Sports

‘Miami has culture in spades.’ How Miami-Dade inspired the latest Need for Speed game

A 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28 parked at the “Need For Speed: Heat” Global Launch Event at the Generator Miami in Miami Beach Tuesday, November 5, 2019. “Need For Speed: Heat” hits shelves Friday, November 8, 2019.
A 1969 Chevy Camaro Z28 parked at the “Need For Speed: Heat” Global Launch Event at the Generator Miami in Miami Beach Tuesday, November 5, 2019. “Need For Speed: Heat” hits shelves Friday, November 8, 2019. Miami Herald

Play “Need for Speed: Heat” for more than a few seconds and the 305’s influence is clear.

From the waterfront scenes to the architecture to even the volatile weather, the setting of “NFS’s” latest video-racing edition screams Miami-Dade County. The Magic City’s global appeal made it an easy choice to serve as the inspiration for “NFS Heat’s” fictional location of Palm City, said lead game designer Yoni Rabinowitz.

“Miami has culture in spades,” Rabinowitz of Ghost Games said Tuesday night at the game’s launch party at Generator Miami. The game’s official release is Friday.

“It’s got a very rich and diverse scene,” Ghost Games vehicle director Bryn Alban added.

That diversity plays out in a myriad of ways. The game’s cast of characters are more diverse than ever. The game’s vehicles reflect Miami’s unique car scene. And of course, there’s the terrain itself.

“We always look for contrast, really stark visuals and variety of scenery,” Rabinowitz said. “We want oceans, we want lush green, we want hills — we want all those things that make a great Need for Speed world.”

Gamers, however, aren’t limited to Palm City — hence the reference to hills. Rabinowitz says the outskirts of Palm City are meant to resemble the southeast United States. Still, Miami’s urban culture became the driving force behind some of the game’s most distinctive features.

“The street art, obviously the buildings, the architecture — it’s kind of key to capturing the right feel and dynamic of the city,” Alban said.

Take Wynwood, for example.

In the game’s early developmental stages, a team of designers flew to Miami for what Rabinowitz calls a “reference trip” to scout locations, meet with people knowledgeable about the car scene and figure out how to translate the city’s aesthetic into a virtual world. One of their biggest takeaways? Street art.

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Screenshot EA

“A lot of real-world murals are in the game,” Rabinowitz said.

Developers tapped Miami-based artists for in-game murals. But the art isn’t there just for accuracy purposes.

“They were so inspired by [Wynwood] that they actually turned the street art into a mini feature in the game,” Alban said.

That feature allows players to collect the street art they find while driving around and use it to customize their vehicles.

While Palm City might not be an exact replica of Miami or Miami Beach, it’s definitely a place with the juice. Just like the city it mimics.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.
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