Exclusive interview: Midnight Club 3

No doubt you're already in the midst of the arcade-racing/modding experience that is Midnight Club 3, which debuted in this week's charts at number two. And no doubt you've been nodding your head along to the fine selection of choons that is included in the game.

But how did Rockstar go about choosing the music for its latest car-'em-up - and what difference can a soundtrack make to the whole gaming experience? We caught up with none other than Rockstar CEO Terry Donovan to talk music, modding and motorway mentalism...

How did you go about choosing the soundtrack for Midnight Club 3?
I didn't choose the whole soundtrack by myself, that isn't really the way we do it at Rockstar - some of the tracks I wanted to get in the game made it, while others didn't. The truth is that there are a lot of people involved in choosing songs both in Rockstar San Diego and our office in New York. We took all the input and wish-lists we got and added some structure in terms of themes and styles and number of tracks. It was crucial to get input from all areas of the development and production process - we needed a soundtrack that matched the diversity and depth of the game.

Which artists were you most pleased to be able to feature in the game?
There are so many. I love having Mannie Fresh and TI in there, they are really connected into the culture that Dub magazine represents. It is very cool that some brand new Nine Inch Nails material is in the game. At a truly personal level, there is a record in the game called Stardancer from Submerge's Red Planet label that I have always loved.

How big a difference can a soundtrack make to a game? How does Midnight Club 3's soundtrack improve the overall experience for the player?
I think soundtracks work at every level from the subliminal to the anthemic moment of glory. In Midnight Club 3 the soundtrack is crucial. Midnight Club 3 is extremely deep and draws on both the Dub culture, which is steeped in hip-hop, but also on the street racing culture, which requires the inclusion of tracks with a greater sense of urgency and energy. So we found what I feel is an incredible selection songs from a wide spectrum of genres, some fast-paced and some not, with a lot in between. The game takes at least 40 hours to complete and we felt that a deep experience on the audio side was essential.

How would you compare Midnight Club 3's soundtrack to that of games like the Burnout series or the Need for Speed Underground games?
Well, for starters, the Midnight Club 3 soundtrack is about twice as big as those games, with over 80 tracks. It is also a more diverse selection that includes a lot more than rock and hip-hop - we have dancehall and other genres as well. It seems to me that most game soundtracks are very one dimensional and full of obvious choices. Not that there is anything wrong with having hits on a soundtrack - Midnight Club 3 has some very big names, such as Queens of the Stone Age and Fat Joe - but we aim to mix it up with artists that rule their respective, smaller genres as well.

How did your approach to the Midnight Club 3 soundtrack differ to that of GTA San Andreas?
In San Andreas we were effectively designing a fictional radio dial on the West Coast in the early 1990s. Midnight Club 3 called for more of a sense of scored chases and races. So in a sense the MC3 soundtrack needs to keep you a little more hyped, with a little less room for commercials.

In the UK, modded cars are just associated with boy racing chavs whereas it's a lot more aspirational in the US. Why do you think this us?
I think it is hard to nail down modification culture, whether it is in the UK or the US. Midnight Club 3 reflects that. When we headed to Detroit, we found plenty of die-hard muscle car fans whose obsession was speed and loudness - nothing that was visually flashy at all. Contrasting this with tuner culture or Dub magazine-style trucks and lowriders, or motorcycle racing fanatics for that matter, is really interesting and is part of the reason why Midnight Club 3 is unlike any other racing game.

I think the modification or personalisation of your car is something that is now approaching a new level. The Dub style is about taking the world's fastest cars and making them better. We are definitely seeing this stuff starting to happen in the UK as well. This is where Midnight Club 3 sits, on the intersection of street racing and super high-end luxury modification and enhancement.

What sort of car have you got and what's currently in the CD player?
Lincoln Navigator. Kraftwork - Tour de France.