GAME Interview Julian Gerighty, Creative Director on The Crew

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GAME recently joined Julian Gerighty, Creative Director on The Crew at Ubisoft in Guildford. We sat down with Julian, surrounded by Rabbids and original Ubi artwork and talked about his involvement in The Crew...

Release Date: 17/06/2014

The Crew on PS4, Xbox One and PC at GAME

GAME recently joined Julian Gerighty, Creative Director on The Crew at Ubisoft in Guildford. We sat down with Julian, surrounded by Rabbids and original Ubi artwork and talked about his involvement in The Crew, including the evolution of the project.

You’ll be able to take down your rivals in The Crew on Xbox One and PS4 later this year, here’s the scoop on revolutionary action-driving game thus far…

Hello, thanks for joining us! Please introduce yourself, tell us about your role and what you do on The Crew.

My name is Julian Gerighty, I’m the Creative Director on The Crew. What a Creative Director does differences from project to project but what I’ve done for The Crew is work with the Game Director, and all the leads, including technical and artistic, to establish the vision of the game and to ensure the hundreds of people working on The Crew are making the same game. It’s really making sure that the vision that we came up with at the beginning of the development is actually delivered.

We’ve been keeping an eye on The Crew since E3 2013, where we got to have a closer look. We think it’s fair to say that it’s certainly different from a stereotypical driving game. How would you summarise the driving experience in The Crew?

The driving experience is very different from pretty much all other driving games, because what we’ve tried to do is to make something that really took the basic building block of the car and make it evolve. So, let’s say you start off with a specific car; we’re going to make that car evolve throughout the game, and make you live all the adventures of driving. From street racing that car, which is a street spec car, ‘spec’ is the word we’re using for the different families or evolutions of vehicles, and make that evolve into a dirt spec car. Dirt spec car will be radically different from street racing; it’ll be closer to rally driving.

You’ve got all of this and all of these different evolutions in an environment that is a very big and varied environment that is the whole of the USA. On top of that we’re making a shared experience with all your friends and other players, but what that really means and the benefit of the player is that the world is constantly surprising you. You could be driving in New York and have those cars zip by you and they could be AI or they could be other people.

The Crew on PS4, Xbox One and PC at GAME

You just mention the whole of USA. What was it like to see that come together and build that? It must have been quite tough!

Building whole of USA is a real challenge, one of the biggest challenges we faced on this project in fact. We were only able to achieve it with a lot of work on the tools, the basic tools for building the game; we have a special generation tool that helps us generate the whole of the country.

Everything is then fit together by hand by a team of artists in France and UK ensuring everything is accurately generated. We have 11 or 12 different eco-systems and those mean different vegetation, different art direction, weather and architecture. By comparison, our New York feels radically different from our LA.

We’ve seen the amazing trailers released for The Crew. What does E3 2014 have in-store for us?

E3 this year is a big date for us. We got the news out for the game last year incredibly well, we pitched the entire USA, we pitched the customisation that can change your car for different terrains and we also pitched the seamless multiplayer online world. What we would love to focus on this year is how we will really make the game evolve post launch, how we will take care of our community, including how our PvP mechanism will work and how competition is the beating heart of the whole experience.

Asynchronous game play seems to be at the forefront recently, Raider Net in SSX, for example. What were the design choices supporting head to head racing rather than ghost racing in The Crew?

We have both. The magic of this game is that it is the shared vision of myself, more of a console player who doesn’t particularly like playing with other people that he doesn’t know, very comfortable in the solo space being told a story and being guided through the adventure by a hand by the narrative, and a bunch of the guys who are obsessed with MMOs who want that multiplayer experience. Who want not only the PvP, competitive experience but want the co-op experience.

We all fought for different things so in The Crew, you’ll have a different ghost for every single one of the skill challenges that we have in the game but you’ll also have co-op for every mission and competitive for all the PvP races, and there are 70 races in the game. On top of that you have a free ride experience in a shared world that is not an aggressive hostile world but is built on exploration and meeting people that you can play with people if you want, if not, you can ignore.

The Crew on PS4, Xbox One and PC at GAME

Is there a single playing progression within The Crew?

The States is a very big place, one of the things I really wanted to do was ensure there was a structure to the game that guided people by the hand on through a road trip around the USA. We worked with Christian Cantamessa, Writer and Creative Director of Red Dead Redemption and James Worrall who was Writer on GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas, and we cooked up a little story to really take people by the hand and show them the environments. To ensure they unlock all the different specs, all the different evolutions of your cars and get you from Detroit to L.A going through New York, Miami and Las Vegas. That in itself is a 20 hour adventure, but I see it as a tutorial for the multiplayer the PvP which is more the ‘end game’ stuff where you’ll be in a more competitive state.

The development team themselves obviously have a huge racing heritage, including V Rally and Test Drive Unlimited. Were there any aspects of those games that people wanted to carry over to The Crew or even expand on?

We’re very fortunate in the sense that we’re working with a team not only in France but also with Ubisoft Reflections. Like all big Ubisoft projects we have multiple studios over several continents, there’s an enormous machine behind this game, but what is great is being able to work very close with Newcastle and with Ivory Tower being ex Eden Games with heritage of V Rally, Need for Speed Porsche and Test Driver Unlimited. There was forward looking of a game with a shared world and massive environment. Then mixing that DNA with drivers DNA, adding the Ubisoft Reflection DNA and possibly the most exciting driving game of the last few years which was Driver San Francisco, for me it was the ideal mix between the two. This is a good thing; Driver meets Test Driver Unlimited 2 in the whole of the USA? I’d buy it.

It’s become wide knowledge that Watch_Dogs was going to be a driving game, was The Crew always destined to be The Crew?

The Crew was always destined to be The Crew. It took a little bit of time to find its own identity and to find how it was going to position itself; it even took a little bit of time to find its name too! It was ‘Project Code Name Route 66’ and then marketing suggested names like Driving Social Club, Acceleradics and Speed Nation, which was my favourite but we manage to get those pushed aside for The Crew. Which I think really sums up not only the social side of things but also the single player narrative where you’re picking up different members of a crew to achieve your mission.

The Crew on PS4, Xbox One and PC at GAME

You mentioned working quite closely with Ubisoft Reflections, how’s that been and what skills and processes are they adding into the game?

I think one of the biggest changes for me in the last few years, is multiple studios working together on big projects. It requires a lot of coordination and a lot of investment and communication. We’re fortunate enough to be working with people who are incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about racing games and the way we found worked best was giving entire modules of the game to other studios.

With Ubisoft Reflections they’ve not only been taking care of the PS4 version of the game, so that completely separate version is being done by them, but they did the narrative and the 500 skills we have peppered around the landscape. There’s a lot of variety and a lot of fun there. They’ve also done environmental landscapes and some of the code. It’s been a shared process but the vision is really Ivory Towers’ vision.

Are you able to go more in-depth surrounding the skills that Ubisoft Reflections will be contributing to The Crew?

There are 8 or 9 different varieties of skills. They could be as simple as drive as fast and far as you can without hitting anything on the road and then there’s a multiplier where you’ll get a bigger score for every metre you go. We’ve also got a really cool one, I call it ‘infection’, no idea what it’ll be called in the game however, but basically there’s a ball of red that spreads behind you and you have to get as far and as fast away from it as possible.

What’s interesting there if you’re driving an off road vehicle, no worries you can go off road, however if you’re driving a road vehicle you’ll have to stick to the road and try to escape the ‘infection’ there. There’s lots of different variety including jumps, collects and smashables, and because they last 20 to 40 seconds you always have another to do. We reward people with gold silver, bronze and even platinum and all of those will reward you with unique parts, experience and cash.

Thank you for your time, Julian. Finally, why do you need to buy The Crew?

You don’t NEED to buy The Crew, this is a choice. Do you want the best driving game that features the whole of the USA that you can share with your friends? Do you want to customise your vehicles? Do you want to take your vehicles off-road, on-road, take-downs, escaping from the police, circuit races? If you do? Consider it; it’s a pretty good game.

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