Vita won't be short on racing games at launch, but Evolution Studios' MotorStorm RC is doing something a bit different, downsizing the off-road series into remote-controlled cars. We recently got to speak to game director Paul Rustchynsky about cross-platform play, pricing and why Evolution made a mini MotorStorm.
Push Square: This is a really different approach for MotorStorm — why the change?
Paul Rustchynsky: It is a very different approach. A very surprising approach for many, because people expect a certain sort of thing from MotorStorm. But the Vita, as a platform, is a very different proposition to the PlayStation 3. We had a little bit of downtime after [MotorStorm:] Apocalypse and a few of our lead programmers had a few ideas. And one of the lead programmers, he races RC cars. He races them week in and week out and plays competitions, et cetera. In his own time he made a little prototype. He put that together, showed a few of us around the studio, and we were like “actually, this is great fun!” And we thought, well, this could actually be a great mix for MotorStorm as well, on the Vita. Kind of going back to classic old-school sort of gaming. It isn’t your traditional MotorStorm, it isn’t your kind of brutal off-road racing. But we have taken elements from it. So we’ve got all the four universes — we’ve got Monument Valley, Pacific Rift, Apocalypse and Arctic Edge — and all the basic classes as well, all of which have different characteristics with how they handle. It’s a different style on the gameplay. I think that fans at first might think “ooh, I’m not too sure about this,” but I think when they get their hands on it, just spend 10, 15 minutes with it, they’ll be hooked.
PS: Did you ever get any resistance at all for wanting to use the MotorStorm name on something so different?
PR: Internally, no resistance whatsoever. I think people realise that Evolution have worked on the MotorStorm franchise now for six, seven years. That’s quite a while! And I think it’s quite refreshing to do something a little bit different. It’s good that it’s a smaller project as well, because normally we spend two to three years on a project, and it’s like six to nine months we’ve built this in. So it’s turned out to be something a little bit fresher, little bit newer. I think it’s been invigorating for the team, and while I think fans will be like “whoa?!” at first, we’ve had quite a few of our biggest fans in the offices — user testing it for us — and they loved it in the end. I think fans, once they play it, will really enjoy it.
PS: So there’s cross-platform play with PlayStation 3?
PR: Yeah. Well, with MotorStorm what we’re actually doing is asynchronous cross-platform play. So, that doesn’t mean you can play on your Vita and PlayStation 3 simultaneously against one another. It’s the idea that you can pick up your PlayStation 3 version at home, play it for an hour or two, pick up your Vita, carry on your progress from where you left off. All the ghosts, leaderboards, every single bit of data syncs in between the two versions. So essentially what you’ve got is an identical game on two platforms that you pay for once. So it’s like a service over two platforms, rather than buying two individual games. We really like the idea that the PlayStation 3 and the Vita can essentially do all the same things. There’s no real restrictions or limitations. I mean, sure, on the PlayStation 3 we’ve got 3D and split-screen, things you just can’t do on Vita. But on the whole we have two identical games that just work in harmony with one another.
Obviously Vita at first was a little bit intimidating: a new platform and we wanted to get the game out for launch — we had less than a year. But it was a real joy to work with.
PS: So can you not have Vita players competing in multiplayer against PS3 players?
PR: No, no. What we’ve tried to do, we’ve introduced what we call the Pit Wall. We’ve taken the idea of things like Need for Speed’s Autolog and done a slightly different spin on it, whereby whenever you play a race we automatically download ghosts into that race of your friends or, if you haven’t got any friends, random people around the world close to your sort of skill level. You’ll be racing against their ghosts live in the race. So whilst you’re not directly interacting with them, you’re always playing with other people, if you see what I mean. It’s one of these things that it’s sometimes a little bit difficult to get your head around until you actually play it, but then when you start seeing things infusing in your game, you’re sat there playing and you suddenly go “oh!” We’ve done it that way. I think it’s much more convenient for your portable gamer. You’re on the bus, on the train, wherever, and it’s difficult to try and organise a session to play, or have a good enough connection to do so. This way we’re only pulling out very small amounts of data, and wherever you are you can be playing against your friends.
PS: If you run into people that aren’t your friends and connect to them via Near, will that exchange data as well?
PR: Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. Definitely.
PS: Are you using the same assets across both versions of the game?
PR: Yeah, 99% of it is the same assets. I mean, we’ve had to resize a few things for the GUI here and there, but yeah. I’m not saying there hasn’t been a lot of hard work behind it, to get it ported to both versions. But it’s surprising how quickly we were able to get it running on Vita, because we’ve had no past experience [of Vita], no other platforms, we’ve always worked on the PlayStation 3. Obviously Vita at first was a little bit intimidating: a new platform and we wanted to get the game out for launch — we had less than a year. But it was a real joy to work with. The tools, and the feedback we saw was really good, and it allowed us to get the game up and running in next to no time.
PS: Thanks for your time, Paul.
PR: No problem, hope you enjoyed the game! Hopefully you’ll pick it up when it launches on February 22nd in Europe, and I think you’ll be surprised by the price. We haven’t announced the price yet, but we will be doing soon. It’s not a full price title...