When even your official partner dares to make quick little jabs at your business, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to re-evaluate the way things are being done around the office.
I can’t recall the exact day the teaser trailer launched, but at some point in the not-so-distant past, Slightly Mad Studios took the covers off of an officially licensed Red Bull Air Racing game. The first hardcore simulator centered around a form of auto racing many of us don’t even posess the stomach to spectate, the team behind Project CARS have apparently been hard at work on this Free to Play aviation title. On the outset, it looks really fucking cool – rarely does a team take aim at simulating such an obscure form of racing, so this leap into the unknown is greatly appreciated. You can only take modern GT3 participants to Silverstone so many times across numerous different pieces of software before you’re bound to look for something fresh and innovative. This is it.
But a few interesting remarks, hidden within a sea of PR fluff in a preview of the game, almost serve as a warning to the overlords of Red Bull; upon arriving at the headquarters of Slightly Mad Studios, play-testers and Red Bull representatives were presented with a barren office featuring a long row of empty desks. The author does his best to downplay the obvious lack of activity – opting to play up on the “work from home” approach taken by Slightly Mad Studios – but once again references the lonely goldfish and boxes of Oculus Rift VR headsets to drill home the point that it was an awkward day of testing.
One could make the argument that it was an off-day for the Studio, and during normal business hours the suite is buzzing with activity, but a certain Free to Play project vanishing into thin air by the same development team points at a slightly more worrying problem. World of Speed, a free to play racer intended primarily for the Russian market, one which uses the assets of Project CARS, has been in limbo for nearly 18 months, if not more. The game’s official forums are loaded with posts questioning if the project has been completely killed off, and a lone thread by a user claiming to be involved with the title’s alpha testing program, has not been verified by any member of the Slightly Mad Studios team.
If they can’t finish World of Speed – a piece of software that was much further along in development – what are the chances they’ll suddenly pick up the pace and have Air Race ready for the summer?
A small Russian publisher may not care if World of Speed fails to materialize after all this time, but Red Bull is a well-known brand with an international reputation to protect. Just like World of Speed, the mysterious hype surrounding Air Race features pretty screenshots and tons of carefully constructed previews, but now, there are also a few subtle red flags that Red Bull has picked up on. The gaming section of Red Bull is more or less designed to spread the gospel of whatever comes across their radar, and instead the author draws attention to a workplace environment that feels a bit too empty – as if he’s sent out a warning to his masters to take a closer peek.
Given their inability to meet self-imposed deadlines with the mishandling of Project CARS, the lack of any meaningful progression on World of Speed, and now Red Bull writers themselves taking unexpected jabs at the studio, there’s a chance we might never see this innovative Air Racing game arrive in the hands of the public. At this point, one could make the educated guess that Slightly Mad Studios took on several side projects in an effort to help fund the development of Project CARS, and they’re now facing the reality of having to finish them to the extent required by contractual obligations.