Codemasters released GRID Autosport in the UK on 27th June 2014, on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Much of the momentum from developing GRID 2 was continued into GRID Autosport, lending to the relatively short development time. GRID Autosport was also an opportunity to address feedback from our community fanbase regarding GRID 2.
As a result, GRID Autosport dispensed with a narrative story-line and brought the focus back to pure racing, with 5 distinct driving disciplines to master, and a handling model just as authentic and visceral as the original Race Driver: GRID.
As a Game Designer, this project was my largest challenge to date, as I was given responsibility for the Online Multiplayer portion of the game. More information on what this entailed is given below…
To engage players over a longer period of time, GRID Autosport required a system that gave players a sense of progression.
GRID Autosport supplies this in multiple ways – each of the 5 racing disciplines has its own individual XP level, showing the player where they have spent most of their time racing. Their overall Discipline XP level unlocks new content, such as sponsors and additional garage space to store more vehicles.
Vehicles themselves also have their own XP levels, meaning that the more a player races an individual vehicle, the more upgrades and tuning kits they will unlock for it. The Vehicle XP and garage systems were designed to work together and articulate a sense of bonding between players and their vehicles, making the act of purchasing them more meaningful.
Finally, players earn Cash from almost any kind of racing activity, which they can spend on purchasing additional vehicles, or customising them.
The Online Multiplayer area of GRID Autosport featured 3 major game modes: Playlists, Custom Cups and RaceNet Challenge.
Playlists were built around the 5 racing disciplines in the game – Touring, Open Wheel, Endurance, Tuner and Street. There was also an “Everything” playlist to shuffle through all content in the game. Playlists included a revised track-vote system, a “one-to-watch” feature, the ability to use any car as a “loan vehicle”, and full mechanical damage enabled by default.
Custom Cups were also vastly improved compared to GRID 2, allowing players to choose their vehicle while waiting in the lobby and offering fairer rewards depending on the difficulty settings chosen by the session host. Efforts were also made to include options that leveled the playing field by force-disabling tuning, upgrades and/or assists, and to improve the DLC compatibility, matchmaking and penalty systems.
RaceNet Challenge was redesigned from Global Challenge mode in GRID 2, and now features a global leaderboard instead of only a friends leaderboard, with an emphasis on mastering each of the 5 disciplines instead of dominating a geographic location. Players participate in a set of weekly, asynchronous challenges, and earn rewards proportional to how highly they rank on leaderboards at the end of the week. Rewards are extremely lucrative, which encourages fierce competition in this mode.
Lastly, Online Multiplayer supported additional Race Types that did not fit within the 5 main racing disciplines, known as Party Modes, including Eliminator, Checkpoint and Demolition Derby modes.
One of the key features of the original Race Driver: GRID was the ability to create your own team, and race with your own livery. I wanted to ensure this was recaptured in some form in GRID Autosport, thus I designed the RaceNet Clubs feature. RaceNet is a web-service that integrates into supported products to provide statistics and social-gameplay features; however, with GRID Autosport, the Clubs feature extends beyond what had previously been achieved.
Clubs are managed on the RaceNet website, and a livery can be created within the game and shared via the web-service to all other members of the Club. When players race in the Club Livery together, it contributes to a leaderboard ranking on the website to create a “clan wars” type mechanic.