With over ten iterations since the first game debuted in 1987, the Test Drive franchise is one of the more underrated franchise in the gaming industry. While the franchise has been in the shadow of the Burnout and Need for Speed franchises for the last few years the series is positioned to take break new ground with Test Drive Unlimited which will be on store shelves this September. We got a chance to catch up with the producer of the game to see what Atari has planned to put the franchise back on top.
GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project?
My name is Ahmed Boukhelifa and I am the producer on Test Drive Unlimited.
GamingNexus: The game has been delayed a few times over the last few years, could you provide some insight into the delays? Was there ever a temptation just to crank out a new iteration of the series with upgraded graphics and a few new features (i.e. the Madden approach)?
Ahmed Boukhelifa: When we started on Test Drive Unlimited, we knew we were attempting something that had never been done before. With that ambition comes technological hurdles and obstacles that we had to work out before we could be confident that we would introduce a racing game with the potential to redefine the entire racing genre. We didn’t want to just put another racing game out, we wanted to blow the roof off of what fans could expect.
GamingNexus: How do you think Test Drive Unlimited will differentiate itself from the other racing games on the market?
Ahmed Boukhelifa: The first and foremost differentiator is in the online play – no other racing game out there today allows you to race online like this. There are other aspects of the game that completely set this game apart as well – no other game has ever offered over 1,000 miles of completely replicated roads; we have recreated the entire island of Oahu. There’s also the soundtrack – Test Drive Unlimited will feature the most ingame music ever offered on a DVD. I also feel that the attention to detail and the level at which each ingame car is represented by its real-life counterpart is unrivalled by any next-gen game out there.
GamingNexus: In an MSNBC article I read, they detailed about how you modeled the entire island of Oahu. What was your source for the mapping? 1000 miles of Hawaii is a lot to explore, but let's face it, how much environmental variety can you squeeze out of one island? If Unlimited succeeds, are there plans to expand out of the tropics and into other climate zones?
Ahmed Boukhelifa: Well, the great thing about Oahu is that it’s a contained environment, so we have set boundaries. There were several steps that went into recreating the island: satellite-rendering being the most obvious one. But satellites can’t recreate roads as it’s just a top view of the island. What really caused the most data for us to manage was the fact that we sent a team to the island for a week and strapped a camera to the dashboard – that’s how we mapped all of the roads. Imagine going to Oahu and driving 10 hours a day to record as many roads as possible….what a vacation!
GamingNexus: How are the servers going to be setup? I take it we won't have all players on one server as that would be a very crowded island. Will it be easy to match up with your friends depending on the server they are located on? Will different platforms be able to race against each other or will each platform be “siloed”?
Ahmed Boukhelifa: All of the gameplay will run through the Xbox Live servers, which are more than capable of handling what we could throw at it. It won’t matter where you are in relationship to anyone you want to play, but you will have to be on the same console.
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