The foundation of the VGU team began in 1999 with the release of the original 555r Challenge by what was then called Choice Internet. An online flash based game that gave you the ability to turn race against people from all over the world while leaving little 50 character messages as you sent and received challenges. Created in the kitchen and then eventually supported in the garage of one of the staffers houses this game laid the ground work for what would become one of the most successful racing game franchises to date.
The follow up to the 555r Challenge would be Choice which was now going by CIE’s first venture into the standalone pc game world. This was new to many of the players and was a really exciting time to be on the game and part of the community.
The 1320 Challenge is known as one of the fan favorites because of it’s chat rooms which we’re kept separate from the racing area and the ability to send and receive team races without needing the other team to be online.
This game also introduced the first time that CIE was really aiming to turn a profit. With the introduction of memberships and premium only vehicles both of which required credit cards to purchase the franchise would never be the same.
Late into the existence of the 1320 Challenge the team at CIE studios held a massive tournament that was being put on by the team at Mopar. They awarded all kinds of awesome prizes to include some really nice jackets and a full set of tires for your real life ride.
What none of us at the time realized was that this was actually the beta test of what would become the next version of the racing franchise. The 1320 Challenge was eventually hit hard by cheaters and the game itself was left in ruins as the community wound up having to steal admin and mod accounts to police the game as CIE studious abandoned the community to concentrate on the next version of the game we had no idea was coming.
Out of the blue one day it was posted that the 1320 Challenge would be coming to an end and that a game that had nothing to do with the 1320 Challenge would be taking it’s place. The game was titled “Nitto Legends” and it eventually was labeled as Nitto 1320 2.0. The game was beautiful and the community aspect of the game was strengthened by the developers adding the racing area to the actual chat area which removed the going back and forth between the two areas like we had to before in the 1320 Challenge.
The game was a smashing hit and just like the 1320 Challenge before it the game lasted well beyond it’s expected life term. Unfortunately towards the end of it’s existence the game much like it’s predecessor was marred with horrible cheats that left it in safe mode with little response from the team at CIE studios. As the months went on and the community grew tired of the non response we began to reach through all of the channels trying to find a answer to what was going on. It became clear that the boat was no longer aimed at bringing life back into the Nitto Legends game but instead to again bail ship and to make a whole new game with “no attachment” to the previous racing games that CIE had made.
At it’s beta launch this new game was labeled Fueled Racing and it was not only a new game but it came with a new view of racing. Gone was the rear view racing and here now was the side view racing that really blew us away. The craziest part was that this and all versions of it would be strictly a mobile racing game and not one that would be supported on the PC. This sent shockwaves through our community and left a growing majority of the mob alienated with hard responses towards the CIE admin team.
But with amazing graphics and the ability to race here there and any where really the game was relabeled as the Racing Rivals game and the team at CIE Studios never looked back. At least that was until someone took notice at the success that the CIE brand was having and came with enough cash to purchase the gaming division of CIE Studios. GLU a company long knowing for taking over studios and running them head first into the ground after sucking the life out of them and keeping the parts they like, wanted Racing Rivals. So a ton of cash a shit load of stocks and a handshake sealed the deal. The Racing Rivals franchise was now under the control of GLU and we tagged along to keep up with not only the game but the remaining team members who carried over from CIE Studios to GLU.
One of the cool aspects from the takeover was that GLU had the money to do stuff that CIE had always dreamed of doing. In 2015 and again in 2016 I was invited to fly up to GLU’s Long Beach studios and take part in a Players Council where we have our brains picked by the staff of the studio and are asked to try new versions of the game out and to give our opinions on upcoming stuff as well as current issues with responses from the team that creates the game.
Both trips wound up bringing together some amazing people that I had a great time enjoying these life experiences that most people never get to enjoy. Unfortunately GLU’s streak of positivity took a massive hit and the company had to start liquidating studios and games to survive. One of the studios they decimated was the Long Beach studio and it’s team there. The game itself was handed off to a young startup company by the name of Carbonated and GLU got to trying to keep itself together focusing on the game it knew they could make money off of. Carbonated a wild card if there ever was one brought together some amazing names from the gaming industry and was basically the hail mary attempt at keeping Racing Rivals alive. The team at Carbonated hit the ground running and actually had a Players Summit shortly after their take over to get a sense of what the community wanted and needed and in which direction they should go.
A year later they had another Players Summit and for the third time making me the only person to have been invited to three councils/summit’s I was blessed enough to be invited to go again.
This time around was a much different experience as the team at Carbonated was way more open to sharing their daily experiences with us as opposed to the council’s where we were basically kept in a room so we didn’t interfere much with the workers. Carbonated really indulged us into their life style and it was amazing to see just how much of their day is centered around the success and planning of the upcoming massive update they have planned for the Racing Rivals game.
Where we as a group or where the game as a whole goes from here we aren’t sure but the ride has spanned more then a decade and we aren’t letting go any time soon.