Exclusive Interview with Racing Master Project Lead, Zhang Bo

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NetEase upcoming game Racing Master will be arriving soon in the SouthEast Asia region including the Philippines. It is a real-time online racing game featuring different real-world tracks and hyper cars that can be played in mobile devices for both Android and iOS. As the game is about to launched soon and its beta testing already started. We at GamingPH got a chance to interview the Project Lead of the game, Mr. Zhang Bo, to talk about the game and some insight experience about him as Project Lead for our future game developers.

Given the chance, we also asked if they have planned to add any racing tracks that are based in Philippine cities or region.

GamingPH: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Zhang: I’m a hardcore racing gamer. I even originally wanted to become a professional racer, and now I’m the producer of Racing Master. I play all kinds of racing games, and I love cars and motorsports. I’ve actually driven on some famous tracks, such as the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

GamingPH: What exactly do you do at NetEase Games? What do you enjoy the most about your job at the company?

Zhang: As the producer of Racing Master, I’m responsible for making all major decisions related to every aspect of the game: from the initial design, to production, to publishing. Here at NetEase, a producer is usually also the head of a team of game designers.

I really enjoy discussing ideas with the design team, iterating designs and working toward perfection.

Like how we debugged and adjusted each car over and over again until everyone agreed that it felt just right. It’s a wonderful feeling to see everything come together.

GamingPH: You have been working at NetEase for 7 years, where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

Zhang: I joined NetEase through the college recruitment program. As a designer, I first worked on the PC MMO Westward Journey Online II and then the mobile MOBA game Onmyoji Arena. Gradually, I’ve grown into an experienced game designer.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve played so many racing games that I ended up designing Mouba for Onmyoji Arena, a hero with racing at the core of her design. Players loved her, universally agreeing that her racing elements in how she played made her super fun to play.

Later, my boss came up to me and asked if I wanted to make a real racing game.

I thought, “Why not?”, and that’s how it all began.

GamingPH: Since 2018, you were assigned as project lead for Racing Master, where did the idea come from, and what inspires the team and the company to develop Racing Master?

Zhang: First and foremost, this is a passion project. We have quite a few people in our team who are really into racing simulators, and this was something we wanted to work on from the bottom of our hearts.

We thought it’d be cool to recreate a racing simulator for mobile devices. We know there are loads of players out there who dream of playing a high-quality racing simulator like this.

This also fits our company’s plans for getting exposure to a global audience. Such a task requires a theme and genre suitable for global publishing, and racing is undoubtedly something that transcends cultural differences.

GamingPH: We saw the gameplay of Racing Master and the quality is super realistic, how the team developed such quality especially for mobile?

Zhang: Firstly, we were lucky enough to have the help of Codemasters, the veteran UK development team known for their prowess in making racing games. Their technological know-how, combined with the latest Unreal Engine 4 game engine and the EGO physics engine, opened the door to countless possibilities.

We have an extremely capable technical team and a world-class art and sound effects teams, allowing us to finally tackle the difficulties past racing games faced.

Our production team has gathered together professional designers from all aspects of the automotive industry. Before we were game designers, we were vehicle body designers, mod designers, chassis engineers, professional racing drivers, and experts from all fields.

And we all share the same dream: to make our cars as realistic and sophisticated as possible. Racing Master first obtained licenses from the world’s biggest vehicle manufacturers to use their vehicles in the game, fully utilizing their actual industrial CAD documents and blueprints to recreate each vehicle to an ultra-high degree of precision. We accurately restored every detail at a 1:1 scale—down to the buttons on each panel, every connecting rod on the chassis, and every screw on the brake discs.

In terms of sound effects, low-cost options usually include using simple electronically synthesized sounds or recording with an indoor chassis dynamometer (the latter would produce unwanted noise). This is why we spared no expense and opted to use the most advanced sound recording technology, driving real cars on real tracks to acquire pure, clean, sound effects from all directions. We’re not just talking about engine and exhaust sounds here. We faithfully restored the sounds of the turbine blow-off valve and wastegate, for example. And we even recorded actual window lifters and door latches, adding them to the game’s sound library, one at a time.

GamingPH: If somebody has not played any mobile racing game yet, would this be a good place to start for them in this kind of genre? And why?

Zhang: I think so. Perhaps in the past, gamers were somewhat prejudiced towards mobile games, believing that mobile devices could only ever offer simple, casual gaming experiences with low-quality graphics. Racing Master may just have the potential to change such a point of view and introduce gamers to an unprecedented mobile gaming experience.

If it’s a matter of getting used to the controls. We plan to implement driving assisting features to help new players get started.

GamingPH: Besides the superb visual and audio quality, was there anything gameplay-specific that the team was excited to share and let the players know about?

Zhang: We hope to recreate the feeling of driving a real car. Our production team’s vehicle engineers started with the rubber of the tires, to the suspension structures of different chassis, to engines, to gearbox transmission and beyond. We carried out the physical modeling every step of the way. Throughout this process, we read up on a plethora of professional theoretical documents from both home and abroad, treating this game as a scientific research project of sorts, and striving to present the most realistic physics system that our current equipment can achieve.

In addition to traditional racing modes, we also have plans to develop a variety of different gameplay modes, including team competitions, chases, and knockout tournaments, so that players will never be short of fresh experiences.

GamingPH: Some players might not have access to a decent mobile phone, what are the minimum specs to run Racing Master?

Zhang: This hasn’t been finalized yet. Of course, we’ll try our best to optimize any performance issues. What we can guarantee is that it is developing in a very promising direction, and more models will be made available during the next test. We will release the requirements of test devices before the next test is announced.

GamingPH: Racing Master has indeed excellent graphical performance, but we are curious how beautiful it is to run on PC at max out settings. Will NetEase release a PC version in the future?

Zhang: The PC version is still in the pre-planning phase, so we don’t have a specific time at the moment. What is certain, however, is that the PC version will have a significant visual improvement over the current version.

GamingPH: With the game coming out in Southeast Asia including the Philippines. Filipinos love to see any local references in a game. Will NetEase add racing tracks based on any cities or provinces in the Philippines?

Zhang: Of course, this is indeed possible. We hope that the tracks in Racing Master will showcase styles from all over the world, including those in Southeast Asia. Naturally, we hope that the specific cities and regions we select will each be uniquely distinct.

However, to be honest, tracks are our most time-consuming art resources. The production cycle for each track takes around half a year, and we are still planning tracks based in Southeast Asia.

Which city or region in the Philippines would you like to see represented in Racing Master’s selection of tracks? We’d love to hear your opinions.

GamingPH: Anything else you would like to add or tell our readers? Especially about Racing Master.

Zhang: We have designed a very detailed and satisfying modding system, and we hope you’ll like it.

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