Split/Second Developer Interview


posted 5/24/2010 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
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The action-arcade-racer Split/Second has been promising a unique racing experience with a destructible and interactive environment. To get behind the scenes with the development team at Black Rock Studios, we sat in on a conference call with Nick Baynes, Game Director of Black Rock Studios, to pick his brain and get some insight into the development of the game and their decisions on design and execution.

To start, we got a brief overview of the game from said Game Director's own wording, which makes it incredibly easy on me to not have to summarize it myself for you:

Split/Second is a game that came out last week for the 360, PS3 and PC. It's a massive, action-packed arcade racing game where as a player you're going to be driving through a city that is rigged to blow. Imagine driving through explosive, action-movie style sequences in a race where you have the power to create explosive moments on your opponent, both to take them out and open short cuts. It's set in the world of a fictional reality TV show, so as a player you're effectively a contestant going through a full season of Split/Second with the aim of getting to the end of the season's show.

Your predecessor to Split/Second, Pure, was a pretty big hit with critics. Why did you decide to create something as vastly different as Split/Second instead of the sequel?
At Black Rock we've always had two teams. One was doing Pure, and we were starting off on our project around that same time. In terms of why it is so different, our goal is to stay in the realm of racing but we didn't want to be at a standstill and do the same thing again and again. We felt that in the off-road racing space, Pure really pushed things and we wanted to do the same in street racing with Split/Second.

Is Black Rock Studio's intention to pave the racing landscape with more new IPs, or is the plan about expecting franchises in the foreseeable future?

We're always looking at new innovative ways that we can bring fun, exciting new gameplay to racing games. At the same time, we're really proud of the games we make and there's definitely a lot of love for the games in the studio. But obviously, for the future we look at new concepts, we evaluate new ideas, existing IP, etc. We wouldn't rule anything out.

How long have you had the idea for Split/Second? Were there ideas from Pure that spilled over into the game during development?

Split/Second is a core concept. It's actually been around for over 5 years now. A long time ago, when we first were finding out the details the tech specs of this current generation of consoles we were thinking what we could do that we hadn't been asked to do previously on PS2 or Xbox 1. At the time, we were looking at other racing games out there and a lot of racing games do really great customization and car damage. But it seems that all the innovation was around the vehicles. So we asked what can we do with this new technology, and it felt like the environment was an area with untouched potential that the new technology would allow us to really exploit.

The idea really came a long time ago, and the idea then was just this core concept of driving around a dynamically changing track. Over the years, we had a number of ideas. Would there be changes based on weather conditions? And eventually we came up with this idea of the powerplays and the TV show and it became Split/Second. The idea has definitely been around the studio for a very long time.

Using the reality TV show premise for a racing game poses an interesting and unique take on the presentation. Where did the team get the inspiration to use such a setting in a racing game, and will gamers need to do more than just win races?

One of the great things with a TV show is that if anyone has seen the videos around the Internet or played the demo, we wanted to go larger than life and keep pushing things bigger and bigger so that players going through the game are constantly blown away by the scale of the effects and the set pieces that we're creating. I don't really think that racing games need much of a back story, to be honest, but I think that it's good to have some kind of context.

The great thing with being this massive TV show is that pretty much whatever a TV show wants to do, it's on a set. They can build it and rebuild it the following week. It's given us a lot of scope to push reality that little bit further than we would have been allowed to potentially if we tried to put it in a more realistic setting. Also, from this presentation point of view, it's given us a really nice look and feel that you haven't seen a racing game in before.
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