While in Melbourne, Australia, last week, I had time for a fleeting visited to the studios of Firemonkeys, the EA owned merging of Firemint (Real Racing, Flight Control) and Iron Monkey (Dead Space iOS).
While there I was given a quick tour of their building, where they are hard at work on Real Racing 3. Unfortunately, they were unable to show me a build of RR3, as it’s way too early in development (no one outside Firemonkeys has yet to see it it running in playable form). But, I did get to play the latest build of the new Need for Speed game, coming soon to iPhone, iPad and Android.
We played a version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted at E3 earlier this year, but since then there has been some tweaks and optimisations, plus I got hands-on on an iPad 3, whereas at E3 it was demoed on an iPhone hooked up to an HD TV.
The game looks great on iPad 3, exhibiting some seriously detailed cars. It also runs super smooth, exhibiting no slowdown whatsoever. A small but welcome change in this build is to the drifting controls. Originally assigned to a downward swipe, the Firemonkeys team decided to change it to a simple tap of the screen, which feels far more intuitive.
At E3, many sites, TouchGen included, speculated that the Need For Speed graphics engine was a tweaked version of the Real Racing one (some of the damage effects looked eerily similar). Not only did it look way better than previous NFS games on iOS, but it made perfect sense now that Firemint is part of EA. However, in talking to members of the development team, I learnt that the recently announced Real Racing 3 and the new Need for Speed share no assets whatsoever, and that each game has a completely separate team working on it.
In a way, for iOS gamers at least, this is a good thing. Real Racing 3 is very much a realistic style racer, with full multi-player racing. NFS on the other hand is a pure arcade experience, with Origin powered stats, achievements, and other social features.
I was surprised how large their office was, and the head count. For some reason – and a naive one – I expected a small team. However, both Firemint and Iron Monkey brought around 50 employees to the table each. It’s encouraging to see that mobile gaming is being taken seriously, with EA supporting it with large, talented and dedicated teams.
As expected with a gaming company, the open plan studio included a few added extras. Including a street fighter arcade area, and other consoles, plus a fully stocked bar and kitchen, a wall graffiti’d with Real Racing art, and a giant touch-screen arcade version of Flight Control.
There was one whole half of the building I wasn’t allowed in though, where some new Top Secret game/s was being developed. Another Dead Space perhaps, or maybe some other big EA franchise that is yet to make it to iOS.
While it was disappointing not to get a scoop on Real Racing 3, it was interesting to get a feel for how the company looks and works. While we do wait on more RR3 and NFS news, here is a brand new video of NFS running on iPads 3.