MX vs ATV Alive Interview4 Apr 2011
Following on from our hands-on preview of Rainbow Studios forthcoming off-road racer, we sit down with MX vs ATV Alive’s Art Director, Ian Wood, to chat about the game’s realism and the unique way in which the game is being sold on consoles.
Our hands-on preview can be found here.
IncGamers: How realistic is MX vs ATV Alive? If I were a MX and/or ATV rider would I recognise similarities in the handling, for example?
Ian Wood: Absolutely, by positioning ourselves as an ‘authentic’ motorcross experience it allows us to represent all the best parts. However, if we were to do a full-on simulator it would be too much about gear changing etc and it would take away from the engagement of the racing itself.
On staff we have several avid motorcross riders, some of whom have competed professionally. So, we are catering to the motorcross riders and what they’re familiar with – from small things like ‘whips’ and ‘scrubs’ (small movements used to navigate ramps and bumps) to the ‘rhythmic’ elements of being able to control the bike and the rider independetly with the two analogue sticks.
We feel what we’ve got is pretty unique.
IG: One of your big ‘back-of-the-box’ features is the course deformation. How much does it really affect gameplay?
IW: I’m pretty confident in saying that we’re the only game that does true 3D deformation that affects physics. What’s neat is that it’s persistent throughout the race so, even if you’re playing Free Ride for two hours, the terrain is going to get really messed up and stay messed up.
As opposed to tarmac racing where you’re trying to hit the same apex each time, in motorcross it’s really about finding the fastest way around the course depending on the conditions of each corner. During level laps ruts are created which you can then use to your advantage and get around the corner a little quicker.
To be honest, when I first saw the technology, it made me want to work for the company. It’s really exciting stuff.
IG: The low-price point, DLC heavy format of the game… what’s the thinking behind that?
IW: We wanted to keep competitive as well as try some new things. Right now there’s this polarisation in the games market whereby you have people paying £50 for the top line products and then a couple of quid for iPhone games but, there’s not a lot of middle ground in between. We want to offer something that has premium quality at a cheaper price, and then allow users to expand that experience if they choose to.
IG: Is there still a full game here for those that don’t want to purchase any DLC?
IW: Yeah, there’s about eight hours of single player in there to get to the top level, there’s twelve tracks and three different modes. We didn’t want to cheat the player by only producing half the game and forcing them to get the rest later. Essentially, it’s a complete package that you can choose to expand.
IG: So, for example, how many Free Ride arenas are present on the disk?
IW: We’re offering two Free Rides. I think this is a first for a videogame, we’re offering a Welsh level – it’s a Welsh quarry. And there’s also an arena set among some sand dunes. Previously (in past games) it was just a way of getting people to explore the world and to explore their skill-set but this year, as well as that, we’re trying to engage the player a little more by rewarding them for everything they do; your reward for riding around, your reward for doing a trick off a random jump.
Whatever you achieve in Free Ride is uploaded to the server and it updates on your friends scoreboards so, when they log on, they can see that you’ve just beat their best trick or longest jump or whatever. It encourages competition all time.
IG: Do you have a schedule as to how often content is going to be made available?
IW: I don’t have an exact schedule but, on day one there’s going to be a free ‘drop’ which is the James Stewart track (see video below). We’re thinking that we don’t want to leave it more than four weeks – six weeks at most – between drops. Certain things will be more expensive than others things but we’re going to be peppering in free DLC all the way along to encourage people to keep checking back and seeing what’s available.
IG: What will those ‘drops’ consists of?
IW: Everything from authentic parts and upgrades to official gear and attire to new tracks and even other game modes, like supercross mode. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll also be offering up branded bikes. The boxed product will contain two made up brands, which is the way we’ve always done it in the franchise, but for the first time we’re going to offer real-brand bikes. I can tell you we’ve got Suzuki on board but I assure you there are more to come.
IG: When it comes to multiplayer-focused DLC, are you afraid that the audience will become segmented once a number of different packs have been released?
IW: We’ve thought about that and, yes, there’s always that chance. One of the ways we aim to get around that is with our pricing strategy and making sure it’s priced realistically so that players want to buy it. Secondly, some of the free DLC will automatically set you up for some of those online races and, thirdly, we’re trying to have playlists separated into those for the boxed product and those for the DLC so there’s a mix and no one will ever be totally excluded.
Like any game, I think the core fans will always gravitate towards the latest and greatest but, for the more causal player, there’s always going to be something out there to suit them as well.
IG: Is this release format a reaction to the scale and success of the pre-owned market?
IW: Somewhat. That certainly wasn’t our main angle but we’re trying to use [this format] to ensure that we (as developers) don’t lose out to the second-hand games market. We have the ‘Motor Club Depot’ which you get for free when you buy the game and will allow you to download all the free DLC but, those that buy the game second hand will have to purchase a membership through the game.
Without the membership you can still buy the paid-for DLC but only those with the membership will have access to the free stuff.
IG: Do you think this is a strategy that more developers are going to adopt?
IW: I’m really not sure. This is certainly a new thing for us and a new thing for the market and we’re really interested to see where this goes. Looking at the market right now from a personal perspective, I find it really difficult to justify buying £50 games every time. I’m used to the days where you’d go in and buy two or three at once, but now you really have to make a strategic decision and pre-plan months in advance which one you’re going to buy.
We see the cheaper price point as taking that decision away from the consumer and making it a no-brainer.