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Need for Speed Payback developer talks RNG elements

Posted: 25 September 2017 1:11 pm


Need for Speed Payback is poised to splice skill with luck as the latest entry in the long-racing series introduces randomised card packs.

RNG is a divisive acronym. Short for ‘random number generator’, the term is used in reference to game systems that are dictated by behind-the-scenes algorithms. This leaves players at the mercy of invisible dice rolls which determine whether they get shiny new loot or, more likely and frequently (as is the nature of such systems), rusty old trash. It’s a mechanic born of MMO games like World of Warcraft, but it’s creeping more often into the mainstream space, seen most recently and notably in the hugely popular first-person ‘looter’ Destiny 2.

It’s a divisive system because it can feel like luck is capable of trumping skill, plus the time-poor may feel punished for not having the time to grind out better luck. For the first time in the series, Need for Speed Payback is set to include an RNG system in the form of Speed Cards. We chatted with creative director Will Ho about their inclusion and impact.

It was mentioned in the presentation that parts are the main currency and we were wondering what that actually means in terms of the gameplay and the game and how...

Will Ho: So, Need for Speed has always had great performance upgrades and customisation, right? But we wanted to really put it front and centre and go, ‘Hey, we want to place some emphasis on winning.’ So, every time you win a race, every time you complete a mission, we’re going to give you a part. We give you a chance to draw from three different what we call Speed Cards, and then you get to choose one and you’re always going to get something cool, something that enhances your performance: it may have some strengths, it may have some weaknesses and that’s for you to judge.

As you win races and complete missions, you collect more and more of these Speed Cards. What we want… and so when you equip them, your car is going to get better and better and better all the time, right? We really reward you for winning, but then if you want to min/max your stats, right, and find the maximum performance, you go to the garage and you experiment with different combinations of Speed Cards.

There are buffs that we built in where when you collect three of a kind or six of a kind of a certain brand and then you get a boost for that. And then there are also other attributes where you'll discover different combinations to enhance your airtime, to enhance your drifting, to enhance your traction, to enhance your acceleration. So, there’s a lot to discover in this system, but immediately because you’re winning parts, it’s accessible, go in the garage, tonnes of depth.

That’s both the long and short of the role that Speed Cards play in Need for Speed Payback. On the surface, it actually doesn’t sound that bad: in fact, it sounds like the kind of addition that could reward players with something new just for playing the game. The trick is that these Speed Cards are randomised.

That may not be so bad if you’re a time-rich player frequently quenching your need for speed. But if you’re a player who’s seeking to chase down very specific tasks, and you’re unable to do so because you can’t get the right parts for your cars, this is where the system may prove to be frustrating. Here’s what Ho had to say when prodded on the topic of a specific example of when the RNG Speed Cards system might prove frustrating.

Are they randomised, the cards you find?

WH: Yeah.

How are you handling that in terms of the balancing? Like, if we wanted to get a three-star rating for a jump, we’d probably need the speed, we’d probably need the airtime, but we would have to rely on an RNG system to score that. Is it doable without getting all those parts?

WH: Sometimes you get really lucky, right? Yeah, with the minimum number of wins… we call it tiering up, right? There’s tiers one, two, three, right? Different card classes. So, sometimes you get lucky, right? And you can find a pretty quick path through, but most of the time when we’re play-testing this system, what we’re finding is people are collecting enough cards to have different strategies. You might actually re-equip to have a different load out for different events type or different difficulty. And then if you get a surplus of cards, you can trade them in. You can roll on something you really, really want, right? If it’s a particular brand or particular category of part that you want. So, it’s almost a game within a game now, right?

The inclusion of Speed Cards in Need for Speed Payback may prove to be even more controversial when you realise that there are microtransactions associated with them. You can read more about that in an article soon right here on Finder.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for another racing game to satisfy your rubber-burning needs ahead of Need for Speed Payback's 10 November release, why not check out our review of Project Cars 2?

Disclaimer: EA sponsored Nathan Lawrence’s flights, accommodation, and meals while he was at Gamescom 2017.

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