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SimRacingWorld had the opportunity to ask Asobo some questions about FUEL. Here are their responses.

By Team SimRacingWorld
9 June 2009

Did games like Burnout Paradise or Test Drive Unlimited (openworld games) inspire Fuel?

The original idea from Asobo to make a huge open world racing game came about many years ago, before Burnout Paradise or Test Drive Unlimited were known about, but it has definitely helped to have those games out before FUEL, to learn from the things those and other racing games have done well and not so well.

How does the open world environment effect the game structure?

We’ve tried to cater for all player preferences with the way we present the game structure. With such a huge environment it would be easy for players to become lost very easily, not to mention that it can take several hours to drive from one side of the map to the other. To allow for this, we’ve broken the world up into zones on the map screen, each of which features a camp, a sort of hub for where races and challenges can be accessed from. All zones are progressively unlocked as you successfully complete races and challenges, giving you access to the races and challenges in other parts of the world. So we keep things structured in this way, offering a good feeling of progression, but you’re still absolutely free to ride around the entire world without unlocking the contents of a single new zone; you just won’t have access to the races and challenges in the later zones until you’ve completed earlier events.

How does the limitless landscape work and how does this enhance the player's experience?

The game world in FUEL is procedurally generated from satellite data taken from parts of North America and continually streamed as you move about the landscape. The developer, Asobo, developed their A.C.E. engine over a number of years to deliver this clever system which, if you used traditional data storage methods, would take up several Blu-Ray discs of data. What this means to players is a world that you can drive around literally for hours without ever seeing a loading screen, and safe in the knowledge that those trees or that snowy mountain in the far distance are genuinely there as part of the game world and not a façade. In some places it’s possible to see 40km or more into the distance – there are some epic views in FUEL.

How "non linear" is this landscape?

Completely! The landscape is a 120km by 120km square which, understandably, has boundaries at these extremes (we teleport the player back into a playable area of the game if you cross this boundary). But anywhere else in the landscape can be accessed with the same ease as you would expect in real life; that is to say, natural boundaries such as extremely steep slopes or cliff faces cannot be climbed, but with the right vehicle you can go where you want. We do have a structure to the career races and how you unlock content, but it’s entirely possible to drive around the entire environment without ever completing a single race.

The first time I saw Fuel’s content I thought about the game Paris-Dakar (a classic Spanish 8-bits game), in which players had to go through a massive open map and be alert not to get lost in the desert. Do you think that Fuel will be able to make us feel as we were ‘lost’ in the immensity of its maps?

We’ve put a lot of features into the game to make sure that players don’t get lost – we have a huge, scalable map of the world, HUD mini map, 3D compass and GPS waypoint system – but if you want to embrace the true spirit of adventure and just drive, you can switch off the HUD elements and just go for it. The choice is yours!

What are each of the different types of weather and how does this affect the racing and vehicles' handling? How long are the day and night cycles?

A full 24 hour cycle in game takes 15 minutes to complete. Weather is chosen based on the type of environment and the elevation. So for example, you would expect to find snow at higher elevations, with the occasional blizzard whipping around; a dense dust storm over dry scrubland; mist curling around the shores of a lake in low foothills; and so on. Rain storms can occur in most parts of the world, but again, the type of environment will determine how frequently rain is likely to fall.

Weather in the game can be anything from rain to snow, dust storms to lightning storms, and even the occasional tornado! Some weather events are used to create atmosphere, but others have a real impact on events: dust storms create poor visibility, making for really twitchy races where you have to react late and fast to changes of course or obstacles; tornados will rip up objects and hurl things like boulders, trees and vehicles in your path; sudden rain can transform a dusty trail into a slippery mire. The weather can really change the dynamics of a race.

Will the weather affect the drivers? Has this been taken into account in order to unbalance the races?

Weather doesn’t impact the rider avatars you see on or in vehicles – a quad bike rider won’t suffer from being more exposed to a snow storm than a guy in a car, for example – but all vehicle classes have strengths and weaknesses that will make them more suited to certain environments than others, and within those groups we’ve broken it down even further, so one quad might be better in an off-road, hilly race than another. Our aim throughout has been to offer variety in the vehicles you can choose without creating imbalances which would advantage one vehicle type over another.

How realistic are the crash and damage effects?

FUEL unashamedly wears its arcade racer hat, so we haven’t gone too far down the road of showing realistic crash and damage effects. If you bang up your vehicle you’ll see bumpers fall off, paintwork start to get scuffed up and smoke billowing out, but we don’t set fire to vehicles, lose wheels or suchlike. That said, it is important to manage damage in FUEL; if you crash too often or too hard, you will “FUEL out” and be set back into the race, suffering a small time penalty as a result. This really comes into play when you consider that the majority of race tracks offer off-road shortcuts which could potentially get you back into a race you’ve been trailing behind in. Often this will require you to plunge into long grass or down a steep slope, so the damage metre is there to balance the risk and reward of making that decision: your vehicle is almost wrecked, so do you take a chance and dive down that slope through those trees, or play it safe and stick to the route?

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