Ubisoft's Next-Gen Racing Game Is Always Online. They Explain Why.

Ubisoft's just-announced The Crew is an ambitious, impressive-looking game. A Need for Speed-like street racing game with a ton of singleplayer and multiplayer options, set on a ridiculously massive map that spans from Los Angeles to New York City. But if you want to play it, you're going to need an internet connection.

Yesterday at a pre-E3 press event, I had a chance to watch a demonstration of the game -- due out in 2014 -- and spend some time playing a PC build. I was impressed -- the racing doesn't have that same thrilling sense of velocity that Criterion's games (most recently Need for Speed: Most Wanted) manage to capture, but I really do like the idea.

The game does this incredibly slick move where you zoom out from your car to a Google Maps-like overhead view, zooming out until you're eventually looking down at the entire nation, then zooming back in on where you want to drive. Anywhere in the United States.

When I first saw a player leaping around from Miami to Las Vegas to New York without a loading screen, my first thought was, "Welp, this is pretty much what I imagined when I pictured a 'Next-Gen Racing Game.'"

My second thought was, "This has got to be relying on cloud computing or something." And yet, when I asked one of the game's producers during my hands-on session, he assured me that the whole game played off the disk.

After my demo, I sat down for a quick chat with The Crew creative director Julian Gerighty. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that The Crew is always-online. Whether you play on console or on PC, you'll need an internet connection to play.

"Our approach to that is this is a living world," Gerighty said. "We don't really see the point of offline. Did you ever play World of Warcraft? So World of Warcraft, you don't play offline. It doesn't mean you can't play by yourself -- when I played World of Warcraft, I played it for about twelve months, single-player only, without talking to anyone. That's our approach."

"We don't really see the point of offline. Did you ever play World of Warcraft? So World of Warcraft, you don't play offline."

I asked Gerighty what would happen if someone was playing the game and their internet went down. "They won't be able to save the game, unfortunately," he said. "All our saves are server-based, it's one of those things that this new generation… it's just like World of Warcraft. If the internet connection goes on World of Warcraft, that's it, your saved game goes. It's one of the unfortunate side-effects, but I think [we're] going to a world where the experiences demand that."

But do the experiences demand that? Have they so far? I mentioned how upset some people are getting about always-online games. "People got used to it on World of Warcraft, people got used to it on MMOs," Gerighty said. He emphasised that the single-player story can be played all by yourself… as long as you have an internet connection. "It just becomes that much more interesting if you're connected, and the world around you is living, with other drivers and potential encounters."

I asked if they're worried that The Crew might run into the same sorts of launch-day problems that SimCity ran into -- players who bought the game unable to play due to server-side problems. "We're doing extensive testing," Gerighty said. "It scares the living bejesus out of us. When you work so hard on a game like SimCity, only for it not to work perfectly, according to plan, it's soul-crushing for the dev team. I really feel for those guys. So we're gonna do as much as possible to stop that from happening. We're gonna do beta testing, make sure that the entire system [works], but you never know." He laughed. "Don't give me nightmares now, we're just announcing it!"


Comments

    *shakes*

    uggghhh ubisoft I thourght you knew better

      Of course not. Ubisoft of the dreaded DRM. Always online means they can "remove DRM" and be the heroes, but still have their ridiculous DRM.

    how the flaming dingo can you play wow for a whole year and not talk to anyone? i don't like the idea of someone who thinks months of grinding is fun making a computer game

      That's complete BS is what it is. Some of those dungeons you NEED raiding parties, so I don't buy it, not one bit.

        100% true you need parties to complete some quests, although there absolutely nothing that says you have to do these quests. You could get to level cap alone, it wouldn't be that difficult.
        Just because it is unlikely doesn't mean it is false, although I do doubt the person in the article did that but again its not to say it can't be done.

          Jesus christ you dug up an article from a YEAR ago!?

            Haha I didn't even notice the date I was just linked here from the All You Need to Know about PS at E3 this year.

    Ubisoft: "It runs completely off the disk, but you have to be connected online all the time. Why? Because cloud is a thing. Which means we definitely should probably use it. You know, for stuff."

    If they weren't Screw U-bisoft before, this all but confirms it.

    Everyone has seen the overwhelming positive reaction to Sony denouncing online requirements for single player gaming; anyone who is dumb enough to keep pushing for it needs to understand the ramifications, that maybe people aren't going to stand for it anymore.

    i see nothing to indicate how exactly being online will enhance the single player experience, not a one thing in this entire thing of things, in fact all they say it's a living world, but if I'm playing by myself why do i need to be online to simulate that?

    a game doesn't have to be online to be persistent or changing, it only needs to be online when other players are involved.

      Your entire point hinges on the fact that:
      A. You will not play multiplayer for the majority of the time
      B. Your internet service provider has frequent blackouts or a poor connection which disables your access to the internet (for more than 50% of the day/year)
      C. You do not connect or want to connect your computer/television/console to the internet
      D. You cannot afford internet
      E. None of your friends are willing to play the game with you
      F. Patches for the game should be ignored
      G. Cloud computing is not actually the future, but offline based systems are more innovative
      H. Game developers don't learn from the mistakes of others
      I. Every game developer is like Maxis

      Okay then.

        And... there are always other games to play.

        I don't know where you're getting all that from but need i even mention the fact that it has nothing to do with what i said? and even if it did it's wrong.

        none of that changes the fact that there is no reason why the online would be forced for a single player game-mode, i can understand it for a multiplayer game or game that works with a populated world (such as WoW or any other multiplayer only title), but ubisoft have provided nothing to indicate any sort of necessity for an online requirement in single player.

        oh and if you want to know my reasons for not wanting arbitrary limitations on single player games it's because my current house is old, the only place that i can get internet is at the other end of the house and even my computer has to run off wireless, my 360 never get's more then an unstable connection wireless and I can't play anything on it that requires a connection. that's just my reason and I'm sure there are plenty of better ones out there, but it doesn't matter anyway because it doesn't change the fact that the limitation exists for no good reason.

          I guess you'll just have to down vote with your wallet then or buy some fraking phone or ethernet cable. I'm guessing there are a tonne of people that run telephone cable to put their routers in a more useful position (I do).

            yes, because it's totally a good idea to run 50 meters of cable through two living spaces a hall and a kitchen that have frail old people that have been drinking walking around regularly.

            and I won't be buying any game that forces an online connection without reason, and that's what ubisoft is doing here, or at least if they have a reason they haven't given it.

              Like I said man, you have two options. Down voting with your wallet is a completely understandable choice.

          I run wireless as well, my PC has a dodgy connection which often wavers between 3mbps-12mbps. My main point was not to flame you, but I just wanted to see whether you had a legit reason for disliking always-on, since a lot of commenters seem to hate it for no reason. Or as an excuse to hate a company. And also, I think wireless would improve once NBN is fully implemented. So yeah, I was trying to see whether your reasoning was legit (which it is). I agree that it would be pretty crappy in your situation, but I wouldn't want to play "The Crew" offline, if the gameplay they showed yesterday at E3 is real (and not like Aliens Colonial Marines).

          Last edited 12/06/13 8:12 pm

    We’re doing extensive testing,” Gerighty said.
    i reckon the devs tested simcity extensively too.

    I can't wait to have 300 ms ping or worse playing a racing game single player. That was my favourite thing about Diablo 3. Where can I sign up? If I pre-order can I get a Ubisoft branded dildo to repeatedly sodomise myself with? I sure hope so.

      Sure, but to activate the dildo you have to create a U-Play passport and buy the sadomasochist day-one DLC

        Your comment made me laugh but the truth in your statement made me weep for the future of gaming. I bet that sadomasochist DLC is on the disc to... Bastards!

      I was taught at a young age that the best thing about mistakes is the opportunity to learn from them. I guess grown-up professionals are too stupid to learn from the mistakes of others.

      Remember the time Need For Speed made multiplayer? Y'know, NFS World? And NFS Most Wanted earlier this year? I can't wait to be driving along only to have the player next to me blink past like a schizophrenic Goku with an Instant Transmission obsession , randomly glitch past me and wipe me out for no reason! Sign me up! While we're at it, let's have everyone enjoy weekly server maintenance meaning there's time you can't play the game (god forbid anyone ever hears of the term "fallback server"). Sorry, but someone who uses the words "World Of Warcraft" that often in a sentence who is not directy associated with Blizzard is very clearly asking for trouble.

    Sounds like Test Drive Unlimited, which I enjoyed immensely before they shut down the servers. Always online eats so much dick though.

    Well I don't see the point of playing by yourself ONLINE.
    However, this tends to work well in minceraft, because of all the nubs you know...

    If they won't tell us why it has to be online, they're are hiding something, simply as that, no debate.

    I dunno, with backup from xbl servers, which have never failed me or failed to cope with congestion, Im reasonably confident that the game will work as promised day one.

    Neither Activision (battle.net) or Maxis had the sheer numbers and scope of m$ofts servers. And both are pc games which have a lot more variables than consoles... A nice test will be Diablo 3 on PS3.

    So like Wow it's always online, so when my Internet drops out or disconnected I will not be able to play the game offline because I'm fairly sure that is what happens to Wow if you're not online

      I have this on PC and it is a quite annoying. I play Diablo 3 and Guildwars 2 and any issue on thier server or my internet connection mean I cannot play.

    the problem with online gaming or always online is that it does not only depends on your internet connection but also on how the PlayStation network will be running and it varied from country to countries + some of the time when its just off line for maintenance. Personnaly my past experience with the PS network has not been the greatest to be honest.

    Last edited 12/06/13 12:03 pm

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