Dangerous Driving has arrived, and it's Three Fields Entertainment's most ambitious project to date. The tiny team behind the game aimed to rekindle the love for Burnout and arcade racers of that ilk, and that's certainly an idea we can get behind. We were fortunate enough to fire a few questions at Fiona Sperry, a founder of Criterion Games as well as Three Fields, about the game, the team, and arcade racers in general.
Push Square: It seems like Three Fields Entertainment has been building towards Dangerous Driving since its inception. Is this the game you've always wanted to make?
Fiona Sperry: Prior to founding Three Fields we had made racing games, specifically arcade racing, for over 15 years, so we knew it was a genre we wanted to return to. It's where we feel most comfortable -- if you follow Alex [Ward's] blog on our website, you’ll get a sense of the passion we have for this genre of games.
Back in 2014 we were literally starting again from scratch with nothing. We’d never used Unreal [Engine 4] before and there was just 7 of us, a far cry from the studio and infrastructure we had left behind. It was liberating but a tough technical challenge for sure.
So yes we have been building to Dangerous Driving through each of our previous games. More on that in a moment!
Some of the studio's senior staff, such as yourself, have very strong ties to the Burnout series. Do you feel that Dangerous Driving is a way for you to reclaim it, in a way?
Burnout felt like our child back then. Alex and I were completely consumed by it from 2000 to 2007 to the point that I remember every major milestone in my life based on what I was doing on Burnout. It was pretty intense. I’m not sure reclaim is the right word - maybe revisit? It's a genre that we identify with very personally so it was inevitable that we would return to it, and we have so many ideas for how we would like to take it forward. This literally is just the beginning.
Do you feel pressure to produce something on par with what players expect from a Burnout title, or are you more focused on delivering your own experience?
Of course we do feel some of that pressure, but ultimately we are a different team treading our own path. Of course people will make comparisons, which is tough sometimes as we are a tiny team with tiny resources compared to what we had in the past. But we’re as proud now of the work we are doing, actually more proud, because of how we are doing it (in a sustainable way), how much we are learning and how we see the path forward from here -- so we hope people will see that we are a company worth following. Certainly, we have some very loyal fans who have been with us since the start, who buy into our journey, and that in itself is very rewarding.
Aside from Burnout itself, what were some key influences or inspirations for Dangerous Driving during development?
There were a few guiding lights in the development. We wanted to apply everything we have learnt over the previous Three Fields games about physics. That’s a challenge, as real physics tends to create some crazy reactions at extreme high speeds!
We wanted to bring together the widest range of game modes seen in the genre. The game has 9 different single player game modes, all tied together in a 69-event single player progression. We looked at what all our favourite game modes have been over the years and included them all, from Races where Takedowns are what fuel your speed to Survival, where it's survive against the clock and the traffic. But we also wanted to take it all to a new place - we were particularly excited about how leaving the wrecked cars on the track would change the experience, make it even more intense. It was far more successful than even we had hoped, and is shaping up really well online too.
We’ve also added new rulesets in Road Rage. How many Takedowns can you score when Shunts are disabled - or when only Traffic Takedowns count? This can get really challenging and we can’t wait to see the leaderboards for Traffic Takedowns. They’re quite challenging!
And cars that are tailor made for modes was the other big new direction for us, which was influenced more by shooters than anything else and the idea that guns have different abilities and strengths and weaknesses. That led us to an idea dreamed up by Ben Smith who was in charge of the handling - he had the idea that if you do a Heatwave event in a Tuned vehicle, each successive chain adds another 2mph to your Top Speed. None of us would have dared suggest such a crazy idea! It’s fantastic because it means we have a mode where we genuinely don’t know what the limit is! Our best combo so far is x31 which increased our top speed to 274 mph!
What have you learned from your previous releases that you're putting into Dangerous Driving? Is it fair to say this is your biggest game yet?
Dangerous Golf honed our destruction and real-time physics skills wreaking havoc with a golf ball across locations including castles, gas stations and rest rooms! Danger Zone set us up with insane car crashes in an indoor test zone. Danger Zone 2 gave us the tech to take all this crashing action outdoors into real-life junctions with more vehicles and more events. We have brought all our experience and technology together for Dangerous Driving to deliver an eye-searing driving experience. Playing through the final events trying to get Gold on every event during final testing, we can honestly say it was the most intense video gaming experience we have ever had.
Is there anything in Dangerous Driving that wasn't possible in the Burnout games, or that was left on the cutting room floor?
One of the best things about coming back to this genre with the benefit of the current hardware is the ability to do things we could never do before. The 3 key things are real physics, persistent wrecks remaining on the course, and Spotify integration. In terms of the latter, we’ve long believed that the music people drive to is intensely personal, so we really wanted to integrate Spotify and give people endless choice. It's something we tried at the old company and could not make it work, so its been really rewarding to pull it off. Like with anything, we believe you’ve just got to start.
Your approach to development sees you putting out games very quickly. Given the studio's minuscule size, how do you achieve this?
Partly that’s been enforced on us by financial necessity -- but shipping regularly has been something that's always appealed to us. It’s how you hone your skill and not get lost in big long developments (‘Real artists ship’ is a Steve Jobs saying I’ve always tried to live by). It does mean we've had to pick our battles. There are many things, for example damage, that we just can’t do at the moment (or the fact we focussed on shipping the best single player game we could first and then add online) -- but we take the approach that every game is a stepping stone to the next. We try and get the core experience right and be disciplined about recognising that we can’t do everything. It’s tough as that lays us open to criticism, but you have to have a tough skin and keep going.
We are more like a band than a development studio. Everyone has multiple roles, we all pitch in, everyone has a voice so there's no wasted time in goals needing to be communicated out to a wider team. We agree what we need to do and get on and do it. We have no meetings or meeting rooms, no career counselling or appraisals. We don’t track holiday, people take as much as they need, and we all work a 4 day week. When we are in the office we are focussed. It helps that the guys here are all exceptionally talented.
Arcade racing games have been few and far between these days, seemingly because they don't sell. Why do you think that is? Have players lost interest? Do you think there's a chance the genre can return to its former glory?
They have definitely fallen out of fashion. But they can definitely sell and also have enormous critical acclaim -- we’ve seen that with our own eyes on the past games. It’s about trying to make the best game you can and bring something new to the table. In this game that’s persistent wrecks, cars that are tailor made for the modes, and the Spotify integration.
What are your plans moving forward? You've said that online racing is coming within the first month after release. Do you have any other post-launch support lined up for Dangerous Driving, or is it on to the next game?
We are excited about bringing the online play to the game. The persistent wrecks change the whole experience so we are really looking forward to seeing how that develops.
A big thank you to Fiona Sperry for taking the time to answer our questions. Click here to read our review of Dangerous Driving, which launches on PS4 today. Will you be playing this Burnout-esque racer? Boost into the comments below.