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.You mentioned that you've had the idea for awhile, but do you recall where the idea for Split/Second came from? I have to believe that at some point the idea of "what if Michael Bay made a video game" must have come up.
Right at the very start we were looking at action movies and when we sat down and the idea really started to come togther about 3 years ago, one of the things we said in the office was to imagine a big hollywood action movie director or that we've been given Nascar for the weekend to direct just to imagine these kinds of scenarios. Blending Nascar and maybe street races that occur in Europe alongside things like big action sequences.
Speaking of movies and Hollywood, I saw an interview with a member of your studio in which he compared the story elements of Split/Second to shows like 24 and Lost. How did you draw inspiration from that style of episodic "leave them wanting more" television to create the back story of the reality TV show for Split/Second?
In the tracks that we have in the game, there is so much content hidden away that needs to be triggered as you race around. So when you unlock a new track, normally in a racing game a new environemnt is just new visuals to look at as opposed to Split/Second where it's new gameplay. So as you go through the season and you unlock new episodes, each episode often has new game modes or new tracks.
When we were looking at things like Lost, for example, there was this concept of having cliffhangers and real big teasers at the end of an episode whereby you've just uncloked a new track play. When you do that you get shown the next trailer that implies what's going to happen but doesn't quite show you everything. So you really want to carry on and play the next episode to see what's going to happen there.
What we're trying to go for is if you're at home watching a DVD box set, one of those shows, and maybe it's really late at night and you've seen a couple of episodes and it finishes on a cliffhanger, and you kind of look at the time and you think, "I should go to bed" but you go on and watch it. We want to have the same kind of experience that you get at the end of the episode. You qualify for the next one and hopefully you've put a few hours into playing the game and you're like, "Oh, I want to see that new powerplay; I want to see that new track." So you play on the next episode. That puts the player through the season in the same way that those TV shows did it.
What were the references that the development team used for Split/Second? I see hints of the Death Race remake in the game, but were there any others?
Over the course of the project we've analyzed and looked at probably every action movie that's been made in the last 20 or 30 years. I think as you go through and play each track and see more and more powerplays, there will be some that you will recognize as a nod to this film or that film. We've certainly taken a lot of inspiration. It' really hard to say one film or one director, because like I said we've taken so much inspiration from everywhere. The whole spectrum of action-movies really influenced us.
Being that the game is set up like a reality TV show, and has some references to famous car chases, are there any specific chase scenes from a movie that you tried to replicate?
It's kind of an amalgamation of a number of references. For example, one of our game modes is called Survival where you're driving around and there are big trucks throwing out explosive barrels at you that you have to weave around. I would say with that, very clearly we definitely were influenced by things like the car transporter in Bad Boys II where the cars are falling off the back on the freeway. In the Island there's another similar sequence where there is a flatbed from the train tracks being sent down the train tracks, as well. And obviously the famous Terminator 2 scene with the truck chasing Arnie on the bike. All these things influences that one game mode. So there are definitely specifics we can call out.
Each race is an episode for a fictional TV show. If you lose the race, is the season over?
Absolutely not. If this was real life, yes, if you lost the race you'd be sent home. Thankfully with video games, you can try again. But the way it's structured is that each episode is made up of a number of qualifying events and then the final elite race in the end. But in the qualifying events, you're racing against other competitors who are trying to qualify for that final event as well. You have a target number of points you need to try to accumulate across the episodes to unlock and gain access to this elite race. When you've done that and gotten through the race is when you're driving against the real expert Split/Second drivers. These are like the gladiators for the Split/Second world. In those races, the player needs to finish in the top three to be invited back in the next episode and try it all over again to carry on going further.What were some of the biggest difficulties the developers encountered while working on Split/Second?
I think there are two areas which were the biggest challenges for the team. One of them was that we were a racing stuido whose last game was Pure, but to have the kind of tech to render on screen these really lethal massive explosives was a big challenge. That was a huge investment for us and also to any new kind of technology there's all kinds of other pipelines that artists and designers use to create it. It's always a tough challenge.
The other thing was just making these tracks, because normally with a racing game you go relatively smoothly from basic track concepts to layouts and then you dress it with the scenery, whereas Split/Second is a much more far approach because once you've got that basic idea you need to place down the base animations for the powerplays. Then it goes back to the animators and the visual effects artists, and then back to the designers, so it's a much longer drawn out process. It was a learning process for the team and the studio, as well.
What is there to the game beyond the racing and the destructible track variations to keep players interested?
In terms of the race mode, playing that again and again will keep people interested because every race is different. You are the person triggering the powerplays, or an opponent can trigger them on you so you don't exactly know what is going to get triggered and where. Or which route is going to open and when. So we have found that when people have played the game it really is a constantly changing experience which does keep you coming back. There's other game modes outside of the race. We've got Race Mode, you're going to encounter things like Elimination Mode, Detonator - which is our version of a timed trial with active explosives, of course - Survival Mode that I talked about earlier with the truck, and we've even got game modes where you're being chased around the track by helicopters throwing missiles at you. For a racing game, there's a lot of variety there.
How tough was it to come up with ideas for the environment and objects on the track that would look harmless in a real-world situation but can become destructive in the Split/Second universe?
There are some tracks and some environments that lend themselves much better than others. And in truth, one of the reasons the environments and the areas of the city we've chosen to set races in really centers on what lends itself well to it. It wasn't so much coming up with the idea that was hard. It's pretty easy to say, "Well that's cool, we could try blowing that up or making that collapse." Doing it in a way that was going to be fun and the player could learn is tricky, however, because sometimes its easy to say, "Oh wouldn't it be great to have a wrecking ball that can smash across the track and take the car out" but actually working out how you're going to time that as something the player can learn and repeatedly do is where the challenge came.
Split/Second focuses heavily on the destruction of the environment. Is the environment wholly destructible in terms of any building/obstacle that can obstruct or change the course, or are there simply certain buildings and structures that can be knocked over? Was it difficult to create a truly destructible environment?
There is a degree of set up to the way things can be triggered in terms of where we defined the areas that can be destroyed and where the routes can be open. The reason for that was very much because if we've been doing this game walking pace like an action game, or like an FPS, then you can have a great degree of freedom because you can react to things much more easily. But when you're driving around a track at 150 mph+ and the player is going to potentially blow anything up in front of you, then it will be very very hard for us to make sure that it was going to be a fun experience. Ultimately you need to at least be fun if you're going to blow something up or collapse a structure in front of a player. We need to make sure that you can make it around it smoothly and easily.
We tried to keep the balance between loading these environments with so many set pieces so that when you play you really get the impression that you can just blow anything up and you can trigger all these powerplays all around the world. In truth, yeah, there's a certain degree of control there to make sure it's always a fun experience. That's the right balance to have.
Whenever a title as this kind of destruction combined with physics is made, odd things happen. Was there any kind of strange and/or hilarious bugs or happenings during development?
The funniest thing really was the nature of the changing collisions and physics when you change the environment in front of you. It has unpredictable effects whereby a car might hit into the wall and suddenly you find it being launched into outer space. Or the other thing was that we have this track where you can make boulders fall down the side of it, and at one point or another they become kind of like joined soccer balls falling down and bouncing around which was a bit crazy, as well. Mainly launching cars into space was probably the most amusing.
Has the team been able to lock down a solid frame rate at this point?
Oh yeah, with a game like this it's always really hard until the very end of the game to get that frame rate, but right now we decided at 30 per second. It's really solid on that now and on all the platforms.
Why did your team decide to try the "less is more" approach for the HUD design? How does it affect how people play?
One of the things we're trying to go is to not just do things for the sake of it. By that what I mean is that quite often in racing games when you look across the games that are out there, it does seem that there are certain aspects that are implemented just because other games do it. For example, a lot of racing games will have a lot of unnecessary information on the screen talking about best laps, last laps, current laps. All these things like lap times, for example, in an arcade racer are not really that important. They're good to know at the end of the race, but while you're racing it's not something that you keep looking at. You remove that, and you just cleared about a fifth of your screen in the top corner.
We looked at firstly what was actually needed for the player to play the game as a good experience. Then, the other thing we thought, as well, was that this game is all about the environment as much as it is about the cars. It just seemed kind of crazy to cover up all the environment with loads of unnecessary HUD information. So we had this idea of bringing it all down behind the back of the car, which frees up the rest of the screen for the player to observe what's going on and to plot their course around the track. It was one of those things that as soon as it went in, generally we've had a really positive response to it.
What is one aspect of the game that the team is most proud of in terms of features?
The HUD is definitely one of it. It's pretty hard to say without sounding a bit arrogant. The HUD is definitely something we're really proud of in terms of the fact that that's an area that a lot of racing games have done the same thing again and again without questioning why. I'm really proud that as a team we challenged that. I'm sure we'll see other games probably copying us in the future. I think the other thing that's probably what we're most proud of is the basic powerplay mechanic. The concept of using the environment to change the course and as a weapon on your opponent because, again it hasn't really been done before, provided so many challenges across the board. From gameplay challenge to physics to visuals to frame rate etc. The fact that it really has all come together and it does work really well when you're driving around the track, makes us all in the studio immensely proud.
What was the most outrageous suggestion for a triggered explosion or event that was nixed during development?
There was quite a few. When you come up with these kind of ideas, we always want to push it further and further and naturally you don't want to push it too far and then pull it back. I think the whackiest idea I can remember was one idea we had, which was effectively a giant one arm bandit fruit machine where you triggered that and all the barrels spun around. If you got three explosions then it would blow up, which to be honest would probably work better in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon than in Split/Second.
Was there ever a time when the game was remarkably different, or was it basically the same from the start of development?
Quite often concepts do change a lot from start to finish. The core concept since we did this about 3 years ago has stayed really consistent, which is another thing we're really proud of. The biggest difference was when we first started the game looking at whether it was all about extreme weather or about the tracks. In the future we got hydraulics underneath them. So that setting changed quite a lot. But the core gameplay mechanic, concepts and what we were trying to achieve remained basically consistent.
Many racing games are either designed for hardcore enthusiasts or for younger generations. Do you intend to balance Split/Second for a wider audience that's somewhere in the middle?
That's definitely what we've tried to do. It kind of sounds like a cheesy answer that everyone would say. The first thing we did was to create a neat physics model underneath the handling of the cars. So someone who is a hardcore racer can definitely play and have all the subtleties of a more hardcore racing game to control their drifts much more than a casual gamer would. But we've laid enough driving aids on top for someone who just picks up the game to be able to control it and have fun as well. We deliberately made the powerplay mechanics down to only a couple of buttons. There's no targeting and no reticules, it's very simple. Something is on the screen, you press a button. But again, with the strategy elements and the speed, I think it works well with that.
The other main reason we tried to keep open to more people was because I really hope, and think from the feedback so far, that we'll get people who maybe aren't massive racing game fans but like actions games and arcade games, and will turn to what may be their first racing game for a number of years. We don't want to alienate those guys. I think it is a pretty good balance and hopefully everyone will find it a great experience.There have been a handful of good destructive racing games and many include guns or other weapons. Split/Second causes massive destruction while omitting weapons altogether. Was it challenging to develop a game based on destruction without the use of obvious weaponry?
Sort of yes and no. We talked at the very start about some kind of weaponry and whether it was missiles or whichever. In some regards it almost felt like it was the easy option in terms of explaining why something is burning up: "Oh, you fired a missile." It's been done before. This kind of goes back to why the TV show is such a great back story, because ultimately the explanation for anything happening is because a skilled team of stunt coordinators have rigged it before the race. In some regards, it probably opened up that creativity a lot.
If you had to pick one feature what would be the most glaring feature in the game that you want the players to get right away, which would it be?
It's the powerplay mechanic. We want people to really realize just how effective they are at making the difference between success and failure in the race and that it massively changes the game experience. It was definitely something in the whole ballot where we spent a lot of time at Black Rock focus testing the game, observing people playing it, being our own biggest critics and saying what works and what doesn't. It was a real area that we spent a lot of time tweaking to make sure they were as effective as possible. It's really what the game is all about, and if the player doesn't get that they won't get the full experience.
Black Rock Studio are making something of a name for themselves with solid, enjoyable arcade-flavored racers. Is there a fear of being type casted in the future, or is that primarily what you guys want to focus on? Are we ever going to see you step into another genre or are racers where your collective hearts lie?
We deliberately focus on the racing genre. Before we were Black Rock, we were a studio called Climax Racing. That studio was formed in late '99, and before then a few of us worked on racing games previous to that. It's definitely something we have a lot of expertise in. Also, if you look at some of the best studios around the world, they tend to be the studios who focus on one genre, whatever that genre may be. This is something we definitely wanted to learn from and follow.
Having said that, genres are merging all the time. You play a game like Uncharted and suddenly you're in the back of a truck. Lots of first person shooters are featuring vehicles now. Same thing as a game with Split/Second. We're featuring more action than probably racing games have in the past. The studio and the genre as a whole will probably eventually move into other kinds of genres. But ultimately, yes, we are a racing studio.
What were some of the locales for races considered and then scraped?
Some of them kind of got merged into others. One of the ones we were looking to do that we didn't actually ties back to earlier. I was saying that sometimes what we thought was a really cool idea doesn't work quite as well when you try to work out the gameplay. We thought visually a big casino or Vegas style environment would look really stunning. Imagine racing through that at night with all the lights and electrical explosions. But it was interesting. As it happens sometimes, you have an idea, develop it a bit further and you find that visually it would be cool but it didn't really offer anything new to our Downtown set. We decided to spend our time elsewhere. If you look at the Downtown track as it is now, you'll see the influences and realize that it may have been an idea that came from the original idea of a casino environment. They're very fluid in terms of what ideas hasn't ended up in the game.
What is the greatest difficulty in creating a racing game? Is it the physics of the cars and their interactions with each other in the environment? Is it creating a unique set of options to keep players interested? Is there more focus on multiplayer or singleplayer gameplay?
When it comes down to it, the greatest difficulty in terms of balancing and making it fun is the AI of your opponents. Ultimately, the very nature of a race against opponents is that obviously you want to win, but at the same time you want the AI to give you a challenging race. If the AI is tweaked too much, it can feel unfair. So getting that balance right and making it feel believable is a real challenge. It's always the most difficult thing when you're making a game like Split/Second, a Nascar game, or any kind of racing game really. Individual things like the physics of the cars, interaction with the environment, options and game mode are all things that are achievable. But getting that AI balance right is a thing that takes the most time, and it's one of these things that you balance far longer than other areas of the game.
Please describe the different forms of powerplays and how they work.
There are four types of powerplays in terms of the logic. Initially, you have to trigger these powerplays after you've earned enough power. That's what you see behind the car in the power bar, which is split into three segments. You earn power by drifting and drafting behind other cars, jumping, etc. When you've got one segment of the three full, that enables all of the level 1 powerplays in the track. You have opponents in front of you, and you will see a blue icon above their car. If you press your power button at that point, you will trigger the powerplay. As you get to learn where the powerplays are in the environment, you can time it right to try to take the car out.
You may also choose to use a shortcut with a level 1 powerplay. You can cut corners to cut a couple of seconds off your time, particularly useful for jumping in front of someone. Often these are things like warehouse doors open, or maybe there's a hangar walkway that rises up and you can drive underneath that. If you save up and get your entire powerbar full, you can choose to drain that all at once and trigger a level two powerplay, which are identified by a red icon above the car. These really are much bigger in scale. So these are things like bringing down a control tower, airports, etc. Or, for example, you can bring down a whole freeway in one of the Downtown tracks as you drive underneath it and take out multiple opponents. They're really big moments there.
The final side is the route changer. These are powerplays like shortcuts in that you don't need an opponent in front of you, but if you approach an area of the track that has been marked with a route changer you can drain your entire powerbar and create something that is in scale possibly the biggest set pieces in any genre of video game. They completely open up a whole new route, which as well as looking spectacular obviously they can take out multiple opponents in front of you but also provide a new route to the opponents behind you to drive down. They're also often shorter routes than the previous one, so if you're in say 6th or 5th place and the guys in front of you have gone down the original route, the route changer will give you a mighty advantage to catch up.
What is the average amount of powerplays in a single race event?
It's really hard to say. In terms of around the track, each track at minimum has probably 14 or 15 big ones. You've also got multiple small ones around there, as well. I think the average player isn't going to have much concept of counting them or knowing how many there are because it's going to be intense, constant action. In the course of the race, there's a mix between them. So, for example, if you have a couch on the side of the track it can blow it up so it flies across the road. Once that's been triggered, you can't trigger it again. Whereas there are others that can be triggered multiple times. So in terms of how many times you're going to see a powerplay triggered in a race, it comes down to how much power you and your opponents are earning.
Do more powerplay options open up as you progress in the race?
Yes, exactly. Partly it's because the more you race, the more power you're earning. But, when you open up a new route with a route changer, there's always new powerplays beyond there as well. What's really nice is that you can play throughout the game for a good 6 or 7 hours, go back to a track that you played at the very start and you'll still be seeing new content that you hadn't seen previously just because you went down a route you hadn't gone before, or maybe your opponent triggered something that you hadn't seen before. So the tracks really do keep on giving.
How do you make sure the powerplays don't turn into the "blue shell" of the game, i.e. being too powerful?
The way we've balanced that is by only allowing you to trigger powerplays on opponents that you can see in front of you that have the icon bar above them. So all that means is that if you're at the very back you can't just do that kind of blue shell attack that takes out everyone in front of you, or goes to the very front and takes someone out seemingly unfairly. In the same way, the other thing we did quite the opposite of that is that we also don't allow a player in first place to trigger powerplays because you don't have opponents in front of you. The reason for that is simply because we found that when the players could do that, that the player in first place is going to be driving around and triggering all the powerplays in front of them making it practically impossible for the other guys trying to take him out.
So we found a good balance. If you're in the back, you can take out the guys in your immediate pack and if you're in the front, you're very vulnerable to the cars behind you. What it does is that it brings the pack very close together and generally has avoided any kind of blue shell type moments, which I'm sure everyone at Black Rock agrees they are frustrating.
Competition between Split/Second and other racer games seems obvious. What gives Split/Second the edge?
Personally, I think the big thing is the intensity of the experience. The way I'd describe it is that sometimes you have races in Split/Second that just don't let up from start to finish. It's an intense adrenaline-packed experience really similar to maybe the kind of mission you get in a third-person action game or third-person shooter. You put the joypad down and you're whooping and punching the air from it being such a rush. I think in a lot of other racing games you do get that, but in bite size pieces. You will get 20 seconds where you are jostling with other cars for half a lap. I haven't really experienced anything in any other racing game as action-packed. It really does feel like you're driving through a number of action movies.
How many different vehicles and vehicle classes can we expect in the game? Any concept cars?
There is quite a wide variety of cars in the game. The number is just over 25. One of the things we decided to focus on was more than just trying to go for an endless number. So the one's we've got are very focused. We have suped cars, muscle cars, trucks. Those are the three main types, if you like. But when you go through the roster of cars, these trucks are really powerful and fast and beefed up. There are other cars that are very much concept like. All the cars handle differently with different kinds of acceleration, speed and cornering. Also, in this game possibly more than others, that kind of strength in terms of how well you can survive explosions.
Will all of the cars be available from the start, or will you need to play the game to unlock some of the cars?
The way it works is that at the start of the game you have three cars. As you go through the season, you win cars and you progress. When you win certain credits you can get cars, but some of the seasons give away cars as prizes as well. We're constantly awarding the player with new cars and experiences.
Will players be able to fully customize their vehicles, or are there just different vehicles to choose from with different specs?
We didn't have full customization for vehicles because really the focus of this game is as much about the environment as it is about the cars. What we tried to do is provide a wide enough variety so that every player's taste is catered to in some form or another.
Will Black Rock have the ability to update existing tracks via DLC?
It's a possibility. What we're doing right now regarding things like DLC is that we are still finalizing our plans internally, and will have news about that very soon hopefully. It's something we are looking into.
What are some of the biggest challenges designing a game where the players can change the track at any given time. Were there special considerations for multiple players destroying parts of the track at the same time?
To the second part of the question: it's not really that big of a deal, purely because the really big moments tend to be spaced out enough that they have enough footprint to be triggered simultaneously. Clearly, when you have multiple routes open and you have multiple obstacles on the floor it does mean that your lap times can vary greatly. It is a big challenge there. In terms of designing the track, there are things we wouldn't necessarily normally look at. For example, things like if we know we have a really big moment in front of you, we create a corner to bring the players speed down so they can navigate it rather than having a long straight. There are numerous considerations we have to make that definitely made it a lot more challenging than a regular racing game.
Will cars take damage that will stay visible throughout the race?
The cars start off pristine. By the end of the race they're really scratched up, dirty, and grimy. In regard to things like body parts falling off, when the cars crash you will see the car get physically ripped apart. Doors come off, the actual front of the car and the engine block get ripped off as well, which I don't think any game has done before. The only thing that really stays in tact is the driver's safety, because obviously it's a TV show and everyone is safe. We didn't want to have that kind of thing where you have a few crashes so suddenly one of your wheels got a bit loose, your steering is going off and you're slowing down. The real big ripping apart moments are saved for these spectacular crashes.
Is there ever a time when your surroundings are completely destroyed that you can't proceed in the race?
I'm sure everyone is very glad to hear that the answer is no. There's always a way to navigate around the powerplaying. Some of them are harder than others. But there's always a way.
How competitive are your enemies in terms of AI?
Like I said, it's a big challenge for racing games. With Pure, we initially did a special kind of AI balancing that dynamically changes the AIs difficulty as you race. One thing we're against here is any kind of rubber banding where you suddenly see cars slow down and wait for you, or cars will come across at ridiculous speeds. So we tried to change the ability, difficulty and competitiveness based on your driving skills. I think every player has a pretty consistent experience that pertains to their abilities. When you get a certain way through the game, the AI cars can be mean so watch out for them.
Since co-op is the new black in gaming, did you guys think about going with the Death Race style co-op? One person triggers and the other one drives?
It's an interesting idea for this game. When you have a brand new concept, you want to make it work really well for that single car experience. Co-op is certainly an idea that has potential to investigate further at some point maybe, but for this game we kind of felt that it was about nailing that first core experience rather than trying to run before we can walk.
What inspiration did Fuel play to make this title? Did it play a big part?
Fuel as in the game that came out last year by Codemasters. Not really any at all to be honest. By the time that game came out, we'd been in development for well over a year and a half. In terms of concepts on paper it's definitely something that I did see that seemed to have similar concepts. I think execution, for however good or bad it was, didn't quite fill that potential really anywhere near the way that we have. I'd say not really at all to be honest.
Throughout this development how much of the time was focused on multiplayer? How many players does the game support offline and online? How is the experience for PC players?
When we were first testing the game plan, proving that it works and proving to ourselves that it was fun, a lot of that was all done through us playing online because we had some really good network code from when we had done Pure. So we could get prototypes up and running really quickly with 8 players and try this stuff out. Around halfway through the project we started getting that single player experience up to the same quality as multiplayer because that was around the time that the AI was starting to come on board as well. Towards the end of the game, we returned back to the multiplayer to make sure it was balanced. I guess we did the approach to both simultaneously throughout the development. The race online is 8 players, and we have two player split screen because this is definitely one of those games that to not have split screen would be a real shame. You definitely want the satisfaction of landing a plane on your friends head while he sat next to you.
Are there any full replays in the game as opposed to the instant?
We decided to go with the in-game dynamic replay, which the player can choose to trigger themselves by pressing the left trigger on the joypad. We just found that the consoles couldn't handle storing the whole race as a replay with the amount of debris and animation of particles we're throwing around. It's just too much data. So we decided that a good compromise was to give the player the option to see the replay at the time, but unfortunately the replays were too much for the system to handle.
As you progress through the seasons, how does your career become affected in terms of stats, abilities, etc.?
The way that the progression in that respect goes is that you're effectively getting better abilities based on the new cars that you're unlocking. In terms of the visuals and personalization, the number on the side of your car changes based on how far you are going in the game. If you go online it actually changes based on your winning streak, how many races you've won and how many players you've beaten. The other thing, and this goes for all your cars, is that as you go through the singleplayer campaign and as you do certain achievements you are awarded decals for the side of your car. These are automatically applied, but there are about 12 or 14 slots on the side of the car and over 50 to unlock. When you go online and you play others online, the sitckers on the side of your car are a great visual representation of your progress through the game.
Split/Second is currently available for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC systems. We'd like to thank Nick Baynes from Black Rock Studios, and the representatives at Disney Interactive Studios for this interview.