racing NEO support motion controls?
MS: Yes, with the Wii Remote.
NoE: Before we wrap up, are there any Easter eggs or references to games you’ve worked on?
MS: But if I tell you then they won’t be Easter eggs any more!
NoE: Can you give us a hint?
MS: For instance, you will see things from our older games…
NoE: Is this considered the second game in the FAST series? What feedback have you received about FAST Racing NEO so far?
MS: We see FAST Racing NEO as a complete new game. We had a fresh start and therefore almost everything changed. We didn't think too much about the previous WiiWare game during development. For FAST Racing NEO, we made sure that the driving experience is super fun, right from the start. And I'm happy to say we got approval for that from players that tested the game at E3, gamescom and PAX.
NoE: You talked about making a full game but you’re a small team. How do you split up the work? Does everyone wear lots of hats?
MS: We learned what steps are necessary to take a game from the concept phase to release. We have our own engine so when we add or adjust something, we don’t have to wait for somebody else.
And everybody needs to be able to do different parts of the development pipeline and needs to understand the steps necessary for the development of games. I also can do some level design, but so can our programmer. Our programmer also does music... As an artist, I also need knowledge how things work in our engine to optimise the workflow. I think the key is to optimise the processes of game development.
If you’re just a few guys, you have to know each other and your tools very well, and our team background goes back to the Game Boy Color era together with Nintendo.
NoE: And now here you are!
MS: Thank you very much! (laughs)
NoE: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers at home?
MS: We are super excited that FAST Racing NEO will be on Nintendo eShop in just a few months. Give it a try!
NoE: It sounds like a lot of love has gone into this game.
MS: We love Nintendo games and try to put the same love into our own games!
NoE: Thanks very much for talking to us today!
FAST Racing Neo is coming soon, exclusively to Nintendo eShop on Wii U.