Racy: Ex-Stig And The Crowd-Sourcing Portal

By Jim Rossignol on October 11th, 2011 at 5:06 pm.

Racing! Made by you. Possibly.
The chaps from Slightly Mad Studios (Need For Speed Shift, Shift 2) got in touch to let us know about their latest project, which is ambitious and then ambitious again. They’re making a new racing game called “Community Assisted Racing Simulation” or C.A.R.S. for short, and they’re doing it with a full-on crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding portal, World Of Mass Development. Their plan is to prove that the concept of getting the wider gaming community to help out actually developing games is workable by doing it with their next racing game, and they’ll be opening it up to other projects at the same time. Yours, maybe. They’ve even got the man who was Stig on Top Gear, Ben Collins, to help out for some reason.

I spoke to Slight Mad’s Ian Bell about the project in more detail below, and he explains where they idea came from and where he hopes it is going to. You can also check out the site here.

RPS: What was the motivation for your guys to WMD and how did you come up with the idea?

Bell: The initial motivation grew from a frustration with the current publisher/developer setup that sees top quality games not being made because publishers have mostly consolidated on their proven brands and cut back drastically on the acquisition or development funding of new game ideas. There was also some annoyance in the fact that large publishers have an enormous cost base which must be paid for out of the sale of the products the developer breaks their backs making. Out of this traditional funding system the developer ends up doing the lion’s share of the work and gets the least on the backend. The developer actually gets a loan from the publisher to cover development costs, pays this loan back as ‘advance against royalties’ meaning that with the huge cost base mentioned above hard earned potential royalties disappear into a black hole. The idea grew out of a wonder as to why this isn’t happening already. With our system we provide 100% transparency to the team members who purchase tools to be part of the project. They see every aspect of development in detail, steer the design and feature list, can provide art and support and importantly, are an ongoing source of QA and marketing (the two things which the publisher provided before). I saw no reason why this should be the case.

RPS: What sort of games do you think will benefit from the WMD approach?

Bell: I think all types of games. Initially the system is most appropriate for AAA developers with a good history that can’t get the publishers to back the product for development as they all have cold feet right now.

RPS: From what I understand, this isn’t Kickstarter and you’re hoping people will help with more than just cash? How exactly will people be able to contribute to development? Can you flesh out the sort of things you expect people to do?

Bell: Right. This system is a form of both crowd sourcing and crowd funding. Crucially, the people who join up will get paid back for their input when the product sells. At a basic level we expect people to play the game and engage on the development forums in whatever form suits them. Some ‘team members’ might mainly want to play and post their opinions, others might get more into finding bugs and yet others might want to provide art assets or script based features (we’ve developed our own scripting system for this which we’ll ship to team members in the near future).

RPS: Will people who have done work via WMD get a credit for it? (I’m thinking about budding devs who want to add something to their CV here.)

Bell: All of those that join will get credit and we also have a system for the public to promote individuals they feel deserve to be in a higher member tier (and thus get more fees when the profits come in). As we won’t be paying staff monthly I don’t see it sustaining people in terms of a steady income but it is certainly a nice addition to anyone’s CV.

RPS: When will the first playable build of C.A.R.S. be available for people to tinker with?

Bell: We’re having a soft beta launch today with restricted numbers to test the systems on backup servers (read: slow download!) before we go live on the main servers.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

Full announcement jabber:

C.A.R.S. gets the green light!

Exciting new racing title gets ready to set off

Slightly Mad Studios today announce the imminent unveiling of C.A.R.S., their first title to be produced using the innovative new WMD portal. To compliment the unveiling, SMS is also announcing their exciting latest addition to the C.A.R.S. development team; Ben Collins, the man who spent seven years as the “Stig”.

London, October 11, 2011:

Speaking of his participation, racing driver Ben Collins said, “I’m delighted to be working on the C.A.R.S. project to create the best racing simulation in the world! Computer ‘games’ and simulations have become integral to success on the race track and I will be applying all my racing knowledge to provide handling input and advice to the builds on a regular basis. I’m also looking forward to meeting some of the project’s contributors at the trackday events and working with SMS’s team of experts, whose passion and pedigree will be key to the development of this incredibly exciting new model.”

Ian Bell, MD of the company behind C.A.R.S and the WMD Platform said, “When we found out Ben was interested in the project it was an obvious decision to get him involved. I can’t think of anyone better. As the “Stig” he has driven the best cars in the world and was universally regarded as the best real racing driver around. The experience that he can bring to the team will be invaluable. He’s also really enthusiastic about working in a new development model alongside fans, members of the public and experienced developers alike.”

Racing fans can sign up to become part of the C.A.R.S. (Community Assisted Racing Simulation) team from Tuesday 11th November, where they will instantly be able to actively contribute to the
development of the game via the WMD portal. From day one they will be given a unique opportunity to actually participate in the development of a AAA game, as part of the team that created the Need For Speed: SHIFT series, with access to state of the art tech and tools, early builds of the title and the team’s development forums.

The project is Slightly Mad Studios’ first project to use its revolutionary crowd- sourcing meets crowd-funding platform WMD (www.wmdportal.com) which enables fans, enthusiasts and other members of
the public to contribute to the development of upcoming titles by working on them or providing funding – or both – whilst getting to enjoy the game whilst it is being built. What is more, when the game is released all those who worked on the game will earn a share of the revenues earned.

Places will be available on a first come first basis at launch but in order to make sure everyone has a fair chance, additional places will open up throughout the development process. Founder Team Members will however have exclusive benefits. The expected final release date for C.A.R.S is expected to be around Thanksgiving 2012, so make sure to sign up and get involved!

About WMD
WMD (World of Mass Development) is a new platform for games creation from the award-winningdeveloper Slightly Mad Studios that allows:

Developers to submit ideas to an active gaming community, raise the funds needed to develop them, get continual feedback from community team members that can play work-in-progress builds, use the WMD Portal to promote their project, get help from other developers, and ultimately launch their game to an eagerly-awaiting audience

Players to browse available projects and join any they are interested in, download and play regular builds of the game, participate in discussion and polls, speak directly to the developers,
and eventually earn money back for their contribution when the game is released

WMD is therefore a unique prospect for both gamers that want to get involved in exciting upcoming titles and developers looking to raise funds for their projects. To see a full breakdown of the details for both players and developers, plus lots more, please visit www.wmdportal.com, or contact info@wmdportal.com. Follow the updates on Twitter @WMDCars.

About Slightly Mad Studios Ltd
Slightly Mad Studios is an independent, award-winning developer known most recently for its work on Electronic Arts’ Need For Speed franchise with the successful SHIFT series. The company has a core
studio located near Tower Bridge, London but predominantly uses a unique distributed development system that allows the team to attract worldwide talent, be cost-effective and ultra-efficient.

Slightly Mad Studios has also recently launched a sister company Gamagio that focuses on social/mobile titles with a number of new technologies and games in development and releasing soon.

For more information about Slightly Mad Studios or Gamagio, please visit the relevant website: www.slightlymadstudios.com and www.gamagio.com. Follow us on Twitter @slightlymadteam and
@gamagiogaming.

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40 Comments »

  1. Anarki says:

    Interesting. Sounds like they’ve been looking at the iracing/rfactor model where they release a base game engine, and people mod in all different types of racing, different tracks, cars etc.

  2. Fitzmogwai says:

    Is that THE Ian Bell, or just an Ian Bell?

    • deejayem says:

      They come in six-packs.

    • simoroth says:

      Yes it is THE Ian Bell who doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

    • Llewyn says:

      I started reading the article wondering exactly the same thing. If it is the original Ian Bell then someone ought to update his Wikipedia page – it mentions nothing outside the Elite/Frontier world.

    • deejayem says:

      And he’ll never get his average over 50 if he starts developing computer games as well.

    • OrangyTang says:

      Are you sure it’s THE Ian Bell? Because his ‘meet the team’ doesn’t mention working on Elite at all:

      http://www.slightlymadstudios.com/meet-the-team-ian-bell/

      I did go to a talk from THE Ian Bell a few years ago. He bamboozled a whole room full of smart game developers by talking about some crazy hardcore N-dimensional maths. Sounded like he really wanted to do Elite but with a full relativistic space sim at it’s core. Very clever guy, but last I heard he’d left the games industry, which is a shame.

    • Llewyn says:

      Hmmm, in that case perhaps deejayem is on to something.

    • something says:

      What’s your favorite game of all time?

      Elite – ground breaking, engrossing, and influential. Simply the best.

      If it is him*, he’s full of himself.

      * (it’s not)

    • phobic says:

      I don’t think it’s the Ian Bell you’re thinking of. I remember 10 years ago when i was really into F12001 and simbin were developing the GTR mod for it (which went on to become standalone), i read a bit about Ian who ran the forum at the time. He’s from Belfast (also my hometown). Never knew he was a coder though, always thought he was a businessman type who loved racing games. He seems to like founding companies…

    • RogB says:

      no SImoroth, it is not.

      mobygames frequently confuses multiple people into one list of credits.

      I assure you, this is not the ‘Elite’ one.

    • uzihead says:

      Hi,

      NO! He is not the same:

      Ian Bell that made Elite was a programmer -> http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/him/index.htm (you can see his picture)

      Ian Bell, co-founder Simbin, founder of Blimley! Games and Slightly Mad Studios, is a bussines-man -> http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3821020/

      Mobygames got it all wrong.

  3. rocketman71 says:

    Hmmmmm.

    We didn’t buy any of the last NFS’s because of the useless (for us) drivewhatever social shit, and the lack of proper offline LAN support.

    Fix that, and we might contribute. Some of us liked your games, even if they were incompatible with our LAN parties.

  4. Alexander Norris says:

    Aha! One of the lawyer gents mentioned this as the Saf Lahndahn indie drinks the other month, and I was wondering what would come of it. Interested to see where this goes, as it’s certainly an original idea for a business model.

  5. Linfosoma says:

    This looks fantastic, very interesting concept too. I’ll give this a try once Im back home. I would love to contribute with some minor art assets.

    • G-Lord says:

      Interesting concept indeed. I just have support them, even though I’m not that much into racing games.

  6. Phinor says:

    Well they clearly say “best simulation racing game in the world” so while I’m not back on board after the Shift/Shift 2 fiasco, I’ll keep the project in mind and check it out if possible.

    But if they are just saying best simulation racing game in the world and then not achieving iRacing physics with better game attached to it, it’s all meaningless advertising from their part. I’m also not sure if the small hardcore sim crowd is even their target audience despite what they are saying about C.A.R.S. A crowd of maybe hundred thousand surely isn’t enough to keep a project like this afloat? Especially since I’m not the only one disappointed with their previous two racing game attempts and won’t spend a dime until I see some results.

    On the other hand at least they are trying something different.

  7. pakoito says:

    Soooooooooooooooo Trackmania but with simulation racing.

  8. Starky says:

    I’m boycotting this game!

    How dare they hire that traitorous turncoat former Stig – I hope they all fail, lose their jobs and then die!

    Long live the one and true Stig! Infidels will be punished!

    • LostViking says:

      So true!

      Hi broke the first rule of Stigdom: Never talk about the Stig!

    • Osi says:

      I don’t have any problems with Ben Collins.
      Its easy to believe the FUD. Harder to spend the time to learn and understand different people’s points of view.
      That’s not to say Ben didn’t make mistakes- he did- but so did the Top Gear producers and presenters.

    • Starky says:

      We seriously need to bring back the irony punctuation mark for typing sake ( opposite facing question mark).

    • Tams80 says:

      Straight onto the boycott list. This will not stand! I will not play a game where such a traitor has taken part.

      No, there is no room for reason.

  9. tanith says:

    Wait, so is this a one time payment or a monthly fee? Although a monthly fee of 25000 Euro would sound very strange…

  10. Dozer says:

    So does this crowdsourcing mean that I could unilaterally decide to work on a London bus (that is, to build a simulation of a London bus, not to work on a portable computer on while travelling on a London bus – although that’s not mutually exclusive) and have it included in the game?

  11. Khann says:

    I’d love to give this a try and have a blat in those GP2 looking cars, but I’m not going to pay 10EUR for the privilege unfortunately.

    • Kaiji says:

      This.

      Just signed up to try it out, then I’m asked how much money I want to spend on it?

      Errr… K.

      GL.

  12. Paul says:

    This is fascinating idea and I wholeheartedly hope it will suceed. Bypassing publishers and getting gamers themselves to finance games and get involved – awesome thing in my book.

    I think I will contribute a bit.

  13. Resurgam says:

    NFShift was probably the most underated game i have seen in a while, i’m into sim racing but it was the bomb when it came out, for me at least. Shame nobody ever bloody bought it for PC so multiplayer was a bit annoying. I’ll keep an eye on it.

  14. InternetBatman says:

    I’m glad they’re trying this. Publishing companies should be increasingly irrelevant with digital distribution, so I hope this works out.

  15. Domothy says:

    This is some exciting news. I loved the core of Shift & Shift 2, but it was buried beneath incessant EA-isms which ultimately ruined the whole affair.

    Now, if they can take the driving model and ease-of-use of iRacing, and put it in a shinier, slicker package (with less ovals!) then I’ll be a happy man.

  16. Melf_Himself says:

    The first thing I thought when I read this was…. acronym fail (Weapons of Mass Destruction anyone?)

  17. Linfosoma says:

    Here’s a gameplay video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK8P7s-LecU&feature=feedlik

    I just tried this game and lord it’s amazing. It uses Shift’s engine, but for some reason it looks way, way better (making it IMO the best looking racing game I’ve seen on PC) and it runs like butter (something Shift 2 didnt).
    There’s all kind of PC style options like being able to hide the wheel and setting individual FOV for each camera.

    I’ll admit it though, it’s a little abode my driving level, but it’s truly fantastic and very promising. There’s also a really nice selection of cars (some of them classic Formula cars) and they are very detailed (the fully working suspensions, engine parts and texture quality scares me).

    This makes me want to get a wheel so bad (yes, I played with an Xbox pad, sue me).
    Sorry if I sound overly exited, but all the PC racing sims I’ve tried until now where rather impenetrable and.. well.. dated looking.

    Can anyone recommend me a good middle range (ie. cheap) wheel?

    • islisis says:

      By precluding with the term “middle range” I presume “cheap” is also used relatively, and that would be the logitech g27, since no other wheel falls between extremes.

      It’s a smoother and faster wheel than anything below its price due to the helical gear system, and has much more realistic feeling pedals. But precision and strength of force feedback wise the g27 maintains its heritage from the Driving Force Pro and Driving Force GT, which you would have a much better chance of finding second hand on ebay or somewhere. None of the three would disappoint.

  18. gwathdring says:

    What a peculiar business model. I’m intrigued ….

  19. Warth0g says:

    Not sure I buy into this at all unfortunately, certainly not without getting some hands on time with the product before putting any money down. Ian Bell has history, but good and bad in my opinion. He was the head of development at some of the seminal racing sims – GTR, GTR2, GT Legends. I still play GTR2 today and it holds up incredibly well.

    But when he went to head up Slightly Mad and worked on Shift etc, I lost interest as did many others. They were flashy looking arcade racers with terrible handling and couldn’t be further away from his previous work at SimBin. I hear good things about F1 2011 so maybe the arcade / sim crown now sits with Codemasters.

    There’s always been a gap in the market for something in between iRacing and arcade racers, but I’m not convinced he’s the one to fill it.

  20. MichaelPalin says:

    Well, this is an idea worth backing up. Even if I cannot care less about racing simulators, it’s nice to see big studios trying new ideas to get rid of the publisher. However, I don’t think this serves for any type of game. In a simulator, everybody knows more or less how the game is going to be and what has to be done. But in any other game that requires a little bit of coherence (like a narrative game or a game with a particular style), you just cannot have a cloud of developers with which you don’t have a tangible and close contact to make sure the vision of the project is understood by all.

  21. macwarrior says:

    This would be an amazing way to get a new fighter jet simulation along the lines of the Jane’s games…or something like Strike Fighters with actual drama and multiplayer support. I suppose that Lucasfilm would have the head of anyone who tried to make a new TIE fighter game, too, but that’s always a possibility too…