The GRID 2 Cheevo Diaries – The Racing Genre: Inspirations and Limitations
Written Monday, January 07, 2013 By Dan WebbView author's profile
With all things worth doing in life, research is a necessary part of the overall equation. Whether you’re learning to play the piano, learning a new language, prepping a news piece for you fine people or even cooking a steak, without any real knowledge of the task at hand, research is a necessity. It should be no different for us then when creating the achievement and trophy list for GRID 2, and it’d be foolish for us to forsake research and just assume that we know better. As many have pointed out in the build up thus far, the racing genre is such a restrictive one that can be limiting in terms of creativity, so research is probably more important for us than it would be in creating a list for any other genre.
In order to get a little inspiration then, we’re going to be looking through a series of racing lists, seeing what they did right, and of course, what they did wrong too. Then we’re going to put that research into practice when we’re coming up with ideas for individual achievements and trophies, as well as working out the balance and taking a few tips from our research. There are literally hundreds of racing games with achievements (more so than trophies, thanks to their late inception), but we decided to focus on the following:
The Forza Series
My disdain for the Forza series’ achievements is widely known in these here parts of the internet, mainly because of its lack of effort for the most part, but there’s one thing that Turn 10 has always done superbly, and that’s push players into various avenues of their titles, whether it’s the car tuning stuff, utilising the painting tools, and so on. Forza's lists have improved as years have gone on i.e. Forza 4 is better than Forza 3, although for the most part it’s pretty derivative with a lot of grinding involved. You have to wonder whether it’s Turn 10 creating a list for a serious racer, or something else entirely. The weird thing is that if you look at the Forza Horizon list – from Playground Games with Turn 10 on project overseeing duties – it’s largely the same in terms of tactics i.e. balance, breadcrumb achievements and completion achievements, but it looks like Playground had more fun with them, and as a result, the list doesn’t seem nearly as bland as the Forza sim lists. It’s pretty odd in truth, but it’s a good lesson in making the everyday achievements interesting and relevant.
Gran Turismo 5
Gran Turismo 5 is the typical Japanese list, and by that, I mean, insanely hard and time consuming – i.e. 600 hours time consuming! It’s a ridiculous goal to set players, which is a shame, because there’s obviously a lot of thought gone into a few of the trophies. Take note of a few below: the 'Autobahn' trophy shows research and effort; the 'Half a Century of Cars' trophy shows a little creativity; and the 'Rollover' trophy shows a little ingenuity – especially for a hardcore simulation racer. That said, the 'Within One Hundredth' trophy reveals Polyphonic’s inexperience at creating in-game rewardables, putting an emphasis on luck, as opposed to skill. That also comes across in the 600+ hour time frame, but the Japanese culture is a lot more different to that of the West, as this is a common problem with Japanese games.
The DiRT Series
Like many of the early lists, when the system was in its experimental phase, developers were finding their feet, so rather than plough through DiRT 1’s by-the-numbers list, we jumped straight into DiRT 2, DiRT 3 and DiRT Showdown’s lists. With DiRT 2 and DiRT 3 especially, both lists actually demonstrate a great balance, good spread, but more importantly from our perspective, there’s plenty of creativity and such sprinkled throughout. Because they’re Codemasters games too, using the Ego Engine, it’s a great base for us to go off as well, in terms of what’s possible with the engine.
The Project Gotham Racing Series
First off, when we say “series,” we basically mean just Project Gotham Racing 4. I say this because a.) PGR3 was a launch title and Bizarre Creations was working with a new system that was an unknown quantity; and b.) because we won’t be looking there for any inspiration anytime soon. PGR4 showed us how once it had got a handle on the system, Bizarre was able to be creative in a racing game with its achievements. PGR4 was probably the first game to demonstrate this. There’s a huge amount of different achievements, not much copy & pasting, a solid spread and plenty of creativity. Creativity in the racing genre is possible, see?
The Need For Speed Series
There are 8 Need For Speed games on the Xbox 360 with achievement lists – slightly less so on the PS3. Some were early in the achievement cycle and aren’t worth looking at (Most Wanted – 2005), some are more story-based and aren’t worth touching with a barge pole (The Run - 2011), but for the most part, they are tricky to take inspiration from simply because of the external elements they have in the game i.e. the cops and the takedown measures, but they do have the odd creative achievement here and there, so it was worth going through all eight lists just to discover these few.
Considering that Burnout Paradise is such a beloved and lauded racer, the achievement list isn’t particularly inspiring. There’s a lot of by-the-numbers achievements (collect all these, do all that), but that might work in an open-world game like Burnout Paradise without distracting the player too much. Still, there’s a huge potential for creativity in the open-world, which we can’t help but feel was a missed opportunity for Criterion. What’s probably more disappointing is that when they patched in the trophy list – which was different to the achievement list – Criterion failed to rectify that. In fact, the list is probably worse and lacks even the slightest bit of creativity that the achievement list had – just take a look at the trophy names below as an example.
And last, but not least…
We couldn’t start on the GRID 2 list without looking back at the GRID 1 list, a list which looking back is actually a good foundation for us to go from for the sequel. It has a fairly decent balance – for the most part, except maybe the online goals it sets – it drops breadcrumbs in various modes so you try them out and there’s some truly challenging achievements in there – maybe a little too challenging judging from the feedback in the forums. On top of all that though, there’s creativity in there and it harks back to what I said in the “perfect achievement list” feature where I said that the list must speak to the core themes of the game. It also not only gives us some insight into what’s capable with the engine as well, but it’ll give us an insight into what we can get away with.
So there we have it, some of the finest and most lauded racing franchises and their achievements/trophies, all put under the microscope. We’ve got a great base to go off here, a solid foundation and a few ideas on ways to be creative, as well as a rough idea as to how a good racing list should be structured. Combined with the perfect achievement/trophy list feature and the 20 dos and don’ts of creating an achievement/trophy list feature, we feel we’re just about ready to jump into the game. Time to head to Codemasters and meet with the GRID 2 development team then. Now the fun starts! In the meantime, we’re off to watch as many automotive, car-based movies as possible and write down as many nods to popular culture that we can.