Mat Thomas from United Front Games has very kindly taken some time to present some of the studio’s design philosophies whilst making ModNation Racers, as well as a look at the newest trailer. Take it away, Mat!
First and foremost when developing a racer, the key thing to outline is what the experience needs to be. As I have mentioned in my previous blog post, we worked through how we wanted the core driving experience to feel. Many development team members here at United Front Games have worked on several different racing games. Our focus is quite simple – we wanted the handling to be tight and fun but allow the power of the PS3 to take kart handling to the next level with a more physical driving model. While we appreciate the simple arcade handling, we soon understood that if we were going to deliver the best race experience with our Track Studio tools, then we had to give the player a deeper handling model.
Drive Well & Get BOOST
While we developed our core handling model we also realized we needed to offer other race mechanics that were familiar with all types of racing fans, but offered something deeper than what we had seen previously in the genre. We decided to go with a player controlled boost meter, which in turn is filled by driving well.
The major skill the player needs to perfect is the ability to drift – a staple for most kart racers. Our mechanic is simple in the sense that the better the drift, the more the player is rewarded with boost. We also added a few nuances, such as the longer you drift, the player will actually slowly speed up over time, which rewards the user with an overall better speed but comes with consequences too.
At higher speeds, it is hard to avoid objects so maintaining the drift becomes a game in itself. The other key element with our drift is the ability to still steer and influence the direction of the drift. The player can do this with the basic steering controls, giving them full control over the drift. Finally, one of the coolest features with our drift is the ability to maintain the same drift even when the player jumps into the air. If the player drifts off a ramp, as long as they continue to hold the drift button, they will continue the drift when landing. This makes for some amazingly satisfying race moments on even the most challenging race tracks!
Some other race skills implemented in the game include drafting and air play. Drafting opponents is incredibly easy – simply drive in behind an opponent and try to maintain your position behind them. In addition to gaining a speed increase, the longer the player stays there, the more points they will accumulate. When a draft ends, those points are tallied and converted into boost. When in the air, the player will be rewarded in two ways. Firstly, the longer the player stays in the air, they will automatically be rewarded points and the larger jumps such as drops from launchers will give the player points. When the user lands, these points are tallied and then converted to boost.
When in the air, the player can also attempt spins. Using the right stick, the player can spin their vehicle. Every successful rotation will be rewarded with additional boost on the landing. The key thing to note however is that in order to be rewarded the player has to land the spin and face in the direction of travel. It is always fun to try and squeeze in one last spin to bag more points! What does the player do with all this boost when they have it? Well, obviously the player can simply press the L1 button and start boosting. The system is fully analogue meaning that the player can tap the boost for small bursts or hold it for long periods of sustained boosting. For some really hard advanced driving, players can try drifting and boosting at the same time!
We have created what I consider a racing experience that can appeal to everyone. You can pick up the game and enjoy the frantic gameplay but if you spend time with ModNation Racers you will become an expert by using all the strategies the systems bring. We feel very proud of the ModNation race experience and look forward to our fans playing it!