‘Back from the Brink’ | The Story of Need for Speed World’s Recovery

Published on July 26th, 2012

Producer Marc De Villis walks us through bouncing back after that rough launch two years ago today.

Thursday, 26th July is the day that celebrates two years in service, but it wasn’t always plain sailing for the persistent online offering of the world’s most popular racing franchise.

At launch way back in 2010 the free-to-play MMO was chastised for poor social features, unsatisfying racing, limited car choice, a complete lack of any kind of performance tweaking and an underwhelming visual customisation suite. Not exactly the kind of reception which boded well for the future, yet fast forward to today and the often overlooked release boasts a staggering sixteen million users!

Yesterday we caught up the game’s producer Marc De Villis to ask what has been key to that dramatic transformation and what it was like in those dark days a few weeks after launch.

Back from the Brink | The Story of Need for Speed Worlds Recovery

Treasure Hunt is just one of the game modes which has allowed EA's free-to-play expirament to recover.

“It wasn’t the first few weeks that were a problem to be honest, it was more like the first few months actually,” explained the game’s producer who has worked on Need for Speed games since Underground.

“Those first few months when we launched back in 2010 involved a lot of post-mortems, a lot of brainstorming, a lot of analysing and after a few months post-launch we just said, ‘Let’s change things up’. We got the team together and started trying things based on what the community was saying; ramping up content, tweaking and adding more game modes.”

“The vision we had when we first launched has evolved, and that’s partly because the community’s voice is so strong. As the community continued to build we basically shaped the game towards what they liked and what they wanted to see.”

“It’s interesting because we’re actually growing stronger than we ever have before,” added Mr De Villis.

“We’re played around the world and in Europe especially we’re really strong. After two years you’d think our acquisition numbers [numbers of new players gained]  would flat-line, but we’re still going strong. We actually had our record numbers of acquisition this month, it’s fitting for us – it’s a nice birthday present for the team and shows how engaged our audience is.”

Any MMO developer will tell you that community interaction is crucial when it comes to evolving a game, but this is a two way street as you not only need to talk to players, but also implement their feedback quickly and effectively otherwise they won’t stick around. In our opinion, Need for Speed World has undoubtedly excelled in that regard over the past twenty-four months, if it hadn’t there’s no way the struggling MMO could have recovered from what was an extremely disappointing launch. The team at Quicklime Studios, formerly EA Black Box, certainly deserve praise for that.

Back from the Brink | The Story of Need for Speed Worlds Recovery

Need for Speed World currently boasts over 120 cars and on average between 8-12 new offerings are added each month.

“The key for us was that we kept looking at what players were doing,” stated Need for Speed World’s lead designer Melvin Tao.

“We looked at the numbers and we saw what players really enjoyed; the areas they tended to go to. We realised from feedback that they really enjoyed customisation a lot and they wanted different ways to play the game, so we introduced modes like treasure hunt – a very casual daily game mode- and we took the concept of pursuit and made it a team-based mode with Team Escape; these new additions really resonated with new and existing fans which had been with us since the beginning.”

So what’s next for Need for Speed World? A lot it seems. During our call with the team at Vancouver they hinted at a future drag racing mode with the introduction of manual shifting, a new top tier car class debuting with the Porsche Carrera GT, and a new race results interface which allows players to see what performance customisations their rivals are running.

Not bad for a game that most journalists, including ourselves, had written off a little under two years ago. Need for Speed World is currently hosting numerous in-game festivities and if you have an affinity for old school Need for Speed experiences like Carbon, Underground and Most Wanted we strongly urge you to check it out.

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