Earlier this month, I previewed a game called Crash Time 4. It's notable for the fact that it seems to be an 'anti-Grand Theft Auto on wheels,' but also because it's being developed by German studio Synetic.
You don't know who Synetic is, do you? And I don't blame you - it has a relatively unknown presence outside of its homeland. Which is even more surprising given that it has been making PC racing games since it was established in 1996.
Crash Time 4
- or Alarm fur Cobra 11: The Syndicate
- is a big deal for the outfit because it's based on a very popular TV show of the same name. While Synetic has been developing Cobra 11
games since 2006, it is this title that the studio hopes to break out onto the international stage.
And as I speak to managing director Andreas Leicht, I learn that the road to reach this goal is incredibly difficult. Read on for more about the pressures of small-studio budgets and the hurdles for communication in the European games industry.
SPOnG: This game's based on a popular cop show, right? Alarm fur Cobra 11 - for those of us who are unfamiliar with the show, can you explain what it's all about, and its impact in Germany and around the world?
Sure. Alarm fur Cobra 11
goes by some other names in different countries, but essentially it's a criminal case programme starring two main characters ? Ben and Semir ? who are cops solving these crimes. Each show is introduced by chasing sequences or spectacular crashes. That's the main focus we've taken with the game. We researched the show quite a bit to make it authentic, but it was a very big task. There's something like 217 episodes over 15 seasons.
SPOnG: It's been going for quite a while, then.
Yeah ? and we watched them all (laughs)! We took some elements from the show to focus on specifically for this game. For us, it was about the idea of two people solving cases and action chases. Obviously when you think of the genre to use, it doesn't make sense to have a role-playing game or something like that. It should be a racing game, so we decided to focus on that and allow players to solve cases right from the car.
SPOnG: Was there a heavy pressure to make the game as faithful to the TV show as possible?
Well... a little bit. We are limited to solving everything with cars, for example, but we try and throw in some of our own ideas and also try to get the history of the TV show in the game. Especially the humour, as the show itself wasn't always serious. There are some funny parts as well that we wanted to replicate, such as being able to make donuts in the car and using a golf cart as a joke vehicle. The golf cart actually happened in the TV series as well.
SPOnG: Action Concept produces the TV show and does a lot of those cool looking stunts as well. Did it have an active involvement in this game's development?
Yeah! When we started five years ago, we went to visit the studio to see how they made the TV series, and also meet with the actors and shake some hands. They have been great people to work with, communicating with us as to how we can best represent some elements and what we can add ourselves to the game... having said that, there are some aspects of the game that come pretty close to the show anyway, even matching some stuff in the new series.
SPOnG: Could the game actually end up influencing the new series?
Maybe, I don't know. I haven't been able to talk to the managing director of Action Concept yet to see if he likes the game. But in one of the TV episodes, there's a scene where both Ben and Semir are playing the game. Taking it into the episode, we found that pretty funny! But, the basic ideas between the game and the show are the same anyway, so I don't know if we could influence them or anything.
SPOnG: You play the entirety of this game in a car, with everything else filled in with cutscenes. Why did you decide to go in this direction, rather than allow Ben and Semir to explore the game world on foot?
At the very least, it's because of time limitations. We have roughly eight months of development time to work on this, but even so we have managed to add multiplayer to this iteration. It is a big challenge for such a small team to add all kinds of things like character animation and various systems in the time we had. The budget has been small too, so it has been a financial problem as well.
As a result, driving around all the time may make the city feel empty. I don't know if you can call if 'boring' on your side of the fence, but I think it will help a lot if there are passengers in the game or cutscenes with character animation. We are always thinking of ways to improve, and we want to continue our relationship with dtp about such projects, so maybe it's one for the next title. For this game though, there's honestly been no time to implement it.