Burnout and Need for Speed developer Criterion has released six gamejam titles for free to raise money for charity.
The games are available to download on Criterion’s website alongside a message of encouragement to donate to the British Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and The Red Card.
The games are Rock Hardcore, which is described as “a roguelike Rick Dangerous”; Steak 4, a voxel-based endless runner; QuaranTea (“make bubble tea and throw it to your customers”); Purrfect Cleaning Company (“program robot vacuum cleaners to clean a house without crashing into each other.”); Daydream (“Mr Zuzu makes a run for it during nap time, but what’s waiting for him in the garden?”); and Arcadron Arena, a drone flying simulator.
Criterion boss Matt Webster told Eurogamer the Guildford-based studio has held gamejams for years and have always thought about releasing its gamejam titles, but simply assumed the powers that be at EA would block such a move, so didn’t ask. This time, however, Criterion decided to ask the question – and the answer was yes.
“When the question was asked two or three months ago, it felt like the world was changing,” Webster said. “And I think EA has been changing. EA has been changing for a long time.”
Criterion has had to be mindful of the reality of publishing a video game in releasing these gamejam games to the public. For example, there are implications for a developer releasing software that has not gone through the rigours of testing players will be used to. And you have to be sure you’re only using software you’re allowed to.
“When you’re slamming together something as rapidly as possible, you kind of beg, borrow and steal, and you craft something based upon things you haven’t actually made,” Webster explained. “If you’re finding a way to rapidly express a concept, you’re gonna take whatever you can use to do that quickly.
“Now, if you then want to go and release that, there are some realities in some cases. You might have used something you don’t actually own. We are using things we have made or are free to use in order for them to go out into the public.”
And then, Criterion had to be mindful of the content itself. QuaranTea, for example, was initially called QuaranTini and was about alcohol. But the developers realised if it had to go through the PEGI rating process, QuaranTini would be considered unsuitable for children. So the developers decided to change the name to QuaranTea, which in turn changed the game from a cocktail-making party game into a bubble tea-making party game.
Burnout fans will of course note that none of these gamejam games are an arcade racer called Burnout.
“We’ve thought about that numerous times, actually,” Webster revealed. “This one was a gamejam. Trying to build something Burnout-related is quite a challenge in 16 hours.
“But there’s a lot of ambition, and it does come up quite a bit. We’ve done a couple of 2D knockarounds with it, actually, over the years.”
Criterion is now working on the next big Need For Speed game, and Webster said the studio, which has in recent years focused on helping out EA’s other studios with their games (Need for Speed Heat, Battlefield 5’s Firestorm mode, and Star Wars Battlefront 2), is “probably bigger than we’ve been in terms of numbers for a decade”.
That bodes well for Need for Speed. But what about Burnout, I asked?
“It always makes me laugh, this,” Webster replied. “I’ve been a part of Criterion since 2004. So even when we were making Burnout games, people would ask us, when are you making a Need for Speed game? And now we’re making a Need for Speed game, when are you making a Burnout game?
“Look, we love it. We worked on the Paradise remaster. It’s a big part of this studio’s history. We think about it a lot.”