We had the chance to talk to Game Director at Lucid Games, Colin Berry and Senior Producer at XDev Studios, John McLaughlin. Both developers have had a long history with Sony working on franchises such as Wipeout and MotorStorm.
We got to find out a little bit more about the core mechanics of the game, influences, the game moving to a PlayStation Plus launch instead of a fully priced game as well as why the game needed to be a PS5 exclusive.
THE GAME WAS ORIGINALLY A LAUNCH TITLE BUT WAS QUICKLY MOVED TO BE A PLAYSTATION PLUS GAME. HOW DID THE TEAM FEEL ABOUT THAT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
Colin: Ecstatic probably wouldn’t cover it and it took a little while to get that decision and confirmation, but we’d been pushing for a while and so had John and XDev as well but obviously, there’s a lot involved in that kind of event happening.
In going to be launching a brand new title on PS Plus, but any game developer would want as many people as possible to play a game. Whether you’re a small indie guy making a one-man game you want as many eyes on it as possible. You know that as well from being a Journalist, you want as many people as possible to read what you’re writing, whether it’s about our game, whether it’s about another game, that’s why you need stuff is to grab people’s attention. So we knew we always knew that going on PlayStation Plus would give us the widest possible impact in the market straight away and just be like, boom, as many eyes on as possible, which is kind of terrifying at the same time.
For a multiplayer game, you want as many people as possible playing it so that you can refine it because you’re a live service so that you can add content, so you can feedback to the community. So we as developers, when we finally got confirmation of that, it was great news to us.
YOU’VE BOTH GOT QUITE A LENGTH DEVELOPMENT HISTORY AND HAVE BOTH BEEN DEVELOPING GAMES FOR SONY FOR A WHILE. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY INFLUENCES?
CB: For us at Lucid some of the inspirations obviously Destruction Derby, can’t be ignored. That was something that was being worked on back when I was at Sony and john as and from some of the guys on the team worked on the early Destruction Derby games back in the day. Then there was Overwatch in terms of the characters and the way they present the characters and the diversity of the characters was a definite influence, Rocket League a little bit, but perhaps not as much as people think, Rocket League is a very different game to ours.
And just in general, the sort of modern sense of online games, and there’s been a real shift. There are little bits of various Battle Royale games, and outside of gaming, things such as WWE, for the sort of flamboyance, and the over characterisation without being superheroes.
WAS THIS ALWAYS A PS5 ONLY GAME AND HOW DOES THE GAME TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE POWER AND FEATURES OF THE CONSOLE?
John McLaughlin: Right from the start. When I mentioned we had that conversation with my boss it was like, it had to be on PS5 and it was kind of like how can we take advantage of the PS5 and one of the first ones was the destruction. In terms of the destruction, we’ve got like a deformation level, it’s kind of real-time and when the cars get hit in any area, that part of the car gets damaged, so that was really important to us that we didn’t fake anything in that respect.
Now, of course, we’ve got 16 vehicles with that layer of deformation, plus 16 characters with high quality, skeletal animation. On top of that, the SSD, your first boot experience, once you go through like the title screen, you are taken into a tutorial, and it takes you literally one and a half seconds. That’s just how fast that SSD it’s been great. It truly is a generational leap. One other thing that I think both ourselves and Xdev and one other team are excited about is the controller.
Once we realised what the boffins were cooking up, it was kind of like, oh, wow this is amazing. I think you probably played AstroBot and have seen how amazing that is, we wanted to take advantage of that as much as we could in terms of the feel of the car in your hands. we’ve got adaptive triggers as well, so different vehicles can have different kinds of strengths on the triggers. When you’re damaged, you feel that feedback through the triggers. I mean, for me, on a personal level, definitely the haptic controller is one of the tremendous things that the game takes advantage of with all sorts of stuff in general.
I’M STILL A LITTLE BIT CONFUSED ABOUT THE CORE LOOP OF THE GAME AND WHETHER YOU SHOULD WANT TO BE IN A CAR OR ON-FOOT. COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE?
CB: You start off on foot with characters running off the gantry with a limited number of vehicles available. The idea is to run pretty much is to get in a vehicle first time and then start driving around, smashing into people, avoiding people, dodging people using the slam, building up not only points for building up your hero ability and your hero vehicle, and then as they charge up, it’s kind of like charging up your ultimate and super games.
So mayhem is all about scoring and all your actions from evading and dodging on foot, wrecking other vehicles, smashing other vehicles, all the damage, they all score your points. And then the other modes, basically take that and just add layers of complexity and depth to the scoring mechanic.
In the game because the rounds are quite short, being six minutes long, being out for even four of five seconds can be a big risk, so there’s that choice of being on foot or choosing a car early.
SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO PLAY ONLINE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. WHAT’S THERE FOR PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO BE SINGLE PLAYER?
CB: So there’s, there’s a couple of different ways people can do that. There’s a section we call Arcade, which is playing against AI bots, there are three difficulties, easy, medium, and hard. You can play the four primary online modes offline against the bots and by doing that, there’s unlocks that you can get and you can earn rewards and customise your character. Obviously, you can’t earn as many playing offline as you can online, because we are an online multiplayer game that was always the vision from one from the early concept.
Then each of the characters has what we call them a character series and there isn’t quite one for all characters, yet because we’re still working on those, but there’s several of those available at launch. You don’t get a choice of character, you’re playing his story through seven events against a particular rival or rivals, depending on how we’ve set it up and you play some of the similar events to multiplayer, but there are also five challenge events. They’re not really training, but they’re they are focusing on something, so one kind of focuses more on speed and driving, one focus on destruction and then another one focuses on all those elements and then one focuses on targeting a particular rival. So there are those elements as well for the people who want to just take it offline and play in that way, rather than jumping online.
WHAT KIND OF PROGRESSION IS THERE IN THE GAME? IS IT PURELY COSMETIC?
CB: It’s purely cosmetic, it’s very much that I’m following sort of like the Overwatch or the Rocket League model of game, so when I jump in the game, and I’ve been playing it for 20 hours and you jump in and you’ve been playing it for five hours, we’re having the same experience, except for my intrinsic knowledge of the game, so I haven’t got the advantage of unlocking extra abilities and that was quite important to us. So it’s cosmetic, but there are tonnes of cosmetics, so for each of the character, there’s emotes there are dancers, there are costumes, there are voice lines, there are banners and IDs, so you can kind of add flavour to it. What you will get is specific rewards for doing various bits of progression, so it might be that you’re wearing a costume that says you did this in month one, or you did this weekly challenge. And if I missed that, I’m like, damn, I’ve got to wait until that comes around again to be able to get it.