Interviews// Motorstorm Developers Interviewed

Had to get the permission of the Navajo

Posted 11 Dec 2006 13:00 by
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Unconventional AI
Benson outlines how Evolution?s intention when designing the AI differed from the norm, ?It?s not what you?d typically find in a racing game. We wanted to step away from processional racing around a track, so it?s player-centric, and aware of what the player is doing. It?s all about challenging the player, and being aggressive, even going so far as crashing in front of you so you?ll have to take evasive action.?

Lead designer Nigel Kershaw adds more AI specifics, ?We have a system within the game called Gags, which is a lot of small commands for the AI vehicles, so that when you get into situations, they will do something interesting. It?s all about maintaining the excitement and pace.?

Reconstructing Monument Valley
It sounds as though Evolution had a blast generating the reference footage from which it generated the game-world. Kershaw says: ?Because of the WRC games, we?ve always been used to the idea of grabbing real-world locations. With MotorStorm, we wanted to do the reference trip the same way, and we wanted it to be the point at which we started being next-gen. So we hired a helicopter crew with an HDTV camera attached and took over 15 hours? footage. We had to get the permission of the Navajo. We got the contrast between different stages by setting some high up on the rock and others down in the mud.?

Attention To Detail
While MotorStorm?s structure couldn?t be simpler, the subtlety offered by the interaction of different vehicle classes and the mazy nature of the tracks meshes with a host of impressive detail work, to generate one seriously meaty and deeply addictive gameplay experience.

One of the most crucial of these details is the nitrous boost. You have to maximise its use to prosper and, while it?s always available, it overheats at which point you explode. What sounds like a car alarm tells you when you?re going to blow, at which point you must ease off and let it cool. You find yourself saving boost for those crucial parts of tracks. Boost can also help you out if you get too sideways around corners; apply it at the right time, with your tail out, and you get a straight-line thrust that can stop you from hitting a rock. You don?t need to use the brake much, but the handbrake (circle) comes in handy for those tighter corners ? especially if you can hit the boost when you get the tail out.

The square button is a context-sensitive taunting button, which generally means that you beep when you hit it, but if you?re on a motorbike or ATV, you swing a fist, Road Rash-style, at anyone you?re driving alongside. Indeed, at times, MotorStorm?s gameplay is reminiscent of that of Road Rash, as you often crash spectacularly (and satisfyingly), and have to make up loads of lost ground, which is easier on the longer tracks.

The tracks themselves are incredible, riven with short-cuts, jumps and walkways. As games progress, they become studded with car parts, and you often find things like oil drums and wrecked cars, which you can push out of the way if you?re in a big rig. The game has 21 tickets and 65 vehicles. Race completion looks to the driver rather than the car, which brings about a particular badge of honour: if you can max out your boost so that your vehicle explodes just before the finish, you can still win via your airborne rag-doll driver.

Multiplayer
Alas, the one thing that Evolution chose to remain coy about was the multiplayer side of the game, which is a shame as the game will certainly take the PlayStation Network by storm on name alone. The developers did say that when you look around at other competitors, your driver?s head will move accordingly, so people will be able to see when rivals are eyeballing them. But we?ll have to wait until next year before MotorStorm?s online side emerges.

Overall
MotorStorm is a sufficiently good game that you can demonstrate it to a mate and instantly make them jealous that you have a PlayStation 3. It feels fresh, original, fast and exciting ? and truly next-gen. No wonder Evolution Studios currently seem as happy as any developer you will find, anywhere in the world.

And Sony should also be sighing with some relief after this slice of good news gets out into the big, wide world.
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