Under the hood of Project CARS 2

Slightly Mad Studios’ creative director gives us the all the info on the racing sim sequel.
Written by Adam Cook and Jon Partridge
12 min readPublished on
An early screenshot from Project CARS 2

Wheelspinning all the way to the top

© Slightly Mad Studios

As one of our most anticipated racing games of this year, Project CARS 2 has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, it sounds as though things are well on track. We recently had a chance to sit down with Andy Tudor, creative director at Slightly Mad Studios, about the new cars, tracks, and features for the new game, and of course we also got the lowdown on whether we can expect PS4 Pro (and Scorpio) capabilities, PSVR – and even Nintendo Switch support.
How long have you been working on Project CARS 2?
Andy Tudor: We kind of made waves when we launched the first title and then immediately announced the sequel. People thought that was an unexpected move and initially thought we were abandoning the first game, which we weren't. We wanted to start the new project, and due to the crowdfunding aspect, it meant we had to announce the sequel and start working on it straight away.
So basically we started work almost immediately once Project CARS shipped, which was back in May 2015, and we've been working on the underlying technology, referencing, concepts of it, and what it's going to be like while the majority of the team were supporting the first title with the on-demand program.
So it's more of a straight-up sequel, rather than an updated Project CARS 1?
Yeah, absolutely, it's not Project CARS 2017, and there will not be a Project CARS 2018, it's not a sports franchise iterative sequel – it's just as ambitious as the first title.
The interest around using Kickstarter to fund video games is waning, so what's the crowdfunding reaction been like for the second game? Would you say it's been better than the the first wave, for Project CARS 1?
So we've noticed with Project CARS 2 is that the community is smaller, but it's still as effective, and the reason is that in Project CARS 1 we had loads of people join, which was fantastic, but there were still lots of people who were just playing the game and not giving us feedback, and that's not any use to us. We want people who are active and telling us what's wrong, testing the game, finding bugs, and all that kind of stuff. If you're playing the game and not really giving us anything back, that's fine, but it's not really making our games better, so therefore the community on the sequel game is smaller. But the people on there are far more dedicated and passionate, they really want to be part of the sequel game, so we have a large percentage of those people who are actually helping us make the title.
Dirt racing action from Project CARS 2

Tracks with dirt will require tactics to overcome

© Slightly Mad Studios

Where did you decide to draw a line in the sand about features you want to add in updates to the original game, and what you could bring in with Project CARS 2?
Basically, it comes down to there being some things that require an absolute rewrite of the engine, or there are some features which actually are so interconnected that if you're going to do one, you need to do them all, and therefore those kind of big, massive things are worthy of a sequel, and they need to go in a sequel as opposed to a patch because you're kind of rewriting the entire game, so that's where we did the cutoff for Project CARS 1 .
We were originally going to have rally in Project CARS 1 but after we put the concept to the community they asked us to concentrate on tarmac based racing for the first title and then maybe do rally in the future, and the reason we put that to the community was because it was a lot of work: it's dirt, and it's gravel, and it's going sideways; it's different gameplay, and we need to do lots of different things to the engine in order to do this.
The cutoff was anything absolutely massive that is going to be a lot of work and a lot of interconnected features that all need to be present: those are going to be in the sequel title.
An Acura NSX in Project CARS 2

The graphics will surely look superb

© Slightly Mad Studios

You can't have a racing game without the cars, so how many new vehicles are you bringing into Project CARS 2? Are there any new manufacturers that we can expect?
There's over 170 licensed cars in the game now, which is a big improvement on the first title, and the success of the first title has allowed us to get a lot of cars and manufacturers licenses that we weren't able to before. One of the big criticisms of the first game was that there were certain massive, iconic brands that were missing, so we're very pleased to say that those guys are now present in the title, and you'll find out what they are in the future, but you can probably guess.
Any standouts or favourites that you're really keen for gamers to play?
Well I think we're adding in Japanese cars for a start, so one of my favourites at the moments is the Honda NSX; it's an amazing car. We're including not only the road race, but also the race version, so even the road version looks amazing (you might have seen it on the Grand Tour recently, for example), but the race version looks even more insane, it's the superhero version, so that's my favourite currently; it just looks amazing.
Project CARS 2 will feature dynamic weather, such as this torrential rain

Cockpit cam, great visuals, rain pouring!

© Slightly Mad Studios

Can we expect any kind of dynamic weather in races at all?
Absolutely! Project CARS 2 has got the largest track roster of any racing game on console. We don't usually talk about numbers, because we don't think it's that interesting, and actually, you guys have not been asking that in recent years, but equally, we do have the most number of tracks in game. The key thing is that every single one has got dynamic time of day, dynamic weather, and also now seasonal changes, too. So you can race Brands Hatch in the summer or winter, and get all the atmospheric conditions; the weather that would be associated with winter.
We've also updated our technology underneath the game with the latest iteration of LiveTrack 3.0, and that allows so much: it allows rain to fall and actually generate pools because we've added fluid dynamics to the game, so puddles will now form wherever they truly form in real life because the rain falls and it actually starts to get absorbed by the track, then it gets too much and starts to overflow, then it starts saturating the tarmac. So for example, somewhere like Laguna Seca, if it rains there, on the corkscrew if it starts raining it'll actually flow down the track and create a puddle at the bottom.
The concept is that you can race anytime, anywhere. You can go to any track, you can race in winter, summer, at night, in heavy fog, in a thunderstorm; things can change dynamically during the actual gameplay, meaning more strategy is needed: what tyres are you going to be on? The start of the race is dry, but when you get to the final few turns there are huge pools you have to avoid: all that stuff is way more complicated and gives way more variety than anything the competition are doing, where they still remain with just having subsets of their tracks available at night, or a subset of their tracks available with weather, but on our game, all of them have got this.
Dynamic weather also means racing on ice in Project CARS 2

Ice on the track requires the right tyres

© Slightly Mad Studios

Are there any plans for DLC at all?
With the first title we kept it updated with any new hardware that came out: we supported it with Oculus Rift, new wheels like the Logitech ones that came out. We also added free cars and tracks, updates and bug fixes via our on demand program, and it went down extremely well with the community, so we were totally happy with the way that happened. We can't talk too much about further content currently, but yes, we are going to support Project CARS 2 long after launch.
In terms of the console versions, will there be any graphical improvements that take advantage of the PS4 Pro, or Xbox's Project Scorpio?
Yes, absolutely. We're all gadget freaks at our studio, so if there's any wheel, pedal, VR, second-screen apps, triple screen, 21:9 monitors, or consoles, yeah, PSVR, PS4 Pro, and also Microsoft Scorpio, we will always be looking to utilise them in some way. I can confirm that PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio will get some sort of improvements, but we can't really talk about the Scorpio stuff at the moment, because not very much is known. You'll have to wait until Microsoft themselves reveal more information on that.
Racing at Dayton in Project CARS 2

Will you conquer Daytona?

© Slightly Mad Studios

What can you tell us about the PlayStation VR features?
With PSVR we can't confirm that it's definitely coming, but our team are hard at work on it. The reason I can't confirm that it's definitely going to come out is because there's a lot of work required to get the game running to our standards. Because of the two screens that you need, because of the frame rate that you need to keep up in order for the whole experience to be comfortable, and because of all the stuff we're throwing into the game: a large numbers of competitors on the screen at the same time, all the weather features, the Live Track stuff that changes things dynamically, all of that adds great gameplay. So therefore there's a fine balance between what is visually acceptable and what is actually detrimental to gameplay, so we need to investigate it a little more, to make sure there's no compromise on either end – either in visuals or gameplay. I'm sure there will have to be some sort of compromise, but the team are investigating where that line is drawn in the sand; where that balance is, and that'll give a determination of where we proceed with PSVR, basically.
Originally Project CARS had a Wii U version announced that didn't quite work out, but do you guys have any plans for Nintendo Switch?
I think the Wii U thing is very similar to the PSVR thing, and that's why I don't want to get people's hopes as much. With the Wii U version, the actual machine was brilliant, I play on it with my kids all the time, but technically, getting the game to a state where it matches our standards was extremely challenging. In the end it was something we weren't happy with, releasing a version that was substandard to what the eventual title ending up being, which was critically acclaimed (it did extremely well), and it may not have been if we pursued the Wii U version further, so we decided to ultimately stop production on that.
In terms of Nintendo Switch, I can say probably that Project CARS franchise will not be coming to Nintendo Switch currently.
Project CARS 2 screenshot showing Fuji Speedway in rain

Racing round Fuji Speedway in the rain

© Slightly Mad Studios

That's a shame, it would be cool to take it on the go.
Similar to the Wii U, it looks amazing. I've held it in my hands, and the concept of taking it on the go, yeah, I totally agree: we're all gadget freaks, so we kind of want to, but equally I just don't think it's going to be possible.
Any thoughts on Project CARS 2 as an eSport?
Over the last few years, with all the other affiliates we've been working with, we've secured our space as the number one racing eSport out there, and therefore Project CARS 2 has got eSports built in from day one. The key thing here is that we're now including a competitive racing license which is going to allow for players to progress in rankings online and also (even if you're not interested in eSports) it's going to help filter out people into the right matchmaking.
Those people who start crashing at the first turn, or turning around and smacking into everyone, they will gradually get matched with people of similar ideas. The people who are really good at the game will get matched with people who are also really good at the game. So it's in everyone's interests to play well and try their hardest, because those people that reach the upper echelons of the racing system will likely be prime candidates for eSports events.
The second part of it is we're including broadcasting and director functionality in there on all platforms, so any online game created via a new game mode called Online Championships, anyone can find a director who is responsible for changing the camera angles, and they can assign a broadcaster who is responsible for streaming the actual thing to Twitch, and any voice communications they do (commentary) will be heard on the stream as well.
We can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Acura

We can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Acura

© Slightly Mad Studios

Essentially what this means is that we're putting the power of eSports into everyone's hands, so anyone can make a championship, an online league, tournament, or whatever it is, and then as long as they've got two friends (one to actually direct the action, choose the camera angles, and make it look like broadcast quality, and you've got another guy who can be the shoutcaster, and commentator and actually send it off to Twitch) you're gonna have some really good races to watch now online. This allows both players, brands, companies, and manufactures to put these on, and it's something we've been working with commentators and other people within the eSports industry to get involved day one, and yes, it's gonna be a pretty big game changer within the racing space.
Is that just one director, or can there be multiple directors?
Just one at the moment, but we've had a request from one of our eSports partners to make it two, so we are looking at it, but at the moment it's just one.
Project CARS 2 will launch in late 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. For more gaming coverage, be sure to follow @RedBullGames on Twitter and like us on Facebook.