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Need For Speed NITRO: Assistant Producer Q&A

Nov 18, 2009

Check out Kidzworld’s interview with Anouk Bachman, assistant producer for the brand-new game Need For Speed NITRO. Read along as Anouk dishes on everything from the racing game to girls in the gaming industry.

KW: How does Need for Speed NITRO differ from other racing games?
AB: With NITRO we wanted to go back to the pick-up-and-play fun of arcade racing, while adding this cool edge to it. The controls are simple, and you can play with either the Wii Remote alone, with the Nunchuck, the wheel, the Classic Controller, or the GameCube controller. There are a lot of racing games that are very complicated, and that can take away from the fun. NITRO is coming back to that original feeling of crazy speed and challenge. It’s just a blast!

KW: How many players can race at a time?
AB: Up to four players can play NITRO in split-screen mode at the same time. You don’t have to play with the same controllers either. I like to play with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk for instance, but my sister likes the wheel, so we can each play with our own preference.

KW: Are there different race modes to choose from? What are they?
AB: Oh yeah, there are heaps of different modes. There is the normal racing, circuit, mode, there are drag races in which you have to shift gears, there is the time-attack mode, speed traps mode, and my favorite mode: the elimination mode. I love it because when you play with a friend and you get eliminated, you can become a cop car and start bugging him or her.

KW: In terms of environment, where does the game take place?
AB: The NITRO design team did some really cool background research to find out in what cities in the world there are cool and edgy street racing scenes. We even talked and emailed with some local street racers who told us about their style and lives. From them we learned that street racing is a lifestyle and passion that unites people on a deeper level than just tuning cars and driving fast. It’s about life’s challenges, friendships, finding adventures together. In NITRO, you will be traveling from Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), to Cairo (Egypt), Madrid (Spain), Singapore, and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).

KW: How would you describe the style of the artwork featured in this game?
AB: Our art director did an amazing job with achieving this balance between reality and fantasy. The fun and arcade style of NITRO would not be honored with super realistic graphics, but the history of Need for Speed racing games would not allow for crazy colors and turtle shells either. It’s reality with a twist, I’d say.

KW: What kind of vehicles can be customized in the game?
AB: All the cars in NITRO are licensed. That means you could buy them in real life, although I thinks it’s safe to say we can only dream of owning a real Lamborghini Reventon. Well, in NITRO you can own one for yourself and customize it. Other cars that I like very much are the Volkswagen Beetle, Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Audi R8.

KW: What tools are available to personalize a vehicle?
AB: You can customize the basic colors of your car and graffiti, which shows when you are in first place in a race. From there you can change the style of your graffiti and pick your logo, which will also be “stamped” around the city you race in when you’re leading. After that you can go crazy with lots of different paint brushes and stickers, and “morph” body parts of the car. What I really like is the “mirroring” button; it makes sure that whatever you do on one side of the car will come out exactly the same on the other side.

KW: Who are some of the artists involved in the game?
AB: Oh I had so much fun with this, because I was given the freedom to find artists who fit the style of the game, which is pretty edgy and original. We ended up working with the artist collective I Am 8-Bit from LA, with Tokidoki, and with Upper Playground. I thought of Upper Playground because I used to live around the corner of their store in San Francisco and I love their wild shirts and prints. All these artists come from a strong and underground street style background, and each one of them has a very distinct personality.

KW: How did you become a game producer?
AB: It’s a looong story, but it comes down to me always playing games. I loved reading and thinking about games beyond the surface. When I was 12 years old I did a school presentation for my history class on the Vikings, and used the game The Lost Vikings to talk about Viking battles. My teacher hated it, haha. I wrote articles and school papers about games. Eventually my research on how people play games got me a job here at EA Montreal, and from there I became a producer.

KW: Did you have to take any special academic courses/programs to prepare for a career in the interactive entertainment industry?
AB: Not really. If you want to become an animator, artist or engineer there are lots of courses and programs you can pick from. It’s a different story for game production. There are so many different sides to production; it’s hard to say what you should study for it. It’s good to realize what you are good at and what you can add to a team. For me that would be my insight into gamers and how and why they play our game; things I learned to think about in philosophy, psychology and literature (really!) classes. If you want to become a game producer, it’s smart to take management or business classes, and learn something about programming or modeling, because it’s super helpful to understand what people you work with are doing.

KW: Are there lots of girls working in your field?
AB: No, we need more girls!!! Having said that, I’m seeing more and more girls discover the games industry. It’s really cool to notice that there are more female artists, engineers, modelers, and managers than there used to be. I really think now that gaming has finally become a mainstream activity for girls as well as boys, girls who are now growing up loving games will realize that they can make a career in this. Girls should not be afraid to go for it; there are so many different interesting things you can do in the games industry.

KW: Are girl gamers different than guy gamers and how much attention do you/does the industry pay to that?
AB: See, I grew up being no different than a guy gamer, playing Unreal, Quake, but also Civilization, Zelda…and now I play racing games, WoW, and still Civilization; very much like any of the guys I work with. When I was a young girl there were hardly any “pink” games available, but even if there were I would not even have glanced at them. Right now you see them everywhere, and games like My Littlest Pet Shop and the Imagine series are doing amazing.

I guess the point is that there are different girls, and there are different guys. You can’t generalize “girls” as a group and think that this group just needs to be fed pink and glitter and puppies. There are different kinds of gamers, and these groups overlap when it comes to gender. Like, there are gamers that prefer to socialize and care and build stuff in their game, there are gamers that like to shoot things, gamers that want to race….and these groups consists of girls and guys. Surely certain gaming “styles” are more popular with girls and others with guys, but that doesn’t mean that you can or should separate gamers in gender categories. It’s too rigid, too black-and-white thinking.

Not everybody agrees with me, but I would never make a game just for girls or guys. I’d go for making a game that serves a certain interest, like building, caring, fighting, or, in the case of NFS NITRO, fun arcade racing.

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