The revamped NASCAR video game franchise is set to launch in just a few short months. New information about the game should be right around the corner and I, for one, can not be more excited. Motorsport Games and 704 have promised a more immersive experience than ever before. For some, that might be hard to believe after the last few years have left a bad taste in our mouths. There is a list of features that could be added to make the game better for players. Each person has their own wants for the new game. With that in mind, here are a few features that I would like to see in the newest installment. These features range across all aspects of the game and will be realistic, as Motorsport Games can not do everything in a year or two.
This first one is more of a marketing wish and will most likely be clarified soon. However, fans still are not fully sure about what to even call the new game. Motorsport Games announced the "Heat" name will be dropped, but will the game take on a yearly number as most sports games do. Previously, information was leaked saying the title could be "NASCAR NXT". This is potential, but there has been no confirmation. Personally, I would prefer the game take on a yearly title such as "NASCAR '21". Having clarity about the title would at least give fans a base to work with when talking about the game.
Like the first feature, this is more of a marketability feature. However, Motorsport Games and NASCAR should use their cover star to showcase who the fans like. Eutechnyx had this right by having fan votes for driver covers. Whether the cover showcases a fan vote winner or not, the cover athlete should be someone who is a great marketable driver for NASCAR and has accomplished things for the sport. Some drivers such as Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski have never been on the cover of a game. Other notable drivers to put on the cover are young stars like Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, or Kyle Larson. The cover athlete should not be a money grab as it has been in years past. Instead, it should be a way of showing fans of the game who the key players in the sport are.
-Improved Graphics and Physics
Before I get into the fun new features, I have to mention this. With a new installment into any franchise, players look for better graphics and physics. The new game engine is a bright light shown upon the game. 704 has done well with this in the past as NASCAR Heat 4 clearly had better graphics and physics than its predecessors. If they can continue that trend each year, then they will continue to have no complaints from me.
-Paint Booth/Community Creations
This is one of the most asked for features from the community. Admittedly, this is not at the top of my wishlist as I would rather them spend more time making the internals of the game better. However, more customization is not a bad thing. Furthermore, the ability to share those creations would be an amazing addition. Almost every major sports game has some form of community creations. This would be a fun way for players to customize their own paint schemes and even be able to download other schemes and run them. The custom cars in the "Heat" franchise were horribly mistreated and need a serious overhaul in the revamp.
-Updated Career Mode
I could go on for days about things that I would love to see added into the Career Mode in NASCAR games. Unfortunately, I don't have that much time so I'll try to sum it up. A career mode of any sports game is supposed to fully immerse the player into what it would be like to start a career in that sport. For NASCAR, that immersion has fallen a bit short lately. For starters, the dirt series should be taken out. While a lot of NASCAR drivers have a dirt background, the Xtreme Dirt Tour does not exist in reality. Personally, I would hold still with the three National touring series of NASCAR, but if a fourth were to be added I would add in the Arca Series. It is a clear stepping stone into the top three series of the sport. Furthermore, I would like to see exhibition events happen. NASCAR has an All-Star Race, a Clash, and Duels at Daytona. These are races players would love to participate in. Even the Xfinity Series "Dash 4 Cash" or the "Triple Truck Challenge" would be a great way to get players to experience all the details. Finally, and most importantly, some form of career progression needs to be added into Career Mode. This has been difficult to add since real-life sponsors have not been too keen on seeing their cars driven by other drivers even in a virtual world. But to keep fans interested, it is a necessary addition. Fans of any sport understand that players change teams. Other players retire or get injured. The movement is a key aspect of a NASCAR season. It feels unrealistic for a player to play through 20 seasons of NASCAR Heat and all of the drivers are in the exact same spots they were when they started. Adding in career progression for players and AI is important. This also opens the door for multi-year player contracts, trophy rooms, and multi-car owner mode.
-Multiplayer Driver Ratings
Some players do not even play career mode. Instead, they spend all their time online. The world of online NASCAR can often not be fun for the casual player. What if a system was implemented to stop that? Online driver ratings would give a driver a rating that could change for better or worse over time. There are multiple criteria that would go into this rating such as clean racing, lap times, and online wins. In addition, the NASCAR multiplayer interface would be separated into three sections: Casual, Competitive, and Private. Casual lobbies would turn off driver ratings, allowing anyone to join a lobby. Competitive lobbies would allow lobby hosts to set a specific driver rating range for which people can join. If your driver rating is not within that range, you would not be able to join that competitive lobby. Lastly, private lobbies would be for those online who want to play with friends or leagues.
Online racing leagues have always been a thing in the gaming community of NASCAR. However, they have seen a spike in popularity. Leagues are where a group of friends, or strangers, can get together and race with each other and prove who has what it takes to be a champion. Many leagues use different point formats, schedules, and rules. I believe that leagues have become popular enough for the game to provide some form of support for them. Project Cars has a system where one can schedule races and even work out the settings for them. This would make life a lot easier for league managers as they go throughout the season. Moreover, Project Cars will even keep points for leagues. Motorsport Games might not be able to accommodate every point format under the sun, but they can set up a custom schedule builder and use different playoff lengths. They have proven this with championship mode in NASCAR Heat 5. Something like this would make leagues run more smoothly.
-Communication with Community
Overall, I would like to see Motorsport Games keep in touch with their full community. They have an entire internet full of great ideas and advice. Sure some commenters take things too far and others throw out ideas that aren't even fathomable. Most of the community, however, would like to see the games thrive. We play the games because we enjoy racing. Motorsport Games has been fairly open thus far. I hope they can continue to have open ears and open mouths with the entirety of the community.
I could go on for hours giving out ideas for future NASCAR games. I do not believe that all of the ideas I have listed will be added to the next game, but I do believe that Motorsport Games has the ability to add these into the next game. Only time will tell what the next installment will have in store for us.