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'Driveclub' engine puts social sharing inside a racing game

Originally slated for release along with the PS4’s launch last fall, Driveclub was pushed to April and then, again, to October. The developers wanted to ensure the game’s core – social interactivity – was obvious and easy to access in all three modes: campaign, single one-off races and live online.

Evolution Studios

A new generation of game consoles brings with it a fresh wave of racing titles designed to showcase the machines' revved-up graphical horsepower. But Paul Rustchynsky, game director of the upcoming Driveclub exclusive for the PlayStation 4, insists his project is about more than pretty visuals.

"Social interaction is going to seamlessly integrate into every area of the game," he said at a preview event in Los Angeles last week. "The PlayStation 4 is allowing us to realize our dreams. It's the right time for this game."

Driveclub is being built as more than just a simple racer – in some ways, it's more of a social network, like Facebook or Twitter. Aside from hosting online races with your established friends list, the game can also suggest new acquaintances based on your skills, for example.

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If you're particularly good at, say, drifting around corners it may recommend a "club" of other players in need of such expertise. Joining up with such players can pay off, since the game offers rewards for both solo offline and online multiplayer campaigns.

Driveclub has been delayed twice in order to perfect these social features, Mr. Rustchynsky said. Originally slated for release along with the PS4's launch last fall, the game was pushed to April and then, again, to October. The developers at U.K.-based Evolution Studios wanted to ensure the game's core – social interactivity – was obvious and easy to access in all three modes: campaign, single one-off races and live online.

To achieve that, they needed a dynamic menu that can constantly change and update regardless of which mode the player is in. The result is something they're obviously proud of.

At the L.A. demo event, attended by journalists flown in by Sony, Mr. Rustchynsky showed off the fast load times between screens. Loading up a race generally takes 10 to 15 seconds, which is considerably faster than that found in other titles, while players can also boot around in solo modes until their multiplayer races are ready to launch. From there, it takes only a few seconds to move into the full multiplayer session.

Mr. Rustchynsky also showed off a function where he created and played a solo race, then sent its parameters – including length, track and time of day – to his friends list, who could then play that exact same race to see if they could beat his time.

Social features aside, Driveclub also boasts some of those expected nice graphics. Running in native 1080p high definition with no upscaling, the tracks in India, Chile, Scotland and Canada's Fraser Valley look fantastic, especially with dynamic timing enabled. A race can start in the darkness of pre-twilight, then progress right through the day until sunset, depending on the racer's preferences.

Audio is also great, with Evolution Studios having designed its own proprietary microphone system to properly capture sound inside and out of the cars. The quality was most noticeable when huddled amidst a group of cars, with each vehicle's distinct sound clearly discernible from the others.

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Still, Mr. Rustchynsky was quick to bring attention back to the social functions, which he hopes will differentiate Driveclub from the crop of other racing titles available.

"It isn't a game where it's just you versus the road," he said.

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