Jay Panek is the producer of Midnight Club 3 Dub Edition. Having spent seven years at the centre of the 'creative maelstrom' at Rockstar San Diego, he has seen the series go from an unheralded PS2 launch title to become one of the biggest names in arcade racing.
We managed to drag him away from his position at the eye of the San Diego software storm to answer a few questions. Although the nimble scamp managed to scarper before we asked how it felt putting MC3 out when NFS Underground 2 has just spent 10 weeks at number one in the UK.
He must have left the cooker on or something...
Why was Midnight Club 3 delayed and what improvements has the extra development time allowed you to implement?
The game was pushed back simply because we needed more time to create the racing experience we have always dreamed of.
With every game in the Midnight Club series, we've always had more ideas than time but Midnight Club 3 will be the closest realisation of a perfect street racing title thanks to the few extra months we've been given. The game has a depth that will blow people away.
Can you give us some examples of these improvements and additions?
Listing everything would read like a novel, so I'll hit some of the bigger points. Midnight Club 3 is the only game that gives players truly open city racing. Other games that make this promise have track after track with walls and giant flashing arrows telling you where you have to turn in every race.
But Midnight Club 3 gives players the freedom to take any back street, alleyway or jump to find a faster way through a race. The more attention you pay to your surroundings while you're racing, the better you'll know the cities, and the faster your finish times will be.
We have also improved every aspect of vehicle and city design in Midnight Club 3 to give players an arsenal of abilities to use in competitions. There are burnouts, the ability to drive on two wheels or control the angle of your vehicle while in the air for an optimal landing.
Also, nitro blasts, Slipstream Turbo, hydraulics, special on-the-fly in-game cameras to check out your ride in action, and three totally new unique racing abilities that are specific to the vehicle class being driven.
These new abilities are unlike anything ever seen in a racing game and create a totally new driving experience. We'll be revealing more about these soon.
Lastly, unlike the rest of today's 'street racing' crop, we haven't limited car selection solely to import tuners. The scene is much more diverse than that.
There's still plenty of tuners to choose from but there's also SUVs, muscle cars, luxury sedans, concept cars, choppers and others to take on the road - all featuring a plethora of real-world modification parts to choose from.
When you compile all the vehicles and customisation options, the amount of totally unique vehicles that can be created in near infinite.
Why have you placed such an emphasis on the modding aspect of the game - isn't this detracting from the game's essential focus of arcade-style street racing?
Our focus remains on the racing. At the end of the day, it is the addictiveness of the action that will keep people playing. The modification aspect of the game doesn't detract from this all, it enhances it.
Modification is a huge part of the street-racing scene and we felt we had to incorporate this into our game to stay true to the culture.
And, let's be honest, if you are going to rip through the streets of Detroit at 300 kilometres per hour, it's a lot more fun to do it with a supercharged engine and 22 inch gold rims that you decided to install. Modification just adds to the fun and freedom of the game.
Can you tell us more about the PSP version of the game?
As you know, Rockstar Leeds is developing the game in conjunction with our team here at Rockstar San Diego and it couldn't be in better hands.
I'm amazed at what Sony's portable can do. Midnight Club 3 Dub Edition looks and plays fantastic on their handheld. Seeing open city racing on a handheld system is mind-blowing.
Midnight Club 3 Dub Edition will burnout on to PS2 and Xbox on 15 April and PSP later in the year