After the recent announcement that Motorsport Games were developing an officially licensed BTCC game for 2022 I reached out to Stephen Hood, President of Motorsport Games, to find out more about their upcoming project.
Questions in bold:
Why do you feel it has taken this long for a BTCC title to go into production?
Stephen Hood: Quite simply I think BTCC, in particular Alan Gow (the BTCC Chief Executive), had a very specific idea of what he perceived to be the value of his series. He never waivered from the belief that BTCC could return and be a standalone game. I believe he’s been approached by game publishers over the years, all offering to feature BTCC as content within a broader racing package.
We immediately aligned with Alan’s confidence because we felt the same way. Then it was just a process of explaining to him why we were ideally positioned to be the team to return this iconic series. As a company we don’t have a long history. We’re still very much under wraps as far as the gaming community is concerned, despite some of our activities reaching far and wide. We spoke the same language as Alan because we’re racers at heart. I think we convinced him that we not only cared about the sport, but that we would work night and day to translate the passion of BTCC into games and esports.
How important do you feel it is to finally be bringing a whole set of cars and tracks to the masses (rather than a single example/car as seen in most products recently)?
Stephen Hood: It is very important for both the BTCC and now Motorsport Games. Snack experiences fail to convey what BTCC has to offer and it’s the way the industry has gone. It’s all a bit too safe and generic for players. Our ambition with this is not to create a car-collecting sandbox, but to replicate the fun and immediacy of Touring Cars. We’re not asking players if they want to ‘play at’ British Touring Cars. We’re not throwing them a few BTCC cars to drive around the Nordschleife.
For us, a piecemeal offering would not deliver on our vision. We’re hungry to differentiate. We were lucky this license was available; it provided the opportunity for us to secure the rights to something we believe in. I think our perspective on racing games is a little different to other developers and publishers. We control the entire process of our business operation. Throughout the company we have key people that have delivered both highly rated racing titles and enormously successful esports series. Nothing is a sure-fire bet, but it is the people within our organisation that makes me believe that we have the vision to see opportunities others perhaps shy away from.
What is your target audience? Sim racer? Arcade racer? Everything in-between through driver aids?
Stephen Hood: We’re firmly of the belief that authentic driving models are easy to pick-up and enjoy. Why spend countless hours trying to learn how a strange approximation of car behaviour can be exploited so that you can be competitive? It’s not difficult to drive any car at reasonable speed. It’s very difficult to become elite, but it’s not difficult to drive.
It is preferable to do things properly and allow players to feel “in-tune” with the car. You have to be careful about the terminology used to convey this principle because people immediately attach negative views to words like “simulation”, imagining it to mean that only professional drivers can enjoy the experience. It is completely wrong.
One of the things we promised ourselves, when starting Motorsport Games, was to ensure the heart and soul of our products – the experience of driving the car – was not a weakness that needed to be obscured with features, graphics and marketing. Those things should amplify the core ingredients. At its purest you should lose yourself in driving the car, refining your line and inputs. I’ve seen non-believers experience this. We’re working with some of the industry specialists who are known to deliver the finest physics in racing games and simulation.
It doesn’t mean we carve out a niche audience. Each of our games will have a defined personality and we’ll find the right balance for something like BTCC. To be honest the sport, cars and tracks lend themselves to accessibility by default. Business teams tend to react in horror when you say this game isn’t meant to be played by everyone. It doesn’t matter if it’s their grandmother, work colleague or daughter, if they have an interest in motorsport, there will be fun to had in BTCC!
Is there any involvement from 704Games in the upcoming BTCC franchise?
Stephen Hood: Good question and I’m glad I get the chance to clear a few things up on this subject following some of the commentary online.
It is true that 704Games, a development studio in Orlando Florida, is part of the Motorsport Games family. They were setup a few years back to work on the NASCAR gaming franchise before our involvement. They employed an external developer to produce the games for them while 704Games themselves had a small development operation.
When Motorsports Games arrived on the scene, we reviewed the opportunity and evaluated where we wanted to take things. The original developer and Motorsport Games parted ways and we invested in 704Games and other facilities. They have grown over time to become a valuable part of our operation. An operation which extends across multiple locations with studios from Orlando to Miami, Moscow, Silverstone and elsewhere in Europe.
The US gaming franchise moved internal and we maintain that product line. That franchise broke all records for us recently, but it is not what we’re building our future offerings upon. We’re looking further ahead than that and needed something new. The leadership team installed at Motorsport Games includes people that have worked on some amazing franchises like DiRT Rally, Formula One and Forza Horizon to name the recognisable titles. Their efforts are going into our worldwide collaboration towards a new game that will form the basis of technology the BTCC team will leverage. We’re very excited about that and will reveal more in the coming months.
Is there to be a career element (even if that’s a long-term goal)?
Stephen Hood: Career modes will I’m sure be a staple part of our offerings. We love to get completely lost in the solo challenge of a long-term motorsports career. We have a very knowledgeable and experienced team with a background of delivering these kind of modes and features along with several other components we’re uniquely positioned to provide. Things have changed since the last British Touring Cars game was released many years ago. Multiplayer and competitive esports are a huge growth area and these are pillars of the Motorsport Games business.
Any plans on historic content and if so, would a full set of cars from a single season be a goal?
Stephen Hood: Yes and yes! There are lots of people who remember some of the earlier games and indeed the highlights of seasons past. First and foremost, we want to capitalise on BTCC as it will be in 2022, but there is obvious and ample room for specialist content that recognises the history of the series.
Thank you very much to Steve and Laura for facilitating my request. I really do appreciate you taking the time to answer.
I hope this answers many of the basics that I think we were concerned or interested in as a community. An accessible sim racing title dedicated to replicating a whole racing series is something that we’ve been wanting for a long, long time…