29th Nov 2006 | 09:30
After spending several hours ogling lycra-clad grid girls at last week's Milan Bike Show, we caught up with Italian developer Milestone and their newly-announced Superbike 2007 bike racing sim.
The game's producer Simone Bechine was on hand to answer our Superbike 2007 questions, with reigning SBK World Champion Troy Bayliss making a surprise appearance towards the end. Read on...
Hi, Simone, pleased to meet you. Tell us a bit about the game.
Bechine: Superbike 2007 is the official World Superbike Championship simulation, so it's going to feature all the 2007 season tracks, bikes, teams and riders. Of course Milestone has a track record with these kinds of games as developer of the Superbike series from 1991 to 2001, so it's nice to have the opportunity to develop the game for 2007. Right now we are focusing on PS2 and PSP versions; this will be the first PSP title for Milestone to that is exciting for us.
Will the game be coming to any other platforms?
Bechine: Yes, there are going to be PC and Xbox 360 versions coming later on next year, I think around November.
What sort of enhancements are you hoping to bring to the game for these two versions?
Bechine: That's something I cannot answer at the moment since we are focusing on PS2 and PSP right now. We are still working on the PC and Xbox 360 development frameworks so we are not quite there, but of course we hope to make the most of each platform.
Tell us a bit more about the mechanics of the game.
Bechine: Ok so the aim of the game is to be as real as possible, and we can say that we are starting from the physics engine of Super-Bikes Riding Challenge which was the last title for Milestone. We took this engine and adapted it to the World Superbike racing environment which is something a little different, something more extreme. SBRC mostly featured road bikes whereas in Superbikes 2007 we have full-on racing machines. The engine, the cornering, the braking is all much more enhanced.
How easy do you think it will be for casual gamers who maybe have never ridden a bike before to pick this game up?
Bechine: I would say it's the goal of the project, to allow every single fan of the SBK series to come in and ride the bikes even if they have not played this type of game before. We've put a lot of effort in to making the game customisable in terms of riding experience: we have assists with braking, throttle or help choosing the right line. This is all in order to provide a riding experience not just realistic but also customisable for every level of skill.
And the hardcore bike nuts, can we switch all of that off?
Bechine: Sure, of course. We are going to have three basic levels of realism: novice, intermediate and professional. Besides this you can also customise every single option to suit your own needs. If you want the ultimate riding experience you got it, you can turn off everything and you've got separate front/rear braking controls, you have to control body position of the rider, manage very carefully the throttle and braking - because too much of either you can crash the bike quite easily, you know. You have to behave very gently with the bike if you are looking for the ultimate level of difficulty.
How does the top level of realism compare with Super-Bikes Riding challenge?
Bechine: I would say the max would be something a little more than SBRC because you will also be able to customise the bike's settings like suspension, tyres, stuff like that. So that's something extra that wasn't included in the last game which you can use to change the handling of the bike. The racing itself is also very fierce, it's quite different because this time you're racing against 27 other riders, whereas in SBRC there were just 7 other bikes.
What modes of play will be available?
Bechine: You've got quick race mode, to just pick up the pad and play; you will have time attack mode where you can race against the clock and also be able to unlock some ghost laps from the people developing the game. Then of course we will have the full race weekend mode so you can play every aspect of that from practice, qualifying, through to superpole and then race one & race two. We will have the full championship in there so you can take a rider through an entire season. Finally we will also have separate challenges which you can play to build your skills with and unlock different things.
How much effect can you have on the handling of the bike with the customisation options you are including?
Bechine: For sure it makes no sense to provide settings that you cannot really feel, so I think every option we've added to allow the player to set up their bike will make a big difference.
We are still working on the full spec but the basics are things like suspension, gearing, and tyres. For example your tyres wear during the race so you have to be careful to select the right balance between grip and how long the tyres are going to last otherwise towards the end of the race you will struggle and run out of grip.
Does your style of riding dictate your tyre wear or is it based solely on distance ridden?
Bechine: Sure, you are fully responsible for the tyres. So if you are gentle with the throttle and for example not skidding on braking everywhere your tyres are going to live longer than if you ride like... whoah! You know... [laughs]
Can you damage your bike during the race, what about mechanical problems?
Bechine: You can damage the gearbox, steering, engine and so forth. You have to be careful not to abuse the engine too much or crash causing damage, or you will really hurt the bike. We are also looking to introduce rider health, so for example if you are playing through a whole season and have a really big crash, you may be injured and have to miss a race.
Have you made any strides forward in terms of graphics?
Bechine: Yes I would say so; we are always looking for ways to get the maximum visual quality from the hardware with every product. This time we are especially proud of the different weather effects: sunny, cloudy and two wet modes: raining - where it is really pouring down - and also wet conditions where the track is still damp, but rain is no longer falling.
Is the weather something that is decided at the beginning of each race, or does it change throughout?
Bechine: Of course yes, if you are making a full race weekend you can start and it may be sunny for qualifying then the weather will get worse. We are going to make these changes as realistic as possible to the tracks so you are not likely to find yourself racing in the pouring rain at Quatar - but maybe there is rain if you are racing in UK, yes? [laughs]
What about multiplayer modes?
Bechine: For the PSP we are going to have multiplayer mode for up to 8 players, and for the PS2 we are including split screen racing. You will be able to race straight away for just one quick race or maybe compete in a tournament of some kind.
Any plans for online multiplayer for the PC and 360 versions, perhaps on Xbox Live?
Bechine: I don't want to give away too much about those two versions as we are still planning the features there, but for sure we are going to try and get the best from each platform. Online play is one of the key features of next-gen and of course PC as you know.
Is there anything else you're particularly proud of?
Bechine: We spent a lot of effort on the soundtrack, because the Superbikes in real life are so loud and incredibly beautiful, you know. We recorded all the real bikes, not just revving them while stopped but actually on the rolling road under full acceleration and braking. Hopefully you will be able to hear this in the game as every bike has its own unique sound.
Troy Bayliss! Congratulations on your wildcard win in the last MotoGP race of 2006, that was truly amazing stuff.
Did you have any expectations going into the race or was it just for laughs now that you've got the SBK championship wrapped up?
Bayliss: Well I thought that I could go there and do ok, because I did ride for Ducati in MotoGP in 2003 / 2004 so I reckoned I could possibly make top 10. I took some guys from my team in World Superbikes who I really believe in and with them around me we just got our heads down and took it step by step and things just got better and better.
How did you feel when you found yourself out in front of Rossi, Hayden and the rest of the MotoGP guys?
Bayliss: I knew I should be able to get a good start on the Ducati so I just got my head down. I thought there would be a bigger scrap for the lead but all the other guys were fighting with each other which allowed me to get away. In the end I was able to control the lead and finish if off with a win, that was just a great end to the year.
Superbike 2007 is out for PS2 and PSP in April, with PC and Xbox 360 versions due in November.