Little did Chris Pankonin know when he reviewed Nascar ’09 back in July of 2008 that it would be the last game in the franchise for nearly three years. Sports titles don’t normally go dormant like that but there it was. EA gave up the license and NASCAR video games were but a fond memory for those that had played them. The price of used copies of ’09 went up once retailers realized the series was done and that seemed to be that.
Enter Activision and Eutechnyx that revived the series in 2011 with Nascar The Game: 2011. B y that time Pankonin had moved on but Michael O’Reilly stepped up to review the first entry in the new NASCAR gaming franchise. O’Reilly found that he really enjoyed the single player mode but loathed the online portion of the game. Still, he was hopeful for an improved version in 2012. Well, Mike gets his wish as Eutechnyx is back with Nascar The Game: Inside Line which will hit shelves later this year. I sat down with David Thompson, executive producer of Nascar The Game: Inside Line to see just what Eutechnyx has planned for racing fans in this upcoming game.
Diehard GameFAN: There was a drought of NASCAR games between June 2008 (NASCAR ’09) and March of 2011 with NASCAR The Game: 2011. Inside Line will be the third NASCAR game in eighteen months for Activision. What brought the license back with a vengeance and what are the plans for the license from here on?
Dave Thompson: When NTG11 was published, it had been almost two and a half years since the last NASCAR game. For a major sports franchise, this is unheard of. There was an obvious hunger, and with the sport’s popularity on the increase, that created a huge desire from the fans for a new game.
Eutechnyx holds the NASCAR license for several more years so we’re looking at some very interesting concepts of where to take the franchise.
DHGF: Both last year’s game and Inside Line have career modes. What changes can we look forward to with this year’s career mode?
DT: Career mode has been one of the main areas of focus for us this time around. We received a lot of feedback from the fans with features and ideas they wanted for the new career mode, and combined them with a lot of our own. The new career mode is now much longer, allowing the player to build up their team, buy upgrades for different areas of the car and push for the Chase and ultimately the Sprint Cup Championship itself.
We’ve also been able to include the special events that make the Sprint Cup series so interesting with the Daytona Driver Duels, the Shootout and the All-Star Race making an appearance.
DHGF: Like 2011′s game, Inside Line is choosing to focus on the Sprint Cup Series. NASCAR also has the NASCAR Nationwide Series, the Camping World Truck Series, the Grand-Am Road Racing and more. What was the decision behind focusing on the Sprint Cup Series? Will there ever be a game that focuses on the other series or it is not commercially viable?
DT: Our immediate focus is on providing the fans with the best Sprint Cup experience that we can create. While we’d love to cover the Nationwide or Camping World Series at some point, there are huge amounts of licensing and approvals issues that have to be considered, so let’s just say it’s something on the wish list for the future.
DHGF: One of the big things noticed last year was that all references to NASCAR’s alcoholic beverage sponsors were omitted from the game. I’m assuming this was done due to the potential of young children playing the game. Will these sponsors be omitted again with Inside Line and if so, what will that mean for Kevin Harwick’s car, which is decked out head to toe in Budweiser logos?
DT: The decision to not include alcoholic beverage sponsors in game is one taken by the sponsors themselves, so it’s very much out of our hands. The teams generally have “child” friendly schemes, so that’s what we end up using instead.
DHGF: Much like the old adage about people going to hockey games for fights, there’s one about NASCAR and grisly crashes. NASCAR: The Game 2011 had some pretty brutal crashes going on, complete with cars being catapulted through the air and debris left on the track. What’s being changed/added/removed from this aspect of the game for Inside Line?
DT: NASCAR The Game: Inside Line includes a much improved damage model, that we hope will really capture the excitement of collisions on the track. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to ensure that when cars rub or hit against barriers or other cars that it’s as close a representation of reality as possible. We’ve completely redeveloped the particle system so that the smoke, sparks and debris play a major part in adding realism to incidents on track.
DHGF: Are there any other new modes or options beings added to Inside Line?
DT: We’ve been working heavily on ensuring that this year’s online mode is as strong as possible adding both practice and qualifying sessions. We’ve also provided an improved version of the ever popular Paint Booth feature. We have some incredibly creative and talented fans out there regularly producing high quality paint schemes, and we wanted to do whatever we could to support them. On top of that, there’s a new Season mode and Invitation event, Driver Duel.
DHGF: Last year’s NASCAR: The Game featured a soundtrack filled with bands like ZZ Top and Slaughter. What bands do you have lined up for Inside Line?
DT: We’ve still to finalize our soundtrack for the game but let’s just say there could be one or two big surprises in store.
DHGF: I’ve always wondered this. How hard is it to pull all the licenses together for a game like this? You have NASCAR itself, but then the drivers, tracks, cars, a multitude of sponsors and music tracks. It almost seems like it might take longer to get all the licenses together than to make the game!
DT: Luckily, we have “our man in Charlotte” Ed Martin who literally spends his life with the teams and sponsors dealing with approvals. Sorting out the licenses for so many drivers, sponsors etc. is a massive undertaking and one that continues throughout most of the project. It’s great to work with so many household names and brands, but it’s definitely time consuming.
DHGF: Talk a little bit about the “Drive for the Cover” campaign and how gamers can participate.
DT: We are extremely happy this year to be able to let the fans choose the driver who will appear on the cover of the game. In the Drive For The Cover campaign, the drivers are paired off against each other and the fans can vote for their favorites in each match up via Facebook. After each round, per paring, the driver who received the most votes moves on to the next round. Visit www.NASCARTheGame.com/vote to vote for your favorite!
DHGF: Finally, for gamers that don’t usually pick up yearly sports releases, what about Inside Line should make them pick it up if they already have NASCAR: The Game 2011?
DT: 2011 was our first entry to the NASCAR franchise, and while we’re very proud of what we created, there was always going to be an element of finding our feet and building a relationship with the fans. With Inside Line we’ve listened long and hard to the feedback from the first game and tried to ensure that this is as close to the NASCAR experience that people were asking for as possible. New online, new damage model, new paint booth, new challenges, new career mode, hopefully this is one that the real NASCAR fans will not want to miss.
NASCARThe Game: Inside Line doesn’t have a locked in release date yet, but Gamestop has it tentatively listed as November 6th of this year. You can learn more about Inside Line by visiting the game’s the game’s official website, or by chatting up Dave himself via his personal Twitter account. Over the coming months, keep checking back here as we bring you for information, previews and ultimately a review forNASCAR the Game: Inside Line.