Ghost Games Talk Criterion And Need For Speed’s Future

Need for Speed: Rivals is Ghost Games’ first game, a bold step by EA to ensure greater consistency within the franchise as it moves to the next generation. As part of my recent hands on time with Rivals, I got to sit down with Craig Sullivan, the Creative Director on Rivals, and talk about the game.

Our interview lasted nearly 25 minutes, in the end, as he was more than happy to talk about practically any topic. The rest of the interview will be forthcoming, but before we turned to discussing the latest NfS, I instead asked him about a kind of elephant in the room, to explain the changes that have happened to Criterion of late.

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Well, it’s one of those things where there’s a lot of rumours flying around. I don’t think it’s an elephant in the room, and I’ll just answer it really honestly, you know?

So, obviously, this time last year, I was Creative Driector at Criterion, and we were just finishing up Need for Speed: Most Wanted. We were already helping Ghost, over in Gothenburg, with Need for Speed Rivals, and then when we finished it was a case that they still needed some help, and a couple of us volunteered to go and help work on that, me being one of them.

It was obvious that with a new studio starting up on something, you want as many experienced people as possible to help work on it. So we all got involved, and that was probably in January or even December of last year. Then more and more people came onboard as we fleshed out the game design and were working on the software.

Fiona [Sperry] and Alex [Ward], who are the Studio Director and VP of Criterion, were working on bits and pieces and some new ideas, and decided that the next game they wanted to work on was not going to be a Need for Speed game. Criterion weren’t signed up to do anything, so they wanted to work with a small group of people on some new ideas.

The small group of people they were working with weren’t working on Rivals anyway, so it made sense for us to continue with Rivals and those guys to work on their other unannounced project. Then just through the natural course of events, it became obvious that we needed all of the guys here to finish the game and get to quality, and a lot of the guys wanted to work on another Need for Speed, and ship another game. So it made sense to bring them under the Ghost umbrella, and that’s pretty much what happened.

So you have a small group led by Alex and Fiona, working on Criterion’s next project, and Ghost in Gothenburg and Ghost UK working on Rivals. There’s nothing strange or weird going on, it’s just game development.

As Craig noted, it’s a topic which briefly had quite a lot of speculation as to what was going on, and this is something he will have been asked about quite a lot.

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NFSRivals-IL3

Similarly, with Criterion the former lead developer for Need for Speed, Ghost Games have taken on that mantle at the head of the franchise, but whether the series would continue to see other developers contributing games, which have been of variable quality, or if we’d even continue to see yearly updates is something I was curious to try and discover.

I think there are still decisions to be made on all of those areas. We know that we’ve kept some consistency of leadership of Need for Speed, in that I was Creative Director on Hot Pursuit and Most Wanted, and am now on this. It’s still the 65 people working about 100 feet away from us now, who worked on those two previous games and this one.

I think Marcus [Nilsson, Executive Producer at Ghost Games] went on record saying that yes, Ghost is responsible for the overall Need for Speed franchise at the moment, but that means we will have creative control of whatever is put out under the Need for Speed umbrella.

So yes, there will be lots of different people who we’ll work with, but I think that for now it’s solely with us, and we’re looking at the long term future of the franchise being creatively controlled by the leadership at Ghost and we’re thinking more consistency, having the same people involved and having the same feel to what Need for Speed means.

I think it’s done a lot of jumping around over the last five years, and you’re getting a very, very different game, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. We know that there’s a consistency to the games that I play and the ones that are successful, that I think we need to look closer at. I think it needs to be less of a lottery when you buy a Need for Speed game every year, as to what you’re going to get. We want to build out the core pillars of what Need for Speed is, and make sure they’re in every piece of software we do, regardless of whether or not it’s on a tablet, new console, old console or a phone. That’s what we mean by consistency, and that’s going to stay with Ghosts.

With such a large core from Criterion having moved over to Ghost UK, and the close relationship that they will have with Ghost Games in Gothenburg, it certainly seems that Need for Speed is going to continue down the path that Criterion set it upon. The importance of ensuring that those entries not directly developed by Ghost are not a lucky dip of quality also seems to be something quite keenly felt by the team.


We will have the rest of our interview with Craig Sullivan coming to TSA soon, and our thanks to him for taking the time to talk to us. In the meantime, we also pulled out a short story regarding the lack of a Wii U and PS Vita version of Rivals.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to NFS Rivals!
    it seems to be a good mix of most wanted and hot pursuit, and with mostly Criterion at the head of development it’s going to be a very good NFS!

    • I think it looks a bit too much like Hot Pursuit. It feels like they’re playing it safe, which turns me off. I want customization and such back, a proper new Most Wanted. Thank god for The Crew.

  2. Now that Drive Club is no longer coming this year, seems like I’ll get NFS instead. Specially since I enjoyed both last iterations :)

  3. How about NFS:You Just F*cking Race

  4. Hot pursuit and Most wanted were quality games, but I don’t know whether they could work as well as the Underground game series of sequels as consistent core pillars of NFS. Not sure, but dear god don’t do ‘The RUN 2’, they used all the polish trying to buff up the first one!!

  5. Whilst I haven’t really embraced the franchise since the early days, that was a great interview as it’s lovely to see what politics, movements and general business-shenanigans happen behind the scenes. :-)

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