Features Was Project CARS 2 announced too soon?

Features

Martin Bigg

Writer

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Six weeks. That’s how long it’s been since the triumphant release of Project CARS, yet as I sat applying the finishing touches to the final Project CARS TeamVVV review currently in progress, the announcement of Project CARS 2 raced to the top of my inbox. Slightly Mad Studios may have just jump started their own race here.

Understandably, players who have shelled out their hard-earned cash and sunk many hours into Project CARS are a bit miffed, causing Slightly Mad to post a hasty Tweet assuring players that the original game will not be abandoned: “Project CARS will continue to see massive updates, features, and content throughout 2015 & beyond. Project CARS 2 will happen simultaneously,” it read.

Several new features have been proposed, but it’s the prospect of new disciplines such as Rallycross and Touge that are particularly promising. This of course puts Project CARS 2 directly in-line with DiRT and Grid, and it didn’t take long for the news to attract the attention of Codemasters, who retaliated with a playful tongue-in-cheek Twitter exchange:

Now, now, children.

Adding loose surface such as dirt and snow will require modifications to the physics, so it’s understandable that these features have been shelved for the sequel – Slightly Mad Studios even admitted they originally wanted to include Rally in the first game in our in-depth developer interview, but decided to focus on tarmac racing at the request of the community.

Project CARS has barely crossed the line after many years of anticipation and is still plagued with unresolved issues, so it’s not surprising to find players haven’t taken too kindly to being asked for further funding to make a sequel. While resources will be divided so that some of the team will still be dedicated to working on the original (Slightly Mad’s studio head Ian Bell confirmed that 40 staff have been allocated for this job), publically announcing Project CARS 2 now is sending out entirely the wrong message.

Indeed, the early announcement of Project CARS 2 has potential ramifications for the original game and its existing fanbase. Promising over 200 cars for Project CARS 2 leaves a particularly sour taste: Project CARS’ limited car selection is one of our main criticisms of the game, and while Slightly Mad’s have DLC planned throughout the year to help expand the content, where is the incentive if we now know the sequel will feature over twice as many cars out of the box?

Looking at the bigger picture, the fact is conventional game development takes several years, so it’s not uncommon for developers to start work on a sequel long before the first game arrives on store shelves – the difference is most developers wisely wait several months, or even years before announcing a sequel at the risk of compromising the original game’s traction.

In the case of Project CARS, however, the development isn’t so conventional. Project CARS’ open development plan means that Slightly Mad need to secure crowdfunding as soon as possible in order to stay self-published and commence the development of Project CARS 2. Project CARS 2 may have already announced with projected features, but the reality is the final release is most likely several years away yet. Chances are, if Slightly Mad were backed by a traditional publisher Project CARS 2 would never have entered our conscious at this point.

Then again, it’s surprising to find Slightly Mad even need to start crowdfunding again – you would think that the staggering success of Project CARS would have generated enough profit to fund a sequel.

We knew the mass success of Project CARS meant a sequel was inevitable (face it, it’s how the media industry generally works), but Slightly Mad probably should have kept discussions about Project CARS 2 internal for at least a few more months, or restricted information about the sequel’s features to the private WMD forum initially to avoid what is fast becoming a PR disaster – caustic comments from angered fans over on the official Project CARS forum and social media channels are rapidly mounting.

As we pick up the pieces from the wreckage, there’s a bitter irony seeing a developer who pride themselves on being self-published and therefore free of publisher pressures to meet sales targets come under such heavy fire with accusations of corporate greed.

Do you think Project CARS 2 was announced too soon? Has it affected your perception of the original game? Let us know in the comments below.

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