To celebrate the release of the excellent Trials Evolution, we caught up with RedLynx's Antti Ilvessuo for a chat...
Click: Trials HD was a massive success for RedLynx when it was released in 2009. Were you guys ready for the levels of praise that the game received, or did it take you by surprise?
AI: We knew we had a great game on our hands because even after all the time we spent developing it and testing it, everyone in the office was playing it a whole lot and having fun with it after work. So we definitely knew ourselves that it was a good game.
Click: One of the reasons for the game’s success was undoubtedly the fact that it had so much to offer, no matter how much you played or how many times you came back to it. What was the key to delivering that kind of experience?
AI: One thing that happens in our Trials games is that you as a player get better at the game over time, and your skills will come back fairly quickly when you play the new game, or come back to it after a while. So you always know that with a little more practice, with a little better approach to your driving on these different levels, you can always improve your time. Then when you add in the competitive factor, where you are comparing your times to your friends’ times, the incentive to do just a little better and beat them can often become overwhelming.
Click: Do you think that the success of games like Trials HD has shown other developers and publishers that there’s a genuine opportunity for huge online game sales, assuming you can offer something a little bit different?
AI: There are definitely other online games with huge sales, for example on the iPhone market, but in the digitally downloadable console space, Trials HD is definitely one of the success stories, and it has really shown other smaller and medium independent developers what can be done on those services.
Click: With Trials HD in mind, what’s so evolutionary about Trials Evolution? How does it differ from its predecessor in terms of the basics?
AI: There are three main things. First is the multiplayer, which is completely new to the Trials series. Now for the first time you can play local multiplayer with up to three buddies, laughing and yelling on the same couch. You can also go online and play the same multiplayer mode with side-by-side Supercross driving, in addition to a mode where you can race in real-time against up to three opponents shown as ghosts on any single player track in the game, including user-created tracks.
The other big differences are the outdoor environments with huge draw distances, curved driving lines, and a beautiful 2km by 4km beautiful, virtual world. Finally, the level editor has been put on steroids and players can now try each other’s’ tracks directly by downloading them from Track Central instead of having to be on each other’s friends’ list. So these key features are huge!
Click: Obviously the multiplayer feature is a huge addition for the franchise, but how difficult was it to work that side of things into the game’s framework?
AI: It was an interesting challenge because we had to make sure the multiplayer was fast, fun, and fair to everyone. So apart from the technical challenges, we had to design something that worked well for the different players out there.
Click: What were the main challenges in integrating this side of the game smoothly?
AI: What we ended up doing was having Checkpoints in the multiplayer, so if you ever crash or fall off the screen, you are respawned at the next Checkpoint, but with a minus one penalty to your score. The game keeps track of all scores between rounds, and you see that on the Leaderboard how well you succeeded or failed. This keeps it very clear to the player what’s going on and inspires them to not just rush through the course as quickly as possible, but to ride it well, with no faults. Failure is not an option.
Click: Obviously it’s not something that will suit all the tracks, so what are the main differences between the single player tracks and the multiplayer ones?
AI: The Supercross tracks that are designed for side-by-side multiplayer are all made especially for that mode. So most of them are much gentler, shorter, faster courses than your typical single player track. The reason is to keep the game moving along, and having lots of checkpoints so nobody spends a lot of time waiting around.
As explained above, the single player tracks can also be played in multiplayer mode, and since there’s a ton of variety in single player tracks, different players will like different things. For example on our forums, there’s a long thread of people who love Gigatrack and love to play it in multiplayer, because the seven or eight minute long run can become an intense, gruelling race that challenges even the best players. Meanwhile other players like to race only on Extreme tracks, or more beginning players would prefer only the easier ones.
Click: It has already been confirmed that we’ll have 60 single player tracks, but how many multiplayer tracks are included on release?
AI: There are about twelve Supercross tracks that were included, but as explained above every single player track can also be played multiplayer in the Trials and Hardcore Trials modes. In addition, we have already posted four brand new Supercross tracks in Track Central under the ‘RedLynx Picks’ feed. A great place to find out about new releases like this is to visit our forum (www.redlynxgame.com/forum/ ) or follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/#!/RedLynxGamer ) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/trials.official).
Click: How important do you think the game’s online leaderboards are when it comes to prolonging the experience? We’ve already seen with other titles that many players prefer the ability to play in their own time, while still being able to compete with friends around the world – do you think we’re seeing a move back to the arcade leaderboards of old?
AI: It’s not just the Leaderboards, it’s how you use them. Many, many things have to be done right. Do one thing wrong, and nobody’s interested, so Leaderboards are not a silver bullet.
Click: The track editor is back, and again it’s the same one that was used to build the bundled tracks – you obviously feel that it was a serious success last time around then?
AI: We love the player-created tracks we saw in Trials HD, and along with the leaderboards, user-generated content is one of those things that really prolongs the experience. Trials Evolution has only been out five days as I write this, but already we have tens of thousands of user-created tracks and some of them are quite impressive. It’s more like a small game creator than a track creator, in the end. Over the long-run, the community is going to create some truly mad stuff!
Click: Can you explain the key differences between the Lite Editor and the Pro Editor?
AI: Sure, I will be happy to. The Pro Editor is the exact same editor our track designers used to create every level and scripted ending you see in the game. Our guys even used Xbox controllers to do it – we never worked on a PC version of our editor, we didn’t see a reason to. We wanted the tool to be as best as it could be, and only by using it ourselves would it become the amazing tool it is today.
The Lite Editor has the more complicated and daunting aspects of the Pro Editor hidden, so it is much easier to simply go in and make a track. If all you want to do is create a good, solid track with a fun driving line, a number of checkpoints, obstacles, ramps and explosions, then you can totally do that with just the Lite Editor.
Click: How in depth is the Pro Editor, we’ve seen examples of some seriously impressive stuff, such as takes on several popular games, but how realistic is it that a regular gamer is going to be able to build something like that from scratch with no previous editing or creation experience?
AI: Trials Evolution is first and foremost a great arcade game, so the focus is entirely on the massive single player experience and the all-new multiplayer game modes. Then you have full access to Track Central and all the other user-created content, even if you never touch the Editors yourself.
That said, the editors are extremely powerful for those who are into it, and the sky is the limit for them. In the Pro Editor, the trigger and logic switches we give you access to are similar to a Visual Scripting Language of sorts. For that one percent who want to be crazy mad modders, they will have a blast.
I strongly recommend people check out the 36 tutorial videos we have posted on our RedLynx TV YouTube channel. They walk you through every major point of the Lite and Pro Editor in a fantastic way that is much more intuitive and interactive than reading about it. Our host shows you exactly how to use these important tools.
Click: The PC modding and editing scene has been around for years now, but it’s something that’s only recently started to appear on consoles in any meaningful way. Do you think that this emerging side of gaming could open up potential career paths for the very best of the end-user level designers, or does it take a little more than a keen eye and solid design skills?
AI: Content creators on the PC have seen that as a way into the industry for a long time now, but it’s true you don’t see that very often in the console world, however that could be changing with games like ours. It is definitely true that by creating awesome, amazing levels you can get a job in the industry – three of our current level designers were hired in exactly that way: because we saw their work in the editor and we were impressed.
Click: Has the three year gap between HD and Evolution been used exclusively to focus on the new game, or were there other projects in between?
AI: No, there were other projects, but they were developed simultaneously. We are a small to medium sized studio of about fifty people, almost all of whom are developers. So while the Trials team has been focused on the Trials HD game and DLC, and then Trials Evolution, we have also had teams creating awesome iPhone games like MotoHeroz and DrawRace 2.
Click: Do you think it’s more beneficial for developers to have longer to build and refine sequels, or do you see a benefit to the AAA annual release model, aside from earning more money more regularly?
AI: We’ve always had the philosophy of ‘when it’s done’ and we also believe in improving and adding new excellent features wherever we can. We could have made the game faster, but that’s not a good way to develop something like Trials Evolution, when we want to add huge new features like mad multiplayer and the most powerful track editor in the console world.
Click: Finally, as a major player in the digitally distributed games market, where do you see this side of console gaming going in the future? Already there has been plenty of speculation about the next generation of consoles and the features they may or may not have, but from a developer’s point of view, is there definitely an argument for looking at an exclusively digital distribution model, or do bricks and mortar stores still have a key role to play long-term?
AI: Let’s just wait and see. Let’s wait and see, we don’t want to speculate too much on what the next generation of consoles will or will not do. Good games are what matter, the next generation of hardware will follow.
Let me leave your readers with one last thought: GIGGGGGGGGGAAAAAAATTTTRRRRAAACCCKKK!!!!!