More Need for Speed: Most Wanted footage, Criterion praises Wii U and hardware

Posted under News, Podcast Stories, Wii U
February 14, 2013 by (@NE_Brian)

Need for Speed: Most Wanted is coming out a few months later on Wii U, but it sounds like it’ll be worth the wait. Criterion Games is putting in a lot of effort into the game. Most Wanted will feature the best visuals across all of the console releases, and Criterion even added in a few exclusive modes.

This is kind of an anomaly. Thus far, very few third-parties have brought their ‘A game’ to Wii U development.

But Criterion seems to be a believer in what Nintendo is doing with Wii U and feels that its technology is underrated. Below you’ll find comments from various staffers on the team speaking positively about the console.

Criterion producer Rob O’Farrell

Before the hardware was released, our approach was very much about delivering an enhanced version of Most Wanted that focused on single-player in the front room and multiplayer through the online experience.

Once the Wii U was out and we spent time playing the software in the office and with our families at home, it really changed our thought process and approach to the platform. With games like Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo delivered a new way of playing together in the same room. A great part of that was having one person in full control of the game, with another watching and occasionally helping them progress. With this in mind, the Co-Driver mode became our focus, so we could bring social play into the living room on Most Wanted, but with a Nintendo feel. It couldn’t be hidden away, it had be easy to understand what to do and have that feel of Nintendo quality on the platform.

We wanted to make the game accessible from the moment you boot up software. If you only had 30 minutes to play then we wanted to make sure that 30 minutes was a great experience and allow the players to pick any car, any race.

With everything open, it enables the player to swap from a Porsche to Lamborghini on the fly, respray the car, find a race and have their ‘partner’ direct them to all the collectables without the restriction of, ‘Oh, that isn’t open yet.’ It creates a negative feeling within the experience and we wanted to get rid of that and give you a mode that is all about driving around the city, having fun without any constraints.

Idries Hamadi, technical director

The starting point is always, let’s just get some running software and see what it’s like – get something that’s running and playable. When you start you’re at some sort of frame-rate or other… you take out absolutely everything you can that’s optional, get something playable, tune what you’ve got and get that up to an acceptable frame-rate, and then put more and more back in.

The difference with Wii U was that when we first started out, getting the graphics and GPU to run at an acceptable frame-rate was a real struggle. The hardware was always there, it was always capable. Nintendo gave us a lot of support – support which helps people who are doing cross-platform development actually get the GPU running to the kind of rate we’ve got it at now. We benefited by not quite being there for launch – we got a lot of that support that wasn’t there at day one… the tools, everything.

There’s a switch in our build pipeline that says ‘use PC textures’ and we flipped that and that was all. I can take no credit for that, it was literally ten minutes’ work… we are using PS3/360 geometry. It’s just the textures we upgraded.

Tools and software were the biggest challenges by a long way… the fallout of that has always been the biggest challenge here. [Wii U] is a good piece of hardware, it punches above its weight. For the power consumption it delivers in terms of raw wattage it’s pretty incredible. Getting to that though, actually being able to use the tools from Nintendo to leverage that, was easily the hardest part.

It’s really important that people knew we’d done this in-house with our staff and our techniques and our approach… I just hope people can see that we’re having a go, doing what we want to do with this.

When they first looked at the specs on paper a lot of developers said, ‘Well, you know this is a bit lightweight’ and they walked away. I think a lot of people have been premature about it in a lot of ways because while it is a lower clock-speed, it punches above its weight in a lot of other areas.

So, I think you’ve got one group of people who walked away, you’ve got some other people who just dived in and tried and thought, ‘Ah… it’s not kind of there,’ but not many people have done what we’ve done, which is to sit down and look at where it’s weaker and why, but also see where it’s stronger and leverage that. It’s a different kind of chip and it’s not fair to look at its clock-speed and other consoles’ clock-speed and compare them as numbers that are relevant. It’s not a relevant comparison to make when you have processors that are so divergent. It’s apples and oranges.

The Wii U has had a bit of a bad rap – people have said it’s not as powerful as 360, this, that and the other. That, by and large, has been based on apples to oranges comparisons that don’t really hold water. Hopefully we’ll go some way to proving that wrong.

Nintendo don’t speak about that, it’s not their core focus at all but they did their ‘Iwata Asks’ about the hardware and it talks consistently about how they got to keep it quiet with low power consumption, and they totally did that… but what they haven’t really championed is how they delivered something that could do this as well [he points to the 50-inch Panasonic playing host to Most Wanted U]… It’s possible. It’s work. You have to think about it and put time and craft and effort and whatever else into it but you have to do that for everything that’s worth doing in this business… I think people should either go all-in or not bother.

Criterion’s creative director and vice president Alex Ward

People thought we weren’t doing it on Wii U because we’ve not worked on a Nintendo console since 2002.

It’s really important that people knew we’d done this in-house with our staff and our techniques and our approach… In an ideal world we’d make different games on all the different hardware but that’s not always the best business sense. I just hope people can see that we’re having a go, doing what we want to do with this.

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