Slightly Mad: 'You've got to have the players behind you'

Slightly Mad: 'You've got to have the players behind you'
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

September 4th 2014 at 11:00AM

Project CARS dev says it’s ‘financial suicide’ to develop games without player involvement

Following the success of its own crowdfunding venture, Slightly Mad Studios urges developers to get players involved in all future games projects – particularly if you’re launching a new IP.

Speaking to Develop at Gamescom, the UK studio said that it is “financial suicide” to create a game without direct feedback from consumers, whether that’s through forums and social media, or alpha and beta testing.

The company is putting the final touches on its upcoming Project CARS – Community Assisted Racing Simulator – which was made available through Steam Early Access earlier this year.

“Games cost so much time and money to make now that you can’t just hide in the dark, make your game and hope when it comes out two years later that people will actually want to play it,” said creative director Andy Tudor.

“Look at what Cliffy B is doing with Boss Key, making a view in full public view of someone. Look at the story of Double Fine, making its games on Kickstarter and things like that.

“You’ve got to have the players behind you. They’ve certainly given us a level of confidence that what we’re making is what people actually want to play. Because it would be financial suicide to come out with a game that you think is good, but actually gamers reckon it’s missing key features or just isn’t good enough.”

Every game that has crowdfunding has a responsibility to deliver, but we’re still in that learning process.

Project CARS was funded by Slightly Mad’s own venture, the World of Mass Development platform. When the studio was unable to secure funding from publishers – partly because the project is a new IP, and because the new generation consoles had yet to be announced at the time of conception – it called for fans of its previous games to help fund and shape its next title.

The reception was far greater than Tudor expected and required the studio to completely restructure how it develops games.

“Kickstarter wasn’t around in the UK at the time, so we had to start our own,” he said. “Plus we wanted to get people involved from day one. We opened the doors and we had thousands of people wanting to join us, all of whom had seen the generic design overview. We instantly had to hire community managers – to filter the noise, as it were – and structure things differently.

“It’s been a learning process for both of us. The community have learnt the way that we make games, because they’ve never been exposed to that before – we’re the first triple-A studio to ever make a game in this way. Equally, we’ve had to re-evaluate our processes as well because if they ask why we’re doing something a certain way, we have to question that.”

With the game due on shelves for Xbox One, PS4 and PC this November, the pressure is on for Slightly Mad to prove that the WMD concept works – especially in the light of recent crowdfunding failures such as the scrapped Yogventures game. But the team believes the most pressure comes from within.

“We have egg on our faces if we fail,” Tudor said. “We’ve been saying we want to compete with Forza and Gran Turismo, we’ve shown the list of features we want to include, we’ve had the players involved since day one – we can’t lose here. We’ve got to get this game out, and we’ve got to succeed.

“Then there’s the guys who have been helping to make the game – we’ve got to deliver something that they can be proud of, that hits all the key things they wanted in the game.

“Every game that has crowdfunding has a responsibility to deliver, but also a lot of people who are doing crowdfunding are learning what it means to time manage themselves, give constant updates, ensure that their budget is up-to-date, accurate and enough to finish the game. We’re still in that learning process.”