So this is probably not the news you were hoping for on the day of the solar eclipse, but it certainly fits the theme of “strange shit happening” nonetheless. Originally conceived as a lighthearted, free-to-play alternative to Project CARS – appearing to use numerous assets from Slightly Mad Studios’ previous work – World of Speed fell into development hell after the release of the company’s flagship racing simulator; news outlets (aside from us) remaining totally silent on what exactly had happened to the game. Though it certainly wasn’t something that would captivate hardcore simulator fans, the free-to-play racer promised to bring a visually striking title to the homes of those in geographic regions where purchasing a fully-priced title isn’t always an economically friendly option, so there were actually a lot of people looking forward to this game. However, months upon months of radio silence on behalf of the developers frustrated those who became emotionally invested in the upcoming title title; most jumping ship in exchange for greener pastures, and in some cases reverse engineering Need for Speed World or Motor City Online for a similar experience – despite Electronic Arts taking both games offline.
Saber Interactive, a company who have recently found moderate success with both indie off-roading simulation SpinTires, as well as the alternate sports title NBA Playgrounds – a throwback to the gameplay of arcade classic NBA Jam – are listed as the developers behind this project on Steam, meaning that when World of Speed inevitably does make it into the hands of the general public, the number of eyes on the title, as well as those who give it a whirl out of curiosity, will be significantly higher than what was initially projected several years ago. Saber, along with publishing company Mad Dog, have done a great job in particular marketing NBA Playgrounds to all the correct online voices – those with hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube – so at the very least there’s a shot the initial size of the online community will actually be quite large, and in turn this means the game’s social and competitive features – elements woven into the core experience of the game – will be ripe with activity. Regardless of how neutered the handling model may be compared to traditional simulators, there will at least be an abundance of people to jump in a lobby and race with; the same cannot be said about the aforementioned hardcore sims.
And as you can probably guess by the header image, we won’t actually have to wait long for World of Speed to be more than a piece of trivia. The title recently appeared on Steam’s Early Access platform with an estimated release date of August 2017, so despite Saber running into some problems with the projected launch – which was probably intended for today – we’re going to enter a period of time where World of Speed is a legitimate product you can play, and not some obscure disappearing act akin to Grand Raid Off-Road that only a few people remember.
Obviously, any delay due to issues discovered in quality assurance testing is worrisome, but given the overall positive reception both SpinTires and NBA Playgrounds have received during their time on the market, it’s hard to imagine a situation in which Saber are unable to iron out what needs to be fixed in time for the release of World of Speed. At the same time, it also brings into question what has happened to Lauda Interactive, the company that was last said to be working on World of Speed. In October of 2016, the company – run by Niki Lauda’s son – was said to be entering the world of eSports with a multi-platform World of Speed release, though visiting the same address in present day leads to a completely blank website.
Regardless, you’ll be able to play World of Speed very soon, and with a decent group of folks behind it after years spent in development hell, there’s a chance it might not be too terrible for those in a desperate search to find a successor for Need for Speed World.