This is quite a lengthy partnership with the sport, will it be carrying on long into the future?
Yes, I think our license is for another couple of years. Three years, or something like that, so the game itself has a lot of content ready to start processing. We’ve got lots of supplements to add in the next few months, which will come in the form of updates and patches, and then we’re going to be progressively doing, similar to MMO expansions. Every couple of months, we’re going to be adding new custom stuff, licensed stuff, add the new rule sets in as they develop. F1 has a tendency to change through the season, so we’ve got the adaptability to do that as well, and being an online game we can develop and update on the fly. We can develop it, test and push it out quite dynamically.
Then with F1 2012 assets, when we’ve got those, which should happen very soon, we can start pumping those out as well. So there’s new cars, new circuits, and we can do a few teasers with those beforehand. We’re working quite closely with the guys up in Birmingham, and it’s a pretty good relationship.
It’s nice getting on well with the rest of your company!
It’s a joy! I actually get on really well with Steve and those guys, and they’re, uh… characters!
On the overall Codemasters side of things, you’ve got RaceNet?
We’ve got RaceNet as well, and that’s working off some of our Online Studio systems as well. We run the platform, so the key elements to all the account systems and so on, that’s birthed from us. So it’s all our experience from MMOs and then we have services coming off those.
Then the RaceNet guys are another studio here, who’ve developed this to tie in with DiRT stuff, and then going to be tying in with all our stuff as well.
So in DiRT Showdown you might start to see stats including the data from F1 Online?
Very possibly. You might see leaderboards, and we’ve got a full range of liveries we can add across.
Persistent friends across these games?
Yes, we’ll have friend systems up and running by then, I think. We’ve got all the social stuff like Facebook and Twitter feeds that will all be coming in at some point. We’ve got Facebook Connect right now, so you can actually log in with your Facebook account. So we’ve got a lot of links and feeds all over the place right now. It’s a bit crazy, but it’s all hosted by our platform team. They’ve got a lot of work on, and they’re just beavering away all the time. Those guys have been working their arses off.
So, with the roll out of F1 online, you’ve got a closed beta… is that already going?
Closed beta is happening at the moment. We’ve started inviting our first batch of public people in, with more invites going out this week. Then we’ll be scaling that up over the coming weeks as well, so we’re going to be getting a lot of people in. We’re scaling up, and then we’re going to be getting mass load testing, and we’re just working to see that our servers are built up and that when we go to open beta, come mid-June, we’ve got the resilience there.
Fortunately we do have a lot of experience in this kind of thing, so it should be smooth, but… don’t quote me on that!
When is your own personal D-Day with this? The final launch?
We’re going open beta in June, so I would say that’s when everyone can come in and play. It’ll stay in that beta phase until we’re happy with it, and we can have an official launch, but open beta is essentially our live date. We start monetization, start rolling out new content at that point, so that’s when we’ll have people coming in and playing.
Student vs. Working Man.
With regards to monetization, you’ve got micro-transactions to support the game?
Yeah, so we use our shop system to monetize through liveries and customisation for the look of the car. We have time reducers, too…
I think I spotted things like temporary XP boosts, and the ability to “hurry” the construction in there too.
I use the example or a student versus a working man, which is pretty good. Students have a lot of time on their hands where they should be studying, but they’re not and are playing games instead. They can spend all day playing and not spend a penny, because they’ve got time to do it.
Whereas, you’ve got the working man, who comes home and he’s got his kids and family, and only gets an hour or two gaming, if he’s lucky, but he doesn’t want to wait for, like, 12 hours for a building to develop. So, what he does is he pays a couple quid, knocks out those hours, and he can get on and start playing the game the way he wants to. He’s got a bit of cash, so it’s the kind of iTunes thing, and in comparison you don’t mind spending a couple quid to get something like that.
That’s how we explain it, and it’s worked for Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online. We’re fortunate in that we’ve had four games with micro transactions. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it would work, so we’ve got a lot of experience there. All of it, you can get through just playing the game, without spending a penny, and we expect people to do that, but there will be some that will want to pay.
So that’s how we’re going to monetize, and we’re going to be spreading the game through F1, other sites and our partners. We should get some good feedback from the player base as well, so I’m looking forward to it and scared at the same time, mainly from the amount of people that potentially get into the game!
Yeah, it’ll get a lot of attention through the international market as well.
Well we’ll hit all of Europe, and the US is on the cards too, then obviously we’ve got Asia as well. So we’ve got lots of different avenues to go to. There’s a very, very big market out there and a lot of F1 fans, so hopefully we can keep them all happy.
I’m sure we’ll hear about it on the forums otherwise! So far so good, though, the beta testers have given us some really good feedback.
It feels like you’ve got a nice mix of just fun, and then the slower management side has depth too.
It’s got a bit of both worlds, and we’re really happy with where the game is now. It’s doing what we want it to do, and people like playing it. Doing things like this event is great, because we get to see people playing, and not wanting to stop playing, and that’s a really good and positive thing to see.
So long as more people play it, I’m happy. Job done.
Thanks to Codemasters for inviting us to preview their new game, and obviously Mike Rowland for sitting down for this chat with me. I bet I’ll see you all in the beta!