Motorsport fans have a lot to look forward to next year when The Crew 2 releases. The game, which is coming to PC and consoles (enhanced with PlayStation Pro and Xbox One X features), will be a significant step up from its predecessor—a massively multiplayer online game that focuses exclusively on land-based vehicles. In the sequel, players will have the opportunity to race across the skies and dodge obstacles in planes, then take to seas in race boats, and go on land again to do stunts in a monster truck, participate in a pro circuit race, speed through city streets or go off-roading throughout the United States.

Ahmed Boukhelifa, managing director at Ivory Tower (a Ubisoft studio)

Speaking with AListDaily, Ahmed Boukhelifa, managing director at Ivory Tower, a Ubisoft studio, said that the newest installment in the racing franchise completely reinvents the game. The gigantic open world encompasses practically all of the US and lets players compete online across sea, land and air events to prove who the fastest racers are.

“When we released The Crew three years ago, we knew that it was only the beginning,” said Boukhelifa. “We did a lot to expand the game because we had a lot that we still wanted to do. Our incredibly engaged community was asking for stuff and we knew that we had to improve the game, releasing patches and expansions to make the game bigger, more varied and interesting than ever. But at some point, even with all those evolutions, we were getting to a wall that we needed to break in order to bring a revolution. That’s what we’re doing with The Crew 2.”

Boukhelifa also went into detail about the new frontiers Ivory Tower wanted to explore, stating that the developer had to look at the world and cities from all directions using cars, planes and boats.

“We had to reinvent our world, so we needed to not be afraid to break anything—to break everything—and that’s what we did and why we made The Crew 2,” Boukhelifa explained. “It will be another good start for a very long life of updates and expansions.”

Although Ivory Tower will be happy to keep the original game going after the sequel launches, Boukhelifa said, “We’d love for all the players to come and join [The Crew 2]. That’s why we set up a loyalty program, and every month (for a total of 10 months) players will have specific objectives which will allow them to earn new cars and vehicles that will be waiting for them in The Crew 2.”

The loyalty program started in June, and players earn achievements and rewards through Ubisoft’s Uplay platform.

“Not only is it a way for players to earn cool new vehicles for The Crew 2, but it will give them objectives to rediscover everything that is in The Crew,” said Boukhelifa.

So far, fans seem excited about the sequel, even though the announcement came from out of the blue (so to speak) during Ubisoft’s pre-E3 presentation.

“When you’re creating a game, it’s all about listening to the community, but it’s also about developing your vision and taking risks,” Boukhelifa explained. “You want to give players what they want, but you also want to surprise them. Through the planes and boats, we wanted to create a surprise. We worked very hard to make sure we presented a wide scope of content at E3 and we’re super happy with the response from the community.”

Pleasing a highly engaged community is one of the top lessons learned from servicing The Crew.

“What’s been interesting is that now with online games, you’re always interacting with the community,” said Boukhelifa. “You provide a service, people are playing and you know what they’re playing and what they don’t. They vote with their feet like the British Parliament—if they don’t like it, they won’t come. If they like it, they will come and ask for more. If there are issues, you’ll hear about it on the forums or the community media. We’ve been listening, always trying to do our best to understand what the players like and how they play.

“Actually, we don’t have one type of player. We have several types of players who like to play differently. Some like to explore the world, some like to compete. Some will compete very hard while some compete more casually, and some will want to do and collect everything. We try to give them new ways to play over numerous updates in The Crew, and that was the basis from which we worked from [to make The Crew 2].”

Attendees were given an early look at The Crew 2 at E3, and Boukhelifa went into detail about how they presented the enormity of the world and the variety of vehicles at the event. He said that they started by showing a map of the US and zooming into New York City and out again. Then they did the same with Miami and other cities. That’s when audiences realized that the scope included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, St. Louis and everything in between.

“Then suddenly, what’s just a premise of the US becomes something that is too big to consider,” said Boukhelifa.

That’s when gameplay using boats, planes and cars was added to show the wide variety of vehicles featured across different events and challenges.

“You put all of that in a shaker and suddenly, the sky’s the limit,” he said.

When describing the essence of The Crew’s brand, Boukhelifa went into detail about the experience Ivory Tower strove for to engage its players.

“We want to allow everybody to live their passion for driving and motorsports—all the pleasure you have when driving a vehicle. Hearing the engine roar, feeling the asphalt below your wheels, feeling the air when you’re driving, and the exhilaration of having your plane go around buildings and down near a river. All the skills you need to develop and the pure pleasure you have when playing with those vehicles are realistic recreations.

“It’s a passion that we have for motorsports in all its varieties. When you consider street racing, it’s very different from racing on the circuit, which is different from freestyling and doing stunts with a monster truck. But at the same time, when you go for it and live this passion with these events, in these vehicles, at those places, it’s a very unique and true experience. It’s a passion that we want to make live in the game in all its forms.”

The current fan base, which includes over 12 million players, according to Boukhelifa, certainly seems to feel that passion. After converting them into The Crew 2 players, the challenge will be in getting new players. Boukhelifa believes that the fresh challenges and experiences featured in The Crew 2 will be the key to both engaging with current players and attracting new ones.

“The first step is putting out the game and showing it—getting journalists and players to play it and talk about it. The media is a huge way for us to get the word out there and it’s only the beginning. We opened the registration for our beta program, and of course, getting the game in the hands of players is another major step,” said Boukhelifa. “We’ve seen a massive response in registrations and we’re happy with that. We intend to keep engaging with the community through the loyalty program in The Crew, through the betas that will be coming, and other opportunities in our future communications.”