My name is Chris Wynn, I am filling in for Mike DeVault this week who is taking a short vacation. I am one of the Development Directors (DD) on NASCAR ’09. The DD’s are responsible for the planning and execution on the game design, we are also the first stop to ensure that what we are building is high quality. For ’09 I focused on our connected features for the most part, which include Own the Track, Online racing, and the new Paint Booth application.
I want to focus this particular blog on the Paint Booth, as I know that there has been some issues over the past couple of weeks. I’ll get to those in just a second, first I wanted to walk through the feature’s creation.
How it Came About
This whole feature really started in two separate directions that converged into one feature. First and foremost, we wanted to beef up the in game painting system over what we offered in NASCAR ’08. So, we started off by looking into ways to make that experience a lot cooler and more fun by adding in more layers and options. A good old fashioned user interface rework helped a whole lot too. Then from the other side, we were all really impressed with what the Tiger Woods team was able to do with Photoface, so we asked ourselves what we could do like that. On top of all of that, there are a few of us with PC gaming backgrounds who were very used to creating your own paint schemes and adding new cars. When we took all of that together, it just seemed natural to offer users the ability to paint their own car skin, with almost no imposed limits, and then get it into the game, the only thing we lacked was a knowledge base. To get that, we were then able to partner with the EA Sports World team to give us access to the game via the web, by using a very similar process to what Tiger Woods used. The only remaining thing to do was to find someone with the applicable skill set to work on the web side widget that we use as a means of packaging and transferring the data.
After we had the idea, it was one of the more exciting features to see going into the game. The entire team really got into creating their own personal skins to play the game with. Also, I believe that this is the most innovative feature that we put into the game this year, and am really glad to see that everyone is really enjoying it.
Transferring Custom Skins in Online Games
I have definitely noticed that besides the technical issues that we have been experiencing, the number one thing being talked about is not being able to see everyone’s custom skins in an online game. There were a lot of reasons that went into this, and a lot of discussions during development as to the best way to handle this. In fact, early on, it was cut as a feature all together, but then we brought the idea back in this limited form as we believed that it was better to have it limited to your friend’s list, then to not have it at all.
The nature of licensing requires us to protect the interests of those companies that we are licensing. One unique aspect of the NASCAR license is that we still have to go out and license each individual driver and team. We are obliged to do everything we can to protect the property of those that we are licensing, and as such, we did not want to get into an area where people could openly see potentially offensive, derogatory, or defaming content while playing the game.
I know it is not a decision that a lot of people would be happy about, but again, we thought it best to at least allow you to see your friend’s custom skins, than to not allow it all. By limiting it to that, all interested parties were happy, and we could get on with the actual work to support it. In the future, we will always be looking into how we can serve the needs of the community who matter most, and at the same time protecting the property of those that we license. I hope that we can continue to make this a cool feature that everyone enjoys playing.
First and foremost, I want to apologize to everyone that has had some issues of some type in using the Paint Booth application. We can only do so much to stress test the systems before launch, and while we were very confident that it was solid, we did put measures into place to deal with problems that would arise. I also want to thank those community members who are offering assistance in any way to others that are experiencing problems. I think a strong community for a title is really important, and I love to see it when people are getting together and helping each other out.
In reading the forum posts, we were noticing that most people were having problems with linking personas on the game platform, to their website login. The upload would fail, and then not give the user a very helpful error message to help them to fix the problem. We were seeing about 30% of the total uploads fail, and of those, half were due to persona issues. The other most common problem was in the format of the file for people uploading their photo to use in the game.
We recently deployed a new version of the app along with some supporting server code to hopefully help with the persona issue. It now asks you to pick which game platform persona that you want to send the skin too. I saw updated stats today that we are only experiencing about a 9% failure rate. We will continue to diagnose these problems and apply fixes where necessary. Please continue to post if you are having issues, and be as descriptive as you can be.
Unfortunately, the photos get a little more tricky. The game code requires the image to be saved as a 72dpi image. We looked into several ways to get around that, but cannot due to the technologies that are in place. So, please make sure that you are using photos that are formatted to 72dpi. Check out the resizing function in your favorite photo editing software to see if there is an option to change the dpi if it is not 72dpi.
If you gave up on it because you could not get it to work, please come back and give it another try.
Thanks everyone, I hope this at least adds some context into what you are playing, and despite a few issues, I do hope that you are enjoying the game. Keep the comments coming, we do read what is being written about everything.
Last thing, we have seen the reports of some problems surrounding the performance points and how they can be exploited. We are investigating the reported problems, and are examining the feasibility to fix those issues. We should have more info on that at a later date.