It's been a long time coming, but Firemint's much anticipated Real Racing 2 is finally screaming towards the App Store for a December 16th launch.

It'll feature 30 licensed cars, 16-player online multiplayer, vehicle damage, and a host of other features that Firemint hopes will set Real Racing 2 apart from the current crop of iPhone racers.

We spoke to Firemint CEO Rob Murray about licensing, liveries, and the long and winding road leading to Real Racing 2.

How long have you been working on the game?

We have been working on Real Racing 2 for 18 months, and while I haven’t finalised the exact numbers it looks like it cost just under US$2M to develop the title.

Looking back, I didn’t really plan for it to be this big, but we didn’t want to accept the compromises that we would have to if we released a less fully featured version. The game had about 30 people working on it at once during peak development.

In what ways does Real Racing 2 promise to surpass the original?

I could go on for hours about the many ways in which Real Racing 2 surpasses Real Racing. However, while it is a better game, it is also a different game so we think that people will still find good reasons to play both.

And yes, we still have an online multiplayer version of Real Racing coming!

We have looked at every dimension of the game, what people wanted, what they liked or didn’t like about the first title and how we could move every feature up in quality.

We have real cars with unique performance and handling profiles, we have a massive new Career mode where you can earn money and reputation. We have performance upgrades for your car. We have spectacular new graphics supported by our brilliant proprietary Mint3D engine. We have an upgraded handling model with some intelligent new assists that provide players with a much better array of control options.

Then there are all the little things that add up to overall ‘polish’, like our new head-up display with mini-map or the way you can swipe and pinch zoom to view your car in any UI screen.

One of the most exciting things is the new 16-car grid. We built a Real Racing demo of 40 cars running at once on the 3GS, and although that demo was a cool way to show off the power of the new device at the time, there are a lot of practical considerations when you look to put a large number of cars into one game.

We have worked significantly on all those problems in Real Racing 2, starting with the demanding task of rendering 16 different cars at once while writing an awesome new power hungry car rendering system.

Thankfully, Apple has been making some very powerful devices that have helped us along. With 16 cars we needed to make a much smarter racing AI to overtake and to avoid collisions without losing too much speed and becoming uncompetitive.

There are so many small issues that can become big challenges when you multiply the number of racers, so we think what we have achieved is a big deal. It’s a big deal because 16 cars on-screen creates such an intense and compelling racing experience, unprecedented on iOS.

The AI is important because we have zero rubber banding or AI cheating in the game of any kind, and now we have 16 cars at once. We love the concept of ‘real’ racing, so we wanted to build an experience that was easy to pick up but actually quite challenging and tense to win.

The new career in Real Racing 2 is much more sophisticated and much larger in gameplay value than Real Racing (and we think most games). There is well over ten hours of play in the Career mode alone and that is just playing on easy. With all the different cars, money, and reputation to manage there are more interesting decisions to make along the way.

The new career includes a larger variety of event types including single ‘cup’ races, head to head events, eliminations and full championships.

Some events will require your own car, while others will ask you to race a specific vehicle. You will need to meet all the entry requirements to compete in a career event, which might include the right sort of car, sufficient money, reputation, and sometimes meeting pre-requisites on previous events.

The new graphics are awesome and the art direction is for photo realism. There are moments in this game where I will look at it sideways and swear that it is a photo or live footage.

I always felt good when I would get that feeling during development, when I would walk across the studio and do a double take when seeing someone’s screen. Obviously on closer examination you can see how it is all constructed.

There are hundreds of effects in the game, and they are applied with an elegant level of subtlety that helps you forget that they are there.

Will the game feature destructible vehicles? How does official licensing factor into this?

Real Racing 2 features some damage modelling in the game. Your front and rear bumper and your left and right mirrors can semi-detach and drag along or even be knocked off completely if you hit them hard enough. The damage does not affect your performance in any way - it's just a visual touch to increase the sense of realism and immersion.

Damage can add complications to the licensing approvals, but all our car industry partners have been really good about this: they understand that it is a game at the end of the day and, like us, they want it to be a great one. It’s about managing that partnership well, and we learned a lot from working with Volkswagen on Real Racing GTI.

Are there any options for performance tuning? What about personalisation of vehicle liveries?

You can purchase upgrades for stock cars to improve different aspects of their handling. You can also paint them any of the colors that are available to purchase on the real world car (these are licensed after all). There are some race bred cars in there as well with authentic licensed liveries.

These race bred cars are already fully upgraded for maximum racing performance so you can’t tune these ones further.

Will Real Racing 2 offer online multiplayer? If so, how many players will be supported?

Real Racing 2 supports 16 players in online races using our new hosted server system. This is a first for iOS, that’s up to 16 players racing on the same track together at once, over the Internet. We can support 200 simultaneous users per server and can add and remove servers as necessary.

It remains to be seen exactly how many servers we need to support the game, it all depends on the uptake over Christmas. It is a new system so we will be monitoring load closely upon launch in such a large scale live environment.
The exciting thing is, it also works for all users, with or without Game Center.

How do you think Firemint fans will respond to Real Racing 2?

I think our fans will be very pleased with the game. We have done everything we can to take the Real Racing experience to a whole new level and the game is more fun, more engaging, better looking and larger than ever.

We have built upon strong foundations with Real Racing, so all the way along the mantra was "don’t lose the magic". I think we have found a whole new kind of "magic" in Real Racing 2.

The enhanced controls are awesome, the graphics are spectacular and realistic, and the racing is intense and compelling.

This is the foundation of the Real Racing franchise and we hope that everything we have built on top of it in Real Racing 2 – and everything we are still planning - will keep our fans happy for some time to come.

Thanks to Rob for his time. Real Racing 2 will be available from 16th December for £5.99 / $9.99.