Born out of a merger between two of Australia's largest developers – Firemint and IronMonkey Studios, there was much speculation as to what the first game of the newly-formed studio Firemonkeys would be.
Firemint was the studio behind such original hits such as Flight Control and Spy Mouse, and IronMonkey Studios was responsible for iOS versions of EA franchises such as The Sims, Dead Space, and Need for Speed.
Under the new Firmonkeys brand, the developers will be working on the third title in Firemint's Real Racing series: Real Racing 3.
Gameplanet Australia recently spoke to Chris Nicoll, Development Manager on the Real Racing series, about how the Firemonkeys merger has gone, as well as what we can expect with the Real Racing 3.
Gameplanet: How have things changed since the Firemint - Iron Monkey merger?
Chris Nicoll: We have a larger office now! Beyond working space it’s really very similar to how we operated as independent studios; our cultures are a natural fit and we have the advantage now of sharing knowledge across a very talented studio.
Gameplanet: What kind of benefits and resources are available to you now as an EA publisher-owned studio?
Nicoll: EA’s business muscle is immense, and when it flexes the entire world takes notice. The recent Summer Showcase where Firemint’s founder, Rob Murray, revealed Real Racing 3 is arguably the most successful announcement we’ve ever made; an event on this scale was previously impossible as Firemint. EA’s backing also allows us to focus less on administrative issues and concentrate instead on what we do best, which is making great games. The perfect example is the utilisation of existing licensor relationships to deliver all-new licensed cars and tracks in Real Racing 3.
Gameplanet: How long has Real Racing 3 been in development for?
Nicoll: We’ve been thinking about Real Racing 3 since the launch of 2, but practically have had our heads down in development for 10 months now.
Gameplanet: Is it the same team from Firemint working on Real Racing 3, or is it a combined effort with Iron Monkey staff working on it as well?
Nicoll: We’re one united team at Firemonkeys now, which naturally means that we’re sharing talent across the studio. Teams for the most part have remained intact, however, because it makes sense to retain the expertise within established projects. What I can tell you is that the leadership team responsible for Real Racing and Real Racing 2 are again taking the lead on Real Racing 3.
Gameplanet: The Real Racing series has always pushed the limits of the mobile platforms, what additional graphical upgrades can we expect in Real Racing 3?
Nicoll: Real Racing 3 is hands down the most impressive graphical experience you’ll see on mobile, thanks to our proprietary Mint3 engine. We’ll be sharing some insight into this through a series of developer diaries as we continue development.
Gameplanet: Can we expect any additional modes or game types in Real Racing 3?
Nicoll: Yes, we’re adding a range of new gameplay modes into Real Racing 3 that will satisfy both ends of the racing spectrum. Keep your eyes peeled for more here.
Gameplanet: Already announced are new licensed cars from the likes of Porsche, Dodge and Audi. Will licenced vehicles from BMW, Chevrolet and Ford be returning as well?
Nicoll: More manufacturers will be announced in time. For now, I can assure you that Real Racing 3 includes an impressive lineup that I’m confident will satisfy fans.
Gameplanet: This is the first time a Real Racing game will feature real-world tracks such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What are the different challenges in recreating existing tracks as opposed to creating original ones?
Nicoll: One of the most significant obstacles in creating a fictional circuit is defining a layout and environment that feels like a genuine location to race on. This is what we struggled with in the original two releases until we established a creative process that worked for our team. Now, we’re confronted with a very different challenge; real-world circuits offer proven layouts with environments that are already defined, but boast a unique quality that’s obvious to see and feel at the venue, but unfortunately rather difficult to define in practice – the ambience. This is the primary challenge of real-world tracks, and re-creating this ambience is a goal that we’re spending considerable time to get right in Real Racing 3.
Gameplanet: How much inspiration does Real Racing take from other similar racing franchises on the home consoles?
Nicoll: We all love racing here, so naturally we play and refer to the console heavyweights regularly for inspiration. The Real Racing series is unique in the mix, however, because it involves a market that is the polar opposite of console; time poor gamers, who are often on the move and demand the ability to play in short bursts. Now this might be somewhat of a generalisation, but the makeup of the mobile market and expectations of gamers definitely play a huge part in the creative direction of the game.
Gameplanet: How much input does the team take from fans of the series?
Nicoll: A lot. We’re regularly involved in discussions with players on our own forums and frequently scrape feedback from around the web to ascertain what it is that our players are responding positively to and what may have missed the mark. We recently conducted a survey in Real Racing 2 to learn more from our players and had an overwhelming response, so a big thanks to everyone that took part, your comments have helped to shape the direction of Real Racing. If you have any feedback, get involved in the Real Racing community - we’d love to hear from you!
Gameplanet: Both Firemint and Iron Monkey were always supportive of the local development industry, will this continue with Firemonkeys?
Nicoll: We’ve been staunch supporters of the local development scene in the past, and this will absolutely continue. We recently began reaching out to local educational institutions to see how we can get involved, and we’re always on the lookout for great local talent.