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Head-on crash: how Bugbear's Unbounded became Ridge Racer

Senior producer Joonas Laakso talks turning a sim into an arcade game... and vice versa

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User-generated content is part of our answer to that, so that you can go into your friend's city and play that even if you're not online at the same time - we're hosting cities rather than allowing them to exist peer to peer. I think Shadow Complex did a great job with the small pop ups like 'You are ten kills away from beating your friend' - things like that can be very important.

What can you tell us about the technology powering Unbounded?

It's completely proprietary. We've been building this engine for the last 11 years now, so everything from the physics through the destruction stuff to the rendering is very much proprietary. I think the engine performs very well with cars going at over 200 kph, and the physics keeping up with that.

Have you thought about letting others use your engine?

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I don't think so, no. We've had some enquiries but becoming a company selling a technology is quite different to making games. Making games tends to get very dirty at the last minute, which is something I hope that no one gets to see!

What are you most proud of in Unbounded?

I can't get enough of the car crashes. It's completely dynamic, so there are no two similar crashes, there are no preset damage models or anything - metal and glass shatters in real time. I'm really proud of the amount of stuff we can get airborne at the same time. I don't think anyone else can really match us.

Even though it's been nearly 18 months, we've managed to create what we wanted to when we started discussing what the gameplay should feel like and look like. I wanted to see a situation in every race where a flaming wreck is coming towards you and you narrowly avoid it - and it does seem to happen in every single game. So that's cool!

Will you make another Ridge Racer game?

It's a possibility and we'd love to do that. I guess we just need to sell some copies of Unbounded in order for that to happen.

Do you think series fans will be disappointed to see the game move from a static world to one you can blow up and rearrange?

It didn't quite go that way. We didn't look at Ridge Racer and decide to make an anti-Ridge Racer. We were working on a driving game and Namco Bandai saw what we were doing and asked if we wanted to make it a Ridge Racer title, and we said sure. Ever since then quite a few things have changed. Aesthetically and gameplay-wise, it would be a very different title if it wasn't for Ridge Racer. We didn't set out to make things different.

In my mind, we had something that was quite different to Ridge Racer, and then we figured out the right steps to help Ridge Racer fans relate to it. We didn't want to mislead anyone into picking up a simulator when they think they're getting a straightforward arcade racer. That said, it's a much wider game than Ridge Racer has been, but we hope to maintain the clarity of what you're doing by having this arcade mechanic. Someone asked why we have a drift button, why can't you drift without a button - we just felt that if you had a dedicated drift button it would make it clearer to the player. 'Hey, I'm supposed to drift in this game'.

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Will you continue to work with third party brands? Need for Speed, perhaps?

Sure, I mean Need for Speed is such a wide umbrella that I can see any game with four tyres fitting under that. I was surprised when they came out with Need for Speed: Shift, which to me didn't feel to me like Need for Speed - it's always been about underground racing. So I guess we'd be happy to, but we're always working on our own games, so we'd love to do a new IP at some point.

How do you preserve your own style while working with somebody else's brand? Does it depend on the publisher?

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