Interviews// The Trouble With Trials: The Urban Trial Freestyle Interview

Posted 7 Mar 2013 15:55 by
Take one look at Urban Trial Freestyle, the dirtbiking game for PlayStation Network, and your mind will instantly wander towards RedLynx's XBLA classic, Trials Evolution. But Tate Interactive wants the world to know that the game is not a copy.

Far from it - the publisher's general manager Wojtek Belinkso tells SPOnG that the similarities are only cosmetic. Underneath it all is a game that separates itself from the competition, from the differing physics to the creative input by seasoned trial biker Julien Dupont.

Wojtek was happy to answer our questions on the game, following a news story that pointed out more than a couple of similarities. You can also read our review of Urban Trial Freestyle right here.

SPOnG: First, could we get a little background information on yourself? What interested you about working on video games and how did you get into the industry?

Wojtek Belinksi: I have always been interested in computers, and for me games are the most interesting medium to work with. They connect different disciplines: you get the chance to work with math geeks, storytellers, musicians, artists, designers, producers and people from many other areas of expertise.

I started my adventure with a couple of colleagues at school, and once we had developed our first game, we started the development company.

SPOnG: How long has the game been in development? What were the biggest challenges that you faced in creating Urban Trial Freestyle?

Wojtek Belinksi: We spent about 2 years in development, over all, and the biggest challenge was level design. We experimented with a lot of different designs and parameters of bike physics, until we reached the right solution.

SPOnG: Could you tell us a little bit about the engine you used to create the game?

Wojtek Belinksi: We use an engine we developed ourselves named Elephant, and we continue to develop it along with our games. It supports modern effects, multiplatform development and works with industry standards software. It?s a proven and reliable resource.

SPOnG: To say that Urban Trial Freestyle is exceptionally similar to RedLynx's Trials HD is a bit of an understatement. What do you say to those who look at your game and believe you ripped off RedLynx's work?

Wojtek Belinksi: UTF is a trial bike game with realistic visuals, the same as Trials HD, but this is the end of resemblance. UTF environments, motorbike physics and gameplay features differ a lot, as well as online features and game modes. Unique features such as top players popping up on in-game billboards, or the tilt function, also look to separate UTF from similar titles.

We worked together with Julien Dupont, a godfather of trial biking, to capture his unique urban-freestyle look and feel for the game.

SPOnG: Do you think that designing the game so closely to RedLynx's work is a risky approach, legally speaking?

Wojtek Belinksi: If you look into the history of games, it?s difficult to find any genre that is just dominated by one single title. There is not just one car racing game, not just one tennis game, not just one action adventure. Why shouldn?t there be more than just one trials game?

The resemblance in games also comes from technology, which is rarely created by game developers. For example, there are specific industry standards referring to rendering methods, this is why games within the same genre look similar.

SPOnG: What input did Julien Dupont have, and in what ways were you inspired by him to create Urban Trial Freestyle?

Wojtek Belinksi: We were watching his videos throughout development, especially when designing the levels. The way he handles his motorbike is remarkable. We especially liked the fact that he was performing all those crazy stunts in urban environments - it seemed a perfect setting for an anarchic style game. He played UTF many times and gave us a lot of interesting feedback.

SPOnG: There's a lot of activity on screen - characters trying to interfere with your ride, background changes and so on. How challenging was it to design elements like this without distracting or irritating the player too much?

Wojtek Belinksi: It was pretty difficult to blend these animations into gameplay based on advanced physics. We had to model the behavior of the objects with dynamic parameters, and mix it with those based on standard key-frame animation.

We used both a 3D animation package and our own level editor, so the creation process was quite complex. This was also one of the reasons that we couldn?t bring the level editor with this version of the game.

SPOnG: How do the three versions (PlayStation 3, PS Vita, 3DS) differ?

Wojtek Belinksi: PS3 version has more events in the background like police chases, people on the streets, etc. We decided not to include these on the PS Vita, mainly because it?s a portable console and usually play conditions are harsher. Too many events on a small screen could spoil the fun coming from sharp gameplay, when player needs to focus. The 3DS version will also feature a track editor, and will be released later this year.

SPOnG: Do you see a future with Urban Trial Freestyle? Is there scope to turn it into a series?

Wojtek Belinksi: Yes, we believe so. We have lots of ideas about how to expand the license with community tools, advanced controls over the motorbike, or with online multiplayer modes. We want this franchise to become a benchmark for a freestyle urban racer.

We would definitely like to expand the key features, like the stunts leaderboards, to bring even more competition to the game and to allow more players to present themselves on billboards.

SPOnG: It's quite difficult for independent studios to release unique or niche games at retail, given the current state of the industry. Has digital distribution been a positive platform for you? Or has digital distribution become sophisticated to the point where it is difficult to stand out from the crowd?

Wojtek Belinksi: It?s less expensive to bring a game to the digital market, but it?s also less predictable. In the end, it?s quality and creativity that are the most important factors, regardless of whether you are an independent studio or not.

Many thanks to Wojtek for his time.
Urban Trials Freestyle is available now on PSN.

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